Monaghan Native "Honest" John McKenna Put Down Huge Seeds In The Foundation Of Liverpool FC In 1892
Many Irish fans of Liverpool Football Club are probably unaware of the outstanding Liverpool sporting legacy of Irishman, John McKenna, a native of Glaslough, Co. Monaghan.
Born on the 3rd January 1855, John took the emigrant ship to Liverpool in the 1870’s in search of a better way of life and when he died on the 22nd March 1936 he was one of England’s best known and most popular people in English football.
Initially he found employment in a grocer’s store and later in the health service. He had a broad sporting interest in rugby, played rugby and soccer and on meeting John Houlding, owner of the Anfield grounds and President of Everton FC, he was invited to attend an upcoming Everton match at Everton's home ground at Anfield.
The historic story of John McKenna began when the majority of Everton directors decided to move away from Anfield as a consequence of a rent dispute with John Houlding. Liverpool and John Houlding now had a fine grounds at Anfield but no team. In to the breach stepped John Houlding and W.E. Barclay, previous Everton directors and officials.
The two men recruited Monaghan emigrant, John McKenna, now a successful businessman, to join their new committee and he assumed the role of the clubs first ever secretary.
The foundation date of Liverpool FC is 15th March 1892.
McKenna, became a supporter of the Tory party and he was also a Freemason. He moved swiftly with an application to have his new club, Liverpool FC, admitted to the Football League. When the initial application was rejected, the new club decided to enter the Lancashire League and duly won the competition in their maiden voyage.
In 1892/93 Liverpool were admitted to the 2nd Division of the Football League and records state that Irishman, John McKenna, became the first ever manager. The clubs first official match was V Rotherham in a friendly and Liverpool, under the Monaghan man, recorded a handsome 7 – 1 victory at Anfield on 1st September 1892.
McKenna was a shrewd mentor and his team was loaded with Scottish players with Mac to the forefront of many names and Liverpool became known far and wide as the team of Macs.
Their target was promotion to the 1st Division and in their first season in Division 2 they won promotion without losing a game. Ironically in claiming promotion Liverpool were pitted against Newton Heath (Manu’s predecessors) in a play-off between the last placed team of the 1st Division and the champions of the 2nd Division. Victory went Liverpool’s way in a 2-0 victory.
John McKenna now assumed the role of club chairman after handing over the managerial reins to Tom Watson on promotion to the 1st Division and he held that portfolio until 1915. He continued his stewardship of the club and despite relegation in 1895, the new club had become central to the daily lives of many thousands of Merseyside soccer fans.
Irish soccer fans in Ireland and Irish emigrants in Liverpool, adopted Liverpool as a club with an Irish heritage and so began a sporting relationship that has thrived for more than a century, all due to the influence of an Irishman from Monaghan.
In 1932 at the end of forty years outstanding service to the fledgling Liverpool FC, John McKenna of Glaslough, Co. Monaghan, took his final bow at Anfield and went into retirement.
McKenna’s death on the 22nd March 1936 brought Liverpool city centre to a standstill as his coffin was shouldered through the streets by three Liverpool and Everton players and when you visit Anfield have a special search in the foyer for a memorial plaque to John McKenna, who inherited the title of “Honest” John McKenna.