Renowned football journo reminds everyone of special Celtic moment

By Dave Flanigan

July 28, 2022

Football journalist Jonathan Wilson has reflected on the night that Celtic pulled off a major upset under Martin O’Neill, knocking Ronaldinho-led Barcelona out of the 2003-04 UEFA Cup.

Already 1-0 from the first leg, Celtic were without the suspended Rab Douglas and Bobo Balde, who were replaced by 19 year old David Marshall and 18 year old John Kennedy, both of whom would go on to star in the match.

Speaking on Off The Ball, Wilson said “Barcelona absolutely battered them and Marshall makes a couple of really good saves but you realise about halfway through the first half that Barcelona are starting to lose hope and one of the reasons for that is that Kennedy has totally taken Ronaldinho out of the game.

Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

“There’s one tackle in particular that I remember, midway through the first half, where it looks like Ronaldinho has got past him and he stretched out a leg and just clips the ball away and it was as if that tackle gave him confidence.

“His performance from then was incredibly mature, and Celtic end up holding out pretty comfortably once they survived that initial storm, and I remember thinking ‘Marshall and Kennedy, these two kids are both brilliant and they’re both going to go on to have great careers.

“Unfortunately Kennedy got crocked by the Romanian; Ionel Ganea, and was never really the same again, but he did have that one performance as an 18 year old in the Camp Nou where he was absolutely out of this world and marked Ronaldinho out of the game.”

The highlight of a short career

Despite being tipped for big things, Kennedy’s football career was a short one, effectively ending after the initial Ganea tackle that injured him in the first place whilst on international duty for Scotland.

Kennedy retired from football at 26 after further injuries not long after his comeback for Celtic, and then at Norwich.

He’s now been at the club for over a decade, first as a scout, then a first team coach, now as assistant manager after a spell as interim boss following Neil Lennon’s departure in 2020-21.

Having now served under four different Celtic managers, it’s clear that Kennedy is a capable and well-regarded coach, one who Ange Postecoglou values highly.

Despite being tipped for managerial roles elsewhere following his interim spell, Kennedy’s unwavering loyalty to the club he should have gone on to star for as a player, is commendable, and he deserves great credit for playing a central role in Celtic’s unprecedented success over the last decade.

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