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Passing of a Celtic legend.
Death of Jimmy Johnstone: Scotland and Celtic football legend Jimmy Johnstone died yesterday after a battle with motor neurone disease. He was 61. The winger, whose dazzling dribbles earned him the nickname "Jinky", died at 6am at his home in Uddingston, Lanarkshire, his son said.
Tributes flowed in from former team-mates, politicians and rival fans following the news of the player's death.
Johnstone was an integral part of the Celtic side which won nine consecutive Scottish League titles between 1965 and 1974. But he was perhaps best known as one of the legendary Lisbon Lions, the Celtic team which became the first British side to lift the European Cup in 1967.
Billy McNeill, who captained the Lisbon Lions to victory, said the memory of the man voted Celtic's greatest ever player in a poll among the club's fans in 2002, would be revered forever. McNeill said: "This is a very sad day for myself and all his family and for the game and Scotland. We all had so much admiration for this wee man. He faced up to this illness the way he faced up to everything in his life - head on."
Tommy Gemmell, who played with Johnstone in that team, said: "It's a tragedy. We've lost a great pal, a colleague. He fought motor neurone disease with great courage. He stood up to it well. He had the condition for nearly five years, which was a shame," said the left back. "He had the heart of a lion and the ability of a maestro. An unbelievable player."
Another former Celtic team-mate, Bertie Auld, said: "I still can't get to grips with the news. He was the kindest guy in the world. All the time he was lying there he never complained."
Johnstone scored 129 goals in 515 appearances for Celtic and won 23 international caps for Scotland. His manager Jock Stein, who died in 1985, once said Johnstone was a better player than Stanley Matthews.
In a statement on the club website, Celtic chief executive Peter Lawwell said: "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. Our thoughts are with Jimmy's wife Agnes and his family and friends."
Charlie Nicholas, who grew up watching Johnstone's exploits before playing for Celtic himself from 1979-83 and 1990-95, said: "Jinky was like George Best. He was an absolute genius."
Tributes were also paid by Celtic's Old Firm rivals. John Macmillan, general secretary of the Rangers Supporters' Association, said: "It's very sad news indeed.
He was a great character and a great footballer for both club and country."
Celtic manager Gordon Strachan said: "I saw him at Christmas and he still had that sense of humour that everyone loved. He was a wonderful character. Physically he has died, but we have the memories and those never die. He will be with us all the time."
© 2006, The Irish Times.