Johnny Warren 10 Years On

November 6th 2014 will mark 10 years since Johnny Warren passed away from cancer.  While we look at the last 10 years and how the world game has progressed in Australia.  It is important to remember the renegades such as Johnny Warren who pushed football/soccer onto the Australian sporting landscape through his playing career, coaching and media work.   My first memory of Johnny Warren was receiving a book for Christmas called Soccer The Australian Way by Johnny Warren and Andrew Dettre.

As a 9 year old I learnt that Australia had a rich football history. I never knew Australia had a national team called the Socceroos and the failed journeys to qualify for the World Cup from 1965 until 1973 when thanks to a Jimmy Mackay goal Australia finally qualified for Germany 74.  The Socceroos were a bunch of part time players playing in state leagues (there were no national league then) who travelled from Africa, Asia and back home to make it to the Holy Grail.  Johnny Warren wasn’t even the captain in 1974 due to a knee injury that hampered his preparations and only played 50 minutes in the first game against East Germany before he succumbed to injury and retired from the national team and all football by 1975.

Warren’s mission was far from over as he went into the media to talk up the game we call football. He was met with negative feedback and snide comments from commentators.  He talks about when he was co-commentating a game between Australia vs England at the SCG in 1979 with Rex Mossop who was a famous Rugby League player who then went on to be a Rugby league broadcaster.  At half time Mossop turned to Warren and said “If this game ever takes off I will bare my arse down Pitt St”.

Prejudice was always around from when Warren started playing football as a boy in post war Australia. Being called Wog Warren didn’t affect young Johnny and with the migrant boom Australia had in the 1950’s and 60’s Warren found more comrades whose love for the game expanded within Australia.  However it was a long tiresome journey, but Warren was there talking the game up even when all else was lost in football.  I found his courage to stand up to the bigots to be inspiring and cemented my belief that football was my number 1 game.  Warren also was not afraid to criticise the game and how it was run as well.  Sure he ruffled feathers, but true love is when you see through the rose coloured glasses and see what is really in front of you.

I still remember after the tragedy that was the Australia vs Iran game in 1997, Warren fighting back tears saying “The day football is big in Australia is when we are talking about winning the World Cup not just to qualify”. Even then he was still looking at the big picture for the world game.  He pushed to have a National League, better youth development, move to the Asian Confederation, bringing top line coaches from overseas and for our best players to try their luck in Europe.  In his dying days Warren brought Frank Lowey back into football to become Chairman of the FFA.  This has resulted in Australia qualifying for the World Cup 3 times in a row, the A-League and moved into the Asian Confederation.

When Johnny Warren was asked what he would like on his tombstone he said “I told you so”.   I get the feeling where ever Johnny Warren is he will be doing that and hopefully has got Rex to bare his arse as well.

About Vaughan Menlove

Obsessed with Richmond, Luton Town, Melbourne Victory and Arsenal. The Dr had a soccer career hampered by the realisation he was crap, but could talk his way around the game. Co host of It's Not Called Soccer podcast


  1. The unfurling of the supporters’ banner with the image of Johnny Warren and “I told you so” underneath after Australia defeated Uruguay to qualify for Germany still brings tears to the eyes.

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