Sporting Heroes: Practice made perfect sense for Craig Johnston


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The Independent Football

When managing Middlesbrough in 1975, Jack Charlton proclaimed one of the club’s youngsters “the worst player he’d ever seen”. That player was a 15-year-old Australian called Craig Johnston.

He had just arrived in England and his parents had sold their house to raise the money. Not wanting to tell them the truth, Johnston pretended “Big Jack loved me”.

Having overcome polio when he was six, nearly losing his leg in the process, Johnston was not about to quit. Needing to improve drastically, he devised a unique training regime using 10 rubbish bins as obstacles to dribble round and targets on a wall for shooting practice.

What a difference the training made. Johnston was chosen for the first team at Boro and in 1981 became the most expensive footballer in England for a day, moving to Liverpool for £570,000. Johnston would spend seven happy years at Liverpool, scoring 39 goals in 224 appearances.

In 1988, he retired early. That year his sister had contracted a serious illness and Johnston insisted on returning to Australia to provide her with the care she needed.

At this point, he tried his hand at a few different things. He created a successful game show called “The Main Event”. He also invented software to enable hotels to charge items from the minibar to guests’ bills automatically, a system called “The Butler”, and patented the design.

What he is arguably best known for, however, is being the inventor of adidas’s Predator football boot. He filmed Germany’s Franz Beckenbauer and Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, who both used adidas boots, using Predators with increased performance; adidas pounced and never looked back.