The Curator of the Crypt hereby gives notice that MR DEREK JOHNSTONE is hereby interned in the Crypt forthwith. For services to ugliness, PIE CONSUMPTION, and SHEER INARTICULACY NOTABLE EVEN IN THE COMPANY OF THE CAST of Super scoreboard his pleas for induction have been accepted.
Abandon all taste YE who enter here.
The Curator has seen fit previously to mention the latest internee in previous articles in this space filling segment of your favourite blatt. Indeed in the very first article Big Fat Derek Johnstone (BFDJ) was described as being both ‘a fat, inarticulate oaf’ and as having been ‘rather a good centre forward’. The curator sees no real need to revise either of those original assessments although it is doubtful if this article will dwell on his undeniable – if short lived – talent.
But we will start at the beginning and one of the darker days of my childhood- the 24th of October 1970. On that cold, wet, windy day Celtic were to face Rangers in the final of the League Cup a trophy the good guys had won in each of the previous five seasons. In the recent past the Celts had beaten Rangers twice very easily – once in a League match, the other in the final of the Glasgow Cup when a largely reserve side outplayed a full strength Rangers team by three goals to one. Celtic were therefore hot favourites to win.
But Rangers won 1-0 and the scorer of the only goal on a bucketing day was a sixteen year old called Derek Johnstone who had scored just before half time with a header not dissimilar to the one Pele had unleashed against England four months before. Evan Williams was, alas, no Gordon Banks, and though the Celtic ’keeper made a decent effort at saving it was a goal.
The Typewriter Loyal went into the happy equivalent of meltdown to acclaim the somewhat plump new boy.
The sense that Rangers had discovered a prodigy capable of overturning Celtic’s dominance was increased when in the Scottish Cup Final six months later the already larger-than-life teenager grabbed a late equaliser to force a replay. Candid Cameron et al’s cup overflowed.
Reality returned in the replay when Celtic won 2-1 – with the real Johnstone (Jimmy) roasting Rangers in a victory that was much more comfortable than the scoreline suggests.
BFDJ undoubtedly had his moments as a player during much of the seventies although as I recall he wasn’t as much of a thorn in our flesh as his early promise had suggested. He topped scored in the Scottish League of 77-8 and, by now sporting a bubble perm, was seen, in the usual quarters as being likely to be a big hit at the World Cup in Argentina in June of that year.
I doubt that the coaches of Holland, Peru and Iran (or indeed Brazil, West Germany, Italy and eventual winners Argentina) were soiling their boxers at the thought of their teams having to face an elephantine, poodle-heided, pie eating champion from Dundee but I still admit he was quite a good player and he might have done better than some who were to feature in Ally MacLeod‘s now infamous team.
What went on at Scotland’s training camp prior to the first match with Peru has long been the subject of rumour but whatever it was BFDJ didn’t do himself any favours and even after Scotland’s capitulation to Peru it was the hardy slimline Joe Harper of Aberdeen whom Ally MacLeod used as back up striker.
And so it was that BFDJ’s Scotland career petered out, its highlight surely having come in a 1973 match with Brazil when he scored a brilliant diving header to become only the second Scot to score in a match involving the two countries.
That it was an own goal scarcely seemed to matter. My dad and I laughed all the way home.
BFDJ’s career had been flying high prior to that ill-fated trip to Argentina but although he was still only 24 his career had peaked by the time MacLeod’s team arrived back in Scotland. He was troubled by injury and struggled during the 1978-9 season under Rangers new manager John Greig. His injury in the second half of the season led to the rumours – at least amongst Celtic fans – that Johnstone enjoyed a less than harmonious relationship with his boss.
Whatever the truth, when Rangers played FC Koln in the second league of the European Cup quarter final (with the Bundesliga side one up from the game in Germany) Greig chose novice striker- and the massively ugly poor man’s Don Kichenbrand- Billy Urquhart – over BFDJ. Admittedly Greig couldn’t have managed a drinks party in a brewery but it did hint that the rumours among the forerunners of the Internet Bampots might have some truth to them.
