Tribute to Arsenal and Liverpool legend Ray Kennedy – The Triumph and the Tragedy

RAY KENNEDYANOTHER ARSENAL LEGEND FROM THE WONDERFUL DOUBLE WINNING 1970/71 SEASON AND WHO HAS EXPERIENCED BOTH TRIUMPH AND TRAGEDY:

RAYMOND KENNEDY – MIDFIELDER AND CENTRE-FORWARD.

BORN – 28TH JULY 1951

CAREER – YOUTH TEAMS:
PORT VALE 1966/1967 – NEW HARTLEY JUNIORS 1967/1968 – THE ARSENAL 1968

SENIOR LEAGUE STATS:
THE ARSENAL 1968/1974 – PLAYED 158 / SCORED 53 GOALS
LIVERPOOL 1974/1982 – PLAYED 275 / SCORED 51 GOALS
SWANSEA 1982/1983 – PLAYED 42 / SCORED 2 GOALS
HARTLEPOOL 1983/1984 – PLAYED 23 / SCORED 3 GOALS

ENGLAND INTERNATIONAL:
1972/1973 ENGLAND U23’s PLAYED 6
1976/1980 SENIOR TEAM PLAYED 17 – SCORED 3 GOALS

HONOURS:

THE ARSENAL:
INTER-CITIES FAIRS CUP 1970
LEAGUE CHAMPIONS 1970-1971
FA CUP 1970-1971
FA CUP RUNNERS UP 1972

LIVERPOOL
LEAGUE CHAMPIONS 19755/76 1976/77 1978/79 1979/80 1981/82
UEFA CUP 1976
EUROPEAN CUP 1977 – 1978 – 1981
UEFA SUPER CUP 1977
RUNNER UP 1978
FA CUP RUNNER UP 1977
FOOTBALL LEAGUE CUP 1981
RUNNER UP 1978
WORLD CLUB CHAMPIONSHIP RUNNER UP 1981

SWANSEA CITY
WELSH CUP 1982

What a wonderful player Ray was, just look at what he achieved in the world of football, and we let him go for £200,000, admittedly a club record at the time. I have always advocated that Bertie Mee broke up his double winning side too early and this player is an example of what I mean.

After turning professional in 1968, Ray had to wait for nearly a year before he made his first team debut, a 1-1 draw against Sunderland, where he came on a substitute and then had to play reserve team football, when our reserves clinched the Combination Div. One title.

It has to be noted, however, that such was our strength in depth, Bertie Mee only used 15 players during the entire 1968-69 season…but he was patient and it was obvious what talent was about to be unleashed.

He then became a regular and helped win the Inter-Cities Fair cup in 1970 in a strange way really.
He started as sub yet again in the first leg and he scored the vital away leg goal, after we were trailing 3-0 – but Bertie didn’t use him in the return leg as we claimed our first silverware in 17 years, with a wonderful 4-3 aggregate win.

It was an injury to Charlie George (broken ankle) during the first game of the 1970/71 season, that saw Ray replace him and he featured in every other game as we completed our first ever double winning season.

The final game of the season saw us travelling to WHL, needing a 0-0 draw or a win and, with the score at 0-0, George Armstrong’s great cross in the 88th minute saw Ray soared above the Spud’s defence to head in a wonderful goal – the rest is part of our club’s wonderful history.

We became only the fourth side in English football to have achieved this unique feat.

His performance in the cup final was a bittersweet affair, in my view, as he ran the Liverpool defence ragged, but missed some golden scoring opportunities as well.

He also appeared in the 1972 cup final, when we lost to Leeds 1-0.

Ray continued to play under Bertie Mee in the 1972/73 season, but he was struggling with weight issues and he ballooned to over 14 stone, before the club fined him £200, then got him back into shape, under the guidance of Frank McLintock it is said.

There was even a belief that we could have another double winning season, as we actually finished second in the league and reached the FA cup final, but it was not to happen, being bridesmaids in both competitions.

Ray’s form continued to dip however and he explained the reason as being “my game has gone downhill since I got married, but has started to pick up again now I am in bachelordom, I feel that I am better off without her”!!!!

Well, his form did pick up it seems, but Bertie had already decided to replace him with Brian Kidd and his transfer to Liverpool went ahead, ending an Arsenal career that could/should have seen much more success.

John Radford, his striking partner, was quoted as saying the following: “I couldn’t believe it when he left and felt it was a great shame to have broken up our partnership which had wobbled slightly, but which I was sure would come together again with a little time”.

As we know, Raddy was himself sold on just two seasons later and the rest is history regarding The Arsenal.

Without going into Ray’s Liverpool career, I think it’s worth noting what Bob Paisley, the Liverpool manager, had to say about Ray Kennedy in his own autobiography of 1983.

“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 powerhouse with tremendous vision and knowledge of the game…In my view he was one of Liverpool’s greatest players and probably the most underrated.”

Then the tragedy hinted at struck home in such a cruel way for Ray on the 4th November 1984, when he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease – it did not stop this man from pursuing his career both in and out of football though.

He became a photo figurehead of the society that was bringing awareness of the disease to the public’s attention and, whilst doing this, he met another famous sufferer of this awful condition, Muhammad Ali, a childhood hero of Ray’s.

On the footballing side, Lawrie McMenemy invited him to do some coaching at Sunderland and, from being a part time coach for three months in 1987, he was promoted to first team coach.

As his condition worsened the PFA stepped in to pay his medical expenses, as his savings were wiped out following his divorce, tax and business problems.

I will not go into any details regarding his divorce, as it is very personal and not very nice either.

In 1993, Ray published his autobiography “RAY OF HOPE”, co-authored by the doctor who was treating him for the disease at that time.

