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Journalist’s treasure trove of memorabilia comes to light after death aged 78

Frank Johnson 1A treasure trove of sporting memorabilia belonging to a journalist who spent more four decades covering a football club’s fortunes for a regional daily has come to light following his death aged 78.

Tributes have been paid to Frank Johnson, who worked for the Northern Echo for 43 years – 42 of them as its Sunderland AFC reporter.

Frank was also present at Wembley Stadium to cover England’s World Cup final win over West Germany in 1966.

Following Frank’s death after a battle with throat cancer, his family have now revealed what they described as an “incredible amount of paraphernalia” which he collected during a career spanning six decades.

They include artefacts from the 1966 tournament, as well as a champagne cork popped by Sunderland’s Ian Porterfield following the club’s 1973 FA Cup victory in which he scored the winning goal.

Frank’s son Simon, 50, told the Echo: “My dad caught the cork that Ian Porterfield popped in the dressing room. Some of his stuff should be in a museum. I used to say to him it should be on display because it is just in boxes. It is a shame, so one day we might do something with it.

“He has got tapes of different interviews with managers from over the years and it is unbelievable. Some of the ‘off the record’ things are amazing. He told us of the stories about players missing flights, and doing this and doing that. There were some absolutely corkers. There is a book in there.

“What he should have done, which saddens me because he never did, was write a chapter on each of the managers. He had stories about each. It was a shame he never did in the end.”

Frank, pictured, joined the Northern Echo at its Sunderland office as a teenager before moving to the Darlington head office and later Guisborough, while he also covered athletics and greyhound racing for the newspaper.

Former Sunderland chairman Sir Bob Murray said: “I knew Frank from my very first day at [the club’s old stadium] Roker Park and through many up and downs over the years. He was always his own man, forthright and never afraid to speak his mind.

“It was a different era without instant technology and 24-hour news, when relationships mattered and press access was different to that of today’s game. The Northern Echo is a great newspaper and Frank was one of its finest servants.”

His former editor Peter Barron added: “Frank was from the old school of journalism and will be remembered by many as a great character. He spoke straight from the heart, and was always passionate about Sunderland.”

Frank, who retired in 2002, lived in Bournmoor, near Chester-le-Street, with his wife of 54 years, Brenda.

The couple had two sons, Tony and Simon, and two daughters, Ashleigh and Lucy, as well as eight grandchildren.

He was diagnosed with cancer three years ago and underwent surgery, but became ill again around two months ago before passing away on 1 October.

Frank’s funeral will be held at 10.45am tomorrow at St Barnabas Church, Bournmoor, followed by cremation at Durham Crematorium, then on to the Chilton Country Pub, in Fencehouses.

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  • October 18, 2018 at 7:59 pm

    As a Sunderland fan for 51 years I read Frank’s many brilliant reports on my club over the decades – and he was up there with the best of them.
    It’s a real shame he didn’t write a book when he hung up his notebook, he must have had enough fantastic stories and golden memories to fill a dozen.
    Rest in peace Frank.

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