BRIAN HONOUR has paid tribute to Tommy Johnson, the former Hartlepool United and Middlesbrough physio.

Johnson died suddenly last Sunday aged 92.

After 25 years at Victoria Park, he was physio when Honour signed for Pools in February 1985, before he was poached by Middlesbrough in 1986.

A former Boro player, Johnson spent a decade at the Riverside, working through the threat of liquidation before being part of the promotion side under Lennie Lawrence in 1992.

“He was an absolute gent, a very, very nice man’’ reflected Honour. “I can’t remember him having a bad word with or against anyone.

“Back in the day his treatment consisted of hot and cold. He had a heat lamp at the ground and then you would be driven down the road for a dip in the North Sea!

“When you were injured during a game, he would come on in his white coat, it was like a long butcher’s coat, with cold water and sponge.

“The water was held inside the bladder of an old football and was freezing! It was cold shock syndrome for anyone who went down.

“You either got 30 degree burns off the heat lamp or ice burns off the cold – it was one extreme of another. But, to be honest, I can never think of a time when I was injured with a muscle injury, groin or hamstring or went down suffering from cramp.

“Today it’s all about sports science and the like, but there’s an argument that Tommy was ahead of his time.’’

He added: “If you think, he was in his early 60s when he was wanted by Boro – and he spent a long time there too, he was part of the furniture at both Pools and Boro.

“He was a very unassuming character, always wanting to talk, always there for people and well loved by everyone.’’

Honour added: “He wasn’t just physio at the club – he was kit man too. He used to be in the dressing room after the game gathering up all the kit, shirt, shorts and socks, bagging them up and he still had to look after the players with knocks too.

“He was part of a group at the club who would always be together, especially at away games on the team coach – Mally Kirby, Ronnie Harrison, George Lormor and Don Bee. He will be missed by an awful lot of people.’’

Johnson played a big role in grass roots football in Hartlepool and the surrounding area over the years. His playing days included spells with Boro, Darlington, Bradford PA, Spennymoor and Horden.

He was physio at Boro when Craig Hignett, Pools director of football, signed from Crewe.

Hignett added: “Tommy is someone I’ve known for a years, a lovely man who talked about football constantly. He was my physio when I first signed for Boro.

“He loved his golf, loved talking about football, and we went to see him lately, me and Tommy Miller had a lovely hour with him, telling stories and listening.

“He was 92, as fit as anyone, it came as a shock. A lovely, lovely man – a fantastic human being.’’

The funeral service will be held on at 11.15am on Friday, December 21, at All Saints Church, Hartlepool, to be followed by a burial at noon at Stranton Grange Cemetery and a gathering for friends and family at the Hardwick Hall Manor Hotel at 1pm.