Willie Johnston (1964 to 1972) & (1980 to 1982)
An explosive outside-left (with a temperament to match) who could also play through the middle to devastating effect, Willie made his Rangers debut in August 1964 at the age of 17 and his first goals came just a number of weeks later. In only his 5th game he won the League Cup as two Jim Forrest goals were enough to defeat Celtic 2-1 at Hampden.
More silverware was to follow in season 1965/66, the same opponents were defeated when Kai Johansen’s long range strike settled the replay.
Although a frequent goalscorer, a more central striking role would see him take this element of his game to another level in seasons 1967/68 & 1968/69 where he would score 20 and 29 times respectively. During the latter of those two seasons, he would net twice at Parkhead in a 4-2 league win before going one better when he scored an Old Firm hat-trick in the semi-final of the Glasgow Cup.
Of course, his greatest day came on 24th May 1972 in Barcelona when his two goals either side of half time saw Rangers race into a 3-0 lead in the Final of the European Cup Winners Cup. Whilst Moscow Dynamo would give us a scare by clawing the score back to 3-2, Willie’s goals had given us the European trophy we so desperately craved after some near misses (he had personally tasted defeat in the 1967 final to Bayern Munich).
Willie would suffer more than most in terms of roughhouse on field tactics and his willingness to engage in some understandable retaliation saw him clash with the Scottish footballing authorities following an increasing number of red cards. In just the second league match of season 1972/73, he was red carded in the 2-1 win over Patrick Thistle at Ibrox (in which he scored the winning goal) and would eventually receive a 9 week ban for his latest misdemeanour. Less than three months later he was on his way to the Midlands. It seemed inconceivable on that famous night in May that both goalscorers (Colin Stein and Willie Johnston) would have left Rangers by the time the year was through.
Johnston signed for WBA in December 1972 having secured the Scottish and League Cups medals whilst earning legendary status at Ibrox having scored the winning goal in our one and only European trophy success.
Both would return to Rangers for a second spell in the years to come although in Willie’s case he would need to wait until August 1980 to pull on the famous blue jersey again (ironically versus Patrick Thistle).
Willie remains part of the furniture at Ibrox, a real character entertaining fans young and old in the hospitality suites.
by Rick Plews