John McKenna

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For other people named John McKenna, see John McKenna (disambiguation).
John McKenna
John McKenna.jpg
Personal information
Date of birth (1855-01-03)3 January 1855
Place of birth County Monaghan, Ireland
Date of death 22 March 1936(1936-03-22) (aged 81)
Place of death Walton, Liverpool
Teams managed
Liverpool (with William Barclay)

John McKenna (3 January 1855 – 22 March 1936), was a self-made Irish businessperson and rugby player1, and was the first manager of Liverpool Football Club. Liverpool F.C. has gone on to become one of the most successful football clubs in England.

Early life and career[edit]

McKenna was born on January 3, 1855, in Donagh parish, Glaslough, County Monaghan, Ireland, to Patrick McKenna and Jane McCrudden. He moved to Liverpool in the 1870s to make a living.

McKenna found employment as a grocer’s boy before working as a Vaccination Officer for the West Derby Union. This organization was responsible for the upkeep of the Liverpool Workhouses at the time. McKenna had a keen interest in sports, particularly rugby, football and sport shooting. He contributed to the formation of a regimental rugby club and became involved with the West Lancashire County Rugby Football Union.

Liverpool F.C.[edit]

Through his religious and political beliefs, he met John Houlding,[when?] who invited him to Anfield to watch his Everton team in action. He remained with Houlding after Everton left Anfield for Goodison Park. Honest John was a major driving force for Liverpool throughout the early years,[1][when?] and he used his connections to look for players in Glasgow. His team was known as the "Team of Macs" due to the number of players with "Mc" in their surname: Duncan McLean, James McBride, Malcolm McVean, Hugh McQueen, Matt McQueen, John McCartney, Bill McOwen and Joe McQue.

Acting as the club's secretary, McKenna telegraphed[when?] the Football League asking for Liverpool to be admitted, but was denied entry by the Football Association. This refusal forced McKenna to guide Liverpool through the ranks of the Lancashire League on his own. Liverpool played their first game with an 8–0 win at Anfield against Higher Walton, with John Smith scoring the first competitive goal. After ending their first competitive season as champions, Liverpool were elected into the Football League, and played their first Football League match away to Middlesbrough Ironopolis on 2 September 1893, and won 2–0.

McKenna later served as Liverpool's chairman from 1906 and 1915, and was elected president of the Football League in 1917, a position which he held until his death in March 1936.[2] He had served Liverpool for over 40 years.[3]


His coffin was carried through the city by three Liverpool players and three Everton players and a commemorative plaque to him remains in the foyer in Anfield.[4] In August 2011, a commemorative plaque in honour of Liverpool FC's first manager John McKenna was unveiled in Glaslough in County Monaghan, Ireland. Over 200 people attended an informative talk on McKenna by Keith Falkiner, author of the book Emerald Anfield, in the local community hall before the plaque was unveiled by Kopite and LFC Donegal secretary David Moen.

At the conclusion of his talk Falkiner summed up the achievements of McKenna: "The course of history has proven John McKenna to be one of the most powerful and successful men at Liverpool Football Club - the third most important figure, in my opinion, after only Bill Shankly and the clubs founder John Houlding. The people of Monaghan should be proud of this history and proud of 'Honest' John McKenna - who is arguably the greatest Irishman who has ever been involved with the game of association football in Britain."[5]


External links[edit]