KENNY Johnson, one of Hartlepool United’s all-time greats, has died after a short illness.
Kenny, who spent his whole playing career with his hometown club after starting out as a junior with Seaton Holy Trinity, died yesterday. He was 80.
The forward made his debut on December 31, 1949, against Bradford City and played 413 games for the club.
He remains fourth on the list of most appearances for the club, and netted 106 times before retiring in 1964.
His most famous moment in a Pools shirt came in an FA Cup tie against Manchester United in 1957, scoring in a narrow 4-3 defeat against the famous Busby Babes team.
After hanging up his shooting boots, Kenny went on to run a fish and chip shop on Catcote Road, near his home in the Fens area of Hartlepool, and remained a familiar face at Victoria Park where he worked as a matchday host in the club’s hospitality suites.
He was named as the club’s Player of the 1950s during Pools’ centenary celebrations in 2008, and was immortalised at The Vic by having a commemorative brick bearing his name and record placed in the centre of the Centenary Wall at the main entrance.
After helping to unveil the wall, which contains messages for players and fans, he had said: “When I look at the wall I feel very proud.
“There are players who have bricks in this wall who would never in their wildest dreams have expected something like this.”
Current Pools star Ritchie Humphreys was saddened to hear of Kenny’s death, and described him as “a true legend”.
He said: “He was a familiar face around the club, and I remember when I signed for the club he was very welcoming. We used to see him at functions and on matchdays, and he was very supportive of everything we did.
“I remember when I reached Watty Moore’s appearance record, Kenny used to tell me what a good achievement that was because he had played with Watty and knew him well.
“I have fond memories of Kenny, I think that goes for everyone at the club, and my thoughts go out to his family.
“He was a true Hartlepool legend.”
Mail sports editor Roy Kelly, who knew Kenny well, added: “I was saddened to hear the news about Kenny, and my thoughts are with his family.
“He was a character who loved reminiscing about the old days, but he always had a keen interest in the current team.
“Despite his achievements, he was never big-headed and was an absolute gentleman who will always be a Pools legend.”
A statement released by Hartlepool United said: “He will be much missed by everyone at Hartlepool United.
“Our thoughts are with Ken’s family and friends at this sad time.”
Pauline McSweenie, secretary of the club’s Supporters’ Association, said: “I would like to pass on my sympathy to the family and our thoughts are with them at this very sad time.
“He was Hartlepool United through and through.
“Even when he stopped playing he always had a strong connection with the club.”
Hartlepool MP Iain Wright, who knew Kenny all his life, said: “He was a true gentleman and a fantastic servant for Hartlepool United.
“He provided the club with many years’ service and he will be sadly missed.”
He leaves wife Olwyn and daughter Julie. Details of Mr Johnson’s funeral have not yet been announced by his family.