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Club News


24 December 2015

Reindeer? No, I think it’s snow darling.

MR Andy Johnson. If you have ever met a man with more boundless energy, a more bizarre sense of humour and a greater willingness to do anything possible to entertain himself and those around him, you probably work in a very specialised branch of the medical services. 

There has never been anyone here quite like Andy Johnson, a man who would do anything for anyone, was an absolute delight to be around and was the most exhausting company you could ever find.

From the very outset, Johnno was different. Very different. Special. His first matchday at The Hawthorns saw him turn up for the game in a rascal of a suit that looked as if it had seen time at Wormwood Scrubs, charcoal grey with stripes that looked disconcertingly like arrows on it. Here was a huge personality who was immediately going to take the place over. 

The dressing room is a haven to the practical joker, and Johnno was the king. Sellotaping dead mice to Jonathan Greening’s car is up there with the most legendary of antics, but it wasn’t his only car related jape. 

As the club uprooted itself to Devon for pre-season ahead of our first crack at the Premier League, the players were transported by coach while the media team went by car.

Given a day off, Johnno was going stir crazy in the fancy hotel we were billeted in, so he asked to borrow a car from said media team. Those of us who could see what was coming made our excuses and left leaving one of our number to hand over his keys. 

Several hours later, a taxi pulled up outside the hotel and a footballer eased himself out of the back seat in a state of no little refreshment. Walking past the media team, he threw something across the lobby. 

"Give him his keys back will you lads. Tell him the car’s parked on the sea front." 

Andy was perhaps the most hyperactive bloke on earth, which accounted for his performances on the field, haring around like a demented Duracell bunny on speed. 

It also accounts for the fact that on occasion, he struggled to sleep. Most of us might make a drink in such times of trial. Perhaps read an improving book. Watch a bit of insomniac television. For Johnno, being awake at the three in the morning was just another opportunity to do something. Like get up and build a bonfire and then set light to it in his back garden.

Finally, a couple more tales. They might not be true though some players have sworn they were. I hope they are. The very fact that they might be speaks volumes for the greatest living Welshman of all.

I never visited Johnson Towers but from the goings on there, the garden must have taken up most of Worcestershire. How else could he have handled the menagerie that made its way through his garden? Injury never sat well with Johnno given that it reduced his chances of running off all that excess energy, and during the lengthy post-Fulham lay off in the Great Escape season, one day, left to entertain his kids, they were all particularly bored. 

Given that footballers aren’t entirely short of a few quid, you’d think the answer might be to go out and buy them a new computer game, or take them to a theme park. But Johnno was altogether more original than that. 

He bought a couple of lambs for them to play with. The novelty didn’t last long and legend has it that after a short while, said lambs were bundled into the back of a van and, the following morning, a local farmer awoke to find his flock increased to the tune of two.

But let us end on a seasonal note. In a further bid to entertain his children one Christmas, Johnno, from somewhere, found a reindeer, which he tethered in the garden overnight on Christmas Eve so that he could tell them Santa had called the following morning. 

As he recited the tale, one member of the player group asked, "You never got a real reindeer did you? You just nailed some antlers to a donkey didn’t you!"

But no, ‘twas a real reindeer, which captivated the children for at least 30 seconds until they got their hands on their Xbox. Amid the Christmas Day excitement, the reindeer somehow slipped away. 

So, if anybody sees a reindeer looking lost near Bromsgrove – or a donkey with blood pouring out of its antlers for that matter – you know where it came from.

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