As a combative wing half King won two promotions as a player and three more as a manager with Rovers. In his second spell at Prenton Park, he put the financial backing of Birkenhead businessman and club owner Peter Johnson to good use, leading Tranmere into the most successful spell in the club’s history. Rovers climbed from the old Fourth Division to the Championship, where they hammered on the door of the Premier League by reaching the play-offs for three seasons in a row between 1993 and 1995.
King called those days “a rocket ride to the moon.”
Tranmere’s current coach Shaun Garnett, who played under King as a centre back during the late 1980s and early 90s said: “Johnny King is the most important figure in Tranmere’s history. He put the club on the map.”
Current co-owner and chairman Mark Palios, a midfield player during King’s first spell as manager, said: “Johnny King understood what the club meant, what the badge meant. He had the old-fashioned set of values. As players he tried to instil into us that this club is about endeavour, about trying to do things the right way. He had that nice blend of being the aggressive warrior and being a gent as well.”
Tranmere supporters will be welcome to attend at St Peter’s and arrangements have been made to relay the service to people outside if the 450 capacity of the church is exceeded. The service will be followed by a private committal and wake for family and friends only. Tranmere have a book of condolence for supporters to sign at Prenton Park after the service.
For Garnett the occasion will be the saddest of reunions for players from the 80s and 90s teams who formed a close and enduring bond on and off the pitch. Garnett said: “Johnny King was able to blend together and manage players from all backgrounds. He was a special man to me. He gave me my first pro contract, he gave me my first start, he gave me my career. I went on to other clubs, Swansea City and Oldham, but Johnny King was one of a kind.”
Mark Palios added: “One of Johhny King’s great talents was blending players into a team. One of his favourite saying was about making a cake, putting the ingredients together so the whole was greater than the sum of the parts. He appreciated that more than most. It was one of the things that made him a very good manager.”
Some of the most illustrious names in Tranmere’s history over the past half century will gather to say goodbye to Johnny King at the service. Team-mates from King’s years as a player at Prenton Park are expected to be represented by Joey Pritchard, Alan King, Ken Finney, Ray Davies, Les Jones and Gerry Casey. Players from the 1970’s teams managed by King intending to attend include Ray Mathias, Steve Peplow, John Bramhall, Clive Evans, Eddie Flood, John Seasman, Bobby Tynan, Mark Palios, now the club chairman and co-owner and Ronnie Moore, who also worked as assistant manager alongside King from 1987 to 1996.
The list of players from the 1980s and 90s era is expected to include Steve Vickers, Ian Muir, Jim Harvey, Kenny Irons, Ged Brannan, Eric Nixon, Dave Higgins, Dave Martindale, Chris Camden, Johnny Morrissey, Eddie Bishop, Alan Rogers, Ian Nolan, Gary Jones, Eddie Murray, Micky Mellon, Danny Coyne, Chris Malkin, Tony Thomas, Jim Steel, Steve Craven, Eddie Murray, Gareth Roberts and Shaun Garnett, currently a first team coach with Tranmere.
Warwick Rimmer, who worked as youth development officer during King’s second spell as manager and current manager Gary Brabin will also be in attendance.
Here at Jammy Toast we will never forget the depths to which we submerged in our “deadly submarine” thanks to Johnny King!