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Last Updated: Monday, 13 March 2006, 12:50 GMT
Chick Young's column

By Chick Young
BBC Scotland football correspondent

That will be it then. The Good Lord has the final part of his team in place. Baxter and Best - and now wee Jinky.

Re-united in a better place, the gifts that God gave the beautiful game. Our loss. Heaven's gain.

He was some man for a wee man, was Jimmy Johnstone. The greatest-ever Celt was an icon of the game, the epitome of the tanner ba' player who learned his trade on the streets, perfecting the balance of an acrobat, the poise of a high-wire walker.

He could roll and twist, tease and torment. And he blessed our game.

Jimmy Johnstone celebrates after Scotland's 2-0 defeat of England
Johnstone tormented England in a 2-0 win in 1974
Most of all, he was a fantastic bloke with a devilish sense of fun. He was loved and worshipped and adored, but he had his feet as firmly planted in the real world as he had when he was ripping the socks off some poor full-back.

Jimmy had demons to fight and he took a couple of second prizes away from the game. For a start, he became too enthusiastic about a wee refreshment for his own good.

In the end, motor neurone disease was a battle too far, but he gave it a run for its money as those who knew him well were always convinced he would. Jimmy was a bantamweight but would have squared up to Sonny Liston.

Try and remember him with a smile on your face. That's the way he would have wanted it.

Laugh at his adventures - like when in 1974 he set off to circumnavigate the planet in a rowing boat from the beach at Largs after a pub crawl around the Clyde coast town. But he was no Ellen McArthur.

The truth is that Johnstone had other ways of conquering the world.

In any case, the whole affair was farcical. Especially its climax.

After some hysterical press attention, he responded on the Saturday by ripping England apart at Hampden and flicking the v-sign to the press box. I couldn't stop laughing.

Jimmy Johnstone prepares for some wing trickery
Johnstone was the archetypal tanner ba' player
They adored him, you know. The Celtic fans, obviously, but even supporters of Real Madrid, who feast on football wizardry, watched in awe as he hypnotised them at Alfredo Di Stefano's testimonial match in the Bernabeu nearly 40 years ago.

And you know something? In the same way some Celtic fans applauded Jim Baxter, Jinky had the admiration of a percentage of the Ibrox support.

His impish sense of fun was endearing. He loved a wind-up as much as the next man and, alongside his great mate and fellow football genius Bobby Lennox, he could still act like a naughty schoolboy.

I remember a civic reception at Glasgow's City Chambers ahead of the 2002 Champions' League final.

Franz Beckenbauer was there and Jimmy was treating him like a football god: like a punter off the street who was honoured to be in the company of such a legend. Although maybe with a little bit of tongue in cheek.

But Jinky was a man among equals. He could stride shoulder to shoulder - figuratively, if not physically - with the Kaiser and anyone else who has performed the game on this planet. He had wings on his boots.




WATCH AND LISTEN
Obituary - Jimmy Johnstone



SEE ALSO
Jinky the genius
13 Mar 06 |  Celtic
Jimmy Johnstone's life in photos
13 Mar 06 |  Photo Galleries
Jinky best-ever Celtic player
09 Sep 02 |  Celtic



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