Lord of the Wing Film Reviews
Lord of the Wing - Jimmy Johnstone, Celtic's Greatest Ever Player
Featured in Not The View
By Manfred Lurker
If you're going to take as your subject matter for a documentary, 'Celtic's Greatest Ever Player' you'd better make sure you produce a film that does it justice. Thankfully Jamie Doran does that and in the process has crafted a film that in my opinion will become essential viewing for anyone who treasures memories of wee Jinky in his pomp or who has more than a passing interest in the history of our great club.
The edition I had to review begins with some footage shot on the night of the film's premiere in Glasgow which will doubtless rekindle happy reminiscences of those who were in attendance but which for those who weren't does well to capture the atmosphere of a wonderful football evening.
It starts with a moving tribute to Lisbon Lion Ronnie Simpson who had passed away earlier that week and then moves on to an introduction by Peter Mullen. After that we are into the film proper, and are immediately reminded of Jinky's medical condition with some stark and bleak facts about motor Neurone Disease. Yet, for all this terrible affliction has quite a pervasive presence throughout the film, there is little that is morbid or mawkish about what is depicted on screen. What comes across, rather, is how the wee man has faced his predicament with the kind of courage that characterised his performances on the pitch all those years ago.
Johnstone's early life in Viewpark as the son of a coal miner is recounted mainly by the man himself and is a glimpse of a bygone era. But it's still made clear what a formative influence his upbringing had on his adult life.
His playing days are portrayed through a mixture of personal anecdote, clips of Jimmy in action and recollections of opponents and admirers. Most of the action stuff will be familiar to anyone who has seen previous features about Jinky (still great to watch even so), but Jamie Doran has also unearthed some surprises, including an amazing sequence shot by somebody on an 8mm cine camera who was filming the highlights of the Red Star game being shown on the telly in his living room. It looks like the film shot by Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong while they were on the Moon but amazing nonetheless.
As you listen to the likes of Brian Clough, Bobby Charlton, Terry Cooper and a host of others pay tribute to Jinky's skills as a footballer it becomes clear that his stature in the game is not confined to those with a love of the Hoops. Former Lions team mates, of course, have plenty to say about Johnstone and his unique relationship with Jock Stein, but some of the funniest stories are told by the likes of John Greig and Willie Henderson.
As what is often euphemistically described as 'a larger than life character' most of Jimmy's particularly notorious exploits have passed into the realm of Scottish football folklore. They are given another airing here and, for all their familiarity, still manage to raise a smile, especially the infamous Largs rowing boat sketch. What is often overlooked about that incident is that following the press furore Jinky went on to play a blinder against England at Hampden the following Saturday in a match which Scotland won by 2:0.
The thorny subject of Jinky's abbreviated Scotland career is not ignored and Pat Crerand provides some forthright views on the nature of the SFA during the early to mid 60s. The attitudes of the Scottish game's hierarchy had a deleterious effect on Jinky which became so bad he asked Jock Stein to tell them not to pick him for internationals. It is to the film maker's credit that he doesn't shirk from confronting these kind of issues, and this applies to Jimmy's personal life when his career was over and he descended into his own alcohol induced perdition. It makes for painful viewing at times, given its often confessional tone, but is always gripping and again the overall impression you're left with is one of life affirmation rather than self pity.
The story is brought up to date with jinky's struggle to beat his disease and ends on a typically upbeat note as he helps Jim Kerr fulfil one of his ambitions by recording Dirty Old Town with his football hero.
Apart from this particular track there are a few other musical numbers in the film which help capture the spirit of the wee man and his time. Apart from the football men, the Celtic celebs also have their say, and one of the most perceptive contributions is from Fran Healy who describes how Jimmy somehow personified what so many of us feel about Celtic, particularly on those occasions when he was being assailed by what Cloughie describes as 'ignorant thug full backs'.
In one sequence Jinky is filmed during a recent visit to a Celtic home game and is swamped by a torrent of good wishes and adulation showing that he still has an amazing capacity to bring out a warmth of feeling in people which is quite moving.
