There were three weeks last month when John Kennedy couldn’t be sure he would have a third opportunity to be on a coaching team that took Celtic into the Champions League.
The 32-year-old was yesterday placed front and centre by the club – and by his new superior, Brendan Rodgers, you would have to assume – to discuss the prospects of reaching the Champions League promised land after the failures to arrive there during Ronny Deila’s two years in charge. Kennedy has admitted he played a part in the team falling short in those two qualifying campaigns, but the new Celtic manager has not treated him as a problematic inheritance but a crucial link man.
Kennedy’s first meeting with Rodgers came within a week of the late May appointment of the former Liverpool manager. It quickly became apparent that Kennedy’s desire to remain at the only club he has known was shared by the new Celtic manager. The pair shared more common ground, too, both having been forced into coaching in their 20s after injury wrecked their playing careers.
“When Ronny and John [Collins] came in, I was with the reserves and stepped up and had a great two years,” he said. “It could have been better in certain aspects, but the experience and getting to work with these guys was terrific.
“When the manager’s time was up, I spoke to the club and they said there were no decisions made. They had to get a manager in and it was a case of taking it from there. A manager could have brought his own people in and I could have moved on. But Brendan – a big name in the game – came in and I spoke to him just after I was appointed and we spoke about his views and he then asked me to be part of his coaching team.
“Chris Davies has come in and it’s an honour to work with the two of them. It’s an opportunity for me to learn and having been here a long time I hopefully can add something to them.”
Kennedy’s first face-to-face contact with Rodgers was effectively a job interview that didn’t feel much like one, it would appear. “I didn’t speak to him the day he was in but we spoke on the phone a couple of days afterwards. I met up with him about six days after his unveiling. We met for a few hours and had a great chat. He’s good company, he’s a good people person and he’s good to talk to. He’s intelligent too.
“I suppose you could say it was like a job interview but he’s a very calming person. He’s down on your level. He’s not got an ego or sits there like the boss man. He’s very likeable and everyone has taken to him. You can feel the excitement around the place and everyone is looking forward to getting started in pre-season.
“We had a good chat about our careers. Brendan got injured early and went into coaching. He’s been doing it for 20 years now and is working for top clubs. For everyone here now, it’s good that someone of his calibre is coming in to share his knowledge and we need to embrace him being here. It was a very social chat when we met. It wasn’t formal. He just asked for my opinion on players and Scottish football. He also gave me his vision on how he sees things moving forward and how he wants the team to play. He spoke about standards and he is very precise.”
Deila’s departure never felt like it might be the point for Kennedy to spread his wings. “I think you look at it and if your face doesn’t fit then it’s time to move on,” the Scotland international said. “When you step up to first-team level, job security becomes more of an issue than at youth level. But it’s part of the thrill. At the top you’re there to be shot at, and at some point that will happen. But I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to stay here and work with a top manager.”