Legendary Arsenal and Liverpool midfielder Ray Kennedy dies

After a long 37-year battle with Parkinson’s Disease, our former player Ray Kennedy died yesterday at the age of 70.

Playing at two of English football’s elite clubs, Arsenal and Liverpool, Kennedy won everything in the game, in a highly distinguished career.

He was first scouted as a teenager by fourth division Port Vale, managed by former England legend Sir Stanley Matthews.

But he considered the youngster too slow and released him.

The Arsenal years

Kennedy then worked in a sweet factory, whilst playing for amateur side New Hartley Juniors, but soon joined Arsenal in 1968.

He first tasted silverware by winning the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup in 1970, with a vital goal in the first-leg against Anderlecht in a 3-1 defeat, but a 3-0 reverse gave Arsenal a 4-3 aggregate win and their first major European trophy.

He famously scored a thumping header that gave Arsenal the title on the final day of the 1970-71 season and thus a North London derby win.

Shortly after he helped his side win the league and cup double as the Gunners dispatched Liverpool 2-1 in the FA Cup final.

As a striker, he finished top scorer for the club on two occasions, 1971-72, and 1973-74, but was soon deemed surplus to requirements under manager Bertie Mee.

A Liverpool icon

He left Arsenal with an impressive record of 71 goals in 212 games and joined Liverpool for a then club record £200,000, in July 1974.

Interestingly, and perhaps ironically, he was manager Bill Shankly’s final signing, arriving on the day the iconic coach departed the club.

Shankly told the press: “There is no doubt Kennedy will do a good job for Liverpool.

“He is big, brave and strong. His signing means that we now have the greatest strength in depth that we have ever had.

“Kennedy will cause plenty of trouble to defences. He fights all the way and he was top of my list of wanted men.

“Maybe it will be said that one of the last things I did at this club was to sign a great new player.”

The incoming Bob Paisley then moved Kennedy to left midfield, which became an inspired decision.

But it took two years to finally taste glory with the Reds though, as he helped the team win the league on the final day of the 1975-76 season with victory over Wolves, to beat Queens Park Rangers by one point.

Kennedy was also instrumental in Liverpool’s UEFA Cup win of 1976 as they stormed back from 2-0 down against Belgian side Club Brugge, the man himself scoring the first of three goals as Paisley’s men won 3-2 on the night.

They then wrapped up the trophy in the second leg, with a 1-1 draw enough to win 4-3 on aggregate.

In 1977, Kennedy again helped the Anfield side to win the title as they pipped Manchester City by a point.

If that wasn’t enough, Liverpool then won their first European Cup with a 3-1 victory over German side Borussia Mönchengladbach, with goals from Terry McDermott, Tommy Smith and Phil Neal.

In 1978, the golden years continued as the Reds won back-to-back European Cup’s, as a Kenny Dalglish strike gave them a tight 1-0 victory over old rivals Brugge, once again on the European stage.

In 78-79, Liverpool regained the title beating Nottingham Forest to top spot by eight points.

They then went back-to-back in 1980 to clinch the championship again with Kennedy’s help.

That summer he represented England at Euro 80 featuring against Belgium and Italy.

Having been given his first England cap in March 1976 by Don Revie, scoring on his debut against Wales, he made a total of 17 appearances for his country.

But in 1981 he retired from international football disillusioned at the lack of playing time under manager Ron Greenwood.

However, another major career highlight came as Kennedy scored a sublime right footed volley in the European Cup semi-final against Bayern Munich, to send the Reds into their third final.

There they would beat Real Madrid 1-0 thanks to namesake Alan Kennedy’s goal to secure old big ears for the third time in the past five editions.

The following year in 1982, Kennedy would again assist Liverpool’s quest in winning the league once again.

Parkinson’s and retirement

By this time, Kennedy had begun to be affected by Parkinson’s, and left Anfield having won 15 major trophies, scoring 72 goals in 393 matches, and moved to Swansea City in 1982, before a brief spell at Hartlepool United.

In 1984, he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s and called time on his illustrious career.

He then became an ambassador to the cause promoting greater awareness on the condition through the national Parkinson’s Society.

This then led him to meet his childhood hero Muhammad Ali, who also suffered with the same ailment.

In 1991, Kennedy was honoured by both Liverpool and Arsenal with a testimonial match.

Then in 1993, he published his autobiography Ray of Hope which explained how the condition affected him during his playing days, and also how he had to sell all of his winner’s medals to fund his treatment.

And in April 2009, in a Premier League match between the sides at Anfield, both teams paid tribute to the legendary player, with a standing ovation before the start of a crazy 4-4 draw.

In 2013, he was voted in at number 25 by supporters in the 100 Players Who Shook The Kop.

But it was his mentor Paisley who described him best in his 1983 autobiography.

“Ray’s contribution to Liverpool’s achievements was enormous and his consistency remarkable.

“So much so, in fact, that on the rare occasions he missed a match his absence was felt deeply simply because he was a midfield power house with tremendous vision and knowledge of the game.

“In my view he was one of Liverpool’s greatest players and probably the most underrated.”

James Spencer

My name is James and I have supported Liverpool since I was 6 years old. My favourite players growing up were Steven Gerrard and Sami Hyypia. My most memorable match would be the UEFA Cup Final win over Deportivo Alaves that finished 5-4 to Liverpool! I am studying journalism in Manchester although I am a Liverpool fan through and through.

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