After joining on loan from Hartlepool United in late January, Jason Kennedy outlined his targets and reflected on his career to date.
Jason Kennedy is the definition of a pro. Well-travelled, committed, hardworking and experienced, the midfielder has forged a career which saw him reach the heights of the Premier League in his early years as a player. Born in Stockton, Kennedy began at Middlesbrough’s academy in the early noughties, training at Rockliffe Hall three times a week as he aimed to make the grade. The hard work eventually paid off in when he made his first team bow against Fulham in the 2004/05 season.
It was Tuesday 19th April 2005 on a mild night at The Riverside Stadium. Kennedy began on the bench, perhaps unsurprising when looking at the squad that night: Brad Jones, Colin Cooper, Gareth Southgate, Ugo Ehiogu, Frank Queudrue, Ray Parlour, George Boateng, Bolo Zenden, Stewart Downing, Jimmy-Floyd Hasselbaink, Szilard Nemeth. Current Moors coach Stuart Parnaby. Fulham boasted star names such as Edwin Van Der Sar, Luis Boa Morte and Brian McBride. With The Cottagers leading 1-0 courtesy of McBride’s strike, Kennedy replaced Cooper with four minutes of normal time remaining and filled in at an unfamiliar right back role as Boro chased an equaliser.
That elusive goal came as the match entered additional time, with Zenden netting a penalty after Hasselbaink was fouled in the area. Kennedy remembers that time of his career well: “I was a Middlesbrough fan as a youngster, so it was always a dream to develop through the ranks at the academy and make my debut for the first team. I still remember coming on against Fulham. I came on at right back which was a position I was completely unfamiliar with and was up against Boa Morte…he was quick! It was an amazing feeling as it was something I had worked hard for.”
Kennedy went on to make four first team Premier League appearances before going on to make a name for himself as a loyal, reliable pro and a fine player in the lower leagues. His first stop was Darlington where he made more than 50 appearances, experiencing heartbreak in the play-off semi-final against future employers Rochdale after missing a crucial penalty in a tense shootout in April 2010. His goal in the first leg, coupled with consistent and dominant performances for The Quakers, saw him swooped up by Dale the following campaign.
He went on to play almost 200 times for Rochdale, a time he recollects upon fondly: “I got promoted in my first season at Rochdale into League One, and we adapted really well to a higher division. We actually went on to achieve the club’s highest ever finish at that stage. We finished on around 70 points and in 9th, a great achievement and it was something special to be a part of. Sadly, we got relegated the year after, but I loved my time there. The manager at the time, Keith Hill, really knew how to get the best out of me, and I think all the lads who played in that team went on to bigger and better things in the future.”
After leaving Rochdale his next destination was Bradford City, where he was part of the match day squad that famously came from 2-0 down to beat Chelsea 4-2 at Stamford Bridge in the FA Cup Fourth Round. Kennedy made 37 appearances for Bradford before joining Carlisle on a permanent deal following a successful loan stint, making over 100 appearances for The Cumbrians and scoring 15 times, the same amount he netted for Rochdale. But injury trouble was on the immediate horizon for Kennedy.
Speaking to Dom Shaw at The Gazette in July 2019 after signing a deal at National League side Hartlepool, Kennedy opened up about his injury hell: “”I saw five specialists, I was going from doctor to doctor, they hadn’t diagnosed me and I’m starting to think, ‘am I imagining this? Obviously, I wasn’t because I couldn’t get out of bed on a morning and walk, never mind think about training. I woke up every day literally thinking how I am going to get through the day because I couldn’t get out of bed on my own, I used to have to use a support to get out of bed.
“You start to question yourself. I thought that was it, I thought I’d have to retire. I’d been constantly doing as much rehab as I could, but it just wasn’t improving. I got to the stage where I felt like giving up because nothing was working. I love football and I wanted to play for as long as I could. But you know what, it wasn’t even because of football. It was because I couldn’t even go out and play passies with my son. He’d come home from school and ask if we could go to the park and I couldn’t. It was so hard. My main goal was to be fit and healthy enough to play with my child and do what dads do with their kids.”
Having returned to full fitness and recovered from his injury nightmares, Kennedy is now looking ahead to his time at Spennymoor. “I enjoy working hard for the team and getting on the ball. I have recently discovered that I have a good trait of being in the right place at the right time to score a few tap-ins! I’ll always give 100% for the cause no matter what shirt I am wearing. Hopefully I can get a few goals along the way too, but the main aim during my time here at Spennymoor is play games and get some minutes under my belt.
“The whole move came around quickly on the Friday before the Gloucester game. I was thrust into things when I was heading down to Gloucester on the night for the overnight stay, but it was nice to meet everyone and get some minutes. After spending time out injured, the aim is to enjoy football at this stage of my career. Ideally that would be playing week in week out, but I know I will have to work to achieve that.”