John “Johnny” Paton, born on April 2, 1923 and died October 2, 2015, Johnny was a Scottish football player, manager, coach, scout and later a professional snooker referee.
He began his career in Scotland at Celtic and played in the Football League for Chelsea, Brentford and Watford. Johnny later managed Watford and Arsenal ‘A’.
Born in Glasgow, Johnny joined Celtic (the club he supported as a boy) during the Second World War in May 1942.
An outside left, he made his debut in a 2–0 Southern League win over St. Mirren on 16 January 1943.
Johnny spent a period as a guest at American Soccer League side New York Americans while stationed in the United States and later guested for Leeds United in 1945 in England, making four appearances.
Johnny scored for Celtic in the Victory in Europe Cup triumph over Queens Park on 9 May 1945.
Due to the suspension of competitive football for the duration of the Second World War, Johnny didn’t make his first professional appearances for Celtic until the 1947/48 season, making 52 league appearances and scoring 12 goals before departing the Bhoys in September 1949, his last competitive game being the 1949 Glasgow Cup victory over Third Lanark.
A dispute with the club’s management over wages in the summer of 1949 caused Johnny to move.
In his seven years with Celtic, Johnny made 108 appearances and scored 29 goals in all competitions.
Johnny joined English Division One side Chelsea on loan in November 1946.
He made 23 appearances and scored three goals before returning to Celtic in May 1947.
Johnny signed for Division Two side Brentford in September 1949 for a £5000 fee.
He had contacted London Evening Star columnist and ex-Arsenal defender Bernard Joy, asking for an advert to be placed in the paper that he was available for transfer.
Brentford manager (and former Celtic player) Malcolm McDonald was the first to take up the option on Johnny ‘s services.
He had a dream start to his career at Griffin Park, scoring on his debut in a 2–0 win over Bradford Park Avenue and bagging another goal against Blackburn Rovers in the following game.
A knock suffered in a match versus Southampton on 29 October 1949 hampered his progress, with Johnny ruing that he had a “gammy leg” for two years, from which he finally recovered after a successful operation at Brentford hospital.
He played on at Brentford until the end of the 1951/52 season, having made 94 appearances and scored 16 goals.
Johnny and Brentford teammate Jimmy Bowie joined Division Three South side Watford in July 1952, to help finance a deal which had seen Tommy Lawton move to the Bees the previous year.
He made 91 appearances and scored 17 goals before playing his final match in 1955.
Johnny made appearances for Scotland at international level as a schoolboy and a junior.
He played for the RAF representative team during the Second World War, appearing alongside Stanley Matthews for the team.
Johnny lamented the standard of football coaching in England in the early 1950s, saying “many managers deliberately starved their players of the ball during the week, believing it made them more hungry for it out on the pitch on a Saturday”.
Johnny and Brentford teammates Ron Greenwood and Jimmy Hill enrolled on the first ever FA coaching course at Lilleshall in the early 1950s.
One of the instructors was Brentford goalkeeper Ted Gaskell and Johnny roomed with Greenwood, Hill and Malcolm Allison.
While with Watford, Johnny became the club’s first ever player-coach. In the early 1960s, he worked as a scout for Rotherham United, focusing on Glasgow and Scotland.
In 1961, Tommy Docherty offered Johnny a scouting role and the position of ‘A’ team manager at Division One side Arsenal.
Johnny later found out that Ron Greenwood recommended him for the role.
He won the 1961/62 Metropolitan League Cup and the 1962/63 Metropolitan League title with the ‘A’ team. He departed the club in 1965.
Johnny was appointed manager of Watford in October 1955, succeeding Len Goulden as manager.
He had a good start to his reign, but after entering hospital for a cartilage operation on both knees, the team’s form drained away in his absence.
Johnny was relieved of his duties only four months into his reign, after just two wins from 15 Division Three South matches.
Johnny was born into a family of Celtic supporters, with his grandfather holding a season ticket at Celtic Park and his father spending time on the club’s books as a player.
During his years with Celtic, Johnny was a press photographer. He also competed as an amateur boxer.
In the late 1950s, Johnny turned his back on football and worked as a sales rep, selling chocolate biscuits.
Johnny Paton died in October 2015, aged 92.