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Jimmy Johnstone - Announcement of Jinky's passing
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LONDON, March 13 (Reuters) - Former Celtic and Scotland winger Jimmy Johnstone, voted the club's greatest-ever player, has died at the age of 61 after a long illness, the Glasgow club said on Monday.
Johnstone, a member of the Celtic side who became Britain's first European Cup winners in 1967, had been diagnosed with motor neurone disease in 2001.
Nicknamed 'Jinky' for his dribbling skills and regarded by many as Celtic's finest player, he also won nine league titles, four Scottish Cups and five Scottish League Cups in his career.
The hugely popular redhead made 515 appearances for Celtic, scoring 130 goals, but was capped only 23 times by Scotland.
Former Celtic captain Billy McNeill, another member of the 'Lisbon Lions' who beat Inter Milan in that 1967 final, was among the first to pay tribute to Johnstone.
"I was lucky enough to play alongside him and see him in his prime but I have as much respect for him as a man and the courageous way in which he handled his illness as I have for him as a footballer," he told Celtic's website.
"He loved the Celtic fans and treasured the relationship he had with them, and he was never happier than when he was out on the pitch.
"It is a small consolation to know that he has been spared a lot more pain and suffering but today we feel very sad at his passing. It is devastating news for everyone."
Club chief executive Peter Lawwell underlined Johnstone's popularity saying: "It is a sad time for the whole Celtic family.
"Jimmy Johnstone was rightly regarded as the greatest ever Celt.
"This was an accolade the Celtic supporters voted to give him and was a measure of the esteem in which they held him, even above the many great players who have played for the club over the years."
((SPORT-SOCCER-JOHNSTONE; writing by Trevor Huggins; editing by Mitch Phillips London Sports Desk; Reuters Messaging: firstname.lastname@example.org; +44 207 542 2821))
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