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derek johnstone rangers

Derek Johnstone

Derek Johnstone (1970 to 1983 & 1985 to 1986)

Who put the ball in the Celtic net……. Derek, Derek, Johnstone!

On October 24th 1970, a new hero arrived in the shape of 16-year-old Derek Johnstone. His 40th minute goal at Hampden in front of 106,263 fans handed Willie Waddell a first trophy as Rangers Manager, thus bringing the supporters agonising 4.5 year wait for a major trophy to an end. If ‘DJ’ had never scored another goal for the Club we would probably still be talking about it today. In fact, he would go on to net on more than 200 further occasions, secure a European winners medal and become one of the most popular and recognisable players in the long and illustrious history of Rangers Football Club. October 24th 1970 changed Derek’s life for ever.

A Dundee boy and standout in the local school and youth teams, Derek signed ‘S’ Forms with Rangers in 1968 and by the summer of 1970 had earned his first professional contract. Whilst already mature in terms of physique, few could have predicted that within a matter of months he would be putting Jock Stein’s Celtic side to the sword in a major final. Outjumping Billy McNeil and Jim Craig, he connected perfectly with Willie Johnston’s cross to head past Williams and the Cup was on the way to Ibrox. It was perhaps fitting that the goal that signalled the arrival of Johnstone came from a header, it would be hard to think of anyone ever to have played for Rangers who was more adept at heading a football. His technique was, quite simply, sensational. But he could play a bit too.

His Rangers debut had come the previous month, scoring twice in a routine 5-0 win over Cowdenbeath. The trust placed in him by Waddell was apparent when just 11 days later he would feature (as a substitute) in the ECWC tie with Bayern Munich in Germany. Whilst Rangers exited the competition that evening, Derek would have his own revenge the following season playing in both legs as Rangers reached the Final at the expense of Bayern (3-1 on aggregate). Legendary status was achieved the following month when he became a ‘Barca Bear’, the youngest of the winning side.

Derek is in the top ten list of all-time Rangers goal scorers, credited with 210 goals in 544 matches. Those statistics, as impressive as they are, do not tell the full story given that a significant proportion of his Gers appearances came from his favoured centre-half position (including that victory in Barcelona) and also in a midfield role. Had DJ played as a centre forward for the duration of his career who knows how much closer to the top of that list he would be?

Although the European trophy success had followed his moment of stardom in that 1970 League Cup Final, he would not have it all his own way. Whilst the Scottish Cup was clinched in 1973 in another Old Firm victory, Rangers would have to wait until 1975 to end Celtic’s run of Championship successes and there was another young Derek (Parlane) frequently leading the Ibrox scoring charts.
When the title was secured on March 29th it was fans favourite Colin Stein (now in his second spell) who was back leading the line. However, Derek had scored 14 goals during that Championship winning season and at the still tender age of 21 had won the League, Scottish Cup, League Cup and ECWC! A quite remarkable achievement.

That title success marked a period of domination for Rangers under Jock Wallace and Derek would be a key component of the side which would win two domestic ‘Trebles’ in just three seasons. The second of those Treble winning seasons, 1977/78, was surely the pinnacle of his career. He scored 38 goals in 47 appearances as Rangers swept all in front of them domestically whilst Johnstone was personally honoured by being voted the SPFA Players and Writers Player of the Year.

Not surprisingly, this form ensured he was part of Scotland’s World Cup Squad for Argentina in 1978. Inexplicably, DJ did not feature in any of the matches and Scotland returned home humiliated.

As Rangers struggled to find any real level of consistency under John Greig in the early 1980’s, Johnstone’s own form suffered and despite a spell as Captain he did not seem to be able to produce the same level of performance that Wallace had benefited from. Perhaps the lack of a settled playing position started to become a negative. Initially dropped by Greig from the 1981 Scottish Cup Final, Derek was back in the heart of the defence for the replay as Dundee United were soundly defeated 4-1 (Davie Cooper also being restored to the side and inspiring Rangers to a memorable win). Six months later he was back at Hampden as the league cup was secured again at the expense of boyhood heroes Dundee United. Just over 11 years had passed since that first league cup success and 28-year-old Johnstone now had a haul of 3 League Championships, 5 Scottish Cup, 5 League Cup and 1 European medal. Frustratingly, at that age it could be argued he should have just been reaching his peak but he had certainly packed a great deal in to his Rangers career.

Derek initially left Ibrox in September 1983, joining Chelsea for a fee of £30,000. Manager Greig had made him and several other senior players available at the end of season 1982/83 as he looked to reshape the side in what would prove to be his final roll of the dice. By November Jock Wallace was back in charge at the Club and just weeks later would come up against DJ who playing against Rangers at Ibrox during a short term loan spell with Dundee United. It never really worked out for Johnstone in London and by January 1985 he too was back at Rangers for a second time. His second ‘debut’ was a 5-1 defeat at Pittodrie and whilst he would score against Morton in his next match, good times were few and far between. A Glasgow Cup success would be the only piece of silverware for Derek on his return. His final appearance for Rangers came at Love Street on 19th April 1986. If Derek Johnstone had been one of the most influential figures at Rangers during the proceeding 16 years, the man sitting in the Gers dug-out for the very first time in that game would prove to be even more so over the next quarter of a century. His name was Walter Smith.

After a brief spell in management Derek fell in to broadcasting where he had a long and distinguished career. His infectious personality and ability to inject humour into discussions made him an ideal candidate for such a role. In recent seasons he has returned to Rangers on matchdays working in the hospitality suites and entertaining fans, old and new. He remains a hero to the Rangers support who to this day still want to talk about THAT goal over 50 years ago.

by Rick Plews

Stats

Competition
League
League Cup
Scottish Cup
Europe
Total
Starts
357
82
55
29
523
Sub
12
3
2
4
21
Goals
132
39
30
9
210
Other
0
0
0

Honours

Competition
League
League Cup
Scottish Cup
Europe
Wins
3
5
5
1

Derek Johnstone

D.O.B
4 November, 1953
Signed
18 January, 1985
Chelsea
Left
1 September, 2023
Chelsea
Competitive Debut
Rangers v Cowdenbeath 5-0 19 September 1970
Appearances
544
Goals
210

Derek Johnstone Digital Scrapbook

Bio
Gallery
derek johnstone rangers
DOB: 4 November, 1953
Signed: 
Left: 
Competitive Debut: Rangers v Cowdenbeath 5-0 19 September 1970
Total Appearances: 544
Competition
Starts
Sub
Goals
League
357
12
132
League Cup
82
3
39
Scottish Cup
55
2
30
Europe
29
4
9
total
523
21
210
Honours
League
3
League Cup
5
Scottish Cup
5
Europe
1
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