Why the time could be right for Celtic stalwart to pave his own way

By Dave Flanigan

August 11, 2022

One-club men are becoming ever-rarer in football.

Few clubs in the modern era can boast a significant figure who has spent their entire career – much less the three that Celtic currently have on their books.

The first is current club captain Callum McGregor is one, a season-long loan to Notts County aside, with the skipper now only two years from a testimonial marking a decade since his debut vs KR Reykjavik. Another, James Forrest, has spent an unbroken 12 years in the club’s first team since his debut against Motherwell in 2010.

Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

The third is the current assistant manager John Kennedy, who besides a season-long loan to Norwich at the end of his playing career, has enjoyed an association with the club lasting over two decades at this point, making his debut in the 1999-2000 season.

His short lived playing career – which peaked with a man of the match performance in the Nou Camp against Barcelona – effectively ended in 2004, an Ionel Ganea tackle whilst on international duty for Scotland ruling him out for almost three years. After successive injuries stilted his comeback and ended his Norwich loan, Kennedy retired at 26, becoming a Celtic scout shortly thereafter.

The 38 year old has since worked in several roles under four different managers and taken up the mantle himself on an interim basis after the departure of Neil Lennon.

Amid links to the vacant FC Midtjylland managerial position – it’s a lengthy association that could soon be coming to an end, should Kennedy see the job as one worth a departure from Paradise.

Inarguably, Kennedy has played a key part in an unprecedented period of success for Celtic. The club’s loss would be another’s gain, but ultimately the 38 year old will have to make on a decision on his future at some point if he sees himself taking the next step into management – despite having time on his side, he is still younger than the likes of Hearts captain and former Celt Craig Gordon.

Midtjylland specifically are a famously modern club – embracing the use of data-led analysis before many in the European game, and have reaped the rewards of their approach with recent ventures into the Champions League. Whilst coaching and management are very different skills, Kennedy’s wealth of experience in various backroom roles would make him an attractive proposition for an ambitious club like the Danes, and the interest could well be mutual.

Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

He has spoken previously of his dream to manage Celtic, with the three month stint in 2021 unlikely to satiate that desire. Whether he’d ever be given it without taking a role elsewhere first is another story and without evidence of his management ability there would doubtlessly be some sceptics despite the context surrounding his interim spell.

There comes a time for every one-club man where they have to decide between their loyalty and their own ambitions. For Kennedy, that time could be approaching soon.

In other news: Cult hero given Lennoxtown tour this week; talks up Celtic coaching, Kewell impact.