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Craig Johnston (born 25 June 1960 in Johannesburgmarker, South Africa) is a former Australian football player who is considered the first Australian to make a major impact in the Englishmarker game.[98032][98033]

Childhood

Despite his South African place of birth, Johnston was born to Australian parents and grew up there with a father who himself had tried to make a living from the game in Englandmarker but failed.

Johnston overcame an appalling bout of osteomyelitis in his childhood (doctors had suggested an amputation of his leg and it was all signed off until a famous American surgeon intervened and saved his leg) and as he grew up found he could play football to a good standard learning his trade at Lake Macquariemarker and Sydney City. At the age of 15 he wrote off to a long list of Englishmarker clubs asking for a trial.

Only one replied and invited him over, so Johnston's parents lived their son's dream and sold their house to fund his ticket to Teessidemarker where he would train and play with Middlesbrough, managed by Jack Charlton.

Career highlights

He was offered a youth contract after the trial proved successful and then made his first-team debut against Everton while still a teenager, his league debut came on the 4 February 1978 in a 2-1 victory over Birmingham City at St Andrewsmarker, his first goal also came in '78 in the 2-1 league defeat to West Ham United at Ayresome Parkmarker. On the 3 April 1981, aged 20, Johnston was bought by Liverpool manager Bob Paisley for £650,000, he had played just 64 league games for Middlesbrough, scoring 16 goals in a four-season period.

Craig made his debut on the 29 August 1981 coming on as a 72nd minute sub for Ray Kennedy in the 1-0 league defeat to Wolverhampton Wanderers at Molineux; also making their debuts were Mark Lawrenson and Bruce Grobbelaar. Johnston's first start came in the prestigious World Club Championship fixture against Brazilianmarker side Flamengo, Flamengo, who included Zico amongst their ranks, took advantage of their long acclimatization and preparation by beating Liverpool 3-0 at the National Olympic Stadiummarker in Tokyomarker, Japanmarker.

He scored his first goal for Liverpool on 8 December 1981 at Anfieldmarker against Arsenal during a League Cup 4th round replay, Johnston, again a 72nd minute sub, opened the scoring in the 5th minute of extra time as the Reds went on to finish off the Gunners by a 3-0 scoreline

Though Johnston, known as Skippy, was a crowd favourite at Anfield during his long spell with the club, he was never a regular in the side, with his versatility in midfield and as a striker counting against him. His managers - Bob Paisley, Joe Fagan and Kenny Dalglish - often kept him in reserve owing to the specialists in those positions available to them.

That said, Johnston settled down on Merseyside and won the League championship in 1982 (though missed out on the League Cup success the same year) and then played in the side which retained both of those trophies the next year.

In 1984, he was part of the team which won a treble of League championship, League Cup and European Cup; two years later he was an integral part of the side which won only the third League championship and FA Cup "double" of the 20th century.

In the FA Cup final at Wembleymarker, Liverpool were trailing 1-0 at half time to Everton but came back to win 3-1. Ian Rush scored the first goal though Johnston tried to steal it, sliding in to touch the ball as it crossed the goal line. However, just six minutes later, Johnston had a goal to call his own as he tapped home a cross from Jan Mølby. Rush then sealed the win with a late third.

Johnston continued to flit in and out of the team over the next two years, and became a cult figure at Anfield , with his flowing, corkscrew locks and flamboyant dress sense. In 1988, he was a frequent substitute and occasional starter as Liverpool coasted to the League title and reached the FA Cup final, aiming to complete a second "double". Johnston, ever the man for keeping an eye on fads, wrote the club's traditional Cup final song called Anfield Rap which combined pro-Liverpool lyrics with the rap and house trends of the time. The other Liverpool players took part graciously in both song and video - indeed, John Barnes proved so proficient at rapping that he got a similar role in "World in Motion", the England song for the World Cup two years later. The record got to No.3 in the UKmarker charts.

Johnston never played international football for either South Africa or Australia, perhaps surprisingly for the latter, but did represent Englandmarker at under-21 and 'B' team level. He was, however, as surprised as he was delighted when he got a call-up for the full England squad in 1988.

