Well, where does one start? A man who wore so many hats he could have run his own shop!
I had the pleasure of knowing and working closely with Roger for many years, whether it was filling in as Programme Editor while he was away on one of his many scenic railway trips or admiring the vast collection of local band’s cds that dominated the dashboard of his car, as we drove across Sussex with the Under-18s. One of the very few people I knew/know to always put his handbrake on every time we stopped.
I fondly recall a time when the referee failed to turn up one Sunday morning at Sidlesham and one of their coaches took charge. His rather relaxed approach in this top-of-the-table clash included stepping back to allow both teams to exchange blows in a mass brawl that thankfully calmed down and the game continued without any further trouble. No cards were issued and we came away with a narrow 1-0 win. Roger still had time for some of his regular volunteer work that day down at Pagham Harbour’s Nature Reserve too. So, plenty to discuss on the journey home!
We also shared in equal amounts of disbelief when the ref at Steyning one sunny Sabbath ‘sent-off’ our manager, Dan Aguilera, who was leaning against the pitch-side barrier at the time, yet was never actually directed to leave the playing arena and continued to stay where he was for the remainder of the match. Even stranger things occurred after one of our players thought it would be a good idea to give the man in the middle a false name in the process of being booked. Upon going to pay the match official after the game, the hosts found that he had simply disappeared, never to be seen again! So, nobody got fined and/or suspended and Roger had no paperwork to sort out!?
Nothing was ever too much trouble for ‘Rog’ and although he sometimes called a spade a spade, his kind and caring nature always shone through. This was never better demonstrated for me than during his time as tea hut proprietor. (For those of you under the age of thirty, this long-standing and very profitable venue stood where the new bar, eatery and manager’s office is now taking shape). He knew exactly what his regulars had in their hot drinks and so would be able to greet them with a warm smile along with the appropriate number of sugars they required.
Come rain or shine, Worthing FC, a local cup final or charity match, Roger opened around a hundred times a season until, following many years of unstinting service he finally handed the reins over.
However, you couldn’t keep him away for long and his running of the Supporter’s Club and tea hut was soon extended to Secretary/Match Secretary of the club’s youngsters, Programme Editor (as already mentioned) before taking on the role of Women’s Secretary for the past couple of seasons.
Former Under-18s Boss Ian Hart rewarded Roger with executive 1901 club tickets to watch Brighton play Ipswich and Yeovil in the Championship, and also honoured him with a league runners-up medal. Not just for his loyal and dedicated work with the team but partly for driving all the way to the Isthmian Office in Dartford to pick them up that afternoon!
I had the honour and privilege of accompanying the great man to that Yeovil game and also received a medal but Roger was there from the start with the 18’s and I held him in high esteem.
It wasn’t only the admin that he took care of either, turning his hand to cooking by feeding the squad at home games too.
One of his many legacies will be the long-running fans forum, Rebel Rebels which, in spite of the plethora of modern-day social media has been going for as long as I can remember and is still as popular today as it ever was.
Every club needs a Roger Johnson and it has been so humbling to call this true gentleman not only a colleague but a friend as well. We’ll all miss you Sir and there will be an empty space on the terraces and in our hearts that can never be filled by another.
Rest In Peace Roger.