Johnny Warren

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John Norman Warren, MBE, OAM (17 May 1943 – 6 November 2004) was an Australian Association football player, coach, administrator, writer and broadcaster from Earlwood NSW. He was known as Captain Socceroo for his passionate work to promote the game in Australia.[1] The award for the best player in the A-League is named the Johnny Warren Medal in his honour.[2]

Early life

Warren grew up in the suburb of Botany in Sydney and had two elder brothers, Geoff and Ross.[3][4]

He attended Cleveland St. High School, Botany, later becoming the school vice-captain.[5]

Playing career

Club career

After playing junior football for Botany Methodists and Earlwood Wanderers Warren joined Canterbury-Marrickville as a fifteen year old in 1959. Initially he played in the club's third grade team before being promoted to the first grade later in the year.[3]

In 1963 Warren transferred to St. George-Budapest. In a 12 year stint at St. George Warren won three NSW State League grand finals, one premiership and two state cups. His final action as a player was to score a match-winning goal for St. George in the 1974 NSW State League Grand Final. Immediately after scoring the goal he substituted himself off.[3]

International career

Warren made his full international debut for Australia in November 1965 against Cambodia in Phnom Penh.[6] He played 42 international matches, including Australia's first World Cup appearance in 1974.[7]

In 1967 Warren captained the national team for the first time in a match against New Zealand in Saigon. He went on to captain Australia in 24 internationals.[6]

Coaching career

In 1974 Warren was a player-coach with St. George-Budapest

As well as helping found Canberra City, he served as the team's first coach in 1977 and 1978.[8]

After retirement


Warren worked in television commentating football for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and Special Broadcasting Service television networks. It was at SBS where he made his mark, appearing on a number of football analysis shows including On the Ball and The World Game.[1]

Warren wept openly on national television in 1997 when two very late goals by Iran resulted in a 2-2 draw against the Socceroos in the final World Cup qualifying match and sent Iran to the 1998 FIFA World Cup.[9]

Gold Creek

While in Canberra, John and his business partners acquired control of the Gold Creek Function and Entertainment Centre based around the historic Gold Creek Homestead (located in present-day Ngunnawal). The function centre was one of the National Capital's premier function venues.[3][10]

During the 1980s and early 1990s, numerous international visitors including members of Brazil’s Under 19s football team travelled to Gold Creek to get their first taste of Australian country life. Annual football camps were also held there under the auspices of the Australian Soccer Federation. Over a period of ten years, upwards of 10,000 teenagers from around the nation completed the two-week training camps.

Struggle for National Success

Warren's publicly held belief was that if Australia's strong sporting tradition was focused on the sport then Australia could be a world power in the game. One of his famous quotes on the matter was "I'm sick of us saying, 'When are we going to qualify for the World Cup'? When are we going to win the World Cup? ... Call me a dreamer."[11] His comments came shortly after Australia had defeated [England 3-1 in a friendly featuring a full-strength English side (albeit with 11 substitutions made at half-time), and several Confederations Cup wins over France and Brazil when Australia took third place at the 2001 FIFA Confederations Cup in a 1-0 playoff win over Brazil.

Warren claimed that these results showed that Australia was a much more powerful football nation than many gave it credit for. At the time, Australia was reigning world champion in the other international codes - Rugby Union, Rugby League and Cricket.

Nevertheless, Warren predicted that the Australian national team would attain consistent international success. He famously expressed a desire to say 'I told you so' to the team's detractors.[12]


After smoking heavily for most of his life, in 2003 Warren publicly announced that he had been diagnosed with lung cancer. Several months later FIFA president Sepp Blatter presented a frail Warren with the FIFA Centennial Order of Merit for his services to the game in Australia.[3][11][13]

His last public appearance was made during the launch of the rebranded Australian domestic football league, the A-League, which replaced the previous National Soccer League.

Weeks before death, Warren was asked what he wanted his sporting legacy to be - his answer "I Told You So", a phrase which has become a catch-cry in Australian football and during the 2006 FIFA World Cup appeared on the scoreboard in the backdrop of the SBS World Cup studio.[14][15]

He died of respiratory complications related to his cancer on 6 November 2004, at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Sydney. He was awarded a full state funeral, the first to be held for a sportsman.[16]


  1. 1.0 1.1 Hall, Matthew; Prichard, Greg (7 November 2004). "Farewell Captain Socceroo". The Sun-Herald. Retrieved 7 October 2009.
  2. Muscat, Kevin (4 November 2005). "If Johnny could see us now". The Age. Retrieved 7 October 2009.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 "Warren leaves his mark on Aussie soccer". Sun-Herald. 7 November 2004. Retrieved 7 October 2009.
  4. "Museum to receive collection of great soccer Warren". ABC. 16 May 2008. Retrieved 7 October 2009.
  5. Warren, Johnny; Andy Harper; Whittington, Josh (2002). Sheilas, wogs & poofters: an incomplete biography of Johnny Warren and soccer in Australia. Random House Australia. ISBN 1-74051-121-2.
  6. 6.0 6.1 The Australian National Men’s Football Team: Caps And Captains. Football Federation Australia.
  7. "State funeral for Johnny Warren on Monday". The Sydney Morning Herald. 4 November 2004. Retrieved 2010-06-13.
  8. "Canberra City FC - History". Canberra City FC. Retrieved 7 October 2009.
  9. "The beautiful game ends for its No.1 fan". The Sydney Morning Herald. 8 November 2004. Retrieved 7 October 2009.
  10. Newman, Chris (2004). Gold Creek, Reflection sof Canberra's Rural Heritage. Gold Creek Homestead Working Group.
  11. 11.0 11.1 Brown, Alex (10 July 2004). "Global game honours fighter Warren". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 7 October 2009.
  12. Arthur, Darren. "2004: 'I told you so'". WWOS presents football moments of the decade. Retrieved 2010-06-13.
  13. "Australian football visionary Warren dies". FIFA. 8 November 2004. Retrieved 7 October 2009.
  14. Johnston, Chris (18 November 2005). "Finally, Australian soccer gets respect". The Age. Retrieved 7 October 2009.
  15. Hinds, Richard (15 June 2006). "SBS team right mix for Cup". The Age. Retrieved 2009-10-08.
  16. "Socceroos great Warren dies". ABC. 6 November 2004. Retrieved 7 October 2009.

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