Voted the greatest Celtic player of all time, Jimmy Johnstone has been immortalised in a new documentary by the award-winning Purple TV.
The documentary, which airs on Friday 30th September at 9.30pm on BBC Alba, examines the life of the Celtic legend, a husband, and father until his death from Motor Neurone Disease at the age of just 61.
Given the opportunity to view the documentary ahead of its public release, memories I had of Jinky came flooding back. Sadly I did not witness Jinky during his career, but did meet him once – a fleeting moment but one that I will always treasure. He is immortalised in footage of the games he played in and above all in the memories of those who loved him, who cherished him and who watched his brilliance on the pitch.
Through all of his great years as a legendary football player watching his friends, team-mates and family talk about his battle with alcohol and latterly Motor Neurone Disease; was hard. It was emotional to see those closest to him talk about this man, who is still regarded as a god by Celtic supporters.
The strength of his family and especially his wife Agnes in the last years of his life was inspirational as much as it was emotional. They knew him as a husband, a father and as a man – through his good days and his bad days. Football was his job, they were his life and it was important that PurpleTV brought this part of his life to the screen.
From the highs of winning the 1967 European Cup and starring in Alfredo Di Stefano’s testimonial to the lows of his reliance on alcohol and battling a horrific and terminal disease – while putting Jinky on a pedestal as he fully deserves, the documentary also highlights the ‘warts’ of his drinking and the tough times his family faced.
Close friends such as Bertie Auld, Bobby Lennox, Tommy Gemmell and Willie Henderson remembered Jinky, the cheeky chappy, the joker, the great footballer and the devoted husband. Adding to the personal testimonies of his friends, family, and team-mates, the film also uses interview footage with Jinky himself as well as match footage and family memorabilia.
His grandson Jack Johnstone, plays Jinky during the reconstruction portions of the documentary and shows off his nifty footwork on the ball also. A wee bit of his Grandpa coming out in him possibly?
Margot McCuaig, who wrote, produced and directed the documentary, said: “This is not only a film about sport. This is a film about people and relationships, the ways in which choices, engagement, interaction, imposition and surroundings shape a person’s life, and consequently the lives of the people around them.
“It’s an expression of collective memory in images and words, an overspill of popular cultural emotions running parallel to the very personal and intimates memories of Jimmy’s closest family and friends.
“For me, it’s a poignant collaboration that celebrates a national hero from the outside in and the inside out, reminding us that relationships are at the centre of almost everything.”
Journalist Alex O’Henley – who contributes to Scotzine – tells the story of one of Scottish Football’s greatest ever players and along with veteran broadcaster Archie MacPherson brings added class to the production.
Jinky died on the 13th March 2006 with his wife Agnes beside him, the greatest Celtic of them all lost his final battle against his toughest adversary but in those years after he was first diagnosed he showed the fighting spirit that epitomised why everyone loved and respected Jinky – no matter who they were and what club they supported.
The final scenes of the documentary brought my own personal emotions back to the fore as I was at Celtic Park on the day Jinky paid his final visit to Celtic Park, as his funeral procession drove past his greatest stage.
Thousands of fans lined the streets around Celtic Park to pay their respects to Jinky one last time, a fitting tribute to Celtic’s greatest.
PurpleTV has won awards for both their Jock Stein and Jim Baxter documentaries, while Gothenburg ’83 and Tartan Pride were both short-listed, but I have to say that their Jimmy Johnstone documentary is the greatest of them all and they have done the wee man justice. It is a documentary that no football fan, let alone Celtic fan should miss.
“It’s a tragedy. We’ve lost a great pal and a colleague. He fought the disease with great courage and he stood up to it well. On the pitch he had the heart of a lion and the ability of a maestro. He was an unbelievable player, as good as any you will see. We have lost a magnificent player who created a lot of history for the club. I doubt very much if we’ll see his like again.”
– Tommy Gemmell
Jimmy Johnstone, will be transmitted on September 30 at 9.30pm on BBC Alba.