IN October 1970, a 16-year-old Derek Johnstone scored the winner in the League Cup final against Celtic. Just months later, the teenager found himself in the midst of a tragic Old Firm encounter as 66 supporters lost their lives in the Ibrox Disaster.

Here is DJ’s story in his own words as he recalls his darkest day in football and pays tribute to those that went to watch their team play and paid the ultimate price.

THE Ibrox Disaster is something that has been in my mind since the day that it happened. It never has gone away, and it never will go away.

Nobody should go to a football game and not come home again, and I still think about those that lost loved ones that day and those that were caught up in the Disaster.

When the final whistle went, we had no idea what was going on. Celtic scored in the 89th minute, we scored with the last kick of the game and we shook hands and walked off the park.

Glasgow Times: layers and officials walk off at full-time, unaware of the stairway 13 collapse claiming 66 lives - L-R: Tommy Gemmell (Celtic) Ron McKinnon, Derek Johnstone and John Greig, (Rangers), Harry Hood (Celtic)layers and officials walk off at full-time, unaware of the stairway 13 collapse claiming 66 lives - L-R: Tommy Gemmell (Celtic) Ron McKinnon, Derek Johnstone and John Greig, (Rangers), Harry Hood (Celtic)

We came into the dressing room and a few of us were saying we dropped a couple of points that day and were talking through the game. But when they score as late and we manage to equalise, we were quite happy in the end.

We were all in the big baths and the windows were above us taking you onto Edmiston Drive. They were always open so we could hear the fans going by.

Then we heard the police vans and the ambulances and there was a lot of noise. We thought it might have kicked off between the fans and there had been a scuffle with the supporters, so we didn’t think anything of it.

A few of the lads left and I went over to one of the wee baths and just lay in it for a while. After about 20, 25 minutes, Greigy came out the physio room, which was just off the dressing room, after getting treatment, and he said something like ‘you not got a home to go to?!’

I wasn’t in any hurry, so I just lay in the bath for a bit longer. Then Greigy came back in and told me there had been a terrible accident and I had to get ready and get away from Ibrox.

I went through the door into the dressing room and on the floor on the left hand side there were five or six black bags. The door opened and an ambulance man came in and said he didn’t realise there was anyone still in.

He told me it was madness out there and to get myself away. I asked what was going on and he explained what had happened and that the supporters had been crushed.

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As he is telling me this, on the floor in the dressing room is the black bags covering the poor people that had died. It was horrific and they kept bringing bodies in as I was getting changed.

Willie Waddell came in and told me to get away and to come back on Monday morning to discuss it then. I went into the corridor and rather than going out the main door, I turned right and went down the tunnel and as I got to the bottom I looked over to the right and saw all the black bags with the bodies inside them.

Two policemen said ‘this isn’t the place for you, son’ and I went out through the front door. It was mobbed with people that had stayed back after hearing what had happened.

Remember, there was no breaking news or social media in those days, there was nothing, and a lot of players didn’t know what had happened until they heard it on the radio in the car or until they got home.

I remember going to get the train but it was so busy at Copland Road so I decided to walk down Paisley Road and look for a taxi to get home. I ended up walking all the way and it wasn’t until I got home and saw the news that I realised the scale of what had happened.

Glasgow Times: Chaotic scenes with victims lined on pitch and rescuers huddle over injuredChaotic scenes with victims lined on pitch and rescuers huddle over injured

It hit me that hard that I went home to Dundee. I had only just turned 17 in the November and I didn’t want to be in Glasgow on my own that night so I got the train back to Dundee and went home.

My mum didn’t know anything about it. She hadn’t seen it and my brothers had been out, so it was only when the news came on later and the pictures came through that they saw the tragedy that had unfolded.

At first it said that around 40 people had died and then it just went up and up and up. It was just so solemn, so surreal and so heart-breaking.

I don’t know how I got through the weekend. I never slept a wink on the Saturday or Sunday and then we were back at Ibrox on the Monday.

Willie Waddell said that we wouldn’t be training for two weeks. We had hospitals to visit to see the people that were injured and funerals to go to.

All the players were given areas, like Greigy and Sandy in Edinburgh. There was nobody from Dundee but I was in Fife and went to the funerals of the five lads from Markinch.

They were all from the same school, they played for the same team and they came through on the Supporters’ Bus. They were only a couple of years younger than I was.

The turnout that day was incredible, the streets were so crowded and it was such a sad day.

I remember speaking to Greigy and was telling him how bad I felt and that I couldn’t sleep, and he said to just think of the parents of those kids, of the brothers and sisters, the aunts and uncles and the grandparents of those five lads and of everyone that lost someone in the Disaster. That sticks with me to this day.

The gaffer had said that at least one person would be at every funeral and we had to go and visit the hospitals. I went to see several people.

People wander what I said to them. But the thing was, you didn’t have to say anything to them. When you walked in the door with John Greig or Sandy Jardine, they were idols to these supporters.

Some of the stories we had were terrifying to hear but the supporters were so glad to see us and we just had to do anything we could to help them get through it. It was a duty, it was us being part of the Rangers Family.

These fans had given up their time and their money to come and watch us, so it was only right that we paid our respects to those that died and visited those that were in hospital.

Glasgow Times: Rangers players after visiting injured victims in hospital Rangers players after visiting injured victims in hospital

It was a hellish time and it was very, very difficult to get back playing football again. We felt it was far too short a time, especially being back at Ibrox because being in that dressing room just brought it all back.

It was on our minds for a long, long time and we couldn’t really focus on what was going on. But we had to go out and play for the fans that had come to watch us, we had to get results for them.

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It wasn’t great, it wasn’t great. Usually the dressing room is full of laughter and pranks, but there was nothing like that and it was just so quiet between the lads and in training.

We just had to get on with it, but it took a toll and nobody will ever forget it. Football went on and we just had to do what we could for the victims, the survivors and the fans.

You think back and wander what life would have been like for those that died. They never got the chance to grow old, some never got the chance to have a family and take their kids to Ibrox.

Glasgow Times: Rangers legend Derek Johnstone on the Ibrox Disaster, helping the survivors and paying tribute to the 66Rangers legend Derek Johnstone on the Ibrox Disaster, helping the survivors and paying tribute to the 66

Their families have been grieving all this time. Every year they will have gone to the cemetery or the statue at Ibrox and remembered.

It is something I will never forget, the families will never forget and Rangers and the supporters will never forget.

It is a shame that we cannot pay our respects together at Ibrox. If the situation had been different, I know the Rangers Family would have come together once again to pay their respects to the 66 and remember Absent Friends.

Tomorrow: One of the survivors recalls that fateful day at Ibrox