Losing My Footballing Inspiration

Our passion for football always comes from somewhere.

For many it’s via a parent or from a sibling or maybe it’s when we reach school age and meet new friends.

It was my grandfather who sparked my interest in the sport that I so obviously adore. He bought me my first strip and he would always find time to talk to me about all things football.

Football helped cement one of the strongest bonds I’ve ever had in my life!

George Johnston unfortunately died this week at the age of eighty-eight. Thankfully it was a peaceful end. My family are understandably devastated. He was a such great man.

But as I come to terms with such a terrible loss: no more arguments about rich footballers, no more debating contentious refereeing decisions and no more talking of the good old days, I smile and realise that this is the time to remember the best of times and proudly tell you all about my wonderful grandfather.

He was born and grew up in the city centre of Glasgow in the early thirties. He’d be evacuated during the second World War, leave school at fourteen and realise his dream of becoming a bookmaker and owning his own bookie shop. He would marry the love of his life and they would be together for over sixty years!

Football was a constant in his life.

His father hailed from Edinburgh and supported Hearts. My grandpa decided Rangers were the club for him, while one of his bothers supported Celtic and another followed Partick Thistle. They seemed to have it all covered.

As he became a very successful bookie he would become friends with a lot of the footballing crowd. He was particularly friendly with Willie Henderson, Jim Baxter, Alex Smith and Big George McLean.

As a boy growing up, my grandfather would tell me his stories about being friends with these famous footballers. He introduced a young Willie Henderson to Dover Sole and the future Gers legend would state it was the best fish he’d ever tasted.

My grandpa would love talking about his trips to Copenhagen and Blackpool to see Messrs Baxter and Henderson playing for world select teams. He would see world-class stars like Eusebio, Lev Yashin, Sir Stanley Matthews, Jimmy Greaves, Dennis Law, Alfredo Di Stefano and Ferenc Puskas.

He always had a wry smile on his face discussing how in one such game, Di Stefano wouldn’t pass the pass to Willie. Afterwards at the hotel bar, Jim Baxter would pull up the Real Madrid¬†superstar and tell him off for not passing the ball to the best player on the park!

My grandpa would always follow that up by stating that Puskas was a lovely fella that would buy a round for everyone.

He remembers Yashin being escorted around by Soviet soldiers and spending all his appearance money on toys for his kids and perfume for his wife because he no need for the money back in his homeland.

He met Eusebio in Clarkston in Glasgow, at Benfica’s team hotel through Henderson. Euesbio, who liked a whisky, called everyone amigo.

George had no time for any of the Old Firm nonsense, he didn’t see divides.

He was really close to Billy Craig, who was a squad player for Celtic. and they remained close till my grandpa’s dying day. Through Billy, he would meet and become friendly with Celtic legend Sean Fallon (who married Billy’s sister). Through Sean, my gramps would meet Jock Stein. Jock would often invite my grandpa to his office for a cup of tea.

My grandfather made sure I was a Rangers fan, that’s the strip he bought me. But as soon as he knew I was hooked, he’d wind me up and tell me my team where rubbish or were lucky if they won a 4-0 game or that Celtic were the better team. I soon realised that being a supporter of a club didn’t mean that you had to be biased and blinkered. You can accept defeat, if the other team’s better on the day!

I’ve always gravitated towards friends that were Celtic fans, and I think that’s down to my grandpa and him winding me up as a kid. It made me stronger and appreciate the argumentative banter you can have with rival supporters.

I started this blog post worried that I wouldn’t do George Johnston justice. He really was a magnificent man and generous to a fault. Yet the one thing that kept me going was thinking of him because even in his last few months my grandpa was always proud of me and in particular this blog.

He’d constantly ask ‘What are you blogging about this week?’

He was blind at the end but he’d still always ask and even had an app on my dad’s phone that would read out the articles to him. He would also watch every single video I produced. listening to them and complimenting me on them!

While I’m sad that I’ll never speak to him again and discussing the glory days of British football or his past adventures, I know that I am extremely lucky to have had him in my life for thirty-four years.

He has many legacies that have and will continue to burn deep inside my heart and I am all the better for it.

I have a passion for football and for that I will be entirely grateful to my grandpa as he was the one that ignited that passion!

I dedicate this and the entire website to him.

Thank You!

For more on his brilliant football anecdotes visit these pages:

Football Anecdotes: A Glasgow Bookie and World Superstars

Football Anecdotes: A Glasgow Bookie, The Old Firm & The Current Day

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