It is sad to report that Arthur Johnson, the former St. Helens and Liverpool City winger, has passed away at the age of 77.
A lad from Thatto Heath with a fine turn of pace and good all-round footballing ability, he could play on either wing and also made two appearances at stand-off for the Saints.
Arthur made his debut on February 17 1962 at home to Salford, scoring a try. The visitors were defeated 17-12, with Tom van Vollenhoven scoring two from the other flank. Arthur wore the number two and five jersey during the campaign, yet competition was always strong on the flanks at Knowsley Road with the likes of Tom van Vollenhoven, Mick Sullivan, Johnny Gaydon and Tom Pimblett.
Yet Arthur’s first match at stand-off, against Blackpool Borough at Knowsley Road on April 23 1962 was memorable in its own right. Saints won 37-5 and Arthur’s prompt service to the backline was responsible for Tom van Vollenhoven equalling the club record of six tries in a match. Arthur definitely showed another string to his bow that afternoon! He also played at number six during the 5-8 reversal at Workington on December 1 1962, when young Jeff Heaton was scrum-half. Arthur and Jeff were also long-time team-mates at Liverpool City later on.
Arthur’s last appearance on the team-sheet came against Australia at Knowsley Road, on September 28 1963, when he was listed as a substitute. Substitutes were allowed as agreed on the tour itself, some twelve months before they became officially recognised. Overall, he played 12 matches for the Saints, scoring three tries.
Arthur went on to give loyal service to Liverpool City; more than 100 matches in fact, but was forced to retire somewhat prematurely as a result of a neck injury at the age of 28. One particular highlight of his time at Knotty Ash included beating reigning Champions Swinton 6-4 at Station Road on November 21 1964. On another occasion, against Wigan at Central Park in 1967, City took Wigan down to the wire, with only a last-ditch tackle from Billy Boston preventing Arthur scoring in the corner for what would have been a marvellous victory.
Former full-back Ray Ashby was a team-mate at Liverpool City and played crown green bowls with him at past player events.
He said: “Arthur was one of a number of St. Helens-born, or former Saints players in the Liverpool City team when I was there, such as Ernie Forber, Ike Fishwick and scrum-half Jeff Heaton. One of our coaches was the former Saints’ centre, Don Gullick. Arthur had pace and the ability to bump off defenders and wriggle free from attempted tackles. He was a good player and a good man too.”
Arthur kept in touch with Rugby League matters as a popular member of the Saints Past Players Association. For many years he worked underground at Sutton Manor Colliery and enjoyed gardening, listening to music and Saints’ commentaries! In later years he watched his sons and grandson play rugby and hockey.
Arthur is survived by his loving wife Frances, children David and Michael, together with grandchildren Nathan, Katie and Aidan.
We would like to thank David Johnson for his help with this tribute.
Complied by Alex Service.