Matt’s Monologue: The King of Tranmere

I can recall brief moments of my first ever football match. It was back in 1995, my five year old self coming through the turnstiles to witness Tranmere beat Luton Town 1-0 on October 7th. Who scored? John Aldridge of course.

That game was in Johnny King’s final season in charge of the club, and as it turns out, would be the only one I would see with him at the helm.

That sadly means I missed the greatest era of Tranmere Rovers Football Club – a time when they wiped the floor with nearly all of those before them, when teams were genuinely scared of coming to Prenton Park. A time when success was not a distant light at the end of an ever lengthening tunnel, but an achievement that was so close you could smell it.

But through scouring the internet, or our archives in Radio City, you come to understand what made Johnny King special. You discover exactly what it was about him that meant the fans, the players and the media loved him.

There is some incredible footage and audio out there of the great man, using the most wonderful metaphors to describe a simple situation. He famously called Tranmere “the Deadly Submarine”, John Aldridge was the “Gunslinger” and Jim Steel a “may pole” that the rest of the team danced around.

But possibly my favourite story is this one told by Chris Malkin, who went to the manager asking for a new contract.

“Johnny said to me, I’ve got a plate of food here, it’s like a roast dinner,” said Chris.

“The chicken breast, that’s Aldo, he’s the main man. The roastys, they’re good as well, but they go to Eric Nixon. You’ve got Eddie Bishop, he gets the carrots, Kenny Irons gets the sprouts.

“And I was like ‘gaffer, I just want a bit of chicken leg.’

“He said to me ‘Chrisy, all we’ve got left for you is the gravy.'”

As of today, the man who has already gone down in Tranmere folk-law, is resplendently immortalized with the unveiling of a statue in his honour.

Given you are here today, you have probably already seen this magnificent, bronze structure, which sees Johnny proudly pointing to the skies as he welcomes you to Prenton Park.

What a tribute it is, and somewhat fitting that it has all been paid for the by the fans who used to love watching his teams play.

He was in charge of the club twice, between 1975-1980 and 1987-1996. And what a fourteen years they were.

Kingy guided Tranmere to three promotions and led them to Wembley five times. They won the Leyland DAF and reached the League Cup semi-finals in 1993/94.

In total, he was in charge for 757 games, winning 297. Given where the club were in his first spell, and when he took over for a second time, it was a remarkable achievement.

Will we ever see the likes of him again? It is unlikely, but we can hope. So no pressure Micky Adams!


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