Hartlepool United midfielder Jason Kennedy celebrates permanent deal with two goals
Jason Kennedy marked his permanent deal at Hartlepool United with a headed brace in Saturday’s 4-2 win over Sheffield United under-23s.
The 32-year-old midfielder has featured in all six of Pools’ pre-season friendlies so far but only signed a deal at the club on Thursday following a lengthy trial.
Kennedy has been one of the side’s standout players so far with three goals to his name and a number of impressive performances that were rewarded with a contract at the Super 6 Stadium.
Following the expiration of his contract at Carlisle United, it was the first time in his long professional career that Kennedy had to offer himself to clubs as a trialist. But it seems to be one that has worked out well for both the player and club so far.
In Kennedy, Pools have another player in the hugely competitive central midfield position but one who has almost 500 matches worth of professional experience across the Football League and Scottish League.
As already seen in pre-season, the midfielder also has a keen eye for goal, netting 11 times in 32 matches in his last regular season at Carlisle before seeing his game time severely limited in the two seasons since due to a serious back injury.
That injury left Kennedy wheelchair bound and threatened to bring his career to an early end. But a lot of hard-work and determination literally got Kennedy back on his feet and ready to play again.
And with Pools, the veteran midfielder has a great chance to complete his impressive recovery tale in what will be his debut season in non-league football.
“I think you don’t realise as a player what you’ve got until it’s taken away from you,” Kennedy said.
“So to work so hard to get back to where I am, I just wanted to start on a level playing field with a pre-season under my belt. You enjoy every moment that you get on the pitch and in training.
“Each day you’ve got to prove yourself, I think I did quite well in the games and it’s just like a stepping stone really where I can push on and do better now. I feel like I can express myself really and do more to help the team.”
And after agreeing a deal on Thursday, Kennedy went on to score two fine headers in Saturday’s friendly.
The first was a reactive flick at the back post which the match officials deemed to have crossed the line. The second rounded off a clinical attacking move as Kennedy glanced Kenton Richardson’s cross into the left side of the goal to take his tally to three in pre-season.
The midfielder was eager to impress while on trial and only Luke Molyneux and Liam Noble (both four) have netted more times than the former Carlisle and Middlesbrough man this month.
His performances mean he looks set to maintain a position for the National League season opener at home to Sutton United on August 3.
“(Being on trial) is not a situation I’ve ever been in before so I knew I had to go in and impress by showing the manager and staff what I can do,” Kennedy told the club website.
“I’m glad to have earned the contract and show that I’m a player that can be involved in their team.”
Signing a 32-year-old who has suffered through major injury problems over the past couple of seasons could be seen as a risk for some. But Kennedy insists he is fit and has a point to prove while also being grateful just to be back out playing.
“It’s amazing just to be out there on the pitch now after what I’ve been through,” he added.
“You know when you’re getting old as well, you haven’t got much time to enjoy it and I feel as though I’ve got lots more to give.
“I’m 32 now but I’ve never really had any pace to lose so as long as I can get about the pitch I’ll be fine! I want to play for a lot longer.”
Manager Craig Hignett was always keen on signing Kennedy though waited until just before the penultimate pre-season match despite the player being on trial at the club since June.
“After the past couple of season’s he’s had, I told Jay that I wanted to see four or five games from him first,” said the Pools boss.
“But he’s been excellent in pre-season and that’s just what he does. He keeps the game simple, he’s economical with the ball and really nice and tidy.
“He gets in the box and he’s very hard to pick up when he does that and you could see that on Saturday. They were two good finishes and I’m pleased for him because he’s another one who had a really tough season last season and he’s worked really hard to get fit and get back playing to such a good standard.
“He’s an experienced pro and he’s shown to everyone what he’s got to offer in training and during matches so it’s great to have him on board and I can see him popping up with some crucial goals for us this season.”