Liverpool are Champions again, the start of the defence of that crown just a month away in these very strange times.
Strange days indeed. Most peculiar Mama. The reds have acquired another left-back, Kostas Tsimikas from Olympiakos to pressure if that’s the right word, Andy Robertson.
That same Andy Robbo – the Braveheart Scot – who has turned the tables on the Kemlyn Road curmudgeons by giving them as good as they get. For years the patrons of what is now the Kenny Dalglish stand breathed fire and brimstone against their own, as the Reds struggled to find a decent left-sided defender.
Robbo has made the “who was Liverpool’s last good left-back?” pub conversation as moot as it has ever been or ever will be. I’m obsessed with left-backs.
They always seem to get the worst of it. I used to be one. I used to love one. My first hero, the reds’ dashing blonde, a side-burned nugget of a man, Alec Lindsay was the inspiration behind my Aunt’s needle and thread; sewing a number 3 on the back of my first red and white shirt.
Alec scored a memorable, larruped left-foot beauty of a volley that never stood; the “opener” during my first ever match, Liverpool v Newcastle at Wembley74.
The best disallowed goal seen at Wembley and no, it wasn’t offside.
It’s my first proper memory. Wembley74 is my alias and LFC username on my favorite football forum and the key to my footy heart. My first football essay, first piece of journalism that should have shaped my career 30 years earlier than it did.
But no regrets. It’s nice actually. To some of my mates, I’m just “Wembo” – Wembo at Anfield, Wembo on the road, home and away. Legacy, I think they call it.
But left-backs for some reason, or maybe it was just me, seemed the target for bullies; the butt of all the jokes and not just victims of the Anfield boo-boys.”
Left-back, eh?” “Yeah left back in the dressing room.” Try hearing that when you’re seven.
I wasn’t bad at footy actually but painfully slow.
Artistry comes easy for left-footers, politically, socially, and in aesthetics. Everything we do with our left feet looks classy, and no, should we burdened with “two left feet” it would be a weight I’d happily carry with my girl to the dance floor.
So, fuck off and let me get on with opening tins of beans with me left peg and ape the wands of Alec Lindsay, Andy Robbo, and Brazil’s left-backs Roberto Carlos and Junior.
Ask Graeme Souness about Junior, who our ex-skipper admits is his all-time nemesis, whether facing Souey for Flamengo 81, Brazil 82, or Torino 84 against Liverpool, Scotland, and Sampdoria respectively.
Take the piss out of Junior and Graeme will mete out the Luca Movila treatment. So, get ready to re-wire your jaw.
On the same pitch during my togger spectating debut under the 1974 Twin Towers but dressed in Geordie black and white stripes was Alan Kennedy, Lindsay’s opposite number three. Like Kirkby’s Terry McDermott, Al of Penshaw, County Durham would eventually chart a course south to Anfield.
True to the form though, Bob Paisley’s signing was, straight away, the target for the gentle wit of even his recruiter. After a turbulent opening 45 minutes with the Liverbird Upon his Chest, Paisley’s quiet, private rebuke to “Barney” – as we grew to know him was – “They must’ve shot the wrong bloody Kennedy.”
AK just got on with it.
Genius from Uncle Bob, and an inspired signing given the fullness of time. Barney Rubble, to give his full Kop moniker, was so-called, nicknamed by the Kop I think, after the rugged Flinstones character and it was an apt stage-name in many ways.
Kennedy was a bit rough and ready as a footballer, all pace, strength, determination, good in the tackle, a bomber up the flank, and superb in recovery but perhaps lacked the grace of some of the teammates in that iconic LFC class of 1978-79 – still to this day candidates for our best ever side.
A very good footballer and a Liverpool great in longevity, adornment, and mentality. But by his own admission, not a great player when compared to Sir Kenneth, Souey, “Big Al” Hansen, or the feline leftie goalie, Ray Clemence or Clem to me and you.
It takes 3 maestros to play a grand piano and seven to carry it, and Barney was a metaphorical pallbearer of the mahogany. Bought as a defender he defended, not just our goal, but his place in the team for nine years inclusive from 1978-86 making 329 appearances and netting 20 goals; a standard return for a full-back on either flank.