After the credits the film ends with more footage from the premiere including a poignant speech from Jimmy. Talk about not a dry eye in the house!
I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this film to anybody. Do yourself a favour and get hold of it. You won't be disappointed.
Lord of the Wing
Featured at Etims.net
Contributed By Mandolin
'The Lord of the Wing' tells the story of the home-grown Hoops hero who fulfilled a boyhood dream and lifted the European Cup in 1967."
That was how it was billed but, to you, me and every other Celtic supporter, the story, to date, of The Legend that is Jimmy Johnstone is about so much more than that famous victory in Lisbon. It's about the love we have for a humble little man who is every bit as popular with the fans who were never fortunate enough to see him play as he is with those of his generation who followed him and his team-mates to Lisbon in 1967. It's about an entertainer, a dribbler the likes of which the world may never see again. It's about a time when players really did play for the jersey, none more so than this little man. It's about courage.
Little wonder then that the Celtic fans turned out in their droves for the premiere of the Film which, we were promised, would not only look back over his football career but would tell the story of the highs and lows of Jinky's past as well as his ongoing struggle with Motor Neuron Disease.
Outside the SECC's Armadillo the Hoops and Suits mingled with the Famous who had all come to honour 'The Greatest Ever Celt'. Inside the Auditorium the Lisbon Lions were applauded as they took their seats in the front row. Martin O'Neill, John Robertson and Paul Lambert all received a similar ovation.
There were a few from the Music industry in attendance including Simple Minds, John McLaughlin, and apparently Shane MacGowan (he may have been in the bar when the film started) but all were upstaged when Frankie Miller, who had recorded a song entitled 'The JJ Man' for the film, took his seat with the applause of the Celtic supporters ringing in his ears. His smile said it all.
It took Sean Fallon a bit longer to get to his seat as he stopped to sign autographs for some young Celtic fans who obviously knew their history.
But then the star of the show arrived and the place erupted. "It's the Wee Man". The auditorium rose to their feet to welcome Jinky and his family into the room as the bhoys upstairs sang "We've got Jimmy, Jimmy Johnstone on the Wing, On the Wing!" Jinky took his seat in the front row with his pals.
The sad loss of Ronnie Simpson earlier in the week was marked when a lone piper walked onto the stage playing Amazing Grace while some footage of Ronnie was shown on the screen including his famous back heel in Lisbon. You couldn't help but smile. A minute's silence followed and no-one in the room was more upset than Jinky who was comforted by his fellow Lion and close friend Bertie Auld. These really are a remarkable group of men. The love they have for each other is always evident, never more so than when one of their own is taken from them.
Actor and Director Peter Mullan introduced the Film. He told of how pleased he had been with the reception given to him when he arrived, that was, he said, until he noticed "Some wee Specky guy" walking in front of him.
After a 'technical hitch' which resulted in the film 'freezing' as Jinky tore apart a Rangers defender, "Come on Jinky, just take the baw past him", The Lord of the Wing finally began.
The opening scene, which can be viewed in part at http://www.jimmyjohnstone.com is of Jinky retracing his steps up the tunnel and on to the turf of the Estadio Nacional in Lisbon with the Celtic Fans singing You'll Never Walk Alone in the background and it sets the scene well for the film.
Although there is a fair bit of footage from Jinky's career it is the testimonies given by former team-mates and opponents that really brings it home to you just what a talented player Jinky was in his day (I should perhaps add that the only time I saw him play, that I can remember, was at the Jungle's Last Stand when Jinky would have been pushing 50. He was outstanding that night by the way, scoring an excellent goal).
Alex Ferguson, Johan Cruyff, Bobby Charlton, Terry Cooper and Sandy Jardine all warmly tell of their wasted attempts at trying to thwart his mazy runs but it was John Greig's stories of their tussles which truly demonstrated the frustration felt and the respect given to Jinky by those tasked with marking him.
