Everyone at Everton Football Club is saddened to learn of the untimely passing of David ‘Doc’ Johnson at the age of 71.
David had bravely been battling throat cancer for more than a year but succumbed to his illness this morning.
For many years Johnson held a unique place in Mersey football folklore.
The only man to score a winning goal in a Merseyside derby for Everton and Liverpool, until Peter Beardsley equalled the achievement more than two decades later, he enjoyed two stints at Everton.
A local lad he signed for the Blues on leaving school and was handed his Everton debut by Harry Catterick at Burnley in January 1971.
He scored in a 2-2 draw to initiate a remarkable sequence of scoring on his debut in every competition he played in – League Cup, FA Cup, European Cup and a famous Merseyside derby match-winner in November 1971.
He later said: "Everyone needs a bit of luck and I was fortunate enough to score for Everton on my league debut, my European Cup debut and in my first derby.
"I remember the goal well. It was a cross from the right by Gary Jones which I headed down towards goal.
"Ray Clemence pushed it onto the post but I managed to volley in the rebound.
"The fact it was in front of the Gwladys Street End made it even better and instantly you become a hero on Merseyside.
"Having stood on the Kop as a kid I think that day was a bit of a shock to all my family who were Reds.
"But back then there was no question where my loyalty lay. I had already been at Everton for five years. I was fully integrated into the club and had already played against Liverpool at B team and reserves level."
He also scored twice on his debut for England against Wales at Wembley in 1975, and scored twice in a 3-1 victory over world champions Argentina – a match which saw the first appearance in England of Diego Maradona.
But by then Johnson had left Everton.
As a youngster he was raw but promising, but Catterick believed the greater experience of Ipswich striker Rod Belfitt would suit his side better and agreed to swap the 21-year-old, paying the Suffolk side a further £40,000.
A Texaco Cup winner at Portman Road, Johnson developed into a forward of international quality scoring 35 goals in 136 league appearances before Liverpool, who had tried to persuade Harry Catterick to let the youngster cross Stanley Park in 1972, finally got their man in 1976 for a club record £200,000.
At Anfield he won four league title medals, was on the bench for the 1977 European Cup final but played in the Parc des Princes in 1981 when Liverpool beat Real Madrid. He also repeated his derby match-winning feat, this time in red, in front of the Gwladys Street End once again in 1978.
Everton Chairman Bill Kenwright paid tribute today, saying: “That David enjoyed the love and respect of both sides of Stanley Park underlined his qualities both as a footballer and a man. He was one of the few who crossed the divide and managed to retain his reputation with both sets of supporters. That is because he was always honest, hard-working and brave. Rest in Peace Johnno.”
Howard Kendall, a team-mate when Johnson had made his league debut 11 years earlier, brought Johnson back to Goodison in August 1982 but by this stage the player’s best days were behind him.
He scored five goals in 45 appearances before moving on for spells with Manchester City, Tulsa Roughnecks in the USA and Preston North End.
After retiring he became a familiar figure back in his native Merseyside and he explained his unusual nickname, Doc.
“I always kept cough sweets and headache tablets in my kit bag. Everyone used to go to my bag to use my gear. Terry Mac went in there one time and took out all these pills and stuff and said: 'It's like a flippin' doctor's bag’ and after that, it just stuck."
So did David’s reputation as a gentleman of honesty and integrity.