News   |    December 3rd, 2021

RAY KENNEDY TRIBUTE

“Ray Kennedy was one of Liverpool’s greatest players and probably the most underrated”. These are the words of Bob Paisley – probably the most influential and successful Liverpool FC manager of all time. Sadly, this week we learned of the passing of Kennedy at the age of 70 from Parkinson’s Disease.

Kennedy, noted as a forward and left-sided midfielder scored 148 goals in 581 league and cup games. Born in Seaton Delaval, he turned professional with Arsenal in 1968 where he spent 6 years, winning the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup in 1970, coupled with the old First Division title and FA Cup double in 1970-71. In 1974 he was sold to Liverpool for a then club record fee of £200,000, where after an initial struggle with form, Bob Paisley moulded Kennedy into a formidable midfield player for Liverpool’s highly successful team of the 70s and 80s.

Liverpool went on to win 5 First Division titles, 4 Charity Shields, 3 European Cups, 1 UEFA Cup, 1 UEFA Super Cup, 1 League Cup amongst runners up titles in the same competitions. Kennedy was a pivotal part of this dominant team, even winning Match of the Day’s goal of the season in 1978-79. His run of form was rewarded with 17 England Caps, where he contributed 3 goals. In 1982 he moved onto Swansea City for a £160,000 fee.

Unfortunately, Kennedy was then diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease and in 1983 he dropped down the leagues to play his football with Hartlepool United and his health started to deteriorate. Not only did he have to deal with Parkinson’s Disease, but he also lost his business and his marriage ended. He became reliant on charity for his medical expenses, and he was forced to sell his medal collection and caps in 1993.

Parkinson’s Disease is caused by a loss of nerve cells in parts of the brain, subsequently causing shaking, stiffness, difficulty in walking and poor co-ordination which all get progressively worse. It is a disease that can affect anyone with notable sufferers including Muhammad Ali, Ozzy Osbourne and Neil Diamond. It is evident that we need to help support patients and aid the scientific research needed to combat this terrible illness.

Football has lost an “underrated” legend of the game. Losing Kennedy to Parkinson’s is one thing. However, losing him in the manner we did, against a background of having to sell his medals, the breakdown of his family, the failure of his business and his health issues is so sad. As a 21-year-old, I find it horrifying how such a prominent figure in English football could end up so lonely, and without a proper support structure in place to help fight his disease. Perhaps this is as good a time as any to realise that we need to start doing more for Parkinson’s Disease patients …raising awareness is just the beginning.

Alfie Bobbins, - Integral Sports Management.

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