With the worst of what has been an extremely long nine-month injury lay-off now behind Jason Kennedy, as he begins the process of stepping up his rehab programme, he admitted last week that he’d had to face some dark days as he battled to overcome a complicated pelvic injury.
And with a three-month spell in a wheelchair thrown in just to complicate matters even further, he also admitted that there had been occasions when he wondered if he’d ever put his football boots on again.
“When I was going through the process of people trying to work out what was wrong a lot of things did cross my mind,” he told us. “I did start thinking about whether or not I would be able to play football again, and that was tough.
“This is all I’ve ever known, so I didn’t know what I would do. I just had to get over that, remind myself to stay positive, and keep my mind focused. Hopefully the end goal isn’t far away now.”
With light now at the end of the tunnel, he explained what it was that had caused the initial problems.
“In basic terms, I needed a piece of bone taken from my hip to be grafted into my pubis,” he said. “That was then fixed in with metalwork to make it all stable again. It’s been really difficult going through it, not just for me, but for my wife and my family as well.
“My wife Tracey had to look after me and do everything for me for three months. That’s why my little boy is over the moon that I’m able to start running and doing things at the park with him again.
“It was a hard situation and I did have times when I was down, but little things really got me through. I was getting texts of loads of people and some of the lads from here came across to see me. Those little things kept me going through it and they were all really appreciated.
“Without my family and the rest of the lads the whole thing would have been so much harder because they all kept a smile on my face when I was down. The lads coming across to Middlesbrough, which is a two-hour trip just to see me, was a lot of effort for them. I thought that was fantastic.”
“Tracey has obviously been really important throughout the whole thing,” he reiterated. “As I said, she looked after me for three months, but I did try to be a good patient.
“I literally couldn’t do anything myself, I needed her help for it all, and I know it’s been hard for her and my little boy. My son would come and sit downstairs beside me bed, or he would jump in with me, and that in itself was amazing.
“He just seemed to know he needed to be there for me. It’s the little things, which are actually the big things, which help to get you through.”
As for being confined to a wheelchair, he said: “Spending that amount of time in a wheelchair has really made me appreciate what I actually can do now.
“Not being able to look after yourself, shower properly, or even make a cup of tea, was really difficult. It definitely puts everything into perspective.”
Another big help were the messages of support from fans, via social media and through club channels, which kept spirits up through some of those darker times.
“Before I had the operation a lot of fans were asking me what was wrong and when I would be back,” he told us. “Deep down I knew the answers, but I couldn’t really explain because it hadn’t been made official.
“Tracey has kept everyone up to date on Twitter, which I didn’t really want to do, so she was brilliant. I didn’t do it because I didn’t want people to keep feeling sorry for me, I just wanted to focus on getting my head right and progressing.
“I have to say that Neil Dalton [Dolly] has also been brilliant. He’s looked after me all summer and he’s been texting me and keeping me up to date. He isn’t pushing me, he wants me to do everything in my own time and to make sure I do everything right. You can’t ask for much more than that.”
As for what’s next?
“January is what I’m aiming for and it’s good to have that target to work towards,” he confirmed. “All the hard work will be worth it if I’m out on the pitch in January scoring those tap-ins!
“The gaffer [John Sheridan] has been brilliant. He pulled me after the meeting we had on the first day and he just wants me to focus on coming back as strong as I can.
“He also said he’d admired me as a player when I’ve played against his teams, so I want to come back fit for him. He’s given me a boost because you never know with new managers, they could come in and not want you, but he’s given me that focus and I want to get back and be ready to play for him.
“I can’t wait to be back out on the pitch in front of the fans - especially if I can score some goals as well!”
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