ALBERT JOHANNESON was born on this day – March 13 – 75 years ago, a gifted footballer who can stake a couple of claims to fame in Leeds United’s history.
He was Don Revie’s first signing in April 1961 before going on to become the first black player to play in an FA Cup final in 1965 when Leeds lost 2-1 to Liverpool at Wembley. He stayed at the club for nine seasons and can rightly be regarded as one the pioneers of the game and one of the Elland Road club’s enduring cult heroes.
After learning his trade on the streets of Johannesburg, he was scouted by a local schoolteacher who recommended him to Leeds before he came over for a three-month trial. After impressing new manager Revie, he was signed to a contract, making him the second black player signed by Leeds United – following in the footsteps of fellow South African Gerry Francis – in an era when it was practically unheard of for teams to sign black players.
Growing up in apartheid South Africa, he faced racism on a daily basis and his introduction to the English game came during a period when the terraces were hostile to black players. His experiences were often harsh and, at times, unforgiving.
It was his talent as a footballer that shone through, however, and the tricky winger proved to be a key figure in the club’s promotion to the First Division in the 1963-64 season where he was joint top-scorer with 13 goals. Dubbed “black flash” by the Elland Road fans, he proved to be a popular and important part of Leeds United’s ascendancy.
In all, he made 172 appearances for the Whites, scoring 48 goals, before moving on to a spell with York City where he scored three goals in 26 appearances.
His life after football was sadly blighted by problems with alcohol, and he died in Leeds aged only 55 in 1995.