Towards the end of the Everton and Porto game, Roberto Martinez made a change and brought on three promising youngsters: Hallam Hope, Chris Long & Conor McAleny.
While these youngsters were enjoying playing at Goodison Park for the first time, commentator Ian Snodin was asked a question by his co-host. The question was quite simple: "Has there ever been a youngster who was 'nailed on for success' who never actually made it?" Snodin, himself an Everton legend, thought about the question for a few moments before answering, the name of the player Snodin put forward was Billy Kenny.
There are of course many youngsters who have never lived up to their potential. And Everton, like most clubs, have a list of players who could be placed into that category. Francis Jeffers, Michael Ball, Danny Cadamarteri, Stuart Barlow, Michael Branch, Jose Baxter, John Paul Kissock, all failed to live up to their early reputations. A case could even be made that despite all his trophies and England Caps, Wayne Rooney has underperformed, when he left Everton as a teenager he looked destined to be the World's Best Player, the player of his generation, but he's never quite lived up to that and nobody today puts him in the class of Ronaldo, Messi or even Suarez.
But, even though they never quite lived up to early potential, they all have carved out a career for themselves. Jeffers got a big-money move to Arsenal; Branch, Barlow & Cadamarteri became stalwarts in the lower divisions, which is exactly what Baxter is doing now, and – even though he's flopped at every major International tournament – Wayne Rooney will still most likely end up as England's highest ever goalscorer.
All of them may have underachieved at some point but none of them fucked up like Billy Kenny.
In the early 1970s, Everton had a midfielder on their books called William Kenny. He had a somewhat uneventful Everton career, in fact in a three-year spell at Everton, he had only played a handful of times for the club. But on 19 September 1973, the Everton midfielder celebrated the birth of his son, William Aiden Kenny Jnr.
In 1974 William Kenny Snr moved to Tranmere and is not remembered very much for his time at Everton. But what Billy Kenny Snr didn't know was that his young son Billy Kenny Jnr would follow in his father's footsteps and play for Everton just 18 years later.
Young Billy Kenny joined the Everton youth setup in the late 1980s. His raw talent enabled him to rise quickly through the youth ranks and his reputation soon grew. Billy Kenny was the original Wayne Rooney, a youth player so good everyone knew it was just a matter of time before he was old enough to prove it in the first team.
In 1992, Everton were playing their way to a 1-1 draw with Coventry. The game would have been completely forgettable except on that day Everton manager Howard Kendall handed 18-year-old Billy Kenny his first team debut.
Blessed with 'sublime skill', teenager Kenny quickly made a big name for himself. Kenny was a player with boundless energy who loved to get up and down the pitch. His ball control was first rate and his eye for a pass soon made him Everton's most creative player. For a young lad, Kenny was also fearless on the pitch, there's a story about hardman Vinny Jones attempting to subdue Kenny by crashing into him, Kenny though was having none of it and quietly picked himself up, a few moments later Kenny gave Jones a taste of his own medicine.
Widely regarded at the time as a 'key man' in the Everton side, Kenny further enhanced his reputation by representing England U21 in a qualifier against Turkey. It was around this time that teammate Peter Beardsley declared that Kenny was the "Goodison Gazza".
Goodison Park: Monday, 7 December 1992. The first Merseyside Derby of the newly formed Premiership. Manager Howard Kendall faced a difficult task against a Liverpool team featuring a midfield made up of legendary John Barnes with young starlets Steve McManaman, Jamie Redknapp and Don Hutchison.
Everton's midfield that day featured a past-his-best Ian Snodin, reliable battler Barry Horne, the frankly awful Stuart 'Jigsaw' Barlow and young teenager Billy Kenny.
Liverpool scored first through Mark Wright but, just a minute later Mo Johnston scored to bring Everton level. Peter Beardlsey scored a late winner against his former club and Everton had won the first ever Premiership Merseyside Derby 2-1.
But that game is best remembered for the performance of Billy Kenny. In that game, young Billy Kenny was unplayable. Kenny ran circles around the Liverpool midfield. To be frank, Billy Kenny pissed all over Barnes, Redknapp and McManaman that day. It was a terrific victory for Everton and one of the all-time great Everton performances by Billy Kenny now established as British football's brightest young star.
