THE recollections - the feeling of the clip round the ear, the sight of the ball hitting the net and the roar erupting from the Rangers end – remain as vivid as ever. Time – all 50 years of it – has not diminished the memories for Derek Johnstone.

It was on October 24, 1970, that Hampden folklore was written and Johnstone was immortalised as the then 16-year-old scored the only goal of the League Cup final against Celtic. As it turned out, it was only the beginning for a player that would become a Rangers legend and a man that still proudly serves his club with distinction to this day.

The DJ story is one that dreams were made of and the father-like figure that played such an inspiring and guiding role in his career was there from the very start of it.

“Jock said ‘if you are on the team sheet, stay here’ and I just got up automatically and went to go training,” Johnstone says as he recalls an instruction from Jock Wallace, on the Friday before the final, for those not in the Hampden squad to head to the Albion.

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“When you go in the dressing room, the gaffer put the squad list on the wall and there was the second team there as well. Jock said ‘where are you going? Have you looked at the board?’

“He grabbed me by the collar, all the lads are round it seeing if they are in the squad, so he pushes them out the road and says ‘what is the name at the bottom of that list?’.

“I said Johnstone and thought that was Bud (Willie Johnston). He gave me a clip round the ear, one of many that I got from him!”

The giant figure of Wallace and daunting presence of Willie Waddell were tests of character for experienced professionals, never mind a forward that had only made his debut the previous month as he scored twice in a victory over Cowdenbeath. But Johnstone was mature beyond his years and more than ready for a day that would change his life forever.

Another instruction from Wallace followed as Johnstone was told to use his four tickets for Hampden to bring his brothers. When he replied that he would need another two in that case, a rebuke that Johnstone relays as ‘he told me where to go!’ was delivered and his mother and brother Bobby would ultimately make the journey to the National Stadium the following day.

There was no overnight in a hotel and pre-final getaway for Rangers. Instead, Johnstone travelled to Queen Street to begin the trip back to the family home, before returning to Ibrox on the Saturday to get the bus to the game against Jock Stein’s side.

“Denis Law’s brother was the chef on the train,” Johnstone said of the service that dropped him off in Dundee before continuing to Aberdeen. “I used to see him quite a lot. They were a big Rangers family and Jim Baxter was a hero for Denis, so he loved the Rangers.

“We used to chat all the time and I told him I was in the squad for the game. He sat with me almost the whole way to Dundee chatting away. My mind was just going everywhere, I couldn’t believe what was happening.”

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That state of disbelief was only a taster of what was to come. The nerves and excitement reached a crescendo as Johnstone arrived at Hampden and his youthful eagerness, in a squad that included the likes of John Greig, Sandy Jardine and Alex MacDonald, would earn him another slap down from Wallace.

“We got to Hampden about 1.45pm for a 3.00pm kick off and I was ready with my gear on ten minutes later,” Johnstone laughed. “Big Jock says ‘what the f*** are you doing, son? Go out, see the pitch, relax, you have got an hour yet!’

“All the lads were laughing so I took the gear off to go out onto the pitch. Looking around when it was empty was incredible. There were 106,000 there that day and I was so nervous walking out at an empty Hampden, seeing those terraces going all the way up.”

When Rangers next emerged into the vast surrounds of the National Stadium, tens of thousands were already in each end as the teams warmed up. The message from Greig and Jardine was that the crowd would just become background noise as Johnstone focused on the formidable task in hand.

“Jock said that nobody fancied us at all but knew we could win it and bring the trophy back,” Johnstone said. “We go into the tunnel, walk down and the noise was absolutely deafening.

“It is a wonderful sight when you go out, you glance and see all the green and white and then look to the left and it is red, white and blue. For the first time, I just had a look around to take it all in.”

It was soon the words of Billy McNeill that Johnstone had in his head as the Celtic skipper started good natured mind games with his teenage opponent. An invite to ‘come and learn something’ at a corner backfired as DJ beat McNeill in the air, while the defender’s belief that he would head home the winner proved ironically incorrect.

