Owls old boy David Ford has paid tribute to Sheffield Wednesday legend Johnny Fantham, who has died following a long battle with illness.
Sheffield-born Fantham, the Owls’ most prolific post-war forward, passed away, aged 75, yesterday.
In his 13 glittering years at Hillsborough, Fantham notched 166 goals in 434 senior appearances.
He helped Wednesday to finish runners-up to the double-winning Tottenham Hotspurs team in 1961, win the Second Division title two years earlier and reach the quarter-finals of the European Fairs Cup in 1962.
Ford, a teammate of Fantham’s, told The Star: “Johnny was a great guy, athlete and gentleman. Everybody looked up to him. As a Wednesday fan myself, he was my hero.
“Johnny was a good character and a role model for the younger boys coming through. He was always a guy you could talk to. I was 18 when I first joined the club and he would put an arm around me when things didn’t go well. He was a big help to me.”
Fantham was the architect of Ford’s goal in the 1966 FA Cup final against Everton. Wednesday established a two-goal lead but the Merseyside club hit back to claim a 3-2 win.
“It was all down to Johnny that I scored in the final,” admitted Ford. “He went on a fantastic run down the middle and his shot was fumbled by the goalkeeper and I put the rebound in.”
Fantham, who went on to play for Rotherham United and Macclesfield Town, was capped once by England, against Luxembourg in 1961.
Ford said: “Johnny was a strong runner and he could dribble past a player. He was strong in the air and could score all types of goals.
“He was strong on the ball and brought other people into the game. He was a very good, all round player.
“Johnny should have got more caps for England but Jimmy Greaves kept him out of the team.”
Away from football, Fantham’s great passion was golf. He was a member at Hallamshire and held the club record at Beauchief golf course for several years.
“He was a very good golfer and could hit the ball miles,” Ford added.