Sadly that game was also to be the highest point of Billy Kenny's footballing career.
Things started to go wrong when Kenny suffered shin splints. The youngster required a series of operations and found himself unable to train for 6 months. Injured and with too much time and money on his hands Kenny soon became depressed and bored.
It was around this time that Kenny first started to abuse drugs and alcohol. In 2002 Kenny gave an interview and talked about his injury and the first steps to drug and alcohol addiction. Below are some of the quotes Kenny gave in that interview:–
"I was very angry and depressed. It was my first professional season and I was out through injury,''
"I was bored and my mates asked me to go along with them for a few nights out."
"I hadn't got drunk or even been on a proper night out before – I just trained and trained every day. But when I couldn't train I was lost – I didn't know what to do with myself. I was lost, frustrated and bored."
"Going out became a release – we used to go to clubs at the weekend and the lads would always have a line of coke. Eventually I tried some, liked it and was hooked. I also drank ten pints and got totally wrecked."
Kenny eventually recovered from his injury but when he returned to training it was clear the drugs and alcohol binges had taken their toll. Kenny struggled for fitness and sadly he continued with his bad habits away from the training ground.
"I'd be out until 5am, sleep for a couple of hours and then get a taxi to the training ground still off my head. I was taking coke everywhere and anywhere I could ... in pubs, clubs and even in my bedroom at home."
"I was in no fit state for training and everyone knew what was going on. I'd lost all interest in football and my life revolved around drugs. I couldn't see the ball properly, never mind kick it straight."
Blood and urine samples taken from Kenny showed the extent of his substance abuse and he was fined two-weeks wages and subsquently sent to rehab by the frustrated Everton management.
Everton manager Howard Kendall was eventually replaced by Mike Walker and the former Norwich boss took a harder line with Billy Kenny, issusing him with final ultimatums to get his act together or face a Goodison Park exit.
Kenny though failed to get back on track and in 1994 Mike Walker had had enough. Kenny was fired from Everton for 'gross misbehaviour'. Walker never revealed exactly what pushed him to make that decision but its clear that Kenny was in no fit condition to play for Everton anymore.
"When Mike Walker told me the news I was completely numb. I couldn't believe what they were saying and I didn't know where to turn. Instead of giving me the help I needed he shut the door in my face."
Billy Kenny's Everton career sadly ended with just 17 league appearances, 4 cup appearances, one goal and that wonderful man-of-the-match performance against Liverpool.
Luckily for Kenny another Everton Legend Gaeme Sharp was at the time manager of Oldham Athletic. Sharp, undoubtedly aware of Kenny's former talent, quickly offered Kenny a lifeline and a contract with Oldham.
After just 4 appearances (scoring one own goal) for Oldham before Sharp followed Mike Walker's example and sacked Billy Kenny for for 'gross misbehaviour'. Kenny disappeared from football after his Oldham sacking.
Billy Kenny officially retired from professional football aged just 21. He would eventually turn up in non-league football playing a few games for Barrow AFC followd by a short spell playing for amateur side Royal Seaforth in the Liverpool County Combination League.
Kenny eventually got himself clean but it was too late. By then he was in his late 20's and the skills that the former midfield maestro had once prossesed had long since deserted him.
Apparently the now 40-year-old Billy Kenny still lives in Liverpool with his girlfriend and young daughter. He frequently features in newpaper articles relating to wasted careers. Rob Smyth of The Guardian named Billy Kenny No 1 in his Football's Lost Talent article claiming he was "one of the biggest wastes of talent in modern times."I
personally hope Billy Kenny is doing alright for himself. It's clear he should have been so much more and he wasted what should have been a sparkling career for both Everton and England. I'm sure something like the Tony Adam's founded Sporting Chance Clinic which offers treatment, counselling and support to players suffering drink, drug or gambling addictions could really have helped Billy Kenny if it had been available back then.
I'm also sad for Everton supporters like myself who were robbed of a truly great talent. Billy Kenny should have been our Steven Gerard. Billy Kenny should have been an Everton legend.
