Bobby Johnstone (7 September 1929 in Selkirk, Scotland – 22 August 2001 in Selkirk was a Scottish football player, mainly remembered as one of the Hibs Famous Five.
In Hibs’ rich history, no group of players has ever achieved greater fame than the Famous Five: Gordon Smith, Bobby Johnstone, Lawrie Reilly, Eddie Turnbull and Willie Ormond. In the late 1940s and early 1950s, they forged a front line that was the scourge of defences throughout Scotland.
Bobby Johnstone, known to his mates as ‘Nicker’, signed for Hibs in 1946 from Selkirk and had two spells with them. He left in 1955 to join Manchester City for the hefty sum of £22,000, before returning to Hibs in 1959 for £6,000.
Bobby is remembered most for his first spell with Hibs, yet he inspired them to a couple of incredible wins on his return, even though he had put on a few pounds and was a little less mobile. However, the brain had not slowed down any and his prompting enabled the team to score 10 goals at Firhill against Partick Thistle and another 11 at Broomfield against Airdrie.
Having signed for Hibs, Bobby received rave reviews while playing for the reserves and was given his first chance in the first team in April 1949,when they played a friendly against Nithsdale Wanderers at Sanquhar. The Famous Five were born!
However, at the start of the 1949-50 season in August it was Bobby Combe in possession of the jersey. His big chance came in October after Hibs half backs got the blame for losing to Dunfermline in the League Cup semi final at Tynecastle.
The entire half back line were dropped and Bobby was given his chance. Therefore, the Famous Five made their collective debut on October 15th 1949 against Queen of the South, with Hibs winning 2-0.
Of his thirteen international caps, probably the most memorable was scoring on his debut against England at Wembley in a 3-2 win in which Lawrie Reilly also scored.
Bobby also collected international goals against Northern Ireland, Wales, Sweden and Finland.
As well as winning 17 international caps for Scotland, Bobby also represented the Scottish League on 6 occasions as well as playing for Great Britain against the Rest of Europe.
Along with Gordon Smith, Bobby picked up three Scottish League winners medals in 1947-48, 1950-51 and 1951-52. he also played in a Scottish League Cup final.
Out of the five, Bobby was the only one to play in England where he scored in back-to-back FA Cup finals for Manchester City (the first player to ever do so!), winning in 1956 against Birmingham City.
After his second spell with Hibs he went south again to join Oldham Athletic and is widely regarded as one of their greatest ever players.
Bernard Halford was assistant secretary in those magical days of the early 1960’s and recalled, “He transformed the club, no doubt about that. He had the crowds flocking down Sheepfoot Lane, even though Athletic had dropped into the Fourth Division. I think it was the only period in my life when I regularly told lies. On match days the phone never stopped ringing. ‘Is Johnstone playing?’ Bobby might have been sitting in my office with his ankle in plaster, but I had to say he was playing, otherwise the fans wouldn’t have turned up. It really was as cut and dried as that.”
Not until the summer of 1965, some 19 years after his senior career had started, did Bobby finally retire. He may have been the unsung hero of the Famous Five, but he left the stage having gathered honours by the handful.