Fred Keenor

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Fred Keenor
Fred Keenor statue.jpg
Personal information
Full name Frederick Charles Keenor
Date of birth (1894-07-31)31 July 1894
Place of birth Cardiff, Wales
Date of death November 1972
Height 5 ft 7 in (1.70 m)
Playing position Defender
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
1912–1931 Cardiff City 371 (0)
Brentford (guest)
1931–1934 Crewe Alexandra 123 (5)
1934–1935 Oswestry Town
1935–1937 Tunbridge Wells
National team
1920–1932 Wales 32 (2)
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only.
† Appearances (Goals).

Frederick Charles 'Fred' Keenor (31 July 1894 – November 1972) was a Welsh professional footballer and Wales international best known for captaining the Cardiff City team to success in the 1927 FA Cup Final. To date, this is the only time the competition has been won by a team based outside England's borders.

Early life[edit]

Keenor, the son of a bricklayer and a mason, was born in Cardiff and as a child attended Stacey Road primary school in Adamsdown. One of his former teachers at the school, Walter Riden, would later go on to join the board at Cardiff City while Keenor was a player.[1]

Club career[edit]

Keenor was a Welsh schoolboy international and appeared in the first ever meeting between the English and Welsh schoolboy sides in 1907. In 1912 he signed as an amateur for his home town club Cardiff City, while playing as an inside-forward, before turning professional on 25 November 1912 with a weekly wage of ten shillings. Following the outbreak of World War I, Keenor served in the 17th Middlesex Battalion, the famous "footballers'" battalion led by Frank Buckley, at the Somme where he received a leg wound, and returned to play for Cardiff in the Southern League. Keenor also guested for Brentford in the London Combination during the war.[2]

In 1920 Cardiff City joined The Football League and were placed in Division Two, winning promotion to the top tier in their first year. Under Keenor's captaincy, the club established itself as a redoutable Cup fighter. Cardiff were beaten semi-finalists one in 1921 and were runners' up four years later when they suffered a 1–0 defeat to Sheffield United in 1925. After the 1925 Final, Keenor stated: "Just because we lost in our very first Cup Final, I don't think there is any cause to get down in the mouth. I can say here and now that one day soon our followers can be sure that Cardiff City will bring that cup to Wales."[3][4]

Two years later they were to return to Wembley. However Keenor came close to never playing in the match as, having been struggling to hold down a first team place due to injury, he handed in a transfer request in January 1927 but a proposed move to Bristol Rovers later collapsed.[1] Instead he returned to the side that beat Arsenal 1–0 with a goal from Hughie Ferguson to become the first team outside England to win the FA Cup and Keenor, as captain, was handed the trophy by King George V.[5] Despite being a transfer target for several clubs, he remained with the side until 1931 when, following relegation to Division Two in the 1930–31 season, he was released. Keenor instead signed for Crewe Alexandra where he spent three years.He then moved into Non-League football first with Oswestry Town and then in 1935 Tunbridge Wells Rangers as player/manager retiring in February 1937.

International career[edit]

Keenor's international career coincided with a spectacular period of success for the Welsh national football team and he attained a total of 32 caps.[6] They won the British Home Championship in 1920, 1924 and 1928, overcoming an increasing reluctance on the part of English clubs to release players for games that they saw as being of no importance. In 1929, unable to call up a replacement, Keenor had to play with strapping to protect an injured neck. But possibly the most famous of all his international fixtures was in the 1930 game in Glasgow against Scotland in which a depleted Welsh side, nicknamed 'Keenor and the 10 unknowns', drew 1–1. Ted Robbin's side, playing on a Saturday when the English leagues had a full programme, had no choice but to play 10 players from either Welsh League sides or from the non-Leagues.

The Welsh side that day (25 October 1930) read: Wales: Len Evans (Cardiff City), Fred Dewey (Cardiff Corinthians), Wynne Crompton (Wrexham), Billy Rogers (Wrexham), Fred Keenor (Cardiff City), Emrys Ellis (Oswestry Town), Elvet Collins (Llanelli), Johnny Neal (Colwyn Bay), Tommy Bamford (Wrexham), Walter Robbins (Cardiff City), Billy Thomas (Newport County). Bamford scoring the Welsh goal after 6 minutes.[7]

International goals[edit]

Results list Wales' goal tally first.
Goal Date Venue Opponent Result Competition
1. 5 March 1923 Ninian Park, Cardiff, Wales  England 2–2 1923 British Home Championship
2. 28 February 1925 Vetch Field, Swansea, Wales  England 1–2 1925 British Home Championship


Keenor's abilities were scant. A 'terrible' shot and unable to reliably run with the ball, his strength lay in his commitment to the cause and in his uncompromising tackling. Former team mate Ernie Curtis said of him: "He was one of the hardest tacklers in the game, some said he was dirty but he was just hard. Nobody took liberties with old Fred ... [He] could run all night, he couldn't run with the ball mind you, but he could run all day." This gave the sides he led an immeasurable fillip.[citation needed]

Later life[edit]

Latterly he suffered from disabilities stemming from a hard-living lifestyle that may have been a consequence of his tough upbringing. Keenor died in a residential nursing home in November 1972 and his ashes were buried in Thornhill crematorium in Cardiff.[8]


On 15 November 2007 a petition to the Cardiff Civic Authorities was begun to bestow a fitting tribute upon both Keenor himself, and the 1927 FA Cup squad he so heroically captained.[9][10]

On 4 December 2009, the approaching road to Cardiff City Stadium was named Ffordd Fred Keenor (Fred Keenor Road).[11]

On 10 November 2012, a statue of Keenor was revealed at Cardiff City Stadium, where he is holding the FA Cup.[12]


As a player[edit]

Cardiff City
1923, 1927, 1928, 1930


  • Martin Johnes, Fred Keenor: A Welsh Soccer Hero, The Sports Historian, 18, 1 (1998). [1]
  • Hayes, Dean (2006). The Who's Who of Cardiff City. Breedon Books. ISBN 1-85983-462-0. 
  1. ^ a b "Keenor 'out of favour' in 1927 FA Cup run up". South Wales Echo. 17 March 2009. Retrieved 2009-10-12. 
  2. ^ Haynes, Graham; Coumbe, Frank (2006). Timeless Bees: Brentford F.C. Who's Who 1920-2006. Harefield: Yore Publications. p. 67. ISBN 978-0955294914. 
  3. ^ "1920–1943". Retrieved 2009-10-12. 
  4. ^ "Fred Keenor". Retrieved 2009-10-12. 
  5. ^ "The roaring twenties". Retrieved 2013-09-09. 
  6. ^ "Wales – record international players". Retrieved 2009-10-12. 
  7. ^ "Scotland 1–1 Wales". Welsh Football Data Archive. Retrieved 2009-10-12. 
  8. ^ "Nephew's tribute plans for City's FA Cup hero". South Wales Echo. 8 June 2009. Retrieved 2009-10-12. 
  9. ^ "Calls for Fred Keenor statue". South Wales Echo. 9 March 2009. Retrieved 2009-10-12. 
  10. ^ Petition calling for a statue for Fred Keenor
  11. ^ "Road to honour Cardiff 1927 FA Cup hero Fred Keenor". BBC News (British Broadcasting Corporation). 4 December 2009. Retrieved 4 December 2009. 
  12. ^ "A tribute to Cardiff City legend Fred Keenor". South Wales Echo. 10 November 2012. Retrieved 9 November 2012. 
Sporting positions
Preceded by
Charlie Brittain
Cardiff City captain
Succeeded by