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Craig Johnston Q&A

T IS no secret. Many Australian football significant for Liverpool’s contribution to the traditional FA
fans – and especially Socceroos of the past Cup ‘song’ that participating clubs recorded. Breaking
two decades – grew up and were inspired with convention that dictated stiff footballers perform
by the image of Craig Johnston scoring for clunky sing-a-longs out of tune, Johnston (who now lives
Liverpool in the 1986 FA Cup final. and works as a professional photographer in Florida)
A surfer from the beaches of Newcastle in New masterminded the “The Anfield Rap”, at a time when hip-
South Wales had somehow transported himself to hop was far from mainstream. Look it up on YouTube.
Wembley’s hallowed turf, showing Australian kids that, Football – nor music – was ever the same again.
yes, dreams can come true.
But just as that goal against Everton, in a 3-1 + Do you ever tire of talking about the
victory, was the highlight of Johnston’s football 1986 FA Cup final?
career, two years later he was back at Wembley It doesn’t happen that often. Mainly because I spend a
amid darker circumstances. lot of time in America, and now more and more, in the
Johnston’s sister had been involved in a serious Caribbean with my photography. Talking about the FA
accident prompting the Australian to flag retirement Cup or football in general is a very welcome break for
at the age of 27 so he could dedicate time to her me these days. They are fabulous memories.
wellbeing. Johnston was dropped for the final,
watching from the bench as his career + Why is there so much romance associated with the Cup?
literally ticked down. It is a romantic notion. You go to the bible and you talk
Liverpool lost the 1988 final to about David and Goliath. The big boys versus the small

J o hnston Wimbledon’s legendary Crazy Gang, boys. Gods versus the peasants. How could that not
Craig Australian Johnston making a late entry be romantic when the very notion of the tournament
nly
is the o cored in an
as a substitute, but it could is that [an amateur or part-time team] can knock out
s
to have nal. Now a
be argued the Australian Liverpool FC? The FA Cup pits the flash rich footballers
won something more – up against people who have proper jobs – metal
fi er,
FA Cup photograph perspective on life. workers, coal miners. How can it not be romantic?

r ofe ssional triumph


, The 1988 final was also Everybody loves the underdog.
p cts on

He scored,
he refle hip-hop with
d
pain an hew Hall
Matt
images BOB THOMAS / GETTY IMAGES + CRAIG JOHNSTON

he shoots
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“The Anfield Rap was The famous scissors kick
celebration after scoring in
the 1986 final

a light-hearted attempt
at doing another bad
football song and it ended
up being a wonderfully
bad football song. It has
legendary status at
Liverpool because
it is so bad!”

+ But has the romance gone out of the FA Cup?


