Queen of the South youngster Ben Johnstone recently made his professional debut for his boyhood club. A fantastic achievement in its own right, however, the seventeen-year-old midfielder’s first appearance also just so happened to be at Ibrox. The lad from Moffat was a second half substitute for player-manager Willie Gibson’s side during their spirited 3-1 defeat against Rangers in the Premier Sports Cup second round. It was an immensely proud moment for Johnstone, who is looking to kick on his career in the senior team. But first he had some questions to answer…
Can you tell us about your introduction to playing football? How old were you and how did it come about?
I don’t really know an age, but my dad got me into it, he played football right through his life, so from a young age he was drilling football into me and wanting me to go out and practice as much as possible. He played for an amateur team where I’m from and he loves football, so there’s nothing better for him to see me play professionally.
Before arriving at Queen of the South, can you tell us about the teams you played for and any particular highlights or memories?
I played for my local boys’ team Upper Annandale when I was younger. I had a trial at Carlisle United just before I joined here in the youth team. Playing seven-a-sides with your mates, just enjoying football, that’s probably the highlight because football is all about enjoyment. As long as you’re enjoying it, that’s the main thing.
Who have been the biggest influences in your development, both at Queen of the South and anyone else that has been influential?
Outside of football, definitely my dad. Everyday he tells me to work hard, and you’ll get good things from it. And at the club it’s all the academy coaches that I’ve been coached by, even last year in the reserves the gaffer helped me a lot in training and in games. To be fair, I can’t name one coach, all of them were great with me.
How did it feel making your professional debut for the club and to do so against Rangers at Ibrox?
It was an amazing feeling, words can’t describe what it was like to come on at Ibrox, such a famous, iconic stadium, and to do it at seventeen at that stage and level was just amazing. Playing against players like [Steven] Davis, [Glen] Kamara, players of that calibre, you can only learn from it.
What was going through your mind when you knew you were about to come on?
Lots of people have asked me that! It was just the same as it would be every other game, just try and do your best warmup at the side, get ready before you go on. I didn’t really see it as much of a difference between an academy or professional game, it was just another game. If you think too much about it, it can affect you when you go on, so if you treat it as any other, you’ll be fine.
What sort of advice did you receive from your manager before you came on?
He said, “just go out and enjoy it”. He said that I deserved the opportunity, that I had worked hard in training. I can only thank him for giving me the opportunity to come on and play.
Getting that first taste of first-team football must have made you determined for more opportunities?
Definitely. Once you get that first opportunity to come on and play, it just makes you hungrier to work hard and hopefully get more opportunities. If you can get as many appearances as you can and get more experience that will only help you as a player.
For any grassroots players, who would like to follow in your footsteps, what words of advice would you have?
It’s all about hard work. The more you practice, the more hours you put in, the better chance you’ve got. You see it with the top players nowadays, the amount of work that they’ve put in to get where they are it’s amazing. Also, just listen to your coaches, they’re the ones who’ve got all the knowledge about just how far you can go and what it takes to play at a big stage, so listen to them and you won’t be far away.
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