Reader Comments (69)
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1 Posted 05/08/2014 at 06:07:47
2 Posted 05/08/2014 at 06:30:25
A boy destined for legendary status at Goodison. Billy had as much natural ability as Wayne as a young lad, he would have gone all the way to the top.
Sad, sad story.
3 Posted 05/08/2014 at 07:38:26
4 Posted 05/08/2014 at 07:51:23
I hope Billy Kenny is now happy and still a blue.
5 Posted 05/08/2014 at 08:06:44
But I agree that Kenny is the number one wasted career, with an amateur from Kirkby, John OÂLeary a close second, at least Kenny got to show his talents off on the big stage.
8 Posted 05/08/2014 at 08:42:59
9 Posted 05/08/2014 at 08:39:33
The thing is though, you would like to know how much of an effort the club made to look after Billy Kenny. When Barkley broke his leg a couple of years ago, he was probably pampered to within an inch of his life. There were probably tailored training routines, sports psychology, inclusion in day to day life around the training ground and so on. He wouldn't have been allowed to become depressed and bored. Maybe just different times.
10 Posted 05/08/2014 at 08:59:50
If he hadnÂt, he would be a multi millionaire now with a huge number of caps and who knows what medals.
11 Posted 05/08/2014 at 08:42:34
12 Posted 05/08/2014 at 09:15:06
13 Posted 05/08/2014 at 09:13:35
It was, shall we say, a fallow period in our history. Anyway I was listening to Radio 5 and that odious piece of work Alan Green. As we went 1-0 down, I was slumped in my chair typing away, sipping on some cider. I was hammered by the end of the match, dancing around the lab, and even Alan Green made me laugh with his commentary in the 2nd half - "Snodin, noticeably, is playing as part of a 3-man back 4".
Luckily I proof-read my coursework the next day. Lesson of the day: Never try to write anything intelligible whilst listening to an Everton match. Whilst drinking.
Michael Penley #8. What a strange thing to postulate! I'm sure the likes of Medicins Sans Frontieres and the Red Cross is full of failed professional footballers.
14 Posted 05/08/2014 at 09:33:22
He knew it was wrong and still did it. That first line was one too many. You don't get hooked after one so it was a conscious decision to keep doing it.
Yes, he was bored but that is no excuse for a professional footballer getting paid a lot of money to ply his trade.
15 Posted 05/08/2014 at 09:43:02
Funny thing was, that summer, I had an inkling of what was to come of young William. Even though my family were Woolies, I was born and raised in West London. So, as you can imagine there weren't many Evertonians around.
Anyways, one of my friend's older brother was known on our estate as a cocaine fiend of the highest order. After a day of playing football during the holidays, I went back to said friend's house for a bit of Super Soccer on the Super Nes.
Whilst in his room, his older bro popped his head in and, on noticing my salmon pink kit, asked me "Do you support Everton?" To my Yes, he then asked who my favourite player was. On my answer of Billy Kenny, he then proceeded to tell me stories of his summer jaunt in Ibiza or somthing with my hero. He even had pictures as well. Also he promised me a pair of Kenny's Everton shorts he had been given.
I left there on one hand excited about my soon to be Everton memento, but also confused as to what our player was doing on holiday with our area's distribution centre for the Bolivian marching powder. That season, Kenny disappeared from the team and so did my friend's brother on a different kind of holiday.
I never did get the shorts either...
16 Posted 05/08/2014 at 10:12:39
There was a Man City player, years ago, who did his cruciate ligament during a game and never played again, as at the time it was un operable. He was expected to go on to great things. I can't remember his name.
17 Posted 05/08/2014 at 10:26:06
18 Posted 05/08/2014 at 10:34:11
That is why I do not eulogise over the likes of Gazza or even Best as both never reached their full potentials due to drink and/or drugs. Both were fleetingly fantastic but each had relatively short careers punctuated by indiscipline and spats with managers who tried to look after them.
I much prefer to admire players who fulfilled their potentials and had long illustrious careers, eg: Giggs, Pele, Charlton etc.Luckily EFC, apart from Tony Kaye who ruined a wonderful career, have great players much more deserving of articles. I do not have much time for people who waste opportunities and careers by indiscipline and lack of professionalism.
