When injury ruled Brian Labone out of the Everton side during the final weeks of the 1969/70 season, it was left to Roger Kenyon, a virtually untried 21-year-old, to fill the sizeable hole left by his skipper’s broad shoulders. Kenyon rose to the challenge with a maturity that wholly belied his inexperience. In the remaining eight games of the season Everton remained undefeated, winning seven and drawing one to lift the First Division title for the seventh time. ‘Kenyon will be difficult to move from this side,’ marvelled the Liverpool Echo at the season’s end. ‘He improves with every match and is already a model of composure with a bite in every tackle.’
Born in Blackpool in January 1949, Roger Kenyon was another product of Everton’s highly productive youth system. He made his debut as a substitute for Howard Kendall against Newcastle United in October 1967 and went on to make a further 17 league and cup appearances that season. He was also named substitute for the FA Cup Final against West Bromwich Albion, but was never called on to the hallowed Wembley turf. After impressing in Everton’s title run-in, he established himself in the first team during the 1970/71 season after Brian Labone was beset by the injury problems that would prematurely end his career.
A hard and ruthless tackler, Kenyon combined these attributes with precise aerial timing and exceptional pace. And yet he was always more than a mere defensive destroyer. He possessed intelligent and accurate distribution that was capable of turning defence into attack. Amid the perpetual transition of the 1970s, Kenyon was a rare constant, one of the few players to be at the core of both Harry Catterick’s and Billy Bingham’s Everton teams. By the decade’s end he was the last remnant of the title winning season.
Kenyon’s career was briefly threatened by a serious traffic accident in 1974, but he recovered sufficiently to be called up to the England squad and was, in 1975, named by Don Revie as substitute for three different internationals, without ever being called upon to win his first cap. Again it seemed that Kenyon, who was never awarded a Championship winners’ medal in 1970 (as he had played one game too few) was Everton’s nearly man. Having missed out on the 1968 FA Cup Final, Kenyon was omitted from the team that faced Aston Villa at Wembley in the 1977 League Cup Final. Included in the replay at Hillsborough, he scored an own goal and was left out of the second replay, which Everton lost.
A SUCCESSION of niggling injuries saw Kenyon’s Everton career go into decline. In 1979 he joined Vancouver Whitecaps and at the age of 30 won his first medal, lifting the NASL Soccer Bowl in his one full season there. A brief stint at Bristol Rovers followed before he announced his retirement.
Still a well-recognised figure at Goodison, Kenyon retains close links to the club and is well known for his work as a director of Blue Nose Promotions, which organises events with former players.