Tributes paid to former Hartlepool United and Middlesbrough FC physiotherapist Tommy Johnson who 'lived his life to help others'
Tributes have been paid to a former professional footballer turned physiotherapist who devoted more than two decades to helping Hartlepool United players.
Tommy Johnson, from Hartlepool, sadly died aged 92, following a short illness.
A former professional footballer, Tommy was signed with Middlesbrough, aged 18, and played with club greats such as Wilf Mannion and George Hardwick during the war years.
After the war he joined the RAF as part of his National Service, but his family say he would turn up for duty only to be told by his commanding officer to get on a train as he had a match to play.
After being released by Middlesbrough he played for Darlington and Bradford Park Avenue before returning home to play in the local leagues for Spennymoor and Horden.
He married the love of his life, Evelyn, in 1949 and Graham, his only child, was born in 1951.
Then at the age of 30 his football career came to an end when he he suffered a serious head injury which forced him into retirement.
But his passion for the game saw him retrain as a physiotherapist, studying coaching and the treatment of injuries at Lilleshall as well as attending coaching courses at Houghall College in Durham and at the London and Counties Society of Physiologists.
He then became a physiotherapist for Hartlepool United at the time of former manager Brian Clough, where he worked for more than 25 years.
During his time at Hartlepool he would not only treat the football team, but could also be found to be helping the likes of local rugby players, cricketers, and even the odd greyhound.
Then in 1986, at the age of 60, Tommy was asked by Bruce Rioch if he would be the physio for Middlesbrough on a full-time basis.
He made the move and he was part of the ‘86’ revival which saw the team gain successive promotions ending up in League 1.
He worked under Bruce Rioch, Colin Todd, Lennie Lawrence and finally Bryan Robson, before finally retiring at the age of 71 in 1997.
Then in 1999 Tommy sadly lost his beloved wife Evelyn after a short illness.
Paying tribute to him, his family said: "He loved his family and was extremely close to his grandchildren and great grandchildren, spending lots of time involved in their lives.
"At 90 year old he would still be found watching his great-grandchildren playing football on a Saturday and Sunday morning.
"When not outdoors he would be glued to the TV watching any form of football he could find on Sky Sports.
"Still driving his own car, which he would tell you he was driving having never passed a test, he would always be the guy organising days out for his wide circle of friends.
"He was involved with the local RNLI, liked to fundraise for Hartlepool Hospice and would still be treating sports injuries in his front room for anyone who knocked on his door.
"Tommy was a humble man who was known extensively in football, both locally and nationally.
"He lived his life to help others and lived life to the absolute full.
"The many tributes that have been made have one common theme that cannot be overstated – he was a ‘true gentleman’.
"That is what everyone will tell you and he genuinely was just that, a gentleman of the like you will not often see and not see again."
His funeral service will be held on at 11.15am on Friday, December 21, at All Saints Church, Hartlepool.
This will be followed by a burial at 12 noon at Stranton Grange Cemetery and a gathering at the Hardwick Hall Manor Hotel at 1pm.