Anton Johnson: New book about entrepreneur and former Southend FC owner
- Credit: Anton Johnson/ Ray Stone
A new book about a Rainham entrepreneur known for his time as a controversial football club owner was published last week.
Novelist Ray Stone and Ant Gavin Smits wrote Anton Johnson - A Driven Life to challenge misconceptions about Anton Johnson, who faced allegations of fraud in the 1980s while in charge of Southend United FC.
He was cleared of all charges.
Co-author Ray told the Recorder: “What fascinated me was how little the public knew about the real Anton Johnson, someone who has achieved so much and given so much.
“I wanted to write the book because I’ve known him so long and he’s such a nice guy, I really mean that.
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“He really is quite a character, he’s smashing and he’s got a big heart."
Anton, who lives in Rainham with wife Jan, added: “I’m really grateful to Ray for not only writing the book but also clearing up the situation.
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“The book is really super, I’m absolutely delighted.”
Anton was born in 1942 into a butchery family with shops in Upminster and Grays, and lived in Newham before studying at Smithfield College of Food Technology.
After a stint in the meat industry, in 1979 Anton converted an old building into Crocs nightclub in Rayleigh, which became famous for up and coming stars and housed two live crocodiles in a cage - later found to be alligators.
The club was later renamed the Pink Toothbrush, and welcomed stars including Culture Club lead vocalist Boy George and rock band EMF.
The entrepreneur then moved into the football scene, buying Rotherham United FC and then AFC Bournemouth, where he gave football manager Harry Redknapp his first job in management.
Discussing the fraud accusations at Southend United, the father-of-six said: “I couldn’t believe these things were happening, it was a nightmare.
“They arrested me, they locked me up for 24 hours, and in the end I went off to America because I couldn’t be bothered with it.”
Since the book was published, Ray, who has known Anton since the 1980s, said he had already sold 100 copies.
“So far, it looks like it’s going to be a success.
“I feel fantastic, I’m over the moon with it, and I really want the fans to read it.
“I want everyone to know what happened.”