STANDING over six feet tall at the age of 15, Denny Johnstone is already an imposing figure. One of the five players selected for representation by the John Collins-backed Platinum Group, the young Celtic striker also has an impressive footballing pedigree.
Johnstone is the great-grandson of Bobby Black, a League Cup winner and Scottish Cup finalist with the great East Fife side of the late 1940s and early 1950s before going on to become a legendary figure for his hometown club Queen of the South, where his boots are on display in the club museum – he wore the same pair throughout his playing career.
Black was capped by the Scottish League in 1954 against the League of Ireland, scoring twice in a 3-1 win in Ireland. Later in life the winger became an all-England bowls champion.
Johnstone's uncle, Russell Black, was also a professional player in the 1980s, spending two seasons with Sheffield United, a short spell on loan at Dundee, and two years with Halifax Town.
Also Dumfries-born, Johnstone remains in regular contact with 82-year-old Black who now lives in Somerset and closely follows his great-grandson's fledgling career.
"He came up to watch me last season playing for the Celtic under-17s against Rangers," said Johnstone. "He was obviously a great player himself and I suppose the game is in my blood."
Joining Johnstone in the Platinum Group stable are 17-year-old Hearts striker David Smith, 15-year-old Falkirk midfielder Craig Sibbald, 17-year-old Queen's Park defender Reece McGillion and 15-year-old Rangers striker Callum Wyllie.
The initiative is the brainchild of Gordon Craig, managing director of the Innovator Sports agency. It is supported by former Leeds United player Aidan Butterworth, a former Adidas executive who first linked up with Collins on the launch of the famous Predator football boot in the 1990s, and sports psychologist Donald MacNaughton who has worked with Olympic athletes.
"We believe that this is a unique and dynamic programme which will ensure each player has every chance of success on and off the pitch," said Craig. "John will be a great mentor to these players and our target for them is to fulfil their dreams of playing for Scotland at the 2018 World Cup finals."