Former Canaries defender appointed assistant to Neil Lennon at Celtic
PUBLISHED: 16:38 27 February 2019 | UPDATED: 16:38 27 February 2019
PA Archive/PA Images
Earlier this season former Norwich City defender John Kennedy – who has just been appointed assistant manager to Neil Lennon at Celtic – reflected on his career for the Pink Un magazine.
The 35-year-old was part of Brendan Rodgers’ coaching team during the Hoops’ dominant recent seasons in Scotland but following the manager’s exit for Leicester City, he’s been promoted to assistant following Lennon’s return to Parkhead.
The Scot made 16 appearances for the Canaries while on from Celtic during 2008-09, scoring twice, and looked back on his time in Norfolk with Stuart Hodge...
John Kennedy has every reason to be bitter.
The Scot was a shoo-in to establish himself for a decade at the centre of defence for both his country and his boyhood heroes before it was cruelly snatched away by the petulance and aggression of a journeyman Romanian centre-forward.
On his Scotland debut, in March 2004, in what was meant to be just another milestone on his path to greatness, the injury happened. The defender’s international bow lasted less than a quarter-of-an-hour because of the actions of former Wolves striker Ionel Ganea.
It was the kind of injury which only happens in real life with the impact of a major car crash. Everything in Kennedy’s left knee snapped except his medial ligament from the outside, where Ganea’s boot impacted, inwards. It blew out the outside of his knee, both cruciate ligaments, the lateral ligament, and the connective tissues and tendon known as the posterior lateral corner were all just turned to mush. His hamstrings also snapped.
What followed after that was three years without kicking a ball at all as Kennedy required multiple operations. The fact Kennedy even managed to play again given the gravity of the injury is remarkable and it’s difficult to imagine that he would’ve ended up at Norwich had it not been for his misfortune. At one point, he was being watched by scouts from a spread of the top European clubs, with AC Milan credited as having concrete interest.
The wait to return to competitive action was a long one but Kennedy did so in heroic fashion, starting for Celtic at Rugby Park as Gordon Strachan’s side clinched the Scottish Premier League title with a 2-1 win over Kilmarnock in April 2007.
Kennedy suffered another injury later that year whilst playing against Shakhtar Donetsk in the Champions League and was out until the following summer. It was now pretty much last chance saloon for him in terms of his playing career.
After a chat with the staff at Celtic, together they decided that he should go out on loan and build up some momentum and game time. Kennedy wanted to try something new and with plenty of interest down south, eventually Norwich and Preston–- managed at that time by Alan Irvine – were left to vie for him.
It was the tenacity of Glenn Roeder though, which helped to get the deal done.
Kennedy explained: “When he spoke about Norwich and how he wanted to do things he was very convincing and you wanted to be a part of it and be playing with him. A few times I’d speak to him in the afternoon and then I’d go the gym myself and I’d come out to a voicemail – ‘Glenn Roeder’. He was back on again, ‘just checking you’re okay, something I meant to say to you earlier’ and he’d think of something else to say to you.
“And this was constant, for a number of days and as much as some players might not like that, I did, I felt wanted. I’d whittled it down to Norwich or Preston. I was speaking to both managers but Glenn went out of his way to make sure you knew everything that was going to happen, all the plans and that he would do everything he possibly could to get you there and for a player that’s a good feeling.
“Me and my agent decided we’d travel down to Norwich for a day, have a look around, speak to the manager and everybody else and on the way back we’d go into Preston and speak with them and go home and make a decision.
“So we went down, spent the day with Glenn, watched training, had a lovely chat with him. It was a lovely sunny day in Norwich, as it always is, and we looked around the training ground. Bryan Gunn took us to the stadium and we had a really good feeling, not just from Glenn but the club itself. The facilities for training, the stadium and just the general feeling around the city, it was a good vibe.
“Even on my way to Preston, I’d pretty much made my mind up. But I did the right thing, went up there, and it was evening by this point and I had dinner with the chairman and Alan Irvine.
“Again, Alan, fantastic guy, really great coach and I had a lot of time for him. I’ve met him since and spoken to him at different things and he’s a good guy. But I had the feeling from early on from Norwich, before travelling and even more so after going, that I really wanted to go there. I wanted to get an experience here, wanted to get back playing and this is the place to do it so basically the next day I spoke to my agent and said ‘let’s get to Norwich, let’s get this done ASAP.’”
And so it transpired. The move to Carrow Road saw Kennedy reunited with former colleague Marshall as well as a number of other familiar faces and he admits that helped him settle into his new surroundings. But he also admits that his bond with Marshall grew much stronger in Norwich than it had done previously.
Kennedy said: “David was a bit younger than me so I never really played with him until he was in the first team at Celtic.
“He’s a very humble guy, likes his football, his family and lives a quiet life and I’m that type of character as well. Obviously when I was going to Norwich, I spoke to David and he was very positive about the club. When I moved down there I was just round the corner from him.
“Probably my time at Norwich is where I got to know David more and grew closer to him in terms of a friendship. At Carrow Road, I obviously knew David well. I knew Mark Fotheringham pretty well as well from my time at Celtic and actually Sammy Clingan was one who when he was 14 or 15 used to come across to Celtic and play in the youth tournaments and he was about the same age as me, so there were a few boys there that as soon as I arrived made me feel welcome.”
Former Celtic team-mate Chris Killen, Simon Lappin and Alan Gow were just some of the other familiar faces around at that time, when there was certainly a Caledonian flavour to the Canaries squad.
Although the sense of familiarity helped, Kennedy admits that Norwich has a feeling all of its own that became clear as soon as he started playing here.
He said: “I don’t know if it’s the part of the country where it is or what it might be, and there’s passion and fight on a Saturday and everything else, but there’s certainly a gentler approach to people in Norwich. There’s a very friendly atmosphere, it’s very positive.
“Everyone wants Norwich to do well and supports Norwich and you don’t get any interference. Anywhere else you go there’s always a rival close by and a 50-50 split of the fans and what people have got to say and everything else.
“But when you’re at Norwich, you’re made to feel comfortable and made to feel welcome and you feel you’ve got everybody’s backing and I think that’s special in itself, because anywhere else in the country that you go I’m not sure that would happen.
“I loved living there and my family really enjoyed living there and I found them to be respectful, good people who don’t intrude too much on your private time or life, but are very passionate on a Saturday about their football. No matter where we were in the league the stadium was full every Saturday. It was a great place to play and as players you fed off that and became like what the city was and the club was, which was very humble and a good place to come and work.”