Pools legend remembered 60 years after memorable Man Utd match

Kenny Johnson proudly holds a trophy aloft.
Kenny Johnson proudly holds a trophy aloft.

He was the centre forward who helped Hartlepool United on their way to one of their greatest achievements.

And after the 60th anniversary of Pools’ finest hour - when they scared the life out of Manchester United in the FA Cup third round - the daughter of Kenny Johnson, told of the dad who richly deserved his accolades.

One of the rare pictures from the famous Hartlepool United versus Manchester United match that shows Pools hero Ken Johnson scoring in front of 17,264 fans during the third round of the FA Cup back in 1957.

One of the rare pictures from the famous Hartlepool United versus Manchester United match that shows Pools hero Ken Johnson scoring in front of 17,264 fans during the third round of the FA Cup back in 1957.

Julie Greenhow, the only child of Kenny and Olwen Johnson, said: “We are so proud of him.”

Kenny was the dashing striker who led from the front as Pools fought back against Man U.

Sir Matt Busby’s team had raced into a three-goal lead in the first 30 minutes of the game at the Victoria Ground.

Back came Pools through Frankie Stamper, and then Kenny added a second on 53 minutes. It was all the more remarkable as he was playing on despite an injury.

He played centre and inside forward. We are so proud of him. He was our hero

Julie Greenhow

Jackie Newton added a third for Pools with a 65th minute strike and the upset of all upsets looked to be on the cards. It was only a late winner from Whelan which won it for the visitors.

Every one of the Pools team had covered themselves in glory, including Kenny.

What of the man behind the football legend?

Julie said: “He was a wonderful husband and father, a quiet man who loved his family and his sport. We are so proud of him.

Kenny with a photograph of him in action.

Kenny with a photograph of him in action.

“When he finished playing for Pools in 1964 he was their longest serving player ever and a record he was proud of. He was a man of his word and loyal. He had respect for the game and the club.

“To us he was the greatest - if you asked him about that Pools team he always had something admirable to say about them all but he thought Wattie Moore the centre half was one of the greats and a legend of the team.”

Kenny grew up on Glebe Farm in Seaton Carew which is where Seaton Park is now.

He played in the Church League as a boy for Seaton Holy Trinity - a much-respected team - and “this is where his football talents were spotted,” said Julie.

Kenny Johnson.

Kenny Johnson.

He went away for his National Service in the Army and was posted to Hong Kong.

“He always said he had the greatest National Service as he was selected to play football for Hong Kong and the British Army and recalled how he played in the stadium in front of huge crowds,” said Julie.

He returned home and Fred Westgarth, the Pools manager, was waiting for him on the platform at Kings Cross.

He escorted him the the Great Northern Hotel where he signed him to play for Hartlepools. He played his first game on New Years Eve 1949 against Bradford City and scored his first goal for Pools.

Kenny used to get the bus into Hartlepool to train for Pools and Olwen was the bus conductress he fell in love with. They married and had their wedding reception in a Seaton hotel.

“Just as the reception finished, Fred Westgarth took my dad’s arm and said ‘you are coming with me’,” Julie said.

Kenny Johnson and his wife Olwen.

Kenny Johnson and his wife Olwen.

Pools had a match that afternoon and Kenny was in it!

In his long career for Pools, from 1949 to 1964, Kenny played 413 games and scored 106 goals.

Julie added: “When he retired from football he and my mother opened a fish and chip take away shop, firstly at the bottom of Lynn Street, then in Russell Street before moving the business to the Fens Estate in 1964.”

They served fish and chips and savoury patties until they retired in 1997. “He welcomed the football banter whilst frying the fish and chips,” said Julie.

His football career may have been over but Kenny never forgot about Pools.

“He continued to attend the home games and actively helped out in the hospitality executive boxes at Victoria Ground,” said Julie. He never accepted payment for it.

He did it for the love of the game and a love of his beloved Pools.

Kenny died in December 2011 aged 80. His beloved wife Olwen is now 82.

To thousands of Pools fans, he’s a legend. To his family, said Julie: “He was our hero.”

Kenny with wife Olwen and daughter Julie Greenhow.

Kenny with wife Olwen and daughter Julie Greenhow.

Kenny and Olwen.

Kenny and Olwen.

Kenny and his wife Olwen with daughter Julie Greenhow.

Kenny and his wife Olwen with daughter Julie Greenhow.

Kenny Johnson with pictures taken in his heyday playing for Pools. Picture by DAN PHILLIPS. D20330

Kenny Johnson with pictures taken in his heyday playing for Pools. Picture by DAN PHILLIPS. D20330

Kenny Johnson in action for Hartlepool United on a snow covered pitch.

Kenny Johnson in action for Hartlepool United on a snow covered pitch.