Football fans and players have paid tribute to Liverpool and England legend Ray Kennedy who has died aged 70 following a 35-year battle with Parkinson’s Disease.
Tributes flooded in for the midfielder today, with legendary manager Bob Paisley describing him as ‘one of Liverpool’s greatest players and probably the most under-rated.’
Liverpool FC said the player’s ‘contribution to Liverpool’s success in the 1970s was priceless’ and said Kennedy was ‘powerful and skilful, with a knack of scoring crucial goals’, and ‘added extra skill to a ruthless midfield quartet.’
The club said he was ‘one of the greatest players to ever play for Liverpool.’
He joined Liverpool as a striker but Paisley thought he would be far more effective dropping back to midfield.
Kennedy, while playing for Arsenal, scored the crucial winning goal in the final North London derby of the 1971 season, clinching the league title for the Gunners at Tottenham Hotspur’s White Hart Lane. Arsenal followed up that league success with an FA Cup victory over Liverpool at Wembley Stadium.
At Liverpool, the midfielder won five more league titles and the European Cup on three occasions as part of their vintage team of the late 1970s and early 1980s.
During his time at Anfield, Kennedy made 393 appearances for Liverpool, scoring 72 goals and winning 11 major trophies.
He scored a vital away goal in the European Cup semi-final second leg against Bayern Munich in 1981, seven years after joining the Merseyside club.
Three years later he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease which brought an end to his glorious football career.
Liverpool and Arsenal held a testimonial for their former player in 1991 to help raise funds for his continuing treatment.
He was later forced to sell his medals and 17 England caps.
Since his diagnosis with Parkinson’s he spoke openly about the disease and the impact it had on his life.
Dawn Astle, whose father Jeff, who played for West Brom and died from dementia believed to have been caused by playing football, was among those paying tribute to Kennedy.
She wrote on Twitter: ‘Really sad news, our thoughts are with Ray’s family and friends at this really difficult time.’
Ray Kennedy (right, pictured for Liverpool in 1980) has died after battling Parkinson’s disease
Kennedy (right, playing for Arsenal in 1971) died aged 70 after a 35-year battle with the disease
Kennedy spent seven-and-a-half years with Liverpool where he became a club legend
Legendary manager Bob Paisley described him as ‘one of Liverpool’s greatest players and probably the most under-rated.’
Kennedy won 17 caps for England but was never able to usurp Trevor Brooking in the side and retired from the international game in 1981.
He was first diagnosed with Parkinson’s when a player at Hartlepool in the twilight of his career and struggled with the illness for the rest of his life.
Today former players and teammates paid tribute to the passing of a footballing legend.
Former Liverpool striker John Aldridge tweeted: ‘Yet another magnificent Ex LFC star has passed away folks, Ray Kennedy what a player and lovely bloke who suffered so much with Parkinson’s disease for most of his life.
‘He will definitely never walk alone. RIP Ray.’
WHAT IS PARKINSON’S DISEASE?
Parkinson’s disease affects one in 500 people, including about one million Americans.
It causes muscle stiffness, slowness of movement, tremors, sleep disturbance, chronic fatigue, an impaired quality of life and can lead to severe disability.
It is a progressive neurological condition that destroys cells in the part of the brain that controls movement.
Sufferers are known to have diminished supplies of dopamine because nerve cells that make it have died.
There is currently no cure and no way of stopping the progression of the disease, but hundreds of scientific trials are underway to try and change that.
The disease claimed the life of boxing legend Muhammad Ali in 2016.
Ex Liverpool defender Phil Thompson tweeted: ‘More sad news with the passing of Ray ,what a great player and such a wonderful team-mate RIP pal YNWA.’
Piers Morgan wrote: ‘RIP Ray Kennedy. Arsenal double-winning star in 1971 and one of my first footballing heroes.
‘Went on to play for Liverpool & England. Fought a long courageous battle with Parkinson’s Disease. Very sad news.’
And former Denmark international and Liverpool player Jan Molby tweeted: ‘RIP Ray Kennedy // Maestro #LFC #Legend’.
Ronnie Whelan, who played alongside Kennedy, wrote in tribute: ‘So sad to hear of the passing of my old team mate Ray Kennedy.
‘An absolute legend at both Arsenal and Liverpool. Learned so much by watching him play. RIP Ray.’
Meanwhile, Liverpool said in a statement: ‘We are mourning legendary former player Ray Kennedy, who has passed away at the age of 70.
‘The thoughts of everybody at Liverpool Football Club are with Ray’s family and friends at this sad and difficult time.
‘Rest in peace Ray, 1951-2021.’
Kennedy spent seven-and-a-half years at Anfield and made 393 appearances for the club, scoring 72 goals.
He arrived from Arsenal in 1974 but it coincided on the same day that Bill Shankly confirmed his exit from Liverpool.
Kennedy finished his Liverpool career with five league titles, three European Cups, a UEFA Cup, a European Super Cup and one League Cup.
