Willie Johnston

William McClure Johnston (born 19 December 1946) is a Scottish former professional footballer, best remembered for his time at Rangers and West Bromwich Albion. He made 22 international appearances for Scotland and was selected for their 1978 FIFA World Cup squad, but was sent home from the tournament after failing a drugs test.

Willie Johnston
Willie Johnston (1969).jpg
Personal information
Full name William McClure Johnston[1]
Date of birth (1946-12-19) 19 December 1946 (age 73)
Place of birth Maryhill, Glasgow, Scotland
Height 1.70 m (5 ft 7 in)[2]
Playing position(s) Outside left
Youth career
1962–1964 Rangers
1962–1964Lochore Welfare (loan)
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
1964–1972 Rangers 211 (89)
1972 Hakoah Sydney ? (?)
1972–1979 West Bromwich Albion 207 (18)
1979 Vancouver Whitecaps 41 (3)
1979–1980Birmingham City (loan) 15 (0)
1980–1982 Rangers 35 (2)
1982 Vancouver Whitecaps 18 (0)
1982–1985 Heart of Midlothian 58[3] (9)
1983South China AA (loan)
1985 East Fife 3 (0)
National team
1965–1978 Scotland 22 (0)
1969–1970 Scottish League XI[4] 2 (1)
1969–1970 Scotland U23[5] 2 (0)
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only


First spell at RangersEdit

Born in Glasgow but raised in Fife and known by the nickname 'Bud',[6][7][8][9][10] Johnston began his career at local Junior club Lochore Welfare, also signing schoolboy forms with Rangers.[8] He joined the Gers full-time in 1964 aged 17[10] and soon made his debut against St Johnstone in the Scottish League Cup on 29 August 1964.[11] Two months later, following injury to the established outside left Davie Wilson, Johnston was named in the side for the final of that competition and received his first winner's medal after a 2–1 Old Firm victory over Celtic.[12][10][13] He was befriended by one of the team's key players, fellow Fife native Jim Baxter.[12]

The following season, Rangers and Celtic shared a cup triumph each, beating the other in the finals; Celtic gained revenge in the League Cup[14] before Rangers won the 1965–66 Scottish Cup 1–0 in a replay,[10] with Wilson playing at inside left in the matches to accommodate both him and Johnston in the team.[15] Ten days before the League Cup Final, on 13 October 1965, Johnston had made his debut for Scotland in a World Cup qualifying fixture against Poland, aged just 18;[7][10][16] the match would end with disappointment in a 2–1 home defeat, the opponents scoring both their goals in the last five minutes.[17]

In the 1966 Scottish League Cup Final between the same sides, it was Celtic who prevailed by another 1–0 scoreline.[18] Johnston also played in the surprise Scottish Cup defeat to Berwick Rangers in January 1967, suffering a broken ankle,[10][19] but recovered from the injury in time for the European Cup Winners' Cup Final on 31 May, in which Rangers lost out 1–0 to Bayern Munich.[10][20][21]

Over the next three seasons, Johnston's personal output was an impressive 65 goals from 137 appearances (as well as four caps for Scotland), but this yielded only one minor Glasgow Cup win during the period; arch-rivals Celtic had begun a period of dominance at that time,[12][22] and overwhelmed Rangers 4–0 in the 1969 Scottish Cup Final[23] less than a month after Johnston had scored a hat-trick against them in a cup tie at Celtic Park.[24] There was further disappointment as the club was twice eliminated from the latter stages of the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup by English opponents, both of whom went on to win the trophy (Leeds United in 1968,[25] Newcastle United in 1969).[26] Johnston missed the home leg against Newcastle through suspension after he was sent off in the previous round against Athletic Bilbao.[27]

Celtic's domination of the Scottish league continued into the 1970s, and ultimately Johnston would end his spell at Ibrox without a championship medal. The 1970 Scottish League Cup Final went Rangers' way 1–0 over the familiar opponents, Johnston providing the cross for the winning goal,[10][28] but he was fined afterwards by manager Willie Waddell for showboating (sitting on the ball), which supposedly brought shame on the club.[12][7] The final of the 1970–71 Scottish Cup, yet another Old Firm clash, was won by Celtic after a replay.[29] A major off-field tragedy had also befallen Rangers that year when 66 supporters died in a disaster at the stadium.[30]

Johnston scored twice in the final as Rangers won the European Cup-Winners' Cup in 1971–72 by defeating Dynamo Moscow 3–2 in Barcelona.[12][10][31] By that time he was often playing as a striker alongside Colin Stein (the other scorer in the final) as formations were modified.[32]

West Bromwich and later yearsEdit

In December 1972 Johnston moved to England to join West Bromwich Albion,[33] making his debut against Liverpool in the same month.[34] Albion paid a club record £138,000 to bring him to The Hawthorns.[12][35] He was not selected for the Scotland squad for the 1974 FIFA World Cup and indeed was not capped at all between 1970 and 1977, returning during the first season of West Brom's spell back in the First Division after three years in the second tier.[36]

