Before the joy there was a moment of profound sadness.
For David Johnson only lasted for about half an hour of Ipswich Town’s win in the First Division Playoff final at Wembley. He limped off, knowing that he’d been struggling through training all week just to get there, the best moment of his career. His thigh hurt like hell, and he couldn’t explode onto a ball played in behind a defence caught snoozing for just a blink of an eye like he usually would.
There was no burst, and with that, no chance. He felt sorry for himself. We all did. He was my favourite player. He had a low centre of gravity and, for a time, an uncanny knack of scoring. He had a striker’s luck.
His misery would be forgotten by most with the sight of a full, old Wembley stadium for almost the last time, bathed in sunshine, looking like it had for a hundred Cup finals. His sadness would be cast aside with the joy of victory, the glory of promotion.
But his luck had failed him. As we celebrated into the night he cursed his the bad sign he’d been born under.
David Johnson grew up poor. He’d had to fight the whole way through his life and at some point it seems as if the will to keep doing so over and again on the pitch left him. He grew weary and some say angry. He left Town the following season having failed to establish himself in the Premier League. He’d never hit those highs again.
Ipswich signed him for just over a million pounds. From Bury FC.
They don’t exist any more.
When David Johnson was a kid and he’d been rejected by Manchester United there was a club who picked him up. Who told him he was worth something. The only reason that he would make it as far as he did was because of them.
And now 134 years of footballing history has been thrown aside because we let our most treasured institutions become commodities instead of parts of the community. Because we have been tricked into thinking that the pursuit of money is a laudable goal in and of itself.
We never learn.
Image courtesy of EADT