Wednesday, March 21, 2007

100 Person Who Shock The Kop - NO 59: Craig Johnston


At number 59 in our countdown of '100 Players Who Shook The Kop' countdown is Craig Johnston, a unique character who played a major role in the club's glory-laden era of the 1980's.
Four years after our ground-breaking '100 Days That Shook The Kop', we are delighted to invite you to enjoy our new '100 Players Who Shook The Kop' series – the definitive countdown of the 100 players who have made the biggest impact at Liverpool.

Over 110,000 supporters have all nominated their own personal Top 10 players in order of impact made and now the definitive top 100 countdown is underway.

Every player who has made the top 100 – and there are some surprises in there - will be honoured on this website via the e-Season ticket console with a specially produced video clip, including archive footage and exclusive interviews.

Since 1892 hundreds of players have represented this club but everyone has their own particular favourites so don't expect this list to be based solely on talent. The greatness of a player can be measured in many ways – obviously, his ability on the pitch is the most important, but 100 PWSTK is much more than that. It's about the impact the individuals chosen have had on this club, be it for a variety of reasons. Maybe it was because of their unique rapport with the crowd, a specific incident that has never been forgotten or anything else that has left a lasting impression.

Name: Craig Johnston

Years at Liverpool: 1981 to 1988
Position: Attacking midfielder

Date-of-birth: 25/6/1960
Birthplace: Johannesburg, South Africa

Signed from: Middlesbrough (March 1981)

Games: 271
Goals: 40

Honours: First Division Championship (1981/82, 1982/83, 1983/84, 1985/86, 1987/88), European Cup (1984), FA Cup (1986), League Cup (1983, 1984)

Craig Johnston was one of the most popular characters to ply his trade at Anfield during the 1980's and an integral member of the all-conquering teams of this time. Nicknamed Roo or Skippy due to his Australian upbringing, Johnston defied medical opinion to pursue his dream of a career in professional football. As a child he suffered from a polio-related illness that doctors believed would prevent him from ever playing professionally. Always one to chase a lost cause though, Johnston made a miraculous recovery and was taken on by Middlesbrough in 1977, after writing to them for a trial. In 1981, Bob Paisley swooped to sign him, paying Boro £575,000 for the livewire midfielder and a glorious Reds career was born. As was the case with most players at that time, he served his Anfield apprenticeship in the reserves but once established in the first team he never looked back. Blessed with an abundance of energy, skill and lightening pace, not to mention an uncanny knack of scoring vital goals, he played a major role in success achieved by the formidable Red machine of the mid-eighties that dominated at home and abroad. With his bouncing perm and bubbly personality he also made a huge impression in the dressing room but a falling-out with then boss Joe Fagan almost resulted in him leaving the club before Kenny Dalglish took over the managerial reigns. With a new lease of life under Dalglish, Johnston netted perhaps his most famous goal as Liverpool beat Everton at Wembley to clinch the coveted League and FA Cup double in 1986. Another title success followed two years later but on the eve of the FA Cup Final against Wimbledon that year he dropped a massive bombshell by announcing he was hanging up his boots to care for his sick sister in Australia. It brought a premature end to a colourful seven-year stint at Anfield but did nothing to taint his popularity among Liverpudlians. On leaving the Reds he spoke of his love for the club when saying: "I'd never play for anyone else than Liverpool. The only other team I'd play for would be Liverpool reserves!" In 1989 he flew 12,000 miles back to Merseyside to help out in the aftermath of the Hillsborough disaster and was deservedly given a rapturous reception when paraded at Anfield on the occasion of the Kop's last stand in 1994.

Sold to: Retired (May 1988)

Claim to fame: Scoring the second of our three goals in the 1986 FA Cup Final

Did you know? He was also a talented songwriter who wrote the lyrics to the 'Anfield Rap' and 'Pride of Merseyside'

Where is he now? Since leaving Liverpool he has worked in the media and been involved in many innovative projects, including that of the revolutionary Predator football boot, but recently invested heavily in a football school idea for inner city children that failed to win expected business backing and went bankrupt

Stephen Done on Craig Johnston: "What a character. He was an extraordinary player, a dynamo of a player. He was a breath of fresh air in some ways because I don't think anyone had ever seen anything quite like him. That shock of hair and the way he ran around like a mad thing, but he had real skill and real vision."

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