A WELL-KNOWN Thurrock wheeler-dealer has released a book offering his side of a story that saw him foray into the controversial world of football club ownership.
Anton Johnson, 70, a fifth generation owner of Johnson butchers, in Lodge Lane, Grays, grew up in the borough, living above the shop, which was once in William Street.
He went on to own Rotherham United, Bournemouth and Southend United, before being accused of stealing and becoming the figure of a hate campaign at Southend.
Anton’s book tells the remarkable story of his life as he grew up with a love of football, watching Grays and Tilbury and playing in goal for his school, Torrell’s, before delving into the world of music promotion.
He brought acts like Fleetwood Mac, Status Quo and the Temptations to Thurrock.
He also welcomed Tommy Cooper to the Circus Tavern in Purfleet and helped England World Cup legend Bobby Moore make a surprise appearance for Sunday league side Orsett Green.
But he shot to prominence after buying Rotherham United in 1979 for £67,500, after hearing the club were up for sale on Match of the Day.
He later acquired Bournemouth, where he gave Harry Redknapp his first job in management in 1983, and later Southend United, where he is still despised today. This is despite him being found not guilty of theft from the Southend boardroom.
Talking to the Gazette about the book, Johnson said: “Football clubs never came on the market, no one ever got the chance to buy a football club.
“But suddenly, a lot of football clubs were going on the market and so many were going into receivership.
“My ambition was always to buy a local football club, so when Southend came on the market, I though that’s perfect.”
Anton brought West Ham and England hero Bobby Moore back from the USA to be commercial manager at Southend, but also planned to bring QPR to Southend’s Roots Hall and have the two clubs play one day after the other, offering the ultimate football watching experience.
On his time at Southend, Johnson said: “I should have devoted more time to the club rather than let people creep around, which Bobby Moore warned me about. “I shouldn’t have got involved in all of these clubs and should have just stuck to one.”
Anton lost nearly £350,000 during his time at Southend.
All proceeds from the book are going to Great Ormond Street Hospital. King of Clubs is available on Amazon now.