Gateshead, County Durham born centre forward Dick Johnson started his football career playing in junior football in the north east for Victoria Adelaide in 1911, Bensham, Hebburn Argyle in 1912, Marley Hill United in 1913, and Felling Colliery in 1914 but when the First World War came he had yet to sign a professional contract. He played for Sunderland as a wartime guest but after his release from the Services he joined Liverpool in January 1920, making his Football League debut against Oldham Athletic that April.
He proved a cunning and skilful forward who averaged a goal every other game from the 26 First Division appearances he made during the 1920-21 season, including a hat-trick as Preston North End were thrashed 6-0 at Anfield on 25th September 1920. But injury meant that he had to watch the whole season from the sidelines as his colleagues won the club’s third League Championship in the First Division in 1922.
However, he was a key figure a year later when the League Championship was retained in 1922-23, scoring a hat-trick in the opening day 5-2 win over Arsenal, only missing five League games during the campaign and scoring 14 goals. Johnson was a popular player with his party trick always met with great applause as the Liverpool Echo reported in 1923: “Johnson met with one of those overhead cycle kicks, very entertaining and becoming much loved by the Anfield fans.” The Athletic News described him in August 1922: “Although only slightly built, he is clever on the ball, and a trustful and enthusiastic player.”
Johnson only played two games in the 1923-24 season as he seriously injured his knee in the opening game of the season. He also struggled with injury the following season before departing for Second Division Stoke in February 1925 after 30 goals in 82 appearances.
Although Stoke were relegated in his second season, despite his 13 goals (of which 7 were scored in a single week in January 1926 when he followed an FA Cup hat-trick against Wigan Borough with four in a 5-0 demolition of Fulham) they bounced back straight away winning the Third Division (North) Championship in 1925-26 with Johnson scoring 5 goals, but by now he was a fringe player at The Victoria Ground and he joined New Brighton in September 1929.
He played two full seasons for the Wirral club, second top scoring in 1929-30 with 18 goals, including hat-tricks against Crewe Alexandra, Wigan Borough and Accrington Stanley, and when he joined non league Connah’s Quay & Shotton in 1931, already aged 38, he had scored 24 goals in 77 appearances for the Wirral club.
NB In the photograph Johnson chases down Arsenal’s Arthur Hutchins as he clears, watched by Arsenal team mate Jack Butler, at Anfield in August 1922, in a match in which Johnson scored a hat-trick in a 5-2 win.