ONE of Hartlepool’s greatest sporting exports is preparing to make her swan song – and plans to make it a memorable experience.
Lindsay Johnson is to retire this year after a glorious football career with Everton and England.
The 43-times capped international is hoping to help the Toffees to promotion to the Women’s Super League following relegation last season.
Johnson had contemplated hanging up her boots but told SportMail she could not go out on a low.
“It was a hard decision,” said the former FA Cup winner.
“I just thought I can’t retire on a relegation, so I decided to give it one more year.”
The Merseyside-based defender could probably have earned a Super League contract elsewhere but says she is happy staying with Blues.
“I couldn’t really have gone to Liverpool,” said Johnson, who spent a brief spell at Anfield in 2003.
“Man City are flying, they have a strong squad and great set-up.
“That might have tempted me if the chance arose, but I’m glad I’ve done what I’ve done.
“I’ve loved my time at Everton and I want to get them back in the top flight.
“Relegation last year was probably the lowest point of my career.
“It was a tough season but we’ll re-group and go again.
“I know it’s a cliche, this is a time of transition for the club, a lot of girls have moved on for a variety of reasons and we’ve brought in quite a few new players.
“But there is no hiding from the fact we are going into this season to get promoted.
“There is a high expectation in the club to regain our Super League 1 place.”
Everton’s collapse was a dramatic one, especially given the fact they had reached the FA Cup final, where they lost to Arsenal.
They were relegated without recording a single win and they scored just 10 times in 14 matches.
For a club which had a taste of Champions League football it was a real fall from grace.
“We did have a good cup run, but it was also a short run, as a WSL1 side we entered the competition quite late on,” said Johnson who played in the World Cup and Euros for her country.
“We still did well to get to the final, but didn’t perform.
“The league was really tough. Some of it was fine margins, we should have won games we drew and drew games we lost.
“But it’s true about the table not lying, we just couldn’t score.
“We relied too much on Nikita Parris and we couldn’t get goals from elsewhere.
“It put pressure on us and every match became a must-win game.
“We struggled to deal with the pressure, but now we’re looking forward to a new season.
“Pre-season has been hard but I’m still running around pretty well.
“I’m the oldest by far now, some of our players could be my daughter, but I’m looking forward to the season starting next month.”
Johnson will be in action tomorrow for the Toffees at home to Sunderland in a friendly.
The Lady Black Catts were promoted last season, swapping places with Everton in Women’s Super League.
“We played Sunderland last year in the Continental Cup and won quite easily,” said the former Hartlepool Sports Personality of the Year.
“I don’t think it was Sunderland’s best performance.
“But it’s great to see them in WSL1 and I’ll be rooting for them this season.”