When Jason Kennedy came off the bench for the final 10 minutes of United’s 3-3 draw with Wycombe last October he had no idea he was about to make his last appearance of the season of what had already been a frustrating campaign for the popular midfielder.
Having put up with what he described as a feeling in the pelvic area that ‘just wasn’t right’ since his return for pre-season that summer, he battled his way through 11 appearances, bagging a trademark goal against Morecambe into the bargain, before finally being sidelined with an injury that will have ruled him out for just over a year by the time he makes his scheduled return in January.
A number of scans, examinations and checks followed until a second operation in January, followed by a prolonged period of recuperation (which included three months in a wheelchair), led to a thumbs up from the specialist last week which has seen the 31-year old take his first big steps along the road to full recovery.
“I’ve seen the specialist again and the feedback from him was very good,” he explained. “He’s happy with how everything has gone, and the good thing is that I can now move onto the next stage of my rehab and hopefully get some running into me.
“I know it sounds daft, but I’m excited to be able to run again. I can’t wait for it. I obviously wish I was out there with the lads already, but to be able to run again means there’s light at the end of the tunnel.
“I don’t think many footballers will ever talk about being excited about running but after being in a wheelchair for three months, and watching my body deteriorate, it’s something I’m really looking forward to being able to do.”
The period since stepping out of the wheelchair has been filled with gym work, and trips to the pool, in preparation for his return to see the medical consultant for his thoughts on the progress being made.
“I’ve worked hard on the bike and on my core work, as well as going swimming and things like that,” he told us. “Like I say, to be able to progress to running is something I can’t wait for.
“When I went down to see the specialist I was a bit nervous because you obviously want good news. I had an x-ray, then he showed me the results on the computer, even though he did drag it out a bit!
“Thankfully it was the news I wanted to hear in the end, and I haven’t taken the smile off my face since he told me!”
Rewind twelve months and there was silence on the training pitch at Brunton Park as Kennedy limped out of a session, clearly distressed, which effectively ruled him out for the first month of the season.
“I remember pulling up in a session during pre-season last year and I knew then something wasn’t right,” he said. “I’d come back from the summer break feeling fine, but from very early on I was struggling in my head in terms of how I was going to get through the next day of training. It was just a horrible situation.
“Eventually we got the diagnosis for what was going on and we were able to deal with it. I’m feeling better than ever now and I’m looking forward to getting back out there with the lads.
“Even though I played a few times and scored a couple of goals at the start of last season I just knew something didn’t feel the way it was supposed to. Throughout my career I haven’t really been injured and I was always able to work through any little niggles I picked up and just get through it.
“This was different. It wouldn’t ease off and it was impossible to play through it. People who saw me walking off the training pitch knew I was upset, and that was because I knew I wasn’t going to be able to shake it off. I just knew I was in a completely different situation.”
From there came a series of visits to doctors, as they looked to get to the bottom of the issue, before a successful diagnosis led to an operation and a clear way forward.
“I think I saw four or five top specialists in London before they actually worked out what the issue was,” he commented. “They couldn’t quite put their finger on what the problem was. One would give an opinion, with a plan of what we needed to do, and another would think it was something different.
“The last surgeon I saw was the one who operated on me and his solution is the on that's working, so I’m very pleased about that.”
In the second part of the interview, on the official website tomorrow morning, Jason talks about the mental challenges he’s faced through this prolonged spell on the sidelines.
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