January 20, 1919
The President of the Football League, Mr. John McKenna, greatly distinguished himself in the interview with the professional players. To conduct an argument with about 70 players, full of grievances, for two hours, requires not only ability, but patience, tact, and knowledge.
Mr. McKenna disarmed those who intended to be fierce in their opposition by frankness and that touch of humour which is characteristic of him and other Irishmen. For he was born in county Monaghan rather over 60 years ago.
Next Saturday Mr. McKenna celebrates the twenty-seventh anniversary of his directorate. The Liverpool A.F.C. was registered on January 25, 1892, and from that day to this Mr. McKenna has been on the Board and materially assisted to bring his club from comparative obscurity into great prominence.
Mr. McKenna is one of those enthusiasts who have given their leisure to the game for the sake of the game, and to-day he is not only President of The League, Vice-President of the FA, and acting chairman of his club, but he has been on these and other bodies for teens of years. Neither blowing hot nor cold, he preserves the even tenour of his course.
It will be news to most that he was first the chairman of a Rugby club. When he was a sergeant-major in the 4th Lancashire Artillery Volunteers there were some Rugby men in his battery. In 1885 Colonel Belcher and Captain Southam lent their patronage when a club was formed.
But he forsook the chair to become a member of Everton, whom he followed until the great divide which brought Liverpool into being. Elected on the Board of the new club, he is now the only founder with a seat on the executive.
Never has he been an ornamental member. He went to Scotland to sign on players and procured a whole team. He and his helpers obtained William McOwen, of Darwen; Andrew Hannah, and Duncan McLean, of Renton; John McCartney, of Newmilns; Matthew McQueen, of Leith Athletic; James McBride, of Renton; Joe McQue, of Celtic; Malcolm McVean, of Third Lanark; John Miller, of Dumbarton, and Hugh McQueen, of Leith Athletic.
Generally they were known as the team of the Seven “Macs” and apart from the first eleven there were 16 reserves.
In those days there was no transfer system, and he could offer what he liked to players. There were occasions when he was in treaty with John Bell, Richard Bell, and John Drummond, who was then a bank clerk at Falkirk. There was a time when he and the late John James Bentley arrived simultaneously at the offices of the Hibernians for James McGeachan. Mr. McKenna should know something about bargaining with players.
In the course of his long experience, Mr. McKenna thinks that he never saw finer football than on March 20, 1897, when Liverpool and Aston Villa met in the semi-final for the English Cup at Bramall-lane, and the Villa won by 3-0. But for sheer excitement he has seen nothing to equal two matches between the same clubs deciding The League championship, when the Villa beat Liverpool 5-0 on April 29, 1899, and when the Anfield combination defeated the Aston men by 3-1, and secured the premier honours for Manchester United. Than the last match we question if ever there was a more thrilling game, with a fine every few minutes.
(Athletic News: January 20, 1919)