A clear sign that BFDJ was no longer flavour of the month came from an unexpected source at this time when the Daily Rectum – then just a mediocre paper as opposed to be the World’s Worst Newspaper- printed a letter from a reader suggesting the BFDJ bore an uncanny resemblance to the Crossroads’ character Benny Hawkins (ask your grandparents).
Above: Inarticulate, overweight and unable to see any bad in the object of his affection. Crossroads Motel’s resident Brummie bumpkin Benny’s unrequited love for the fragrant receptionist Miss Diane has nothing on BFDJ’s slavish devotion to the team who play in blue at the soon to be renamed Ibrox Stadium.
There were to be few upturns in BFDJ’s remaining years at Ibrox. Rangers’ fortunes nosedived after the twin debacles in the spring of 1979 against FC Koln and Celtic* and then in a home match in the Cup Winners’ Cup Rangers crashed to a 3-1 defeat to Valencia. Two of the Spanish team’s goals came from a striker who had done quite well at the World Cup in which BFDJ had not featured, one Mario Kempes.
The contrast between the athletic and gifted Argentinean and the lumbering, man-boobed Johnstone was stark. BFDJ did get Rangers goal but the sight of his immense effort to simply get up from the ground after scoring the goal must have given more encouragement to the visitors than the homesters.
Six months later in the Scottish Cup Final Johnstone’s attempts to out jump the Celtic centre half were mocked by, all of people, Rangers great Jim Baxter who suggested that it would have been hard to get a sheet of lavvy paper under BFDJ’s feet when he was trying to head the ball.
Celtic’s centre half for the game was Mike Conroy who had never played in that position before. No Man of The Match award was so easily won as the one Michael earned that day.
Johnstone hung around Ibrox for a further three years after which time even John Greig had seen enough. BFDJ tried his luck in Hollywood but was turned down for the role of snobbish barfly Norm Peterson in the series Cheers on the grounds that the Scotsman was too fat.
A brief spell at Chelsea – at that time a horrible, poor club as opposed to the horrible, rich club they are today – a return to Rangers and a mildly disastrous spell as manager of Partick Thistle and that was it from the one time Golden Boy.
I could make feeble jokes that he would step on speak-your-weight machines to the sound of the machine bleating ‘no coach parties’ but I’ll resist. Instead he became an inarticulate oaf on a succession of crappy Scottish sports programmes. For a flavour of his frequently-bafflingly-illogical-but-always-slavish-supportive-of-Rangers contributions have a read of umpteen back copies of this very magazine and its very own Johnstoneballs column.
A less amusing but no less pertinent insight into his confused, sub-literate, nasty inability to grasp reality came as early as 1981 in a series of interviews in The Scottish Daily Express after he’d put in the latest of a series of transfer requests.
In the spring of 1981 Rangers’ sectarian signing policy was something of a lukewarm potato in the Scottish media and so it was understandable that the Rangers captain was asked for his views. Like some porcine Scottish version of a pre-Civil Rights Southern States White politician in their attitude to African Americans BFDJ proclaimed that whilst he had nothing against Catholics he would be sad to see Rangers ending any of their traditions. After all he ‘reasoned’ didn’t Celtic have theirs?
Hmmm. BFDJ sees decades of acknowledging your own origins but discriminating against nobody is pretty much the same as decades of craven sectarian kow-towing to a ‘minority’ of your own club’s support. Well that’s all right then.
It’s easy to laugh at BFDJ – other than perhaps Boris Johnson the one time Rangers centre forward is the biggest buffoon in Britain. But like London’s former mayor, BFDJ is not quite as amiable a duffer as his media image would have us believe.
Inarticulate, oafish and looking like a character from a rotten seventies soap opera he may be. But that doesn’t necessarily make him a good person. Welcome to the crypt.
Above: A rare shot of BFDJ during one of his radio phone-in gigs. Any criticism of his favourite team invariably pushes his voice up so many octaves that he can only be heard by dogs or bats.
* I really don’t need to remind you about what the ten men did on 21 may 1979 did do I? Oh all right – a goal down with 22 minutes to go the ten man Celts end up winning four goals to two.