Where are they now: Glen Johnson
WHERE HE WAS: Glen Johnson was born in Vancouver on April 22, 1951. At that time, with no team in his city, he grew up thinking he would never play professional soccer in his hometown.
In 1969, Glen was playing for the Vancouver Spartans and was selected to the BC All-Star team after scoring six goals in one match. English club West Bromwich Albion were in town touring when their manager, Alan Ashman, spotted Glen in action. Impressed by what he saw, Ashman brought Johnson to England to play for West Brom. He stayed at the club until 1974, but was hampered by a knee injury.
During his time in England, Johnson also received his first call-up to the Canadian men’s national team, donning the red and white for the first time in 1972.
WHERE HE WENT: After returning home from England, Johnson received great news. There was a new professional soccer club coming to Vancouver, the Whitecaps. They offered him a contract to become the first signing in club history, which was then announced on the top floor of a Davie street hotel.
“The team didn’t have a coach yet,” remembers Johnson. “I was there at the press conference with owner Herb Capozzi and general manager Denny Veitch as they announced the name of the club and myself as the first signing.”
He made an immediate impression with the team. In the first ever match against San Jose Earthquakes on May 5, 1974, he took the corner kick that resulted in the club’s first ever goal scored by Neil Ellett. For his performance, he was named man of the match on that opening day.
In 1975, he led the team in scoring with 23 points in 21 matches, finishing 16th overall in NASL scoring. In total, he played four seasons for the ‘Caps in the NASL, from 1974 through 1977.
“There were many memorable moments, including that first match,” says Johnson. “There were big games against the likes of the New York Cosmos and the very famous Pele, which I still have a picture of up in my office.”
For Canada, Johnson make nine appearances up until 1976, including four matches against the rival Americans and twice versus Mexico.
Glen would retire from playing at the early age of 25 due to a personal tragedy. His son Nathan was diagnosed with cancer when he was 17 months old and passed away at the age of five.
Johnson stayed involved with the game and joined the radio commentary team covering the ‘Caps in the NASL, which featured play-by-play from Ian Michaud.
“I did the home games for about three years,” recalls Johnson. “I was involved in the broadcast when the team won the Soccer Bowl in 1979.”
WHERE HE IS NOW: 1979 was also a significant year away from the field for Johnson as started up his company Team Sales, which he still owns and operates to this day.
“I’ve done some work through my business with Vancouver Whitecaps FC.”
In 2007, Johnson was inducted into the Canadian Soccer Hall of Fame. He now lives in White Rock, BC, and still supports the Blue and White.
“I’m a season ticket holder,” says Johnson proudly. “It’s really amazing to see the club hitting the same heights again and the fans are creating just a special atmosphere at the games.”
Johnson will be in attendance for the club’s 40th anniversary match on May 3, 2014, versus San Jose Earthquakes – commemorating the first match on May 5, 1974. So if you see him, make sure to say hello to the first ever signing in Whitecaps history.