19 Posted 05/08/2014 at 10:31:17
20 Posted 05/08/2014 at 11:42:11
21 Posted 05/08/2014 at 11:52:38
22 Posted 05/08/2014 at 12:05:09
One point of detail though, was it Sharp who gave him the chance at Oldham, or was it Royle?
23 Posted 05/08/2014 at 12:06:20
He was driving forklifts not so long ago, but I heard he's coaching now (not driving them).
24 Posted 05/08/2014 at 12:27:44
I'd also add Tony Grant to the list, played a fair few seasons but never fulfilled his early promise had lots of niggly injuries and drifted away. He really could play, one of those who maybe didn't have enough players on the same wavelength in terms of his passes and runs, always seemed to find space.
25 Posted 05/08/2014 at 12:28:03
A player’s mental make-up is equally important as his physical make-up. It’s a bit like saying John Ebbrell could have been one of the greats if only he had a better touch, more pace and some vision.
26 Posted 05/08/2014 at 13:18:05
27 Posted 05/08/2014 at 13:05:15
The one I was most gutted about was Michael Branch. Really thought he was our answer to Owen. Played for England Under-21s at 17. Just found the step up to first team too much. Last I heard was in prison.
28 Posted 05/08/2014 at 13:38:25
Grant is currently first team coach at Blackburn Rovers. I'd love to see him return to Everton. Maybe he could replace Alan Stubbs and join his old teammate David Unsworth in coaching the kids.
29 Posted 05/08/2014 at 13:57:19
30 Posted 05/08/2014 at 13:51:59
31 Posted 05/08/2014 at 14:14:58
When I was his age, I had enough trouble with Double Diamond, No 6 Kings and young ladies
Pretending I was mates with Husband, Harvey and Whittle helped me score regularly - and I don't mean drugs
32 Posted 05/08/2014 at 14:21:13
Its a shame really because had Kenny managed to stay at Everton for a few more months then Joe Royle would have become his boss and I would guess Royle would have had at least a chance of talking some sense into Kenny.
Royle at the very least would probably have been more interested in helping Kenny than Kendall and Walker ever were.
Would have been interesting too if Royle could have gotten Kenny playing again. Imagine Kenny's vision and creativity with the Dogs Of War (Ebbrell, Parkinson, Horne) backing him up.
33 Posted 05/08/2014 at 14:29:33
But they where on the gear themselves so just got him in further and deeper into the mess. Very, very sad. Jimmy, buddy, Coyle, another genuine lad was in the same boat.
34 Posted 05/08/2014 at 14:54:33
35 Posted 05/08/2014 at 15:02:32
In total, he played 17 times. He was a baby in football terms, he was no more a star than Danny Cadamarteri was when he burst onto the scene. He had all the talent in the world, but he blew it.
Billy Kenny had great potential, but he didn't realise that potential.
36 Posted 05/08/2014 at 15:09:39
I'm sure young players today benefit from psychologists and receive first rate care while out injured. In fact I'm sure the club employ staff just to look after the younger players and stop them getting into trouble.
Nowdays I think clubs protect the players because they are valuable assests. Ross Barkley has the potential to be worth 㿞 million one day and the club is going to want to protect that investment.
37 Posted 05/08/2014 at 17:01:39
38 Posted 05/08/2014 at 18:25:11
39 Posted 05/08/2014 at 19:40:30
40 Posted 05/08/2014 at 19:59:53
41 Posted 05/08/2014 at 21:00:42
42 Posted 05/08/2014 at 22:30:39
43 Posted 05/08/2014 at 22:46:12
On the positive side it does seem that there is a lot more support and understanding for people who fall into the trappings of addictions these days.
44 Posted 05/08/2014 at 23:10:26
45 Posted 05/08/2014 at 23:10:26
46 Posted 06/08/2014 at 12:26:50
He won't have been the only young player to have ever picked up a long term injury but I doubt many other youngsters decided to start using class A's as a result.
Then he has the cheek to try to blame the club for not getting him help and closing the door in his face when he'd already been sent to rehab once before. As usual with footballers it's never their fault.
Sharpy gave him another chance at Oldham and he blew that too. How many chances did he want??
