Thursday, 10 June 2010

39. Steve Johnson

Position : Forward

Played : 1983-4, 1985-6 (on loan from Bristol City ), 1989-90

Appearances : 49

Goals : 12

Steve was the biggest signing in the summer of 1983, poached from our neighbours Bury for a tribunal - set fee of £13,000. He said he wanted to play for Jimmy Greenhoff and must have been a fairly forgiving person as he had been subjected to some unsavoury abuse on his previous visits to Spotland.

Steve was “a brick outhouse of a striker” (@ Stuart Hall) . There were no frills to his game ; he was a big lad who put himself about a bit and scored with reasonable regularity. In fact his goal average improved slightly when he came to Dale. He scored one of the goals in the best result of the season, the 2-0 away win at York in the FA Cup but then Wigan came calling with £25,000 and the Board took the money over having a decent season. He had only played 19 games scoring 7 goals.

Steve did well at Wigan and his value went up to £40,000 when just a year later he moved to Bristol City. This proved to be a bad mistake as he struggled to settle in the area and his form suffered. In December 1986 he returned to us on loan, a strange move by Vic Halom as we already had a big centre forward in Ronnie Moore and Steve played (ineffectively) out on the left wing including the game at Old Trafford where he was selected ahead of Tony Towner, a completely baffling decision. Before one of the home games in this period my mate and I were playing snooker at Norman’s before the game and Steve was playing on an adjacent table. When we left at 2.20pm to walk up to the ground he was still there so we concluded he mustn’t be playing that day. Come three o clock there he was on the pitch, a nice little insight into the professionalism of the club in those days !

Steve’s last game was away at Wigan in the Freight Rover Trophy where we were thumped 6-0. A group of fans barracked him all the way through the game for no obvious reason (and it must have been a bit disconcerting for Ian Johnson who was also in the side to hear a constant chant of “Johnson Out”) and Steve rounded off a miserable night by giving them the wanker sign at the end of the game.

When his loan spell ended with us he started another one with Chester and this was much more successful, Steve scoring 6 times in 10 games to get them over the line to promotion. He made a permanent move to Scunthorpe for the start of 1986-7 season and spent two years there before moving to Chester for 1988-89. Though he played in 38 games he was now 31 and given a free at the end of the season. He went to Sweden for the summer then began his third spell with us in December 1989 when Terry Dolan signed him to boost our attack. Though he had lost some pace it wasn’t too difficult to be an improvement over Dean Walling and Kevin Stonehouse and Steve did OK, scoring the goal against Whitley Bay that took us into the Fourth Round of the FA Cup (a goal celebrated with an unfriendly gesture towards someone in the crowd). He is also remembered well by some of us for driving a wayward warm-up shot straight into the face of one of our most annoying supporters away at Exeter.

Though he signed up for the following season he didn’t feature even in pre-season friendlies and was said to be training with the A team. He soon left for Ireland though he returned to wind down his career with a number of local non-league sides.

He was last heard of working as a financial adviser; presumably legit though he would have been well-equipped to “advise” people to pay their debts on time !

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