Later in the year, he sold all of his medals and international caps to raise funds for his treatment and, in 2002, was reported to be living alone.

Two years later, he revealed in an interview, that he was suffering from loneliness and hallucinations – following this, a great Liverpool supporter, Karl Coppack I believe, bought him a computer and that allowed him to converse with football fans in chat rooms.

Along with four other Liverpool fans, they raised over £40,000 for essential equipment and services – what were the PFA doing? Well, they have donated money to the cause as well, but I can’t help but reflect on the fact that Gordon Taylor is reportedly earning in excess of £3 million a year with bonuses and salary…when they were formed to support such cases as Ray Kennedy!!!

One other fact I discovered about Ray’s condition, was that it seemed to begin while at The Arsenal in small ways – one being that he had trouble buttoning up his shirt and having shakes in his left arm, although the official date of his being diagnosed was at the age of 35. He now has to depend on daily care, he is housebound and on bad days can hardly walk or speak.

Ray Kennedy is a real Arsenal and Liverpool legend and his fantastic and inspiring football career is tempered by his personal tragedy with Parkinson’s disease.

I found this article one of the most sad and difficult to explore and put down in words – this superb footballer who wore our shirt and scored so many wonderful goals will be part of our history and is honoured by the club with his shirt name around the Emirates – I hope Ray has as comfortable a life as he possibly can and, if he happens to read this, I would love you to know that you are still thought of with the upmost respect and love by the Arsenal fans who were privileged to see you play for our club – thank you for the wonderful memories Ray.

Ken1945

Special thanks to Wikipedia, who have a very detailed article regarding Ray’s life.

14 Comments

  1. Johnno says:

    Ray Kennedy truly was an Arsenal Football Club legend. One of my favourite ever quotes came from Ray whilst he was playing for Liverpool and they were dominating football at home and abroad. Apparently it used to wind up Tommy Smith but Ray would always maintain that – “Liverpool were a pork pie and pop club compared to The Arsenal” – That’s some statement considering all the success he enjoyed on Merseyside.

    1. ken1945 says:

      Jhonno, never heard that one before – brilliant analysis!!!
      I agree, Ray was an outstanding footballer and for our younger fans who think we have only just started selling our best players, here’s an example of why that isn’t the case.

      1. Phil says:

        Ken- what a fantastic tribute to an undoubted Arsenal Legend.
        And just looking at the Honours he won in his career shows how good a player he was.
        In regards his goal scoring, one in three games at Arsenal, and one in five at Liverpool, playing in midfield, is an amazing statistic.
        Good job Ken- keep these coming PAL

      2. Johnno says:

        Totally agree about the double winning side being broken up too early. When you think of all the good young kids we had coming through around that time, we should have challenged for major honours throughout the 70`s. Unfortunately Don left the club and Mee lost the plot. If there had been any proper forward planning we`d have been able to bed players like Chippy, Staples and DO`L into a winning side. I remember a couple of seasons in the mid 70`s where I genuinely thought we`d get relegated, that’s a disgrace considering where we`d been only a few seasons earlier. Sadly, its just one of many occasions where the club have let a great opportunity pass. You could go back to the late 40`s early 50`s team or George`s team in the late 80`s early 90`s right through to the Wenger era. The only time we ever got it right on and off the pitch was in the 30`s. We were unlucky there because we`d have built an absolute dynasty back then if not for mad Adolf and the second world war. Oh well, lets hope Arteta can build another winning team and if he does, lets hope the current board surprise us all by backing him to the hilt.

        1. ozziegunner says:

          Johnno, totally agree about Bertie Mee losing the plot and breaking up the double winning squad. I was deeply disappointed when Ray Kennedy was sold; his stellar career at Liverpool shows how much he still had to offer Arsenal.

      3. Alanball08 says:

        Ken
        What a great article. What a great read.
        Never understood why we ever sold him but now I do. Thank for enlightening me on certain fact

        Well done ken and hope you have many more like these to show us.

  2. Marty says:

    Great article, my favourite player, in fact I tried to model myself on him for my Sunday team with no success. Ray and Daddy were perfect up front for us, holding the ball up and never complaining about the treatment they got from defenders. I particularly remember one game against Coventry
    when he was fouled constantly by Mick Coop and just got up and smiled at him. Sad his life took the turn it did but we’ll remember him as a true Arsenal legend.

  3. Marty says:

    RADDY !!

    1. ken1945 says:

      Keep going Marty – every reply counts for Pat 😁😁😁

  4. SueP says:

    I can only feel sadness for a man who had the world at his feet to then lose his independence to Parkinsons disease
    His list of honours win is long
    Typical of me , I had to find out about his divorce and it was certainly very unpleasant. It soured my recollections of him unfortunately

    1. ken1945 says:

      SP, I was really surprised, but can only put it down to his condition and medicines he was taking.

      I guess we should be looking at Ray as an Arsenal great and there is no doubt he was one of them!!!
      There was no football negativity resulting from his private turmoil and that is why I didn’t include it.

      Judge and jury I most certainly am not – stay safe and well.

      1. SueP says:

        You too
        I agree that he was a great player and hope that you are right
        Sometimes I should leave well alone
        Take care yourself

  5. jon fox says:

    Such a sad and wistful article Ken, so sensitively written and heartbreaking to read. He is almost exactly my own age and I am so very sad to see how unlucky his life has been since Parkinsons set in. It is a fearsome burden to carry. A true Arsenal hero and I much treasure the short conversation I once had while seated next to him on the tube on route to a home game. Perhaps, in its moving simplicity, your very best “heroes” article yet.

    1. ken1945 says:

      Thanks Jon much appreciated and to everyone else who got something from the article.

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