Johnny Gibson
Johnny Gibson
Johnny Gibson
● Johnny Gibson, 1973 (HA)

born in England

Johnny Gibson was born on Saturday, 23rd December, 1950, in Kingston upon Hull, East Yorkshire.

The 5' 5½ (8st 7lbs) forward signed for Willie Thornton's Thistle on Wednesday, 1st May, 1968, having most recently been with Clydebank Boys Guild.

Aged 17, he made his debut appearance on Saturday, 7th September, 1968, in a 2-0 defeat away to Rangers in the SFL First Division.

Johnny scored his first goal for Thistle on Saturday, 14th September, 1968, in a 4-0 win at home to Clyde in the SFL First Division.

He scored the last of his 16 goals on Saturday, 5th October, 1974, in a 5-2 defeat away to Ayr United in the SFL First Division.

He played his last game for the club on Saturday, 12th October, 1974, in a 2-1 win at home to Dumbarton in the SFL First Division, having clocked up 161 appearances as a Jag.

Johnny's club-list included Partick Thistle, Ayr United, St Mirren, Celtic, East Fife, Forfar Athletic, Stirling Albion and Sauchie.

Bio Extra

Aged 15, Johnny was on the groundstaff at Celtic but never made the breakthrough and was nurtured by Clydebank Boys Guild before arriving at Firhill at the tail end of Willie Thornton's reign. He made his first-team debut as a 17-year-old in the opening League game of 1968-69, a 2-0 defeat to Rangers in front of 29,505 at Ibrox. Before the month was out, Thornton was off to become assistant manager at Rangers and Scot Symon was the new gaffer at Firhill. The following season was a nightmare for all Thistleonians and the Jags were relegated for the first time in almost 70 years.

Playing under his third manager, Davie McParland, Johnny won a Second Division winners' medal in 1971 as Thistle bounced back at the first time of asking. The opening League game of the 1971-72 did wonders for the confidence of everyone at Firhill, as Rangers were put to the sword in a never-to-be-forgotten match in which Johnny was the star of the show. One down after five minutes, Firhill's regular patrons feared the worst, but their heroes were not long in overcoming their nervousness. The biggest thanksgiving was reserved for our wee right winger, the 20-year-old Johnny Gibson, who, despite being kicked all over the park, scored twice and helped make the other. With the cheers still ringing in their ears after turning a one goal deficit on its head, our 5' 5½ hero “hoisted his tiny frame up” to head Thistle into a 3-1 lead, the new League season barely half-an-hour old. The goal came as a result of fine work from Bobby Lawrie, who took on the Rangers defence and sent over a perfect cross. To see the wee man get a header past the giant that was Peter McCloy must have been a sight to behold! Johnny did all of his business in the first-half before retiring at half-time with an ice-pack for his bruises, a chill-out in the jacuzzi, a fat Cuban cigar and a large glass of cognac!

“McParland’s babes”, as they were occasionally styled, knew no fear, and played with a youthful confidence that was extremely refreshing to the Firhill faithful; the tired old Partick Thistle club of the late 1960s was born anew. This confidence was carried magnificently into the League Cup campaign of 1971. Prior to the final versus Celtic, Johnny had played in 5 of the League Cup games, and he was disappointed to learn that he would be on the bench for the ultimate match, especially since it his own honesty over a fitness issue that had caused him to lose his place in the team weeks before. However, as things turned out, he would have a key role to play on victory day. The pressure had slowly been mounting by the hour mark, when Kenny Dalglish pulled one back for Celtic to make it 4-1. Ronnie Glavin's troublesome ankle had impacted his agility by then, and that was the signal for Johnny's introduction in the 73rd minute. Johnny was fantastically irritating to Celtic's cause. He was assured to the point of being cocky, and seemed to enjoy playing wee one-two games with Alex Forsyth before taking the ball for a number of time-consuming walks. Johnny was a man on a mission and it was easily accomplished as the clock ticked down in a calmer way than it had any right to do for those of a red and yellow persuasion. All twelve players (and the manager) earned their medals that day!

Johnny was about to enter his 8th season as a Jag when Bertie Auld took over in the summer of 1974. He was very much on the fringes at this time, and it was thought that a career move would be beneficial. Bertie's wheeling and dealing resulted in a November 1974 transfer deal which resulted in Johnny heading for Somerset Park, whilst Dougie Somner and Doug Mitchell made the opposite journey to Firhill. Johnny failed to settle at Ayr, and a change of manager didn't help his cause there. He moved on to St Mirren in July 1976 on a short term deal, but was soon consigned to the reserves. He was a surprise signing for Celtic in December 1976, Jock Stein signing up the wideman on a free transfer after having been impressed with his performance in a St Mirren reserve game just weeks before he would be released by the Love Street club. At that time Johnny was described as one of the more colourful characters in the Scottish game, and it was noted that he had got himself involved in a number of scrapes at his previous clubs with “a longer disciplinary record than most hard man defenders”. He was soon dubbed by some Celtic fans as ‘The Ghost’ as, to them, he seemed so pale and skinny.

Johnny made his debut soon after arriving, coming on as a substitute in a 3-0 league win over Ayr at Parkhead on 12th December 1976. Once again though, he was never anything more than a fringe player, making only four appearances spread over the season, albeit Celtic never lost in the four games he played; three victories (two in the league) and one draw with Hibernian. All these games came in Celtic's title-winning season of 1976-77, so he helped play a small part in assisting Celtic to regain the league title for the last time under Jock Stein. The next season was a nightmare for Celtic, with the loss of key players hampering the campaign as Celtic collapsed in their challenge for the title, finishing in a lowly fifth position. Despite possible openings, Johnny was not given further chances but, on the other hand, it meant that he escaped the wrath of the critics. He was released prior to the season end in April 1978, and moved onto East Fife where he played a number of games before moving on to play for Forfar Athletic and Stirling Albion.

Every player who played some part in Thistle’s historic League Cup success was rewarded with a Hall of Fame entry, and Johnny deservedly took his place on the 23rd October, 2009, exactly 38 years on from, arguably, the most famous date in the history of Partick Thistle FC.


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