There have been many things said about Australian sporting icon Craig Johnston throughout his illustrious career.
But, Northern NSW Football (NNSWF) chief executive officer Peter Haynes summed it up best by describing the Lake Macquarie legend as “passionate, dedicated and someone who is always in pursuit of excellence”.
With family and friends in attendance, as well as representatives from the Newcastle Jets, the local community then paid the 63-year-old the ultimate tribute by officially unveiling the Craig Johnston Building at Speers Point on Wednesday 22 November to recognise the achievements of the country’s most decorated footballer.
“We’re extremely proud to have Craig connected to our game,” Haynes said.
“And, this is our chance to immortalise his legacy in his hometown.
“What he accomplished in football, from an Australian point of view, is virtually second-to-none.
“After honing his craft in Lake Macquarie, he made 271 appearances for Liverpool FC in the English Premier League, between 1981 and 1988, scoring on 40 occasions.
“His transfer fee from Middlesbrough to The Reds (back then) was an incredible $650,000.
“However, in the end, he collected European Cup, five league titles and an FA Cup, scoring in the 1986 final against Everton.
“That Liverpool side remains the finest football team the world’s ever seen.”
Born to Australian parents in South Africa, the man also known as “Skippy” grew up in Lake Macquarie, attending Booragul High School.
At the age of 15, Johnston ventured to England to try and become a professional player, while his mother Dorothy and father Colin moved to a smaller house to help him realise his dream.
Against all odds, and overcoming much adversity, he was eventually signed by Liverpool FC in 1981.
He scored the winning goal in the 1986 FA Cup Final, which remains a highlight to this day.
But, that wasn’t his only talent.
During his time with Liverpool FC, he also co-wrote the team’s 1988 FA Cup Final song, Anfield Rap.
Now, he’s devoted to help the world game in his own backyard.
“My two loves are Australia and football,” Johnston said.
“I’m ardent about assisting kids to be happier, healthier and cleverer, too.
“However, we need more children outside, playing sport, especially football.
“Sadly, too many of them spend all their time on the phones… that’s not really fun.
“You can have goals but the dream is the power that gets you there.
“I said to myself [early on] that I am going to run and run and just keep running – and that’s what I did.
“But, I couldn’t have done it without my parents’ assistance.
“Even though I had a dream, they were going to break all the rules to make that dream happen.”
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