His career included some controversial incidents. Widely regarded as possessing a short temper to match his quickness and skill,[12][7][8][6] he was sent off over 20 times in his career.[6][7] His move to West Brom came in the wake of a two-month ban for punching an opponent.[12][7] After Scotland's opening game against Peru in the 1978 World Cup in Argentina, Johnston tested positive for a banned stimulant contained in Reactivan, a medication prescribed for his hay-fever. His subsequent expulsion from the squad ended his international career after 22 appearances,[a] although he maintained his innocence.[12][8][41] A year earlier, having been provoked by his opponent, he had been shown a red card for violent conduct in a friendly against Argentina on his last visit to that nation.[8][7]

While playing for the Vancouver Whitecaps, he once mooned the Seattle Sounders bench following a goal,[42] and on another occasion took a swig from a fan's beer before taking a corner kick in San Jose, setting up a goal from the set-piece.[43][12] Johnston was a key member of the 1979 NASL champion Vancouver Whitecaps alongside the likes of English World Cup winner Alan Ball, helping them defeat the New York Cosmos in the semi-final, and then the Tampa Bay Rowdies 2–1 in Soccer Bowl '79.[12][10]

Johnston returned to Rangers in 1980 to play under former teammate John Greig.[11] During a game at Ibrox that year, Aberdeen player John McMaster had to be given the kiss of life after Johnston stamped on his throat,[7][44][12] often listed as one of the reasons for the development of the rivalry between the clubs.[45][46] He won another Scottish Cup winner's medal in 1981, although he only played in the first match[47] and not the victorious replay.[48] Johnston made 404 appearances in all competitions for Rangers over his spells at the club, scoring 131 goals.[11]

He then had a spell at Hearts under another old Gers colleague, Alex MacDonald, where he was sanctioned by the SFA for apparently headbutting Celtic's David Provan and clashing with their manager Billy McNeill (a former on-field adversary), and later for commenting on the incident in a newspaper.[12]

In 2004 Johnston was named as one of West Bromwich Albion's 16 greatest players, in a poll organised as part of the club's 125th anniversary celebrations.[49]

Personal lifeEdit

Johnston was brought up in Cardenden, working as a miner after leaving school.[7][10]

He now lives in Kirkcaldy.[7][41] The Port Brae Bar pub in the town was run by his son Dean until a dispute with the Belhaven Brewery led to the pub being boarded up, locking Johnston's collection of memorabilia inside.[9]



