When Johnston thought he was on his bike
Later, when I had really paid my dues at Liverpool, I perceived how critical it was for new players to adopt a low profile when entering the Anfield portals. Some of that money I was spending had come indirectly out of the pockets of Liverpool fans. It would have been better if I'd waited until I could prove I was worthy of the investment.
Being a brash young man, I wasn't astute enough to understand that people were trying to help and guide me. Kenny Dalglish made a point of picking me up outside the hotel on my second day in the city and taking me house hunting. Here was the immortal Dalglish, arguably the finest player ever to pull on a red shirt, going out on his way to make me feel welcome. He wanted me to become part of the Liverpool family. Do you think I was grateful? Not at first. I can remember entertaining the cynical notion that there must have been an ulterior motive. I had much to learn about Liverpool.
The situation would have been better if I'd been fully fit. In fact, I had a serious knee injury. After a few games in reserves I reported the problem to Bob Paisley and it would only be a matter of time before it went altogether. It was another legacy of the carpark wear and tear. The outcome was that I wouldn't play again for the rest of the season.
The Boss had always prided himself on being able to pick an injury a mile away. And he must have been furious with himself and especially me when it was revealed that Liverpool had paid a fortune for a player carrying a serious knee problem. No doubt, Bob Paisley had been made abundantly aware that his expensive and injured signing was carving out a bigger reputation on the party and night club circuit than on the training field. At Anfield they miss very little. In his grandfatherly fashion, the Boss called me into his office for a long overdue chat. He said that now the management had had a chance to see me at close quarters, they were of the opinion that the deal hadn't worked sweetly as they would have wished. Manchester United were about to sign Brian Robson from West Brom and the Midlands club was eager to part with some of the proceeds to secure a suitable midfield replacement. Liverpool, said Bob Paisley, would agree to let me go. I was rocked to the soles of my feet. Could they be serious? Were they really show me the door before I'd had as much as a whiff of the first team action?
I remembered how Souness had warned me not to expect any favours of him, but I was desperate. I went to the bar of my hotel and waited for him to show. When he came breezing in for a drink late that afternoon, I summoned up the nerve to approach him. As embarrased as I was about my predicament, I was nonetheless in dire need of his advice. He sipped his beer thoughtfully as I related what Bob Paisley had said. Yes, my ex-Boro club-mate offered, he could see the problem from both sides. In fact, my high-life existence had been a pale carbon of his Liverpool entrance. Souey knew all about the good times I'd been enjoying because he was the one who, three years earlier, had founded the party gang which I had inherited. As the latest signing I was simply carrying on the tradition. The major difference was that, as a footballer, I wasn't in the same class as Souness.
'I wouldn't be surprised if it's a shock tactic,' Graeme said. 'They either want you to knuckle down and get on with the job, or piss off.'
It was all I needed to know. The injury meant there was nothing I could do about my playing form, but I could do something about the party circuit. I knocked it on the head.
The situation was clear to me now. Not being required for duty during those final six week, I had been at a loose end with too much cash in my pocket and too much time on my hands. Jenny had gone home to Australia early to prepare for our July wedding, and I had been, missing her steadying influence. In that introductory period at Liverpool I stayed out too late, had too many drinks and believed too many people when they told me what a good bloke they thought I was. What I should have been doing was putting my head down and preparing for the day when Liverpool would want some return on their 650 000 quid.