Kennedy pictured in 1976 with the UEFA Cup (left), Community Shield (centre) and league title
Alongside Phil Thompson (left), Kennedy (right) celebrates winning the division title in 1980
Former Liverpool players John Aldridge, Thompson and Jan Molby led the tributes on social media while Piers Morgan described Kennedy as ‘one of my first footballing heroes’ at Arsenal
Liverpool and Arsenal held a testimonial match in his honour at Highbury in 1991.
Under Paisley, Kennedy thrived as a converted midfielder before leaving Anfield to have spells with Swansea, Hartlepool and Pezoporikos, of Cyprus, before he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in November 1986.
Before joining Liverpool, Kennedy spent six years at Arsenal, winning the double in 1971.
The Gunners said on Twitter: ‘Everyone at Arsenal is greatly saddened to hear of the passing of Ray Kennedy.
‘One of the giants of 71, Ray will be sorely missed by his friends, family and everybody at the club.
‘Rest in peace, Ray.’
Parkinson’s UK chief executive Caroline Rassell said in a statement: ‘Most young boys dream of becoming a footballer. Ray not only lived that dream but enjoyed incredible success doing so.
‘Ray lived with Parkinson’s for a long time. He spoke honestly about the challenges he faced including dealing with some of the lesser known symptoms like hallucinations.
‘Many people with the condition feel the need to hide their diagnosis, but Ray will have inspired so many people to talk openly about their own life with Parkinson’s. The part he played in raising awareness of the condition, like his football skills, will not be forgotten.
‘Our thoughts are with his family at this sad time.’
Kennedy’s passing comes just two months after Liverpool mourned the death of iconic striker Roger Hunt, after he died aged 83.
A 1966 World Cup winner with England, Hunt established himself as one of Liverpool’s greatest ever strikers.
Back in March another Liverpool great in Ian St John died at the age of 82 following a battle with illness.
St John won two First Division titles under Shankly at Anfield in 1963-64 and 1965-66 and scored the winner in the 1965 FA Cup final.
Ray Kennedy: From sweet factory worker to multiple European cup winner
Ray Kennedy was a man for seizing second chances and making the most of them.
A career which began with him being rejected as a youngster by Sir Stanley Matthews at Port Vale culminated in three European Cups, a glittering testament to his determination to overcome setbacks.
His biggest challenge, however, was to come off the pitch as he fought a 37-year battle against a debilitating disease.
In March, Liverpool icon Ian St John passed away at the age of 82 following a battle with illness
Jettisoned by Matthews for being too slow, Kennedy bore no grudges – he kept the letter informing him of his release – and returned to his Northumberland roots to work in a sweet factory and play for amateur side New Hartley Juniors.
‘Of course, there is always one lad who slips through the net and for me that was Ray Kennedy, who went on to find fame and fortune with Arsenal, Liverpool and England,’ Matthews wrote in his autobiography.
‘Ray turned out to be a superb player, and all I can say in my defence is he was a late developer!’
A brilliant goal-scoring year brought him to the attention of Arsenal scouts, actually there to watch his strike partner, and within six months of arriving in London he had secured his first professional contract and made his first-team debut aged just 18.
His appearance off the bench in the first leg of the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup final with the Gunners 3-0 down against Anderlecht saw Kennedy give his side a lifeline with a goal within eight minutes and a 3-0 win in the return leg saw him collect his first winners’ medal.
A year later he clinched a league and FA Cup double within the space of five days, heading the goal which clinched the title.
Two months ago Liverpool mourned the death of Roger Hunt, one of their finest ever strikers
Kennedy’s arrival at Anfield on July 12, 1974 was completely overshadowed by the shock news that day that Bill Shankly, the man who had signed him from Arsenal, had stepped down.
But that major change did him no harm as, having struggled up front, midway through his second season Bob Paisley switched him to a left-sided role and he never looked back, winning five league titles, three European Cups, the UEFA Cup and League Cup.
His personal highlight was his pivotal away goal in the 1981 European Cup semi-final second leg against Bayern Munich.
He also achieved England recognition, winning 17 caps in total.
He left Anfield in 1982 and spells at Swansea and Hartlepool followed, but his body was already in the grip of the crippling disease which was affecting his mobility.
As a player he was blessed with the vision to see things before others, but that was taken to the extreme when he told the doctor treating him following his diagnosis that as a youngster he had foreseen his own future.
Kennedy (right, pictured in 1978) joined Liverpool the same day Bill Shankly revealed his exit
‘He said to me once that as a child he had a recurring dream that his life would be short but glorious because something round the corner would come and scupper him early on,’ recalled Andrew Lees, medical adviser to the Parkinson’s Disease Society and co-writer of his autobiography.
It was his involvement with the Parkinson’s Disease Society which led to him meeting his childhood hero Muhammad Ali, a fellow sufferer who died in 2016.
‘I had to wait two hours to have a special audience with him but it was worth it,’ Kennedy told The Journal in 2002.
Kennedy, having lost none of his sense of humour, added: ‘You know, Muhammad fought Henry Cooper at Highbury and used Arsenal’s dressing room. He must have had my peg and that’s how I got Parkinson’s!’