Ralph 'Ginger' Johnson

Former Norwich City centre forward Ralph 'Ginger' Johnson has sadly passed away at the age of 91. He was a Canary that I featured in the early days of Sing Up The River End! I was touched and enthralled by his story as a footballer - of reading about times when the game was played for love not money and a good 'un from a nearby village had every chance to get a run out at Carrow Road. And though he was by no means a long term player for the club, he achieved something none of the thousand or so men who came before or after him managed - a ten second goal in a yellow shirt of Norwich City.

Born Victor Ralph Johnson in Hethersett on the 15th of April 1922, he was just seventeen when World War Two started. Having been on the books of Chesterfield, he returned to Norfolk but it meant 'Ginger' played all off his early soccer in unofficial wartime matches for City. His record in these games was astonishing - 123 goals in 107 outings. He simply couldn't stop scoring. When peace arrived and the sport started getting back to some normality, he signed professional forms. His competitive d├ębut came in somewhat regrettable circumstances - a 5-0 thrashing at Portman Road in Division Three South. But this was soon forgotten just weeks later as Ginger put himself into the club's record book with a goal straight from the kick off when Leyton Orient came to Carrow Road on the 19th of October 1946. It was the quickest Canary goal ever seen - and it has not been beaten since, though Keith O'Neill's 1997 effort against Stoke City (variably recorded as ten, eleven or twelve seconds depending on which report you read) ran it very close.

Ginger finished the 1946-47 season with ten goals from 23 appearances, but as the campaign ended, City received a bid for his services, ironically from Leyton Orient. It took him down to East London for two years, where he scored twice in seven first team appearances. Upon his return to East Anglia, he played for Lowestoft Town, and after his footballing days he successfully established some local engineering and mechanical businesses.

There is no telling how his life as a footballer would have turned out had the game been able to continue as normal between 1939 and 1945. But there is no disputing that he was a prolific goalscorer who had no problem finding the net wherever he played, or at whatever level he played. And the audacity he showed on the 19th of October 1946 guarantees him a very special place in the history of Norwich City Football Club.

.  To read the item on Ginger, a piece written by Peter Steward, that originally appeared on Sing Up The River End! on the 2nd of June 2010 click here


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