Tranmere Rovers FC supporters plan to erect statue in honour of club’s greatest ever manager Johnny King
TRANMERE supporters plan to erect a tribute fit for a King at Prenton Park.
The Tranmere Rovers Supporters Trust have commissioned a leading sculptor to create a statue of Johnny King, the most successful and best loved manager in the Wirral club’s 125-plus year history.
The Trust hope Tranmere will agree to locate the statue in a prominent position at Prenton Park, so the work can be enjoyed by all supporters.
King, 74, managed Tranmere in two spells, from 1975 to 1980 and from 1987 to 1996. His teams won three promotions, made five trips to Wembley, hammered on the door of the Premier League for three seasons during the mid-1990s and played football with a style and adventure that captivated supporters.
The Trust have the blessing of Johnny King’s family for the project and are confident of raising the £50,000 cost of the work through donations from members and fans.
The statue is to be sculpted by Tom Murphy, the Liverpool artist responsible for a number of prominent and admired works across Merseyside: Bill Shankly at Anfield, Dixie Dean at Goodison, John Lennon at John Lennon Airport, the Moores brothers in Liverpool city centre, Ken Dodd and Bessie Braddock at Lime Street station and Billy Fury at the Albert Dock.
Trust chairman Ben Harrison said: “We want to create a legacy, something for supporters to relate to in years to come.
“The generation of supporters aged 35 and over, who watched Johnny King’s teams play, are showing a lot of enthusiasm for this project. It is hitting the mark.
“You don’t find many signposts celebrating Tranmere’s history around Prenton Park, save for the Borough Road stand being renamed the Johnny King Stand a few years ago.
“This is something we would like to do now with a view to the longer term.”
King, London born but an adopted Merseysider, served Tranmere as a player (more than 240 appearances between 1960 and 1968) and a coach before succeeding Ron Yeats as manager in 1975.
Rovers won promotion from the old fourth division to the third in King’s first season in charge, with current manager Ronnie Moore contributing 38 goals. Moore became assistant manager when King began his second spell in charge in 1987.
Backed by the financial clout of chairman/owner Peter Johnson, King created and developed teams that took Tranmere from the old fourth division to the division now known as the Championship within four years. King brought international players such as John Aldridge, Pat Nevin and Gary Stevens to Prenton Park as Tranmere hammered on the door to the Premier League by reaching the play-offs three times in the mid-1990s.
Prenton Park was redeveloped during that time, becoming an all-seater stadium with a 16,000-plus capacity.
King was relieved of his duties by chairman Frank Corfe in 1996, towards the end of Tranmere’s first indifferent season in nine years. He then headed into a quiet retirement with his family at their Wirral home.
Harrison says the Trust remain committed to the project of taking Tranmere into community ownership at some point in the future. They opened negotiations with Johnson about purchasing his 60% stake in the club 18 months ago.
However, that process is stalled while Tranmere focus on twin projects to sell land at the Ingleborough Road training ground for housing and to redevelop the Woodchurch Leisure Centre into a new training complex to be shared with the local community.
Harrison said: “We are as committed as ever to plans to bring the club into community ownership. But the issues of Ingleborough and Woodchurch need to be resolved before we can move forward and that may take some time.
“John King is a legend in the eyes of Tranmere supporters and we all acknowledge that without Peter Johnson’s financial support, what he achieved as a manager would have been so much more difficult to do.
“I’m confident a lot of people of my generation who want to contribute to putting this tribute in place.”
The Trust plan to announce more details about the Johnny King statue at the their annual meeting at the Belmont Suite, Prenton Park on Saturday lunchtime (12:30pm), prior to the home game against Oldham Athletic. Trust members and supporters who would like to join, are welcome.
Fans who want to make a donation can find details by visiting the Trust’s website (www.tranmereroverstrust.co.uk) or by calling at Glory Hunters sporting memorabilia store in Borough Road, close to Prenton Park.
As a player...
Everton (1957-1960) 48 League games
Bournemouth (1960) 21 League games
Tranmere Rovers (1960-1968) 241 League games
Port Vale (1968-1971) 101 League games
as a manager...
1981-1984 Northwich Victoria
1985- 1987 Caernarfon Town
Honours at Tranmere: Football League Fourth Division promotion in fourth place: 1975–76; Football League Fourth Division, promoted as runner-up: 1988–89; Football League Trophy winner: 1990; Football League Trophy runner-up: 1991; Football League Third Division play-off winner: 1991
Honours at Northwich: FA Trophy runner-up: 1983; FA Trophy winner: 1984; Cheshire Senior Cup winner: 1984