He qualified for England through his Britishmarker passport and long-time residency. However, he never got into the team and ended up with no full international caps at all.

At the age of 17 he memorably described playing football for Australia as "Like surfing for England."

Retirement

After 270 appearances and 40 goals and just days before the 1988 FA Cup final at Wembleymarker against Wimbledon, Johnston incurred his manager's wrath when he announced his premature retirement from Liverpool. Dalglish was livid but later relented and gave his blessing to Johnston when he found out the reason for the player's decision.

Earlier that year Johnston's sister became seriously ill and was admitted to a hospital in Moroccomarker. By the end of the season, it was clear she needed round the clock attention back home in Australia and Johnston wished to provide that care. He came on for his 271st appearance as a substitute for John Aldridge in the final (who had just seen his penalty saved with Liverpool a goal down) but ended up on the losing side. He never wore a Liverpool shirt again.

When the Hillsborough disaster occurred in 1989, a year after Johnston's departure, he raised a fortune in Australia for the fund and also flew back to England to attend funerals and memorial services. He later dedicated his autobiography, titled Walk Alone, to the victims of the Heyselmarker and Hillsborough disasters.

In 1991 when Graeme Souness was Manager of Liverpool FC, he asked Johnston if he would like to train with the team with a view to playing again. Liverpool FC still held Johnston's registration as a player.It didn't work out and Johnston moved on.

In retirement, Johnston had success as a businessman and innovator, designing and creating the prototype for Adidas' Predator football boot, worn by many of the world's top players of both football and rugby including Zinedine Zidane, David Beckham, Steven Gerrard, Jonny Wilkinson and Ronan O'Gara. He later designed another innovative boot called The Pig or, to give them their full title, the Patented Interactive Grip it can come as a 'skin' that can be placed over the toe of existing boot. Getting the first boot off the ground took Johnston 5 years and was initially refused by Adidas, as well as Nikemarker and Reebok. However, Johnston had filmed Franz Beckenbauer using the boots in Germanymarker in snowy conditions, and its increased grip led to Adidas agreeing to the proposal.

Craig also invented the Traxion sole for football boots and the software program the 'Butler,' a device that shows what has been removed from minibars in hotel bedrooms, he is also the creator of a gameshow called 'The Main Event.'

Johnston invested heavily in a football school idea for inner city children but failed to win expected business backing and went bankrupt. He was made temporarily homeless as a result.

Johnston has now forged a new career as a photographer.

Johnston was very critical about modern football boot designs, stating they are to blame for the recent spate of metatarsal injuries. He believed that the studs on the soles of the boots do not release quickly enough, meaning that they get stuck in the ground putting extra pressure on the players' already stressed knees, ankles and metatarsals. He also thought that the problem can be solved by designing a smaller stud that doesn't stick to the soil.

Though he travels the world with his business interests, Johnston remains based in Australia. On 18 June 2006, Johnston made an appearance as a guest on The Footy Show World Cup Spectacular in Germanymarker revealing information on his career.

His late sister, Khadijah Johnston, was the wife of Melbournemarker-based Islamic scholar, Mohammed Omran. Craig has 4 daughters - Chelsea, Cassie, Bonnie Jane and Harley.

Johnston's 100% commitment on the pitch never went unnoticed amongst the Anfieldmarker faithful and he remains a fan favourite. During the 2006 poll 100 Players Who Shook The Kop compiled by the official Liverpool Football Club web siteover 110,000 Reds worldwide voted for their top 100 players of all time with Johnston coming in a very respectable 59th, not bad for a player who was once branded by Jack Charlton, whilst he was a youngster at Middlesbroughmarker, as "the worst footballer I have ever seen,".[98034]

Craig also has an undying love for Liverpool and its fans. After his retirement he was constantly being linked to clubs from all over; Craig always retorted this speculation stating that he could never play for anyone other than Liverpool.

On the 3rd November 2007 after England's defeat to Croatia, he famously appeared on Sky Sports and gave a discourse on the reasons for the poor state of English football.

Honours



Runner-up



Books



External links



References


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