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“It was all good banter, there was nothing bad about it,” Johnstone recollects of the verbal and physical jousts against the legendary Big Billy. “There was a stoppage and he said ‘listen, if you need a hand with your homework just give me a shout. I was clever at school so give me a bell and I’ll give you a hand with it’.

“This was the man that was a Scotland international, the captain of Celtic and the man that picked up the European cup three seasons previously. It was funny and I really appreciated it. And so did he, until the 40th minute!”

That is when Johnstone’s moment arrived. The years that followed would see DJ’s strength and ability in the air become something of a trademark, but it was this goal that would set him on the path to legendary status at Ibrox.

“Bud put the ball in from the right side, I got above Billy and Jim Craig and headed it into the bottom corner,” Johnstone says. “I couldn’t ask for a better header, it was right in the corner and the keeper never got near it.

“The worst thing about it is my celebration. I didn’t know what to do so I just jump with my hands in the air. When I watch it nowadays, I just think ‘what are you doing?’

“Celtic hit us with everything in the second half, big Peter (McCloy) made some great saves and we had chances to kill it off as well.”

In the end, one was enough for Rangers. A place in the history books was as secure as that of Johnstone’s in the affections of a support that had a new hero at Hampden.

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Victory over their Old Firm rivals ended a four-year long wait for silverware. Given the success that was to follow domestically and in Europe during the decade, the importance of that afternoon cannot be understated.

“The greatest sound was the referee blowing the whistle and I turned and looked at the Rangers end and they were going absolutely berserk,” Johnstone said. “At the other end, all you see the back of their heads as they walk up the terracing.

“We hadn’t won anything for a couple of years, so it was huge for the likes of Greigy, Sandy and Alex and Big Jock was on the pitch. He said to us that is why we joined Rangers, to win things.

“It was about mentality and that was drummed into me. If you can’t handle everything that goes with Rangers, can’t handle the pressure, then don’t come here.

“I learned that from a very early age that you need that mentality. If you are at Rangers, it is about winning and that is what we are all about.”

The celebrations were to prove brief for DJ. Cup final hero or not, the 16-year-old wasn’t allowed to join his team-mates at the post-match doo, but he had another fixture to focus on as Scotland duty called.

“The lads all went out to their usual haunts and there was a party in one of the pubs but I wasn’t allowed in,” Johnstone said. “I was flying out to Iceland the next day to play for the Scotland Under-18s so I had to stay in Glasgow.

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“Greigy had arranged for me to stay with his uncle in Lenzie so I stayed there with him and he drove me to the airport in the morning for the flight to Reykjavik.”

A 3-1 win over Iceland ultimately wasn’t enough to see Scotland qualify as they finished behind Wales in the three-team section. It was still to prove an eventful trip for Johnstone.

“He picked the team and put me on the bench,” he said of boss Bobby Seith, who would go on to become manager of Hearts. “He said I wasn’t playing because I haven’t had much experience. I didn’t saying anything! I was just delighted to be involved.

“I remember coming back on the flight and the boys asked if I brought my medal with me. I went ‘yes’ and then ‘Jesus Christ’.”

The reaction was for a very good reason. Johnstone had indeed taken his medal with him, but it wasn’t on the return flight to Glasgow after a ploy to stash it away from potential intruders at his hotel backfired.

“That was me being clever at that age,” he said, reminiscing at a moment he can laugh at now and the ill-fated decision to store the medal at the back of a chest of drawers in his room. “But I was so clever I left it there! I went straight to Ibrox and Willie Waddell was there, so I explained to him and he phoned the hotel.

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“They had cleaned the room and never found it. I told them where it was and two days later I got it back in the post. The first medal I ever won and I nearly lost it!”

It wouldn’t be the last that DJ would hold dear during a glittering Ibrox career. The first one will always have a special place in his heart, even after all these years.