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Meet the Western Isles teen living out her dream as Celtic’s number one (or 52)

Rachael Johnstone is living her dream as a professional goalkeeper for Celtic
Rachael Johnstone is living her dream as a professional goalkeeper for Celtic

For most 17-year-olds, passing that pesky driving test is usually marked as the milestone of the year.

However, one Western Isles teenager has a little bit more to celebrate.

Rachael Johnstone, who hails from Balallan on Lewis, has recently picked up her fist silverware as a professional footballer.

To make things even better for the teenager, she has only gone and done it with her childhood heroes Celtic.

Years of hard work

Although the success comes following a spell with the famed outfit, for Rachael, it culminates years of hard work and dedication, often frequenting from her native island on lengthy trips for training and matches.

17-year-old Rachael Johnstone is currently living out her dream with Celtic

It was only in November 2020 that she made the shift from Lewis to Glasgow, a year after she joined the now League Cup champions.

Miss Johnstone was reliant on her parents, in particular mother Rhona, to transport her to matches.

But for both Miss and Mrs Johnstone, the latest achievement by the Scotland youth cap is the cherry on the top of the cake.

Dream come true

Miss Johnstone said: “It is something you dream about for a long time as a kid lifting a cup with Celtic.

“It definitely is a dream come true and I am really happy that I have managed to accomplish that dream at such a young age.

“This is the first step and hopefully there are more to come with Celtic.”

Rachael said the move from home was tough, but the impact was softened by the generosity of her teammates.

She currently shares a flat in Paisley with five of them, something she and her mother have said has helped create a “family away from home”.

The move for Rachael came just months after she completed her studies, with her focus at present solely on pursuing her footballing ambition.

She has said she has a view to perhaps studying on the side, with business management tickling her fancy.

For now though, Celtic come first.

Rachael secured her first piece of silverware as a pro in early December, keeping a clean sheet in the process

‘The views in Paisley are a lot different to the Western Isles’

Miss Johnstone added: “It was pretty tough at first but I kept reminding myself why I was there and that was to be a professional footballer.

“I think that makes the move away at a young age worth it.

“I have settled in now and I have got a great bunch of flatmates with me. The coaching staff are really supportive because they know I am young.

“I definitely missed the company of my family, and the views as well.

“The views in Paisley outside my apartment are a lot different to the views in the Western Isles.

“I missed the freedom and having my family around me, but I have built a new family down in Glasgow pretty much so it makes it me miss home a little bit less.”

Mum has to pinch herself at times

Mrs Johnstone said: “It was tough for us but we knew she had the support of the club and she was in with another five girls so we knew she wasn’t on her own.

“The girls are great and have just taken her in and created this new family down there for her.

“The club have been fantastic too.

“It gives us a good excuse to get away for a weekend now.

“I have to pinch myself sometimes.

“I remember she said years ago that she wanted to be a professional footballer and I said to her ‘don’t be ridiculous, girls can’t be professional football players’.

“There was that doubt but now there is no doubt. She can achieve whatever she wants to achieve because she has got that drive and ambition.

“She has worked hard and she can prove that she can do it.”

Sights set on becoming Celtic’s number one

Rachael has now set her sights on becoming a recognised name around the club.

She concedes she has ambitions of furthering her career down south, however, has her eyes set firmly on being appointed Celtic’s number one.

“It has come really quickly but at the same time I think it’s all because of the hard work,” she added.

“I think it has come this early as I have put in the miles.

“I used to have to put in the miles travelling all the time, putting in the hours at training so it is no coincidence that it all came early.

“But at the same time for me it is a big thing that it has come this early.

“It is a dream and I don’t think it is ever fully going to click in.

“I still feel I am on cloud 10 the majority of the time.”

Currently the 17-year-old dawns the number 52 kit in homage to the number of the family home on Lewis.

Pride for her roots

Despite relocating and adopting the bigger city as home for now, her pride for her home island shines through.

She adds: “I am extremely proud of where I come from.

“It is a big part of me so it means a lot to say I have come from the Western Isles and I used to travel this amount of miles to get to training and that is why I am where I am.

“The pride I get when I tell people that story means a lot.

“I managed to achieve a dream that looked so impossible two years ago so what is stopping me now?”

Miss Johnstone is the latest of a few youngsters from the Western Isles to pursue footballing careers on the mainland.

Other notable players include Rangers youth James Graham, who hails from Back, and Brora Rangers loanee Matthew Wright.

For Rachael, she encourages others to dream big.

She said: “It doesn’t matter whether you are from an island or not, you can still go and play professional football in Scotland or you can go away to England, Spain or wherever.

“Dream as big as you can and work as hard as you can and you will achieve your dreams.”

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