I was at that December 1992 derby when he run the game, dominated the Liverpool midfield and had he built on that top performance he could he become an Everton great, however, he snorted that chance away.
47 Posted 06/08/2014 at 20:20:27
48 Posted 07/08/2014 at 13:03:08
YouÂd make a cracking Judge; I wouldnÂt like to go before you... have a bit of compassion.
49 Posted 07/08/2014 at 16:22:43
I worked in Otis Elevators with John and in the mid 60,s to 1976 I was involved in amateur football with the Liverpool & District Sunday Football League first running a team called Norgreen and from 1972 to 1976 as a member of the Management Commitee and from 1974 to 1976. as registration secratary.
During this time I met a lot of football people in both the amateur and professional sides of the game and John,s name come up quite often but I never heard anyone mention any of the type of problems that B.K. had with John.
The only person who can say why he never made it into the professional ranks is John.As far as talent being wasted I do not think John thought that as every time I watched him or played against him he always seemed to enjoy his football.
My thinking with John was he was a free spirit on the pitch and did not like the restrictions in the professional game but other people may know differant but the man was definitly talented and I think he even got mentioned by B.Charlton. as one of the best amateures at that time he had seen.
50 Posted 07/08/2014 at 16:53:07
Not one of ours, but I was sure cities Michael Johnson would go on to be a future England star. He never recovered after an injury and turned to booze, he is over weight and unrecognisable now, and only 26.
51 Posted 07/08/2014 at 17:35:00
Compassion?? Why should I have that for any Everton player shoving that shit up their nose?
Stick your 'compassion.'.He had the chance which every Blue on the planet would kill for and fucked it up through no fault but his own.
52 Posted 07/08/2014 at 19:05:08
53 Posted 07/08/2014 at 21:36:00
54 Posted 07/08/2014 at 23:23:09
Billy Kenny had the goods, no doubt about it. The Derby game was a fantastic showcase of his dynamic ability.
I remember seeing him in the State during the time Everton were on a pre-season in Austria or Switzerland in the early 90's. He was in the toilets with some pure rat looking scalls and he was totally wasted. I mean I was pissed and a kid myself, and was like 'alright Billy' and although gone the guy was sound and friendly but his mates were straight in with the 'fucking hell...it's Billy Kenny!!' Taking the piss...even at a young age I thought to myself that this looked bad and the writing was on the wall. He was surrounded by the wrong people.
A terrible waste for the lad, Everton and with all probability England.
I don't think John O'Leary is a similar case at all. My father played for the County in the 60's, who were a very successful amateur side at the time. When talking about those days it was clear that many wonderful ball players were around the city, and many colourful characters. The money in the professional game not there like the 90's and it was an era of Corinthians. Not only my Dad but I have heard it from many other guys of that era and it appears to be generally accepted that John O'Leary was THE player in the City at that time.
I believe it is true that John only ever wanted to play for his beloved Everton. A humble man who enjoyed a beer with his friends and loved his football. King John a champion of the people.
55 Posted 08/08/2014 at 19:53:36
Maybe heÂs still trying to convert people!
56 Posted 08/08/2014 at 21:36:01
A talented player for sure, but we have all seen or played against a great talent. It takes far more to 'make it'.
In 1992 I was lucky enough to play against Everton's 'A' team twice. I was playing for UMIST, who (for no real reason I could ever fathom) played in the Lancashire League every Saturday. Usually we got a hiding, but it was in the days of being able to pass back to your goalkeeper, so we would play like our red rivals did in Europe, and keep passing along the back four, to the keeper, and then back out again. If nothing else, it kept the scorelines reasonable in the main.
We won only a single match in this particular season - 1-0 versus Everton of course. Stuart Barlow missed 7 or 8 sitters on a very muddy pitch in Manchester. No surprise there. I played centre-mid against Billy Kenny. What a player, he was superb, miles better than I was. Tough as nails too. I was somewhat over-awed playing against my idols (even if it was the third team, it was still very exciting, as you might imagine). At one point, the ball went over the fence of someone's garden (it was not Wembley you know)...as we were waiting, I asked Kenny something inane such as 'how long have you played for Everton?'. He spat in my face and didn't say a word. Really! He was subbed immediately, and the Everton coaching staff were very apologetic, I think so that we would not make a formal complaint.
