Former England striker David Johnson, the first player to score in Merseyside derbies for both Everton and Liverpool, has died aged 71.
Johnson, affectionately known as ‘the Doc’, played eight times for England and scored six goals, including two in a 3-1 win over then reigning world champions Argentina Diego Maradona et al in 1980.
Phil Thompson, Johnson’s former Liverpool and England team-mate, led the honours.
“It’s a very sad day. The Doc was so popular with the boys and was a huge influence in keeping us all together after we finished playing,” Thompson said.
“That performance against Argentina, the great thing was that he got a standing ovation at Wembley that night.
“He wasn’t too happy about being left behind by Ron Greenwood, as not many England strikers would be if you had a hat-trick against Argentina. You don’t get that chance too often, but it spoke volumes for how good he was.’
Although Johnson grew up a Liverpool supporter, he joined Everton as a youngster and scored on his debut against Burnley in January 1971.
He scored in his FA Cup debut against Derby County and his European Cup win against Panathinaikos. In his Derby debut in November 1971, he scored the winning goal.
His talent was noticed by Bill Shankly, who wanted to sign him for Liverpool, but Everton instead sold him to Bobby Robsons Ipswich in a swap deal for Rod Belfitt.
He earned his first cap for England at Ipswich, scoring twice on his debut against Wales in a 2-2 draw.
Liverpool eventually beat Tottenham to sign him for £200,000 in 1976 and he quickly earned his ‘Doc’ nickname.
“Johnno would bring a bag full of everything every day, a real bag of tricks, including headache pills and anti-inflammatories,” Thompson said.
“Terry McDermott was rummaging through it one day and said, ‘It’s like a doctor’s bag,’ and it got stuck.
“It didn’t take long for someone to put a red cross on it. We would ask Doc first instead of messing with the physical therapist.
“But he was much more than that. He was a great player. When he was at Ipswich he was an absolute nuisance to play against, so strong and great in the air so I was made up when we signed him. He built a great relationship with Kevin Keegan before also hooking up with Kenny Dalglish.
“Liverpool have had some great teams over the years but you look at that team from 1978-1980 and we beat everyone who scored a lot of goals and the Doc was a big part of that.”
Indeed, Johnson made history in 1978 when his goal against Everton became the first player to score for both clubs in a Merseyside derby – a feat only repeated by Peter Beardsley.
He won four league titles, two League Cups and three European Cup Winners’ medals with Liverpool before Howard Kendall re-signed him for Everton in 1982 for £100,000.
Johnson played for Barnsley, Manchester City, American club Tulsa Roughnecks and Preston North End, as well as player-manager at Barrow before retiring in 1986 and taking on commentary roles on local radio.
Amid further tributes from Kenny Dalglish, John Aldridge and David Fairclough, another close friend, Terry McDermott, said: “Heartbroken to hear of the passing of my amazing pal and Liverpool legend David ‘the Doc’ Johnson.
“A diamond from a man we will all miss so much. I’ll miss our crack on the phone and on game days you were one in a million.