A HIGHLAND League legend is to be honoured by his hometown club over a decade after he passed away.
Davy Johnston, who scored 286 goals in 279 appearances for Nairn County and 156 goals for Inverness Caley in 188 games, has had a new enclosure named after him at Station Park - a stone's throw from the house where he grew up in Nairn's Shanghai housing scheme.
Johnston also made a name for himself in the Scottish League with Aberdeen. He scored 37 goals in 99 appearances for the Dons between 1966 and 1969.
Johnston played in the 1967 Scottish Cup final against Celtic, which the Dons lost 2-0 and in Aberdeen's tour of America that year. His finest hour in a red shirt though was on the last game of the 1967/68 season, when he scored two of the three goals in Aberdeen's 3-2 victory over title-chasing Rangers at Ibrox. It was the closest Alex Ferguson ever came to winning a championship medal as a player but he saw his chances go down the pan that day. Johnston also laid on the clinching goal for Ian Taylor.
The new enclosure at Station Park was completed earlier this year after three years of fundraising by the club and its fans. It cost over £100,000 to construct with the Nairn supporters contributing £56,000 and the rest being made up from the contributions of benefactors, Highland Council, Co-Op Community Fund. There was also a significant effort made by the club's previous main sponsors Narden - both financial and in free labour hours - towards the project, with the additional contribution of a substantial, four-figure sum towards the settlement of the final invoice upon their summer departure on top of all previous investment.
Fans were invited to choose a name for the enclosure and County legend Johnston, who scored 73 goals in 46 games during the 1963/64 season for Nairn, came out at the top of the poll.
Davy died in 2004 but his scoring exploits remain part of Highland League folklore.
Celebrations will be held to mark the naming of the new enclosure on Saturday October 8th when Nairn County play Rothes.
It was against Rothes in November 1958 that Johnston made his debut for County as a raw 16-year-old
Journalist Donald Wilson wrote a biography on his boyhood hero in 2010.
"By the following season, Davy was beginning to attract the attention of the big clubs down south and Tommy Walker, then manager of Scottish champions, Hearts, was first to make his move," said Donald.
"He signed Davy in 1959 and at the age of 17, he had made his Hearts debut and scored his first Scottish League goal."
But things never worked out for the youngster.
Gripped by homesickness, he returned the following year to Nairn where his scoring exploits began in earnest.
"He formed a formidable partnership with an old schoolmate, Chic Allan from Auldearn and together they terrorised defences in the Highland League."
"Chic was eventually lured to Inverness Caley and then Davy, fast approaching his 24th birthday, was signed for Aberdeen by Eddie Turnbull."
Johnston walked out on the Dons in 1969 and Caley paid a fee to release him from his contract.
"Davy would loved to have returned to Nairn but they could not afford him," recalls Donald.
"However, he did come back to Nairn in 1976, aged 34 and played 13 games in the club's first ever title winning season, scoring two goal."
For many years it was believed that Johnston's goals in 1963/64 were a league record. But, in fact, that is held by Andy "Juppy" Mitchell, who found the net 77 times in just 45 games for Inverness Thistle in 1955/56.
"I got to know Davy when he managed Nairn Saint Ninian at the end of his playing days," said Donald.
"And people of my generation to this day will argue that he was the greatest ever Highland League footballer."
"His father, Samuel was a miner and played for Dumbarton. He was killed in the Irrawaddy crossing in Burma in the last days of the war. I am sure had he survived to mentor his son, Davy would have fulfilled his true potential and played for Scotland."
"Instead, Davy's career was racked by homesickness when he walked out on both Hearts and Aberdeen. But now he has been immortalised by the club where he first made his name and I am delighted that the enclosure is being named after a football legend."
"Innes Macdonald, who coached the great Elgin side of the sixties, said he was the best he saw in his lifetime of football in the Highland League. Eddie Turnbull told me he believed Johnston could have been as good as Bobby Charlton if he had been coached at the highest level from the age of sixteen."
"That was a measure of his ability. But he was a very unassuming individual who never pursued the trappings of football and was never once booked in his career."
Nairn County's new chairman Donald Matheson said: "It was a real team effort by a lot of people, not least our fans, to build the enclosure."
"Davy already has his place in the Highland Football Academy Hall of Fame in Dingwall. Now, his name will be immortalised at the ground where he first made his name having being spotted by the club trainer Eric Geddes as a promising schoolboy talent. We look forward to the match and recognising a unique talent who was widely respected in north football."