From: Youth team
Career stats: Soccerbase
He is: Not gone, not forgotten
Past profiles: July 1999
"Johnno, there's only one Johnno"....
How we would love to hear those words echoing around the Rookery again. Watford's midfield still misses his bite, imagine Johnno sitting between Nielsen and Vernazza at the moment. It hasn't always been the way - for the first half of his Watford career, he was seen by many as a liability. His change of fortunes can be traced back to the tail end of the 96/97 season, as Watford spiralled to the depths of thirteenth place in the Second Division. While Ramage, Phillips and others went for the self-destruct button, Johnno started to produce the swashbuckling midfield performances that we have come to know and love.
But watching the Australian during those early years was hard work. While his effort was not in doubt, many people (and I include myself here) could not see why he was selected. Scorching long-range goals were one thing but always looking to hit the killer pass and being over-committed in the challenge were not helping the cause. Hindsight is a wonderful thing but here was a player with all the classic hallmarks of inexperience. As the 96/97 campaign meandered to its pitiful climax, Johnno's contract was coming to an end. I have heard since that he was not expecting an offer of a new deal to come and was ready to head back to Oz. Whether this is true or not, he signed it when he was offered one and has not looked back since.
The Championship season saw Johnno partnered with new signing Micah Hyde and they became the central midfield rock on which that success was built. I was certainly converted by his new-found maturity and vastly improved showings. He had found consistency too and had learned to pass the ball far more simply and constructively. His shooting from distance remained a feature of his game and hero status was bestowed upon him when he struck the first in that wonderful rout of that lot from up the M1.
The understanding between the two seemed to be telepathic at times and it remained a feature of Watford's play throughout that season and also in the play-off winning campaign. The long-range goals showed no signs of slowing up. The most notable among them was a net buster at home to Northampton and a couple of pearlers at Bristol City at the start of 98/99. That season saw him finish strongly (as did the rest of the team) in the run-in and he also had what many consider his finest game for Watford, at home to Grimsby on the last day of the regular season. It was certainly the best midfield display I have seen in my time watching Watford.
The Premiership campaign was a frustrating time for Watford and for none more than Richard Johnson. He started the season with an own goal in the opening game and then picked up an injury in the win at Liverpool. The whole season seemed to be punctuated with niggling injuries and Johnno didn't really get going. Despite that he still produced several useful performances and didn't let himself down in the upper echelon. He was also voted into CYH's team of the nineties. His season was to end in disaster as he ruptured knee ligaments in the Manchester United game which came as a major blow to our hopes of an instant return before we had even started this season.
Which brings us up to date. For much of the first half of this season, the news seemed to be good. Johnno was on course for a relatively speedy return to first team action before some stiffening of the joint slowed him down and he was sent back down under for further recuperation. As time drags on, it seems as if we won't see him back to help the promotion bid. As it stands, I just hope he makes it back at some stage. As I said at the top of this piece, a midfield containing RJ, Nielsen and Vernazza all fit and on-form is a nice thought. I'm looking forward to seeing him thunder into an opposition player and bust the net with one of his finest launches sooner rather than later. Though I'm sure that the faithful won't, I'll still ask you all, don't forget Richard Johnson...he will be back.
Last updated: February 2001