Northumberland's most decorated footballer dies at the age of 70
Tributes have been paid to Northumberland-born football icon Ray Kennedy after he passed away at the age of 70.
The midfielder won the League and FA Cup double with Arsenal in 1971 before going on to make 393 appearances for Liverpool, scoring 72 goals and winning 11 major trophies at Anfield.
Kennedy, who also made 17 appearances for England and scoring three goals, had been battling Parkinson’s disease since 1984.
Kennedy, who was born in Seaton Delaval and went to Astley High School, played for New Hartley Juniors where he helped the club win all its league games in one season.
During the season they won the East Northumberland Junior League, the Northumberland FA Junior Cup, the East Northumberland Junior League Cup, the North East Youth Challenge Cup, the East Northumberland Junior League Charlton Trophy, the Tynemouth Junior League Challenge Cup and the Magpie Trophy.
The famous junior football club had picked him up after he was rejected following a trial at Port Vale, where the then manager Stanley Matthews did not think he would succeed.
He was then offered an apprenticeship with Arsenal in May 1968, earning his first professional contract six months later.
Kennedy, a left-midfielder, also played for Swansea City, Hartlepool United, player-manager for Cypriot club Pezoporikos and a stint with Ashington.
Kennedy, who returned to live in New Hartley, spent time coaching at Sunderland after hanging up his boots.
Former players, clubs and fans have led the tributes.
John Maley, secretary of New Hartley Juniors, said: “After being rejected by Port Vale he was on the verge of joining North Shields Juniors until my Dad cycled to his house and offered him a deal.
"He went to Arsenal and three years later was scoring the goal that clinched them the First Division title, at the age of 19.
"He then went to Liverpool and the rest is history.
"Every season he’d come up to New Hartley to present the end of season medals, and would even train with the lads. It was the equivalent of David Beckham having a kick around on a local field.
"We changed our kits a few years ago to orange to mark 50 years since he played for us.
"He was a great ambassador of New Hartley. It’s going to be a tragic loss. He partly helped put New Hartley on the map.”
Ashington AFC tweeted: “RIP Ray Kennedy.
“Born in Northumberland and had a short spell at Ashington in 1985. Our thoughts are with his family and friends at this sad time.”
Liverpool FC tweeted: “We are mourning legendary former player Ray Kennedy.
“The thoughts of everybody at Liverpool Football Club are with Ray’s family and friends at this sad and difficult time.
“Rest in peace Ray.”
Arsenal fan and TV presenter Piers Morgan paid tribute to Kennedy, tweeting: "RIP Ray Kennedy. Arsenal double-winning star in 1971 and one of my first footballing heroes.
"Went on to play for Liverpool & England. Fought a long courageous battle with Parkinson’s Disease. Very sad news."
England tweeted: “We are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Ray Kennedy at the age of 70. Ray won 17 caps for the #ThreeLions between 1976 and 1980, scoring three times.
“All of our thoughts go out to his family, friends and former clubs.”