Rod Johnson (forward) 1962-68
Born: Leeds, 8 January 1945
17-year-old Rod Johnson made his first team debut at the same time as fellow Elland Road teenagers Paul Reaney and Norman Hunter. Called into the side because John Charles was unavailable with a strained back, Johnson scored in a 2-0 victory at Swansea on 8 September 1962, and his impressive all round display suggested he would enjoy a bright future with Leeds United.
Yet while Hunter and Reaney were first team stalwarts for the next decade, Johnson was limited to sporadic senior appearances before signing for Doncaster Rovers in 1968, accepting he would never be a first team regular at Elland Road.
Johnson was educated at Cow Close School in Leeds and played for Middleton Park Juniors. He enjoyed some distinguished company, numbering amongst his team mates United colleague Paul Madeley and future Derby and England striker Kevin Hector.
Johnson attended trials at Reading but was rejected by the Berkshire club and signed instead for Leeds, in 1961, joining the ground staff with players like Norman Hunter. Johnson, a tricky forward, was awarded England youth caps and an appearance for England amateurs against Scotland in 1962.
He featured in a pre-season friendly for Leeds against Morecambe in August 1962 and when Don Revie decided to give youth its chance the following month, Johnson was one of the beneficiaries.
After a 2-1 defeat at home to Bury on 5 September, Revie dropped goalkeeper Tommy Younger and acting captain Grenville Hair for the game at Swansea. He was already without Freddie Goodwin, Ian Lawson and Jim Storrie through injury while John Charles and Willie Bell failed to recover from knocks suffered against Bury. The manager brought in Gary Sprake, Reaney, Hunter and Johnson for the game. He had hoped to bring his youngsters through more gradually, but felt the need for haste after a poor start, telling the Evening Post: "Some of our senior players have not struck top form yet, although I am sure they will do so soon. I didn't really want to play the lads yet - I wanted them to get a bit more experience - but I have to give them a chance now. We want to get cracking in the League."
The gamble was a success and United won 2-0. Johnson opened the scoring after eleven minutes following some smart work by Albert Johanneson and Billy Bremner. According to the Evening Post, "The boy sailed into it splendidly between two tacklers and still on the run accurately placed an angled drive low past the rushing Dwyer to open the scoring." Phil Brown said later, "Johnson moved about most intelligently at centre-forward and he hits a nice pass," while he "made a splendid impression with his general play."
Johnson had to be stretchered off following a head on collision with Swansea goalkeeper Noel Dwyer on the hour mark and was off the field for 12 minutes. He recovered, but was omitted for the next game to allow Charles to return up front.
Johnson was back in the side a fortnight later, operating on the right wing at Luton. He did little in a 2-2 draw other than earn a rebuke from the referee for a dangerous tackle, but he achieved enough for Revie to grant him a further four starts over the next six weeks.
It was 1964 before Johnson appeared again for the first team. After an appendicitis operation in the autumn, Johnson was recalled on 23 September for a League Cup-tie against Huddersfield Town. He appeared again in November against West Bromwich Albion when he scored the only goal of the contest. His performance won him a further eight games on the bounce.
Andrew Mourant: "Some senior professionals at Elland Road thought Johnson might have achieved more than he did. When in 1964/65 Leeds arrived in the First Division, Johnson, with Alan Peacock injured, was given a few games at centre-forward. One was away to Manchester United, a match in which he ran rings round the experienced Bill Foulkes. But generally, Johnson was insufficiently robust to wear down First Division centre-halves. Yet he was quick and nimble, adept at bringing other players into the game as well as taking up good scoring positions himself."
Johnson scored the only goal at Wolves on 19 December, adding other scores in the 3-0 FA Cup defeat of Southport and the 2-2 draw at Leicester, when he powered the ball past England keeper Gordon Banks. The Yorkshire Post: "Centre-forward Johnson strove through the inside-left channel and as the ball came to him, struck it on the half volley with a timing he must often dream about for it catapulted into the net from 15 yards."
Johnson continued to feature periodically for Leeds, but his progress was hindered by injuries, including a broken nose and an operation in August 1966 to remove a cyst behind the knee. He was dissatisfied with Central League football and asked to go on the transfer list in February 1967. The big money signing of Mick Jones from Sheffield United in late 1967 was possibly the final straw for Johnson and on 28 February 1968 he signed for Doncaster in a £5,000 deal.
He helped Rovers to the Fourth Division title a year later and remained with Donny until December 1970, scoring 23 goals in 107 appearances for the club. He moved on to Rotherham and was ever present to the end of the 1970/71 campaign, He missed only a handful of games the following season and was a regular choice again in 1972/73 when they were relegated to the Fourth Division.
Johnson moved to Bradford City for £9,000 in December 1973. He made almost two hundred appearances for the Valley Parade club in a stay that lasted until 1979. During that period he helped City gain promotion to the Third Division in 1977, captained the team and had a spell as player coach. In the summer of 1976 he played in the NASL for Chicago Sting.
After retiring in 1979, Johnson worked as an insurance salesman, playing in non-League football for Gainsborough and Garforth, whom he also coached.