Barney's spot in English history

Simon Turnbull recalls a Rome night when England last ruled foreign fields
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The Independent Online
In His days as a barnstorming left-back Alan Kennedy was christened "Barney Rubble" by the scally-wags on the Anfield Kop. An ex-pro at 42 now, he is in danger of becoming as extinct as the Stone Age race depicted, cartoon-style, in The Flintstones. As he juggled the telephone with the pots and pans, it was a sobering thought that the two sons who added an impromptu kick-about to the tea-time mayhem in the Kennedy kitchen were not even born when their father scored the penalty which secured the European Cup's most recent appearance in an English trophy cabinet.

Michael Kennedy, nine, and Andrew Kennedy, five, have to dip into the family video library for historical evidence that English clubs once ruled Europe - and that the man who makes their tea was directly responsible for the last accession to the continental throne. More than 12 years have passed since the night Alan Kennedy swung his trusty left foot to win the penalty shoot-out which decided the European Cup final between Liverpool and AS Roma. That 1984 success in Rome remains the last by an English team in Europe's premier club competition and, given the failure of English champions to even make it to the quarter-final stage in recent years, "Barney" has become an endangered species amid the rubble of broken dreams.

"I would hate to think I might be the last man ever to score the winner in a European Cup final for an English club," Kennedy mused. "Ever's a long time. That surely couldn't happen."

Those under the age of 20 would probably find it equally difficult to imagine an era when winning the English title was a virtual passport to European Cup glory. For their benefit, the record books show that in the eight seasons between 1977 and 1984 England's champions became Europe's champion club seven times. Liverpool's four successes also included the 1981 final against Real Madrid in Paris, in which Kennedy scored the only goal.

The end of Anglo domination can be traced to the night of 29 May 1985, when Liverpool's loss to Juventus in that year's final was eclipsed by the loss of 39 lives in Heysel Stadium. "There's no doubt we are still suffering from the effects of the ban which followed," Kennedy said. "It set us back. You could see in pre-season that English clubs are still some way behind the best continentals. The fact that the European Cup now has a league format doesn't help. In our day it didn't matter if you went away and lost 1-0. You were always confident of winning the tie at home. Now you can't afford to lose away games."

Prospective European champions can, however, now afford the luxury of losing their domestic title race - if they happen to be from one of the eight top-ranked nations, such as England. Surprisingly, having won his medals the hard way, Kennedy welcomes the paradox of admitting runners- up to what by its very definition has been a champions' "club".

"I think it's a good thing," he said. "Just look at last season in the Premiership. Newcastle were probably the best team. They played the best football. But Manchester United were the most consistent team. You will have the best teams in Europe involved and it will be great for English football in particular to have two teams in. Experience is still the thing that's lacking."

In the meantime, Kennedy is making use of his experience. The majority of his working time these days is devoted to the football schools he runs not just on Merseyside, where he still lives, but as far afield as Canterbury. Future graduates to the school of continental hard knocks could not have a better-qualified tutor than the man who mastered Europe not once but twice.

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