To look back at the history of Liverpool Football Club, it will always produce a high volume of celebrated names. The future legends of this era will one day become mythical figures spoken of to our children and grandchildren, but this past week requires more attention to the name of one of the clubs’ departed heroes, David Johnson.
This former Red passed away on the 22nd November, just a month after his 71st birthday. This is a man that came through the Everton ranks in 1969, before heading to Ipswich Town in 1972. At Goodison Park, the Liverpudlian amassed 49 appearances, scoring eleven goals. The abilities of this young striker did not escape the attentions of Bill Shankly, and the Anfield boss even attempted to recruit the local lad for Liverpool. That move never materialised (at that time anyway), and it was in fact the beloved Bobby Robson who managed to sign him for his own Ipswich Town.
The workmanlike forward went on to play 138 times for the Portman Road outfit, with some more than memorable outings in Europe. With an impressive 35 goals scored for the Suffolk club, the inevitable England call came, with his international debut coming in 1975. Johnson would only receive eight caps, but scored on six occasions. A brace of goals against Diego Maradona’s Argentina was his stand out moment for the three lions ,and he would go onto to travel with England for the 1980 European Championships.
On the domestic front, in 1976, the Merseyside born player would eventually return to his roots, with Liverpool finally signing him for £200,000. His time as a red would see him win the English First Division on four occasions, in 1976/77, 1978/79, 1979/80 and 1981/82. Being part of such a dominant side saw his Liverpool team able to conquer Europe on multiple occasions also. With the European Cup being won in 1976/77, 1877/78 and 1980/81, it rounded off a remarkable era in which he played an ever important part.
His time at Anfield saw his most prolific goal return follow, as 78 goals came within a glorious and trophy heavy 213 game spell. As a rotating piece within the Reds’ superb attack, he would often partner Kevin Keegan, with John Toshack and David Fairclough (and later Kenny Dalglish) also in attendance. Though he may not have the acclaim of other great Liverpool strikers, David Johnson was without doubt a vital part of how they won just about everything they competed for.
It was in fact the emergence of perhaps the Reds’ greatest ever goal scorer, Ian Rush, that saw the veteran 31 year old return across Stanley Park to his first professional club, Everton. A further loan move to Barnsley followed, before Johnson spent the final few years at Manchester City, Tulsa Roughnecks, Preston North End and finally Barrow. The Liverpool born player ended with a career total of 374 games and 104 goals.
David Edward Johnson passed at the age of 71 years old, after a long battle with throat cancer. I recall the very last time I took my father to Anfield was to enjoy a stadium tour and dinner, in order to celebrate his own 65th birthday. That day the charismatic former striker was the guest speaker for the afternoon, and he enjoyed a fruitful spell under the clubs employment well after his playing career ended. That day his charming persona and love for the club was both infectious and endearing, and he was a man that was clearly honoured to be part of such a wonderful football club.
As we celebrate the heroes of today, we must never forget the servants that have helped create this magnificent entity that is Liverpool Football Club. David Johnson now rests in peace, in the knowledge that he may never walk alone.