David Johnson: I lived the dream with derby winners for Liverpool and Everton

By Administrator on Sep 25, 08 11:53 AM in Journalists

davidjohnson.jpg

Story by James Pearce

DAVID JOHNSON knows exactly what it feels like to be a derby day hero - on both sides of Stanley Park.

The former striker shares with Peter Beardsley the distinction of scoring winning derby goals for both Merseyside clubs.

Johnson got his first taste of the passion-fuelled fixture wearing blue at Goodison Park in November 1971.

A boyhood Reds fans, he had been snapped up by Everton at the age of 15 and worked his way up through the ranks at Goodison before getting his chance to shine.

It was a dream start for the 20-year-old, who had only broken into the Blues' side earlier in the year, as his strike secured a 1-0 victory in front of 56,563 fans.

"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," he said.

"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."

But if that winner was special, it was nothing compared to the feeling he felt when he repeated the feat for Liverpool seven years later.

Johnson had left the Blues to join Ipswich in 1972 but Bob Paisley brought him back to Merseyside for a then club record amount of £200,000 in 1976.

He repaid a chunk of that fee in April 1978 with the only goal of the game at Goodison.

The 56-year-old said: "I had gone full circle and that day I was playing in the derby wearing the red of Liverpool - the club I had supported as a kid and travelled all over the country to watch.

"I must admit that goal in front of the Gwladys Street was far sweeter than the one I got for Everton against Liverpool.

"It's difficult to put into words what it felt like. Scoring goals in cup finals or derbies is what kids dream about when they are kicking a ball around in the streets and I was able to fulfil that dream.

"The fact that I had played for Everton and then gone back there to score a winner for Liverpool made the stick I got that day even worse.

"I still don't think Evertonians have forgiven me but I was pleased to get some stick because it meant I had done something right."

This Saturday's 208th showdown between the clubs is likely to include a number of derby debutants with the Reds trio of Andrea Dossena, Robbie Keane and Albert Riera expected to line up against new Blues Segundo Castillo, Marouane Fellaini and Louis Saha.

Johnson is relishing the latest chapter in the rivalry between the clubs but the ex-England international believes the influx of foreign players in recent years means derby day isn't what it used to be.

"In my day there was an awful lot more home grown talent playing in these games," he said.

"We were Merseyside born and bred and all your family and friends were either Reds or Blues.

"It meant an awful lot to us and as soon as the fixtures came out the first thing we would do was look to see when the derbies were.

"That has changed because of the growing foreign element and local lads in the derby are now few and far between.

"The foreign lads might be aware of the history but it's just another game for them and it can't mean the same to them as it does to Scouse lads like Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher.

"Those two have been brought up on these derbies. They know what it means to the fans and it will be nerve- wracking for them.

"Nobody wants to be going into work on Monday knowing they will face all the wise cracks and ridicule because their team has lost out."

The Reds go into Saturday's game as favourites having enjoyed the better start to the new campaign.

Rafa Benitez's side also did the double over the Blues last season but Johnson is taking nothing for granted.

"It's a brave man who tries to forecast the result of any derby," he said.

"Whether a team is at the top or the bottom, playing well or badly, it's very difficult to predict.

"What we do know is that Saturday's game will be full of tension. These games never seem to be classics because nobody wants to lose.

"I would like to think Liverpool are going in with a bit of a buzz having recently beaten Manchester United but they didn't show that against either Stoke or Crewe so it will be interesting to see how it all pans out."

james.pearce@liverpool.com

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