I remember when Man U pulled out [in 2000 to take
part in the FIFA Club World Cup] and to me that was a
shame on Man U. I think we all thought that. But what
that did was bring up the memories of how important
the FA Cup was. I don’t know if going to South America
and playing will ever compare with going to Accrington I would have done it differently. But the private the dressing room craic [banter] that went on. All the time. The Anfield Rap was basically a way of saying,
Stanley on a cold January Saturday afternoon and conversations I had with the club, somehow, and it nationalities and all their different accents and different “Look here’s all these accents in our dressing room
getting the life kicked out of you by local miners. It’s wasn’t via me, leaked out. I made a handshake with ways of approaching things. Rap, at the time, didn’t and here is how we all get on”. It was a light-hearted
a cultural thing. Some institutions need to be well people and they broke that trust. really exist but there was a band called Run DMC who attempt at doing another bad football song and it
respected and the FA Cup is one of them. came along and I loved rap music. ended up being a wonderfully bad football song. It is
+ On a lighter note, The Anfield Rap. Please explain! really strange but it has legendary status at Liverpool
+ Your final game before you retired was the 1988 Nobody liked football songs. They were all a bit of a + How does that turn into an FA Cup final song? because it is so bad! In a way, it was one of the worst
FA Cup final. Was that a great way to go out? laughing stock and were also pretty dreadful. I love I wanted to talk about this unique team spirit at and in a way it has also been one of the best. Paul
I don’t have many regrets in life or my career but my music and I love videos and I was a keen observer of Liverpool because we were winning everything at the Dalglish, Kenny’s son, came over to an Orlando Magic
biggest is that that game was supposed to be my last game [recently] so we had two or three hours of
as a footballer. It was supposed to be. My sister had reminiscing about Liverpool. Then, all of a sudden, after
got really badly injured in an accident [in Morocco] and + But you didn’t start the game? to give. I was watching the game [from the bench] and a few beers, he burst into song with The Anfield Rap. I
I had been up and down to London, where she was in The journalist didn’t betray my confidence but the it wasn’t a very good game and we weren’t playing so still get a few dollars here and there for royalty cheques.
a coma. We then transported her back to Australia and newspaper did and once they got the story off me well and I just so wanted to be on the field. But it was always only a small amount of money.
we were hoping treatment would bring her out of it and they said they were going to run it before the Cup
bring her back to consciousness. I’d been dealing with final rather than after – it was too big a story. I told + What was going through your mind? + Speaking of Kenny Dalglish, any thoughts about
that for six months and I wanted to help mum and dad them they couldn’t do that, but they said they were I just got sadder and sadder because as the clock Liverpool at the moment?
because they were on their own with it. going to do it anyway. When the story broke I was ticked down from 90 minutes, so did my career. I think The man who was in charge of Liverpool for the FA
dropped. The biggest regret I had in my football life is I got about 25 minutes and I was very upset about that. Cup Ffnal in 1986 was called Kenny Dalglish and we
+ That must have been taxing on you, personally? that somehow somebody found out about the private I couldn’t help my teammates because I was on the also won the league that year. We were only the third
[Before the 1988 final] I went to the club and said I’m discussions I had with the club. The way it ended bench, I had been stitched up by the papers and been team in that century up to that point who had won the
going to retire. They didn’t really believe me because makes me very, very sad. [Pauses] Um . . . yeah. dropped from what could have been the best final double. But I think Liverpool have really lost their way.
people don’t retire from football at 27. They said, “You moments of my football life. I have never really talked I think the players are used to putting in less than 100
won’t be paid”. I said, “That’s understandable; I’m not + But you did get on the pitch against Wimbledon. about it until now. I was very upset by the decision by per cent. I think these players have got both Benitez
here, you can’t pay me. But I want to help my sister We’d had this extremely bad news in the family – Faye’s the newspaper to run the story when they promised me and Roy Hodgson sacked. I think Hodgson did a
and help my parents with her rehabilitation”. I had that progress wasn’t as quick as we all thought it would they would run it afterwards for the sake of the team. marvellous job. But there’s only one man who can
conversation and a paper got a sniff from somewhere – be. When something like that happens you tend to see We didn’t need that kind of publicity before kick off. bring up the energy and commitment levels and that is
and it wasn’t me – and said we are going to run with the things very differently. The final was going to be my last Dalglish. He knows what the club is about, he knows
story before the Cup final unless you give us an exclusive game where I did everything: I went there, I pulled my + So, the FA Cup final gave you the best and Johnston with his sister, where they have come from, he knows where they
Faye, after she was
for after the game. I was in a really, really, bad position. I boots on, I tried my hardest. When you are a substitute the worst time of your playing career? need to be. He is one of those people who enthuses
seriously injured in an
was actually playing regularly, I was in good form, and I it is just not the same. You are not playing. You are a bit That’s fair to say. The media definitely broke a promise accident in Morocco others with his passion and professionalism. He wants
was supposed to play against Wimbledon. player in the pantomime. I always had 90 minutes plus they gave to me but that’s big business. In hindsight 125 per cent out of those players. No matter what.

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