Gers Euro heroes speak to the Gazette

Left to right: Ronnie McKinnon, Derek Parlane, MC Alasdair Morrison and Derek Johnstone in the Lewis and Harris Rangers Supporters Club.
Left to right: Ronnie McKinnon, Derek Parlane, MC Alasdair Morrison and Derek Johnstone in the Lewis and Harris Rangers Supporters Club.

Derek Johnstone watched from the bench with a mixture of concern and wide-eyed wonder on a European night in Lisbon.

The then 18-year-old was just an emerging Rangers rookie when he watched club legend, and adopted Leodhsach, Ronnie McKinnon left stricken on the Lisbon turf.

It was the European Cup Winners Cup quarter-final when McKinnon’s participation in what was destined to become Rangers’ most glorious charge – en-route to winning a top European trophy – was ended but the challenge also ended McKinnon’s Gers career.

Fast-forward some-40 odd years and Johnstone was thrilled to be able to spend the evening with McKinnon and more than 100-local Rangers supporters at the Lewis and Harris Rangers Supporters Club during his, and fellow club legend Derek Parlane’s, trip to Stornoway.

“I played with Ronnie and I was there was sitting on the bench with Dave Smith in Lisbon that fateful day when Ronnie broke his leg,” recalled Johnstone, leaning back in the club which has been recognised as the world’s biggest Rangers Supporters Club.

“Ironically it was Dave and I who played the final but in Lisbon it was Ronnie and Colin Jackson at centre-half that night and I’ll always remember the challenge.

“It was a 50/50 ball and Sporting Lisbon had a big striker called Hector Yazalde. We were right in line with it and Ronnie went for the ball but Yazalde went right over the top of it at knee height.

“You could hear the crack in the stadium. Ronnie’s leg was twisted the wrong way round and he just looked at it then gave the cutting the throat signal to say he was finished and had to come off. There was no screaming or balling. The shock later must have hit him but it finished Ronnie.

“It cost him the final and everything. He was such a fantastic player and probably the quickest centre-half I ever played with. His game was marking someone and marking them out of a game which he did very well.

“I’ve seen him down at Ibrox a couple of times but tonight in Stornoway will be the first time I’ve visited him which I’m looking forward to.”

Derek Parlane, who broke into the Gers team around the same time as Johnstone said: “I saw Ronnie last year during my visit to Stornoway and its great to see the big fella who hasn’t changed and is a smashing guy.

“When I joined Rangers he was one of the stalwarts and one of the guys I respected and as Derek says that tackle finished his career and kept him out of the final which was very sad.”

Garrabost-based Ronnie is a regular sight at the Rangers Club who in recent years have rolled out the blue carpet for a range of current and former Gers heroes including current skipper Lee McCulloch.

McCulloch was among one of those who rejected a proposed 15 per cent pay cut from club chiefs but speaking to the Gazette, Johnstone reckons he was right to do so.

“Well I think it’s inevitable that something has to be done if the club are struggling financially but I am 100 per cent behind the players,” he explained.

“Its not their fault they are in this situation.

“Many of them could have played at a higher level but they decided they wanted to be at a big club like Rangers and get good wages and that’s why they signed. I think they are quite within their rights not to do it.

“It’s up to the people in the club now to bring new investment in to make sure of the finances of the club – and that will happen and I’m in no doubt.”

For the rest of the interview with the two Derek’s - see this week’s Stornoway Gazette ... on sale now.