I started going regularly as a Kop season ticket holder in 1982, and a Kopite since 1979 so I saw pretty much all of him as a child and a teenager. I honestly think Alan was an original “cult hero”, perhaps not just quite good enough to avoid such damning with apparent faint praise.
Chants of “Barney, Barney, Barney……” would rain down from an adoring terrace where fools were suffered badly and never gladly.
Al was in with in-crowd, the Road End and The Kop but the stands – Kemlyn and Main – where the older fans and “posh” plebs sat rooted and were sometimes called the “Plantpots”, could go hang on our post-punk, proletariat gallows.
20 goals then. Nowt special that. Apart from the fact that Al won 2 European Cups with 10 per cent of them. Technically, one wasn’t a “goal” but a penalty in the Roma shoot-out of 84 amind the din and flames of the Stadio Olimpico.
Radio City’s Clive Tyldesley summed up the faux confidence of Al’s mocking but loving colleagues, as he stepped forward to take the decisive kick against the Roman, Tancredi in their goal.
Hands covered eyes. Fingers were parted only by the bravest or most foolish.”
Well, Alan Kennedy took a couple of penalties in that pre-season shoot-out I mentioned earlier, and I hate to tell you this, but he missed ’em both.”
Of course he did Clive. Of course he did. The clumsy, jarg-Geordie fucker.
Anyway, he sent Tancredi the wrong way with aplomb, won us “Big Ears” for the fourth time and then ruined it for himself with a running jump and stamp that wouldn’t have been out of place in a school for the terminally clumsy; nearly rupturing both cruciates in his finest hour.”
I don’t know what it is but I love it……, sang the boys in tight red skins famously – courtesy of another North East lad, Chris Rea. We didn’t know what it was about Al, but yeah, we defo loved him.
Actually, we do know, don’t we. There was Paris too. Fair play to Barney, with his masculine square jaw, he obviously fancied his chances with the Judies of Europe’s romantic capitals.
Real Madrid were downed by a rampaging Barney, like a bull let loose in Franco’s grocery store; knocking all the blood oranges AOTS and while a thirsty Ule Stielike was bending over sucking them off into his Hitler muzzy, Barney leathered the winner with his trusty left. More traction engine than magician’s wand but the Parc des Princes with minutes to play.
Last orders were to be had in Le Moulin Rouge and space-age trabs sought in the Pigalle’s mythical Adidas factory.
The fact that Alan Kennedy also scored twice in Wembley League cup finals first against West Ham in 81 and then against the Mancs in 83 in eventual winning causes are mere footnotes, is a measure of the man’s decorated Liverpool career. More baubles than Ronald Koeman’s fatal Red Christmas tree.
Let’s be serious. Alan Kennedy was “a player” and with no exaggeration, he still is. Turning out every year for the Legends at Anfield, well into his 60s, barely a line on his face, not a scrap of fat on his frame.
My friend and former teacher Phil (a more recent mentor to Curtis Jones) inspired me to write this after playing against Alan this week in a veterans knock-about and spoke glowingly, as all of us do. Those of us who have met him and know and those of us who haven’t but feel his love of Liverpool.
Let me end with this. The treble season 1983-84. The cauldron of Bilbao, seat of the “The Butcher” Andoni Goikoetcxea. Alan plonks a right foot cross on Rush’s bonce and it’s kiss kiss to you in the Basque.
Then six months later and deadlock at Anfield, Barney steams up the left and fizzes a left peg penumbra of a center to the same Flint head and it’s tara to the Portuguese Men of War.
March on Rome. Forget Paris.
To paraphrase Paul Simon, I will call you Kenny…….and Kenny when you call me, you can call me Al.
I give you, Liverpool great, honourary Scouse Al Kennedy, our Barney Rubble, or just AK to his mates.
Paisley was wrong – and like the best of us when we get it wrong – said so and said sorry.
With apologies to that handsome devil, JFK, and mindful of his Sicilian links, they never shot the wrong Kennedy after all.
About the Author
Mike Nevin is the Director of Lobscouse Media and freelance writer for Anfield Index Pro, The Cricketer, and ATX Reds Press. He is also a contributor at The Liverpool Connection Podcast, based out of Austin, Texas.