Matt’s Monologue: The King of Prenton Park

Sadly my memories of watching a Tranmere team managed by the great Johnny King are few and far between.

But at the age of five years old, I was taken to my first game at Prenton Park and saw Rovers win 1-0 against a Luton side who were stuck at the bottom of the old Division One.

The result, courtesy of a strike from John Aldridge, actually left the hosts in sixth place as they aimed to finish in the play-offs for the fourth year running.

That is the only time I saw a game with Kingy in charge, and I apparently spent the rest of the match asking my dad when the next goal was going to be scored, given how early the eventual winner came.

But there must have been something special about the occasion, because I have been hooked ever since.

If there is one thing I have learned about Johnny in the years since, it is that he was loved by everybody.

I have interviewed countless ex-players who featured under him, the likes of Eric Nixon, Dave Higgins, Mark Palios and Ray Mathias to name but a few, and they all say the same thing – he was a true gent.

That is more important than anything else, including his huge success as a manager (and not just at Tranmere Rovers by the way).

The stories are wonderful – from the trips to Magaluf, to how Prince the dog used to pick the team (apparently, when Johnny was a bit unsure over who to select, he would throw a stick with two names written on it, and whichever name came back in Prince’s mouth would play).

The man built Rovers into what they are (or at least were until three or four years ago!). He put the Wirral on the map and turned the club into a house hold name.

Without him, I am sure many supporters would not be here today – maybe even the football club, given the win over Exeter in 1987 that retained Football League status.

He made the Wirral public dream. And you cannot do much more than that in life, can you?

So now fast forward nearly 19 years from that Luton match and to the wonderful Tranmere Rovers Trust event at Hulme Hall in celebration of the great man.

King attended and there was not a dry eye in the house as he made a slow, heroic entrance to a standing ovation from the supporters there.

I, like many others, got the chance to meet Johnny that night. I was introduced to him by his son in law, a good friend of mine, who asked “what do you think? Would you sign him?”

Johnny just responded: “is he fit?”

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