The stories of Jinky's more amusing exploits are warmly recounted with Denis Law describing the "Largs Boat Scandal" which occurred when they were both on Scotland duty. Billy Connolly, narrating the film, has to stifle his laughter as he describes some of Jinky's shenanigans.
Pat Crerand also offers a little insight into the attitude of the SFA towards Celtic players back in those days and the effect it had on Jinky personally.
McNeill, Gemmell, Clark and Auld not surprisingly describe the days of Stein's reign and Johnstone's special, often strained, relationship with the Big Man.
All those reminiscing about Jinky's footballing days do so with a smile on their face and it is the warmth that radiates from them that sets the film apart from other 'football' productions. Some of Jinky's recollections of events will have you in stitches and it is to the credit of the film-makers that they seem to have captured Jinky's spirit in the film.
The film follows Jinky as he is reunited again with two other legends, Eusebio, who recalls being at the final in 1967 and Alfredo di Stefano who waxed lyrical about Jinky's visit to the Bernabeu for the Real Madrid legend's testimonial.
Martin O'Neill, sitting, yes sitting in the Celtic dugout with John Robertson explains the influence the Wee Man continues to have on the present Celtic side. Again, the affection they have for him is evident.
But it's not all pretty stuff. When Jinky talks of life after football and his battle with the alcohol he does so with great honesty as does Willie Haughey, the man Jinky credits with saving his life.
When Hugh McIlvanney describes his feelings on learning that Jinky had been diagnosed with the debilitating Motor Neurone Disease, it is deeply moving and you can't help being humbled when you see what Jinky is going through in his battle with the disease.
We see Jinky attempting, and apparently succeeding, to get on with life as best he can and are treated to an insight into his latest venture, the recording of Ewan MacColl's Dirty Old Town with Simple minds, done to raise money for his own Motor Neurone tribute Fund.
The film is unlike any other football production although it is difficult to describe just what it is exactly that sets it apart. It is perhaps that it is produced in a more professional manner or that it is about every aspect of Jinky's life and not just his achievements as a player. Most likely it's the subject matter.
The music provided by the likes of John McLaughlin and Frankie Miller certainly enhances the film and some of the songs will no doubt be added to many 'Celtic Collections' along with Jinky's rendition of Dirty Old Town.
The film will be available to buy sometime in May. The fact that the proceeds will be going to a good cause would be reason enough to buy it but there is no need for sentimentality when deciding whether or not purchase it. You will not regret it. It will make you laugh and it will probably make you cry so if you're a bit shy about others seeing you having a wee bubble you'd best watch it alone. You'll cry tears of sadness, tears of laughter and tears of joy. When you see Jinky walk among his own people, the Celtic support, your heart will be jumping out of your chest with the love you feel for this special little man.
When the film finished the whole auditorium hushed as Jinky began to say a few words. He emotionally described how his first thoughts on hearing of the sad loss of Ronnie Simpson had been to cancel that night's premier but that Big Billy had assured him that Ronnie would be right their with them as would his other pal Bobby Murdoch. He thanked those responsible for making the film possible and then turned his attention to the present team, congratulating Martin O'Neill on the League win and thanking him for putting Celtic back where they belong. His kindest words were for the Celtic support who he described as 'unbelievable'.
Afterwards at the Gala dinner several of the more famous faces were asked for their opinions on the film and whether they had enjoyed it. Neil Lennon told how he and Henrik were having a right good chuckle at some of Jinky's antics and I defy anyone not to laugh at some of the tales. Willie Haughey spoke fondly of Johnstone and it is clear that they have a special relationship and joked that he had already been offered a copy from the Barras for a fiver. Andy Cameron, with his kind words, proved that Jinky has touched the hearts of even those out with the Celtic family but perhaps the last word should go to the man who stood by his side during the minute's silence for Faither, Bertie Auld finished by saying, simply......
"I'm proud to say he is my pal"
Etims recommendation. Buy the DVD (not from the Barras!) and recommend it to everyone you know (and don't forget to buy Jinky's single when it is released as well). Available through his own website at http://www.jimmyjohnstone.com