By 1970’s Gooner
I remember when I first started going to Highbury as a young lad. It was the time when all the local and national newspapers were mentioning Arsenal only in terms of its past glories. Of not having won anything for 17 years.
But Bertie Mee’s Arsenal managed to get into the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup, today’s equivalent of the UEFA Cup.
It was at this time that the manager started bringing into the team some younger players to replace a few of the old hands that had their day.
Ray Kennedy was one of them. He made his first team debut against Glentoran in the 1969-70 version of the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup.
In fact to my great surprise and of course satisfaction Arsenal progressed to the competition's final and the young Kennedy had a starring role.
He came on as a substitute during the first leg while Arsenal were losing 3-0 to Anderlecht away and scored a crucial late goal.
I was listening to the game on the radio in the kitchen and I was really excited when we scored our goal; not because I thought we had a chance to progress but for the fact that it was scored by a new boy who obviously showed a lot of promise.
Arsenal had to win 3-0 at Highbury to win overall; which they did. It was their first trophy after 17 years. And I was there to see it.
What really impressed me during the game was this strong and tall young lad that had burst onto the first team and played as though he had been around for years.
And what was even more satisfying was that we got him for nothing! He was released by Sir Stanley Mathews from Port Vale when he was 16 and he was working in a sweet factory playing amateur football!
Most of all I was impressed with his ability to receive a pass either to feet or in the air and even if surrounded by opponents clicking at his heels and trying to push him off balance he would still manage to protect the ball until his fellow players were ready to receive his lay off.
In fact Nicklas Bendtner is a similar type of player and I have made the comparison between the two in a previous posting. You can read about it here: Nicklas Bendtner could be the new Ray Kennedy
Bendtner scored that marvelous header against Tottenham at the Emirates to give us three precious points if you remember.
Ray Kennedy scored a much more famous goal for Arsenal against Spurs to give us the coveted Double of League Championship and FA Cup (Spurs was the only other team to have won the double that century).
He scored the only goal of the game at White Hart Lane from a cross by another of my 1970’s favourites, George Armstrong, to secure the title for Arsenal, our first since 1952-53. I was there too, “banking” off school early to make sure I got into the ground.
Three days later, Arsenal beat Liverpool 2-1 after extra time to win the FA Cup. Kennedy didn't score in the final (Charlie George and Eddie Kelly did) but did end the season with 27 goals, making him the club's top scorer.
During Ray Kennedy’s tenure at Arsenal he had showed a tendency to hang his right hand while he was running. Doctors who later diagnosed Parkinson’s disease consider that this might have been an early symptom.
Ray moved to Liverpool in 1974 and he was Bill Shankly's last signing before he retired. He was switched to midfield and continued to be as effective from this position as before. He won five league titles, three European Cups and scored 51 goals.
Ray is pictured above, during his better days, with son Dale and former Liverpool team-mates Brian Hall and Ian Callaghan.
He was diagnosed in 1986 two years after he retired. He is now housebound and reliant on a cocktail of pills and a carer to function on a daily basis.
Since his 1991 testimonial he has had no steady income as he is not able to cash in on media or after-dinner work. He has had to put his caps and medals up for auction in a desperate attempt to make ends meet.
Now his two former clubs Arsenal and Liverpool are organising a charity to give some needed financial help.
The Ray of Hope Appeal plans to raise money for the Parkinson's Disease Society as well as Kennedy through a number of initiatives, including collection buckets outside the Emirates Stadium tomorrow on April 5 and you can guess who the visitors will be.
"Arsenal and Liverpool are great clubs and it was a privilege to play for them," he said. "I watch as much football on the television as I can.
“Arsenal are a great side, they're playing the best football I have seen in years. I love Adebayor, he'll score lots of goals for them, no doubt about that.
"Liverpool have some great players. I really like Steven Gerrard, he is one of the best midfielders I have seen. He would have struggled to get in our team, mind.
"I watched them win the 2005 European Cup on television; it made me so proud to see them with that trophy again. I hope they do it again this season. That would make my year."
"I am very pleased people are supporting me in this way; I did not expect it," Kennedy said.
Pledges can be made to firstname.lastname@example.org - cheques can be sent to the Ray of Hope Appeal c/o HSBC account 21817299, sort code 40-03-27.
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