Albert Johanneson: Book turns a spotlight on Leeds United hero

Albert Johanneson.
Albert Johanneson.
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Leeds United fans can kick off 2013 by learning more about the rise and fall of trailblazing footballer Albert Johanneson.

Writer and lifelong United supporter Paul Harrison has penned a book telling the story of Johanneson, one of the English game’s first black stars.

The Black Flash pulls no punches as it traces the South African’s decline from his glory days on the wing for Don Revie’s Leeds in the 1960s to his lonely death at the age of just 53.

But Harrison has stressed the tragic ending to Johanneson’s life should not overshadow his achievements, which included being the first black player to appear in an FA Cup final.

Speaking about the book when it was released last year, the writer said: “He came to the UK on a wing and a prayer to follow his dream. How many people can say they have done that?

“I don’t think he was naive, I actually think he was very brave, but unfortunately he struggled to cope with the pressures both on and off the pitch. I spoke to other authors and experts in racial equality and they were all of the opinion that Albert was one of the most influential figures on the British game.

“He came to a white country and a white city and changed the way people looked at black footballers.

“He proved he could do things just as well if not better than white players. He paved the way for successive generations of black footballers.”

Johanneson struggled to build on his early success with Leeds, partly due to a lack of confidence bred by the indignities of his childhood in apartheid-dominated South Africa.

After retiring in 1970, he was dogged by problems with alcohol and ill health before his death in 1995. His body lay undiscovered for a week in his flat in a tower block in Gledhow.

As reported last month by the Yorkshire Evening Post, a campaign has been launched for Johanneson’s achievements to be recognised with a blue plaque in Leeds.

* The Black Flash: The Albert Johanneson Story is published by Vertical Editions, priced £15.99.