During the 1980’s Australians had yet to grasp the beauty of football, or soccer as many chose to call it. It was during this decade that a young man from Newcastle in New South Wales found himself on the world stage playing for Liverpool throughout England and Europe.
Fast forward to a Tuesday night in late July 2013 where a gathering of more than a thousand people packed into the Hilton on the park in Melbourne to spend an evening with Craig Johnston and members of The Anfield Wrap, a football podcast that ran a live broadcast through the evening. The night was a special one indeed. Not only to celebrate Liverpool Football Club’s first visit to Australia but to embrace the career and achievements of Craig Johnston.
During the evening a handful of us were lucky enough to secure a few moments with Craig where he signed some of our memorabilia and happily took photos with us. What struck me more than anything was the kindness and generosity of the man affectionately known as “Skippy”. He is well known for his invention of the predator football boot, which sadly ended with Craig having the design swept from under his feet by Adidas.
Now, back to the the eighties.
Many Australian’s remember staying up into the early hours to watch the FA Cup final throughout a period when Liverpool reigned supreme. Specifically it was the 1986 final that sticks with many. It was on this occasion that Craig became the first Australian score in a final in front of no less than 98,000 supporters at Wembley Stadium. His sublime finish in the 62nd minute was a dream moment that would sit with many for decades to come. Liverpool went on the defeat their Merseyside rivals, Everton 3-1 as Craig Johnston became an instant overnight hero.
In a Liverpool career that spanned seven seasons on Merseyside Craig netted 40 times from 271 first team appearances. His final appearance for the club came during the 1988 FA Cup final loss to Wimbledon.
Meeting your idol can sometimes be fraught with danger. For all involved on a cold night in Melbourne meeting “Skippy” was an absolute pleasure and a moment we will never forget.