Saying goodbye, Looking forward

johnson wembley

 

It’s been a while since our last update and in that time, we sadly lost a bona fide club legend in Brian Johnson.

Johnson, a former full back and coach, spent a total of 11 years employed by the club and led the Wire to a first Wembley appearance for 25 years in 1990.

As a player, Johnson joined the club at the back end of his career but was still able to put in some dazzling displays and appeared in four finals for Warrington, the Regal Trophy final, two Lancashire Cup finals and of the course the Premiership final of 1986 at Elland Road, when he scored this classic try from inside his own half. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xj3Xm7lCJhI

After 103 appearances as a player, he hung up his boots and took up the coaching position, leading the club to another Lancashire Cup final in his first season.

In 1990, ‘Brian Johnson’s Barmy Army’ marched on Wembley Way for the first time since 1975.

As usual for the period, full-time Wigan – the dominant force in rugby league – were too strong for the Wire. It would be 19 years before we would be back at the national stadium.

The image of Johnson and captain Mike Gregory leading the side out in that final has taken on an extra poignancy in the wake of the tragic news.

Johnson led the club to a Regal Trophy victory in 1991 and during the 93/94 season we became within a whisker of winning the league, finishing third on points difference behind Wigan and Bradford.

Ultimately, he resigned from his role in 1996 immediately after that 80-0 defeat at Knowsley Road.

Many have left their touching tributes to the man and it seems especially cruel that someone who lived such a clean, healthy life and prided himself on his fitness should be struck down by such a debilitating illness as Alzheimer’s – especially at such a young age as 59.

He is survived by a wife and two sons and will never be forgotten by the wire fans who saw him play and were enthralled by the rugby played under his stewardship.

God bless you Johnno.

On the pitch, Leeds vs Warrington has become a genuine highlight of the Super League season in recent years and it’s no surprise that Sky have chosen Thursday’s game to start the season with a bang on the small screen.

Or the big screen, or even one of those white screen projector-things if you’ll be watching in the pub.

We had the honour of being the first visitors to Headingley in the ‘summer era’ when a young kid called Iestyn Harris inspired a plucky little team playing in a Celtic football kit to a narrow victory in LS6 in front of a crowd of around 10,000.

Oh how times have changed.

Back then, both sides were perennial underachievers, often promising a lot more than they delivered, but in the last six years, we’ve took on Leeds in three finals and there’s a good chance we could come across them again at Wembley or Old Trafford this year.

Trips to Headingley hold no fear for Tony Smith’s men and we have a decent record there in recent years.

The first visit to Headingley last season was arguably our best performance of the season, whole the second trip there was probably our worst.

We need to be a lot more consistent this year: by the time the super eights came round, we pretty much had nothing to play for after two heavy losses and the end of the season was a write off.

Leeds will lose a lot of direction and game management with the departure of Kevin Sinfield, but they still have enough quality in their squad to remain a formidable force this season.

Their three-quarter line is blessed with power and skill that NRL teams would envy.

That said, teams like Wigan and Catalans have improved their already impressive squads, with Sam Tomkins returning the Crust munchers, giving them another potent threat behind an aggressive pack and a strong attacking structure.

You feel that if Catalans could learn to win in England, they could piss the league this year. Paul Aiton running out of dummy half, the likes of Dave Taylor and Glenn Stewart running off Todd Carney and Pat Richards’ thunderous boot and trophy winning experience are great additions to an already embarrassment of riches possessed by the Perpignan club.

As four ourselves, with the experience of Gidley bossing the team round the field and Sandow looking having a full pre-season to blend into the squad, we finally have the makings of a top class half-back partnership, which will be spraying balls out to an exciting backline with bags of pace and playing behind a versatile, dynamic, hungry pack.

A bold prediction we know, but we reckon we should easily avoid relegation this year.

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