Craig Johnston choked back tears as he was honoured by Northern NSW Football with a building in his name at Speers Point on Wednesday, just footsteps from where the legendary Lake Macquarie footballer honed his skills as a kid.
Surrounded by family, friends and some of the Hunter region's footballing royalty, the 63-year-old's name was unveiled emblazoned across the building which was officially opened in 2020 and forms part of the Lake Macquarie Regional Football Facility.
Johnston is one of the finest footballers to ever come out of Northern NSW, and his story is the stuff of folklore.
As a kid, he would practice kicking a ball against the wall of an old brick toilet in Speers Point Park for hours.
Johnston famously left home as a 15-year-old in 1975 with the dream of becoming a professional footballer in England.
After being dealt some initial home truths by Middlesbrough manager Jack Charlton, including being called "the worst footballer I've ever seen", Johnston set about using the football club's car park wall to teach himself to become a better player through a series of repetitive testing.
He made 64 appearances for Middlesbrough before a record transfer for the time to Liverpool in 1981.
Johnston went on to play 271 games for Liverpool, winning five league titles, the FA Cup and European Cup plus two English League Cups.
His continued passion for the game and the future generation of footballers is undeniable.
"It's about their love of the ball," an emotional Johnston said on Wednesday.
"We've got to get more kids playing more sport, more often and learning the values of teamwork and behaviour with each other ... those friendships stay with you for the rest of your life."