My #1: Magic

People have their favourite player for many different reasons: they score the winner in the first game you REALLY remember then while you’re celebrating in the Fulwell End some bloke knocks your glasses (that you’d just found out you needed earlier that day) off your face and bends the legs all owa, they score the winner against them up the road in the pissing down rain and you spend the next month listening to Why Does It Always Rain On Me by Travis, or they give everything every time they cross the white line and would play on with a broken jaw if they could, and on one occasion did.

Craig Russell, SuperKev, and Bally if you were curious.

However, my favourite player is my favourite player because he played where I, in my younger years fancied myself playing. I mean, I did play on the wing in my much, much younger years, but was more of a “get it to the by-line and get a cross in” (with the occasional Pascoe turn hoyed in for good measure) kind of lad, as opposed to a magician with the ball at my feet like the bloke I’m talking about was and probably still is. He was an integral part of those great years under Peter Reid, where we pretty much pissed all over everyone we played and those partnerships down the left and right were just as key as our ‘Big Man/Little Man’ combo up top. My favourite player was the man on the left, Allan ‘Magic’ Johnston.

He was just mint. He was the first right footed bloke I could remember being successful on the left-hand side. He’d come inside onto he preferred foot to great effect, and either cross himself, shoot, or once the defender was sold, play a blind pass down the line knowing full well Micky Gray was bombing down the outside on the overlap. It was simple, but it was something the teams around us struggled to deal with. One of the proper stand-out moments of that season was the 7-0 demolition of Oxford United, and funnily enough the moment I remember more than any from that day wasn’t even a goal.

With the score already at a modest ‘probably about 6-0 because I can’t remember off the top of my head’, the ball came to Johnston in his usual position, he dipped inside and with the crowd rising to their feet expecting a trademark curler into the far corner, he simply dinked the ball into the air over the keeper and back off the top of the crossbar. At that time, it was totally ludicrous, and I set about attempting it myself on the playground the next week, failing miserably. The moment was just, well magic and it just showed the confidence level that was running through that team at the time. From the sublime, to the ridiculous, however.

Bolton at home with a young Juuussi Jaaaaaasskeleien (sp) in goal. Johnston lines a shot up from fully 30 yards and its heading straight at Jaaaaskelein who could do the proper thing and catch it, but instead flaps at it (Sobs has called him Flappy Hands ever since) as he went one way and the ball curled the other, in a moment that made Robin Ruiter seem like Gordon Banks. Add to that the first-half hat-trick at Huddersfield the previous season, and there’s why he’s my man.