I'm a world famous Celtic hero for scoring just ONE goal and fans still remind me of it when I travel around the globe

Tommy Johnson scores for Celtic against St Mirren -Credit:SNS Group
Tommy Johnson scores for Celtic against St Mirren -Credit:SNS Group

Tommy Johnson scored the goal against St Mirren that won Celtic a title.

It was almost 25 years ago. Yet, on a recent London trip, Johnson was again reminded fans never forget such iconic moments. And, with Saints due at Parkhead on the final day of this term, the ex-Hoops hitman knows a new hero has the chance to savour such adulation and take their own place in the club’s history.

Johnson’s strike in 2001 against the Paisley side sealed the deal for Martin O’Neill’s team. Previous performances, subsequent displays and ups and downs through his four years in Glasgow pale into insignificance when placed alongside that unforgettable moment. Few get to be that individual and those who achieve it are always in fans’ hearts as Johnson explained: “You still get reminded about it, that is the thing. It is how it goes.

“When we played St Mirren and I scored the goal, I got cramp. I came off and thought, ‘Don’t anybody else score, please’. You just want to win the game and it didn’t matter who scored, but deep down you are thinking that. It transpired that nobody else scored, so it was alright. It is great to be remembered for that.

“I can go through all the managers that I had, when I didn’t play and injuries, but speak to any Celtic fan and all they go on about is St Mirren. I remember we played Dundee at home on the Wednesday before and I scored and we were winning 1-0 at half-time.

“The gaffer told us to go and win it in the second 45 minutes and big Johan Mjallby scored with about five or 10 minutes to go. We knew we were going to win it on the Saturday, no disrespect to St Mirren. It was live on Sky, it was sunny, all the families were there. That was it, not in a cocky or arrogant way.

“The four-and-a-half years were brilliant. I had managers who didn’t play me, but I was involved all that season and was fortunate enough to play in the last few games before we won the league and managed to score the goal. Everyone reminds me of that, they don’t mention the injuries. Yeah, I should have played a lot more than I did, I totally get it.

“It is a special part of your life. Once you play for Celtic that is it, everyone remembers you. Most players realise how big Celtic is. They are worldwide, known everywhere you go. Everywhere. You could be in the middle of the countryside in England, in the Lake District and you will meet a fan. The United States, all over Europe.

“I was in London a couple of weeks ago seeing my daughters. I had just got out of the tube station and was walking to my daughter’s house and a Celtic fan came up to me and said, ‘Hiya Tommy, what are you doing here?’ They are everywhere.

“My girls know I played football and did alright. But they said: How do people still recognise you? You’re all grey now!”

Johnson cherishes his Parkhead days. Having signed for Tommy Burns in 1997, he also played under Wim Jansen, Jozef Venglos, John Barnes, Kenny Dalglish and O’Neill. The striker knew it would be special when he joined as he said: “I could have left a few times, but I didn’t want to.

“I don’t know if that was because I didn’t want to be classed as a failure or whatever, but I loved the place. “When Celtic come in for you, you know what the lads are like, the history of the club and what it means to play for them. You know straight away. I was at Aston Villa and the manager Brian Little rang me up at home and said: I need to see you. I thought: What have I done now? I haven’t done anything gaffer!

“He lived about 10 miles away from me and I will always remember it. It was a Thursday night. He said: Celtic have come in and we have accepted the bid. We talked about it all night. At the end of the day, it was my decision. He offered me a new contract, but I said: No, I’ll regret it if I don’t go.

“It was a difficult decision, but it was even more difficult when the man who signed me, Tommy Burns, got the sack three weeks later. I thought: What have I done? But it worked out alright. Tommy came back with Kenny (Dalglish) and then when the gaffer (O’Neill) came in the rest was history. In the gaffer’s first season we won the Treble which hadn’t been done for many years.”

O’Neill’s team of stalwarts were prepared to go to war as Johnson said: “We just clicked. He brought players in who made a massive difference, the likes of Lenny, Sutty, Thommo, Joos. Along with the guys who had been there for a couple of years we just gelled and socialised. Going out on a Monday or a Tuesday was the done thing.

“It brought us together. We had had it with Wim (Jansen), stopping 10-In-A-Row, a few years before. It was before social media. I don’t know how they do it now, dear me. You wouldn’t go out as much now, you wouldn’t drink, that is the way it is.”

● Tommy Johnson was speaking at John Hartson’s annual Golf Day at Turnberry for his Foundation. The Hartson Foundation has raised awareness and made several donations to cancer charities all around Scotland for more than a decade.