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Ray Kennedy (born Northumberland, England, 28 July 1951) was a top footballer of the 1970s who won every domestic honour in the game with Arsenal and Liverpool.

Kennedy trained as an apprentice with Port Vale but was told by manager Stanley Matthews at the age of 16 that he wasn't good enough to be a professional footballer. Accepting that a man who had once been England's greatest player was probably speaking the truth, Kennedy returned to his native north-east and started playing as an amateur and working in a sweet factory.

He was then spotted by a scout for Arsenal, who signed him in 1968. Two years later he made his first team debut as Arsenal progressed to the Fairs Cup final. As a substitute in the first leg, Kennedy scored a crucial goal which reduced a heavy deficit inflicted by opponents Anderlecht, and Arsenal completed the comeback in the second leg and won the competition.

The following year Kennedy was a regular fixture (he only missed one game in all competitions) in the Arsenal side which became only the second in the 20th century to win the coveted "double" of League championship and FA Cup. A tight, dramatic finale to the title race saw Kennedy score the only goal of the game against Arsenal's fiercest rivals Tottenham Hotspur to secure the title for the first time since 1948. Three days later, Arsenal beat Liverpool 2-1 to win the FA Cup. Kennedy didn't score in the final, but did end the season with an impressive 36 goals.

Arsenal returned to Wembley to defend the FA Cup the following season but lost 1-0 to Leeds United. Kennedy had scored 26 goals during the season but was only named as a substitute for this final. For the next two seasons he played and scored consistently but Arsenal did not win a trophy.

After the 1974 season ended, Kennedy was sold to Liverpool for 180,000 pounds. He turned out to be the last signing made by legendary Anfield manager Bill Shankly, who announced his retirement on the same day.

Despite his ability as a striker, Kennedy's chances to play in his favoured centre forward role at Liverpool were restricted due to the presence of the prolific Kevin Keegan and John Toshack. Shankly's successor Bob Paisley, however, had other plans for Kennedy. Giving him the Number 5 shirt, Paisley converted the burly striker into a cultured attacking midfield player, based on the left flank, and Kennedy flourished in this role for the rest of the decade, also winning his first of 17 caps for England in this position. He never played as an orthodox centre forward again.

With Liverpool, Kennedy won the League title and UEFA Cup in 1976, scoring in the final of the latter, and came close to equalling his "double" achievements with Arsenal when in 1977 Liverpool ventured to Wembley for the FA Cup final having already regained their title. Victory over Manchester United would have enabled Kennedy to become the first player to win the "double" with two different clubs, but Liverpool lost the game 2-1. Kennedy nearly forced extra-time in the last minute when his long-range shot hit the crossbar.

With dreams of the traditional "double" gone, Liverpool went to Rome to contest their first European Cup final against Borussia Monchengladbach and won the game 3-1, earning Kennedy his third European honour. Kennedy and Liverpool retained the trophy the following year and again in 1981, while also winning the League twice more and their first League Cup.

After the emergence of young midfielder Ronnie Whelan in 1982, Kennedy left Liverpool (having played enough games to guarantee a final title medal) to join the renaissance of Swansea City under his former team-mate Toshack, who had previously recruited fellow Liverpool legends Tommy Smith and Ian Callaghan. His spell there ended acrimoniously, with Toshack accusing Kennedy publicly of not trying, when the truth was that Parkinson's Disease was setting in. Kennedy tried to resume his career in his native north-east at Hartlepool United but his condition worsened and he was forced to retire in 1984 just before his 33rd birthday. His condition was finally confirmed by a specialist when he was 35.

Kennedy's only work in football after he finished playing was a brief spell at Sunderland as a coach. He has spent the majority of life since retirement and diagnosis working towards publicising and raising funds for the research and treatment of Parkinson's. Arsenal and Liverpool played each other in a testimonial game in 1991 to raise money for the cause.

To this day Kennedy lives a quiet, homebound life with decreased mobility and a dependency on drugs to control the discomfort of his condition. He had to sell his medals, caps, shirts and other memorabilia after falling on financially hard times.

Comments

As a Liverpool fan, I can say that Ray is much loved by us also, god bless you Ray

As a junior, Ray Kennedy played for New Hartley Juniors.  John Maley was, and still is the manager.  Ray lives in New Hartley now and is a much loved member of the community.

 

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