Competing claims over who really has Celtic legend Jimmy ‘Jinky’ Johnstone’s famous Lisbon Lions shirt
As a player Jimmy ‘Jinky’ Johnstone was known for his twists, turns and sense of mischief that enchanted lovers of The Beautiful Game the world over.
Now, in a set of bizarre circumstances which would have the cheeky winger himself in knots, two contesting claimants have emerged to claim they each hold the Holy Grail of Scottish football memorabilia – the famous hooped green and white strip worn by Johnstone on the pinnacle of his career, 25 May, 1967, the night Celtic beat Inter Milan 2-1 to win the European Cup in Lisbon.
Their shirts did not have player numbers on the back, only their shorts.
The first of the two strips in question hit the headlines earlier this month when it was offered for sale by an auction house in High Wycombe, with experts estimating it would fetch more than £25,000.
The story that went with the first ‘contestant’ was that it was acquired by the Inter Milan club photographer who met Johnstone on the Lisbon stadium pitch the day before the final, when Celtic were practicing.But now the Scotland on Sunday can reveal that story has been called into question by an 81-year-old retired languages teacher from North Lanarkshire who maintains the torn and stained Celtic shirt he had under his bed for 20 years is the real thing.
And the lifetime Parkhead season ticket holder, who has asked to remain anonymous, explained how his knowledge of the Portuguese and an overheard conversation on a bus helped him secure a ‘once in a million’ deal.
The man, who we are calling Mr Clark, said: “I was a student at the University of Madrid at the time and my girlfriend, now my wife, and I got an overnight mail train from Madrid to Lisbon for the game. It took us 14 hours.
“After the game and the celebrations we were getting a service bus back into the centre of town and there was a young fellow and an older fellow sitting together across from us.
“I could see the young guy, who it became clear was a ballboy at the ground, had a plastic supermarket bag and green and white top in it and he was explaining to the older guy, that the jersey was from ‘o jogador baixo com o pelo de ouro’ the ‘wee player with the hair of gold’.
“I immediately realised that it must be Jinky’s so I engaged them in conversation and tried to cajole him to sell it. The young fellow was very reluctant I have to say, but the older guy, I don’t know if it was his father or uncle, explained to him that it would mean much more to me, a true Scottish fan and that I would clearly cherish it.
“I paid four or five Escudos for the bag, the equivalent of a pint of beer. It contained Jinky’s torn top, a pair of shorts with number nine on them, which was striker Stevie Chalmers’ number, and another torn piece of another Celtic top. It was a one in a million shot, my wife witnessed the whole thing.”
Mr Clark added: “Celtic were playing in Madrid a fortnight later for the testimonial match of Real Madrid legend Alfredo Di Stefano.
“I went to the hotel before the game and met both Jimmy Johnstone and Billy McNeill and explained the story and they signed the top.
“That was that for years. I had it under my bed in the same plastic bag in a drawer but then one of my sons convinced me to have it framed and signed by other members of the Lisbon Lions squad. I gave it to Celtic to display in the museum for the 50th anniversary and it is still there now.”
After reading pre-sale publicity Mr Clark’s family got in touch with auctioneers Sportingold, who have put a halt on the sale of their size 38 shirt for the meantime, but are standing by their contestant.
Celtic were contacted for comment but did not respond. Mr Clark’s shirt is still on loan and display at the club’s museum at Celtic Park.
Want to join the conversation? Please or to comment on this article.