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Thursday, June 24, 2021

Newcastle football legend to kick off life-changing youth program

Newcastle and the Hunter’s most famous footballing son, turned entrepreneur, will be guest speaker at Compass Housing’s inaugural fundraising luncheon for its Grow A Star youth mentoring and scholarship program.

Former Australian star Craig Johnston, the multiple championship-winning Liverpool FC midfielder, is set to share his “grassroots to glory” story at Lunch for the Stars at Noahs on Friday 18 June.

Compass Housing community relations and events manager Michelle Faithfull said Grow a Star was about helping young people realise their dreams – and Johnston knew the importance of how pursuing them could change your life.

Born to Australian parents in South Africa, he grew up in Lake Macquarie.

At 15, he moved to England to try to become a professional soccer player in.

His parents moved to a smaller house to help him realise his dream.

Against all odds, and overcoming much adversity, Johnston was signed by Liverpool FC in 1981.

He scored the winning goal in the 1986 FA Cup Final – one of 40 he kicked for the club in 271 appearances over eight years.

During his time with Liverpool, the club also won the European Cup and five league titles.

Johnston co-wrote the team’s 1988 cup final song “Anfield Rap”.

After retiring from football, he went on to invent the globally-worn Adidas Predator football boot.

He also had his own surfboard brand and worked as a photographer and music producer.

He still plans to take his football-coaching system for children, Soccer Skills, globally, despite difficult negotiations with parties sending him bankrupt.

Johnston lives in Newcastle and is the patron of Northern NSW Football. 

“My two loves are Australia and football,” he said.

“I love living in Newcastle and am passionate about helping kids be happier, healthier and cleverer.

“The Grow a Star program does just that, so I was very keen to support it.”

Ms Faithfull said Johnston understood the importance of teams and community.

“Craig’s autobiography Walk Alone was dedicated to the victims of Heysel & Hillsborough disasters,” she explained.

“He fundraised tirelessly for the community, which supported him through his football career.”

Compass Housing established the Grow a Star program in 2012 to help young people – living in social housing or from other disadvantaged backgrounds – to overcome the financial obstacles that are preventing them from following their dreams.

It has assisted more than 400 young people to pursue their academic, artistic and sporting goals at grassroots and representative levels.

The event is being supported by local businesses including Cougar Mining, Ch4 Drilling, Australian Mining Equipment, Batt Mobile Equipment, PKF Newcastle, Broadley Signs and Beyond Bank.

Tickets can be purchased at events.humanitix.com/lunch-for-the-stars

Compass is also planning a Spring Fling Gala Dinner on 3 September.

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