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Liverpool versus Roma – the memories of a Newcastle champion

Liverpool great Craig Johnston’s glory in Rome Seeing Red: Craig Johnston on Redhead Beach with Novocastrian fans of English soccer giants Liverpool. He was on the beach to shoot a commercial with the fans to promote Liverpool’s match in Melbourne in 2013. Picture: Phil Hearne
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Craig Johnston with a photo of him lifting the FA Cup in 1986.

Craig Johnston with a boot that he invented.

Craig Johnston scores in the 1986 FA Cup final win. Picture: AP

Craig Johnston with Lake Macquarie High students.

Craig Johnston coaching youth.

Craig Johnston on Redhead Beach with Novocastrian fans of English soccer giants Liverpool. He was on the beach to shoot a commercial with the fans to promote Liverpool’s match in Melbourne in 2013. Picture: Phil Hearne

Craig Johnston with friend Tiger Woods.

TweetFacebookThe memories have been flooding back for Newcastle soccer great Craig Johnston.

On Wednesday morning n time, English clubLiverpool will clash with Italian side Roma in the semi-final of the Champions League.

It will be a massive occasion for Liverpool fans across the globe.

For Johnston, who grew up at Speers Point, it will also be a reminder of a glorious occasion in his stellar career with Liverpool.

In 1984, Liverpool defeated Roma to win the coveted European Cup, a competition now known as the Champions League.

Johnston said Wednesday’s match would bringback“a whole lot of great memories of what seems like another lifetime”.

“Those memories are full of great characters and personalities. It’slike re-watching an old classic black and white film, but then yousee yourself and you’re actually in it,” he said.

TheLiverpool players faced a hostile crowd, as the match wasplayed in Rome at the Stadio Olimpico.

“There was no love lost between the Italians and the Englishand it was in the era of hooliganism, so it was very tense,” he said.

“It was like going into the lion’s denand we were the fodder.”

When the players walkedonto the pitch,the atmosphere was electric.

The noise was deafening.

Johnston compared the match to an ancient battleat the Colosseum.

“There were fireworks, flares and the Roman army of fans were baying for blood,” he said.

On the way to the match, the Liverpool team bus “crawledthrough the streets,with Italian fans all shouting and screaming obscenities”.

“It waslike a scene out of Gladiator,” he said.

Score were locked 1-1 at full-time, but Liverpool secured victory in apenalty shootout.

Johnston fondly remembers the antics of his teammate, Liverpool goalkeeper BruceGrobbelaar, who famouslywobbledhis legs like spaghetti “because it was the national dish”, before a Roma player took a penalty.

The Roma player missed his penalty kick, which was a key moment in Liverpool’s victory.

After the match, Johnston took pictures in the shower of his teammates with the largetrophy.

“They were all trying to be in the picture with the cup, but also to hide their private parts behind it,” he said.

“It was very funny, but unfortunately none of them are publishable.”

To become champions of Europe against the odds was “one of the best feelings of my life”, he said.

He recalled thedelight of the players and supporters.

“The memory of the joy and laughtersticks vividly in my mind.”

That night, the team celebrated with afeast “on top of one of the sevenhills ofRome”.

“You could see all of the city twinkling below,” he said.

“It had been a really long, hard season. I was mentally and physically exhausted. Finally, it was over and victory was ours.”

As he celebrated inthe Italian capital, he felt incredibly lucky.

“I looked out over the twinkling stars and lights of the city and thought about the great Roman culture that had existed,” he said.

“It felt like we came, we saw and we conquered.”

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