FANS PAY RESPECTS TO FOOTBALLING LEGEND
By Joe Quinn and Russell Fallis, Scottish Press Association
FUNERAL Johnstone, 17 Mar 2006 - 13:40
Thousands of football fans today joined former players, pop stars and politicians to say their final farewells to Celtic and Scotland legend Jimmy Johnstone.
Hundreds of mourners attended the funeral of the player known as Jinky, who died on Monday aged 61 after a four-year battle with motor neurone disease.
A crowd of 500 gathered outside St John the Baptist Church in his native Uddingston, South Lanarkshire, to pay tribute to the former player.
And hundreds lined the streets as his funeral cortege travelled through Glasgow's east end, towards Johnstone's spiritual home of Celtic Park.
Several thousand people - including supporters of Old Firm rivals Rangers - greeted the arrival of Johnstone's family at the stadium with cheers and applause before the cortege headed to the player's final resting place.
Johnstone was most famous for the part he played in the Lisbon Lions team of 1967, when Celtic became the first British club to win the European Cup.
Lions team-mates, including Billy McNeil, Jim Craig, John Clark, Bertie Auld, Bobby Lennox, Steve Chalmers, Tommy Gemmell and John Hughes, joined Johnstone's family in leading the mourners.
Others who attended included rock star Rod Stewart, a Celtic fan, and his fiancee, Penny Lancaster, Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson and former Scotland team-mate Denis Law.
The current Celtic team were also present, led by manager Gordon Strachan and his predecessor, Martin O'Neill.
Former Celtic, Liverpool and Scotland star Kenny Dalglish joined the congregation, as did Scotland manager Walter Smith and coach Ally McCoist.
The other side of Glasgow's Old Firm was also strongly represented.
Current Rangers manager Alex McLeish attended the funeral, as did former Gers players John Greig, Sandy Jardine and Davie Wilson.
Singer Frankie Miller, writer William McIlvanney and comedian Tony Roper turned out, as did several politicians, including Scottish Parliament minister Margaret Curran, and Livingston Labour MP Jim Devine.
More than 500 people gathered outside the church where they listened to the Mass over a PA system.
In his homily, Bishop Joseph Devine told how a "tidal wave of sorrow" and a "river of sadness" emerged on Monday morning as it became clear that "the greatest ever Celtic player" had passed away.
"It was the kind of sadness that eclipsed Old Firm rivalries, indeed all manner of rivalries, as Jimmy was beloved of all supporters of the beautiful game," the Bishop told mourners.
He said Celtic Park became a "field of dreams" for supporters for a decade and much of that was due to Johnstone.
Celtic chairman Brian Quinn said the player truly earned the title "magical".
"To see him racing down the wing at full speed, stop dead and leave the pursuing defender to storm past like a bull charging at a matador seemed almost to defy the laws of physics," said Mr Quinn.
Tributes were also paid by Lisbon Lions captain Billy McNeill.
He told the mourners: "The wee man was an incredible personality and an incredible footballer.
"He had unbelievable ball control, as sharp as a tack, as fit as anything, as brave as a lion.
"Jimmy loved the fans - because he was a fan himself."
He ended the tribute with an emotional: "Wee man - you will never walk alone, son," which was greeted with applause.
Willie Haughey, a former director of Celtic, passed on to the mourners the "deepest condolences" that had been relayed by Real Madrid.
After the service, Johnstone's coffin was carried out by four of the Lisbon Lions, to the sound of the football anthem You'll Never Walk Alone.
Outside the church, Celtic fan Rod Stewart said: "We kept it together until we saw the grandchildren and they started crying.
"The service was wonderful - it had its funny moments and reflected the spirit of Jimmy."
Denis Law said: "It was really good. I was at George Best's memorial service yesterday and this was very similar.
"With Jimmy, we had to have a few laughs - we had some great times on and off the field. He was a bundle of dynamite."
Manchester United manager Sir Alex was delayed due to a flight cancellation but said he was "determined" to be at Johnstone's funeral.
He said: "He was an immensely talented footballer, but also he was a courageous footballer and a courageous person."
Martin O'Neill described Johnstone as "one of the greatest the world has ever known".
The Ulsterman said: "He was an absolutely wonderful footballer and it was just a privilege to have known him for a few years."
Ally McCoist added: "He was a true great.
"The service was fantastic. It was a fitting tribute to him."
Fans lined the streets as the funeral cortege passed through the east end of Glasgow as it travelled the six miles from Uddingston to Celtic Park.
At the stadium, hundreds of fans who had gathered outside burst into applause as the hearse arrived and stopped in front of the scarves, strips and flowers that had been left in tribute.
Supporters threw scarves in front of the cortege and sang You'll Never Walk Alone.
Johnstone's family got out of the cars and spoke to some of the fans and handed out copies of the order of service.
To cheers and more applause, the cortege left the stadium grounds about five minutes later and set off for Bothwell Park Cemetery, near Uddingston, where Johnstone was being laid to rest.
Hundreds of local people lined the final part of the cortege's route in the Viewpark area of Lanarkshire where Johnstone was born and raised.
There was applause as the hearse passed his childhood home, and a further 100 yards along the Old Edinburgh Road the children of St Columba's Primary School stood outside to acknowledge the former pupil.