Vancouver Whitecaps

See alsoEdit

Notes and referencesEdit

  1. ^ Johnston's SFA profile gives him 21 appearances, but other sources all give 22 caps, with the 'extra' match against Wales in the 1976–77 British Home Championship where he came on as a substitute.[37][38][39][40]
  2. ^ Did not play in 1981–82 final
  1. ^ "Willie Johnston". Barry Hugman's Footballers. Retrieved 10 April 2017.
  2. ^ "Willie Johnston". Worldfootball.net. 19 December 1946. Retrieved 13 December 2012.
  3. ^ "Willie Johnston". London Hearts Supporters' Club. Retrieved 20 January 2018.
  4. ^ "Willie Johnston - Scotland Football League Record from 05 Sep 1969 to 18 Mar 1970 clubs - Rangers". Londonhearts.com. Retrieved 13 December 2012.
  5. ^ "Scotland U23 profile". Fitbastats. Retrieved 20 January 2018.
  6. ^ a b c d "Hall of Fame Profile: Willie Johnston". Rangers F.C. Retrieved 20 January 2018.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "Interview: Willie Johnston, ex-Scotland winger". The Scotsman. 11 October 2014. Retrieved 20 January 2018.
  8. ^ a b c d e Spiers, Graham (29 March 2003). "A bitter pill to swallow Willie Johnston reflects on a career ultimately blighted by that bizarre incident in Argentina". The Herald. Glasgow. Retrieved 2 October 2012.
  9. ^ a b "Bud's plea: Give me back my memorabilia". Fife Free Press. 10 March 2011. Retrieved 6 April 2011.
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Smith, Paul (2011). To Barcelona and Beyond: 'The Men Who Lived Rangers' European Dream. ISBN 9780857900852.
  11. ^ a b c d "Rangers player profile". Fitbastats. Retrieved 20 January 2018.
  12. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Murray, Scott (23 December 2008). "The forgotten story of ... Willie Johnston". Guardian. Retrieved 13 December 2012.
  13. ^ "1964 Scottish League Cup Final match reports". The Celtic Wiki. 24 October 1964. Retrieved 20 January 2018.
  14. ^ "1965 Scottish League Cup Final match reports". The Celtic Wiki. 23 October 1965. Retrieved 20 January 2018.
  15. ^ "1966 Scottish Cup Final Replay match reports". The Celtic Wiki. 27 April 1966. Retrieved 20 January 2018.
  16. ^ "William Johnston Scotland profile". Fitbastats. Retrieved 20 January 2018.
  17. ^ "From the archive: Poland stun Scotland at Hampden". The Scotsman. 11 October 2014. Retrieved 20 January 2018.
  18. ^ "1966 Scottish League Cup Final match reports". The Celtic Wiki. 29 October 1966. Retrieved 20 January 2018.
  19. ^ "REID BRINGS JOY TO BERWICK". Evening Times. Glasgow. 28 January 1967. p. 1. Retrieved 20 January 2018.
  20. ^ "When Euro glory evaded Rangers". BBC Sport. 30 May 2007. Retrieved 20 January 2018.
  21. ^ "Drama and controversy on road to 1967 European Cup-Winners' Cup Final". Evening Times. 9 June 2015. Retrieved 20 January 2018.
  22. ^ "League Cup triumph of 1970 remains special for McCloy". The Scotsman. 12 March 2008. Retrieved 20 January 2018.
  23. ^ "1969 Scottish Cup Final match reports". The Celtic Wiki. 26 April 1969. Retrieved 20 January 2018.
  24. ^ "Celtic 3–4 Rangers, Glasgow Cup Semi-Final match reports". The Celtic Wiki. 4 April 1969. Retrieved 21 January 2018.
  25. ^ "European Nights: Leeds United 2 Rangers 0 (report and contemporary newspaper scans)". Leeds United F.C. History. 9 April 1968. Retrieved 20 January 2018.
  26. ^ "Newcastle United v Glasgow Rangers: The battle of St James' Park in 1969". ChronicleLive. 7 February 2015. Retrieved 20 January 2018.
  27. ^ "Athletic Bilbao 2:0 Rangers FC" (in German). n-tv Sport. Retrieved 15 January 2018.
  28. ^ "1970 Scottish League Cup Final match reports". The Celtic Wiki. 24 October 1970. Retrieved 20 January 2018.
  29. ^ "1971 Scottish Cup Final Replay match reports". The Celtic Wiki. 12 May 1971. Retrieved 20 January 2018.
  30. ^ Harris, Daniel (4 September 2014). "The forgotten story of … Rangers' 1972 European Cup Winners' Cup win". The Guardian. Retrieved 20 January 2018.
  31. ^ "Rangers great Sandy Jardine remembers happier times". BBC Sport. BBC. 26 May 2012. Retrieved 20 January 2018.
  32. ^ "A sporting nation: Rangers triumph in Europe 1972". BBC Sport. BBC. Retrieved 20 January 2018.
  33. ^ "Player Archive profile: Willie Johnston". Albion Till We Die. Retrieved 20 January 2018.
  34. ^ Matthews, Tony (2005). The Who's Who of West Bromwich Albion. Breedon Books. p. 126. ISBN 1-85983-474-4.
  35. ^ Matthews, Tony; Mackenzie, Colin (1987). Albion! A Complete Record of West Bromwich Albion 1879–1987. Breedon Books. p. 294. ISBN 0-907969-23-2.
  36. ^ "West Bromwich Albion statistical history". Football Club History Database. Retrieved 20 January 2018.
  37. ^ "Midfield cramp our style..." The Herald. 30 May 1977. Retrieved 20 January 2018.
  38. ^ "Scotland - International Matches 1976–1980". RSSSF. 18 January 2018. Retrieved 20 January 2018.
  39. ^ "0–0 Vs Wales in British Championship". Fitbastats. 28 May 1977. Retrieved 20 January 2018.
  40. ^ "Sat 28 May 1977 Wales 0 Scotland 0". London Hearts Supporters' Club. Retrieved 20 January 2018.
  41. ^ a b Schofield, Kevin (30 December 2008). "Revealed: Argentinians wanted to jail shamed Scotland star Willie Johnston". Daily Record. Glasgow. Retrieved 2 October 2012.
  42. ^ Timko, Brandon (9 June 2011). "A memorable moment in the Whitecaps FC-Sounders FC rivalry". MLSsoccer.com. Retrieved 2 October 2012.
  43. ^ Sapienza, Joseph (8 September 2012). "This day in Whitecaps FC history". WhitecapsFC.com. Retrieved 2 October 2012.
  44. ^ Irvine, Neil (20 January 2002). "No more late hate shows". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 28 June 2016.
  45. ^ "When two tribes go to war". The Herald. 2 February 2001. Retrieved 20 January 2018.
  46. ^ "Aberdeen v Rangers – their rivalry explained". Glasgow Live. 24 September 2016. Retrieved 20 January 2018.
  47. ^ Reynolds, Jim (11 May 1981). "McAlpine spoils a fairytale ending". The Herald. Retrieved 20 January 2018.
  48. ^ "Six of the best Scottish Cup finals: Rangers 4 Dundee United 1 (1981, replay)". The Herald. 24 May 2017. Retrieved 20 January 2018.
  49. ^ "The wraps come off 125th anniversary mural". West Bromwich Albion F.C. 4 August 2004. Archived from the original on 2 February 2008. Retrieved 10 May 2008.
  50. ^ "Image of original scoresheet". Vancouver Whitecaps FC. Retrieved 21 December 2018.

External linksEdit