'Did Martin Johnson really just say that? Was he serious?'- Max's Book Club
In the latest instalment of Max’s Book Club on RugbyPass Offload, we are taken to a player’s bizarre encounter with Martin Johnson in his very first England training camp.
Jack Nowell joined Marc Edwards, Max Lahiff and Ryan Wilson in this week’s episode, and had to guess which autobiography this latest excerpt was taken from. Lahiff narrates the player in question’s frosty encounter with England’s World Cup winning captain, and how a haircut may have been the cause of their relationship getting off on the wrong foot.
“‘Got your kit sorted?'” the extract began.
“I looked up and saw the bent nose and the huge squashed brow. It was Martin Johnson, England’s best ever captain, booming down at me from his great height.
“Intimidating doesn’t even begin to cover it. I’d watched him lifting the 2003 World Cup on telly when I was a fat 13-year-old. He was one of the most phenomenal players the country had ever seen. Now here he was, not just standing in front of me, but eye-balling me at the start of my first England training camp in February 2010.
“‘Yes,’ I squeaked. ‘The kit man sorted me out.’
“‘So you’re good to go? Good to train, are you?’
“I detected an edge to his voice. ‘Yeah, I’m good to go …’ I was shifting my weight from one foot to the other and mumbling my words. It wasn’t the impression I wanted to give to one of rugby’s hardest men.
“‘Well,’ he barked, ‘you’re gonna have to get rid of that f******g stupid haircut before you do!’
“I blushed. Did Martin Johnson really just say that? Was he serious? I was confused as well as shocked, because what did my haircut have to do with him, with rugby? He stalked off and I glanced around awkwardly, wondering what to do next.
“I could only assume he was showing me who was boss, stamping his authority on a new pup. Besides, how was I supposed to get rid of my haircut here?
“I nipped to the toilet before the training session started and caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror. It’ll be fine, I thought. I’ll just have to crack on and hope he doesn’t mention it again.
“My mohican was dyed the brightest red you could imagine. During the week I’d had it trimmed into a very tight, neat stripe, so it looked like I had a giant scarlet-coloured caterpillar sleeping down the middle of my scalp. For a bit of extra pizzazz I had stars and stripes shaved around the sides of my head. It was an absolutely brilliant haircut, the best I’d ever had. There was no way in the world I was getting rid of it, not even for Martin Johnson.
“I ran out onto the field. F**k you, Martin Johnson, I thought. You can’t make me shave my head. My hair’s got nothing to do with rugby!”
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