Continuing a weekly series toasting some of the most celebrated names in Cliftonville history, cliftonvillefc.net today delves into the Club’s Hall of Fame to salute legendary goalkeeper Brian Johnston..
Inducted to the John McCredy McAlery Hall of Fame in May 2019, Johnston made 250 appearances over eight seasons for the Reds – and even demonstrated his outfield prowess to considerable effect at underage level.
After working his way through the ranks at Solitude, he achieved international recognition in 1978 when he earned the distinction of being Northern Ireland Under-21s’ first ever goalkeeper and was later included in the senior squad for the Home Championship.
Earlier in his career, while honing his trade with Cliftonville Olympic, Johnston saw his place in the team taken by first-team stopper Harry McKibben for a game in Dunmurry.
Having arrived at the interval to spectate the second-half, Johnston learned that the Reds had actually been playing with 10 men as two players had failed to report for duty. He was swiftly slotted into a right-wing role and scored twice to earn a 2-2 draw – and was also on the scoresheet a few years later when he was handed the number 9 jersey for a B Division fixture against UUJ, marking him out as something of a prolific scorer among keepers deployed in outfield roles!
He was the only player to feature in all 47 of the Reds’ fixtures during the iconic 1978/79 season, which saw him help the Club to a memorable Irish Cup Final victory over Portadown at the age of 22 – and was the penalty shoot-out hero when Crusaders were overcome in the County Antrim Shield Final a few weeks later.
Part of the first Cliftonville side to play in Europe when French giants FC Nantes Atlantique visited for a Cup Winners’ Cup clash a few months after that famous Windsor Park defeat of the Ports, Johnston remains a favourite to fans of all ages, who regularly recall his iconic exploits during an exalted period in the history of Ireland’s Oldest Football Club.