SUNDERLAND’S FA Cup hero has paid tribute to the man who played a pivotal role in bringing him to the club.
Jimmy Montgomery described how former Black Cats physio Johnny Watters turned up on his doorstep and persuaded the teenage prospect to sign for his home town club.
“I went to Burnley for five weeks and when I came back, he came to the house with my old St Hilda’s School teacher Alfie Lavender,” said Jimmy.
“They both came to the house and said Sunderland wanted to sign me. I went down the next day and signed for them. That’s how it came about.”
Johnny Watters died last weekend, aged 92.
Jimmy recalled how that fateful door knock had been the beginning of a friendship that would last throughout his 19 years at Roker Park and record 623 first-team appearances for Sunderland.
“I was only 15 when I went to Sunderland and he looked after me all the time I was there,” said Jimmy.
“If you were injured, you would be on the treatment table and if somebody like Charlie Hurley or Stan Anderson came in Johnny would say ‘Go and have a bath,’ and you would have to wait while the big boys were given treatment.”
Football was a less formal affair in those days and Jimmy remembers how Johnny Watters would treat members of the public, as well as players.
“You would go in on a Sunday and there would always be a bottle of whiskey on the table or a leg of lamb, gifts from people he had treated – he never took money.”
The physio may have been responsible for keeping the players in top shape, but he did have his own vice, as Jimmy recalled.
“Johnny would always have his pipe to hand,” he said.
“I remember Alan Brown coming one day and the pipe went into the pocket of his long white coat.
“Johnny was standing there and you could see the smoke coming out of his pocket.”
Johnny spent almost three decades as the Black Cats’ first-team physio.
“He started in 1956 and he left when he retired in 1983,” said Jimmy.
“He was an absolutely magnificent character – anybody you spoke to would have a different story about him.”
A SAFC spokeswoman said: “Johnny Watters was a popular character at Roker Park for many years.
“He is fondly remembered by players, staff and supporters of the time and Sunderland AFC offer their deep condolences to his family and friends.”
Johnny is survived by wife Margaret, daughters Patricia, Frances and Maura, son John, four grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
A mass will be held at St Hilda’s Church, Southwick, at 10am tomorrow, followed by an open gathering at the Stadium of Light.