The return fixture was at Bellefield. We lost 4-1, Unsworth was steamrolling us all with a dashing, dominant display from left midfield, and Tony Grant strolled his way around me in the centre. Billy Kenny was not playing, since he was on the fringe of the first-team squad who were all around since there was a home first-team match that day. It was very exciting - Howard Kendall came over to watch about 20 minutes of the game...I am still waiting for the call (it was his second spell, I might have looked a little blurry).
Anyway, after the game, was I was getting changed (taking as long as possible, in the own little world, picturing myself as an Everton player!), my mates were standing outside. Kevin Ratcliffe (club captain at the time) popped his head out and asked Billy Kenny (one of the young pro's outside) to run over to the newsagents to buy some papers for him and Dave Watson.
'Suck a fart from me arse', was the reply from our boy Billy. To Everton's most successful captain.
Apparently, Ratcliffe was completely bemused. So, another of the young pros (I do not know who) volunteered and walked off to the shop.
I don't care how good we was - and he was good. He would never have made it ANYWHERE in the top flight for any length of time. I am delighted Everton got rid. Low life.
(I might copy and paste this to save myself some effort for the next time this legendary tale is dragged up).
57 Posted 09/08/2014 at 14:55:26
Bill Shankly said once, "Great players must have BOTH the ability and the right attitude." One out of two is just not an option!
58 Posted 09/08/2014 at 15:11:55
59 Posted 09/08/2014 at 15:55:20
Everton was rotten to the core as a club back then. Standards had gone throughout the club.
On Tony Grant, I could never see the big deal with him. As with Branch, it seemed obvious that the inevitable day would come they would be released and a good lower league career beckoned. Top class potential they were not. Neither had it from the off. Bit like Big Victor... Not that there's any shame in that!
60 Posted 09/08/2014 at 16:07:45
It ould have been amazing to play professionally at any level.
61 Posted 09/08/2014 at 17:49:28
How come none of their fucking players ever turn out bad? Always seems to be ours... Grant was another Â– cracking footballer but just lacked that extra yard of pace.
But you just know for sure Barkley wonÂt go the way of them; too good, IÂm afraid Â– already an international with the world at his feet.
I donÂt understand the criticism of Rooney, though; heÂs been and still is a phenomenal player, supremely talented and groomed at Goodison.
62 Posted 10/08/2014 at 10:09:36
A big contrast in personalities with those two it seems as 'Diamond' has rightly gone down in our history for the Wimbledon game AND a player who gave his all and always showed the right attitude despite not having huge talent.
If Kenny is still getting into trouble, despite having a child and being 40, then clearly he's never going to change. Can't really feel sorry for him as clearly he was too arrogant to accept any help and, judging by the UMIST matches mentioned above, thought he was able to do as he pleased.
As in all walks of life, talent is not anything without the ability to apply it.
63 Posted 10/08/2014 at 11:52:25
Anyone interested in the case and Kay's memories of it should read The Soccer Conspiracy Case by Arthur Hopcraft in The Faber Book of Soccer edited by Ian Hamilton. It makes very sad reading but if you need to be cheered up afterwards try Dave Hill's account of the 1988 Cup Final towards the end of the book. Ironically there was a certain goal keeper playing that day who ended up facing two trials for match fixing....funny old game.
64 Posted 11/08/2014 at 21:27:01
Alas, Jimmy fell in with the Âwrong crowd" and got in to hard drugs. Howard Kendall got wind of this and Jimmy's Everton days were over. Jimmy, as far as I can recall, never played at a high level again. Awful waste of talent.
65 Posted 12/08/2014 at 00:52:45
66 Posted 12/08/2014 at 21:22:06
Am pretty sure both of these would have got Full England caps, and the phrase " IF ONLY" comes to mind, when I think about either of these two good scouse lads.
67 Posted 16/08/2014 at 03:52:41
68 Posted 16/08/2014 at 04:10:36
I mean, drugs and/or alcohol just take over and make it hard for some people to even try to stop! So I suppose the answer is don’t take it in the first place... again hard to do that with peer pressure etc.
69 Posted 16/08/2014 at 04:30:51
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