Johnny began the first of two spells as manager at Prenton Park in 1975, leading the club to promotion in 1976, but it is his second spell for which he is regarded as the club’s greatest ever manager, steering the club away from relegation to non-league football with a last-gasp 1-0 victory over Exeter City within weeks of taking over in 1987.
The following season, Rovers began a meteoric rise with promotion out of the old fourth division. Wembley became a second home for the club as King led the club to successive Leyland DAF Cup Finals and play-off finals in 1990 and 1991, Chris Malkin’s extra-time winner against Bolton taking Rovers to the second tier in 1991.
Having pulled off an incredible coup in signing John Aldridge from Real Sociedad, King consolidated Rovers in their first season before leading the club to three successive play-offs for promotion to the Premier League and the heartbreak of a Coca Cola Cup semi-final defeat to Ron Atkinson’s Aston Villa. As well as unparalleled success, Johnny brought in international players such as Pat Nevin, Liam O’Brien, Gary Stevens and Paul Cook playing alongside the home grown talents of Kenny Irons, Ged Brannan and Tony Thomas. He was also revered for the free-flowing attacking football his teams played and his legendary quotes to the press.
Johnny was then unceremoniously relieved of his duties by chairman Frank Corfe in 1996, towards the end of Tranmere’s first indifferent season for nine years. He then headed into a quiet retirement with his family at their Wirral home.
Sculptor Tom Murphy is responsible for a number of prominent statues of famous figures from Merseyside football, including Bill Shankly at Anfield and Dixie Dean at Goodison Park.
The unveiling of Johnny King’s statue will take place as part of the “Trip to the Moon” festival organised by the supporters which will last over the next three days.
For more details of the festival see http://www.triptothemoon.org.uk/