INTERVIEW: The fans at Carlisle are amazing

Midfielder Jason Kennedy burst onto the Carlisle United scene when he joined the club, who were fighting a relegation battle at the time, on a short-term loan from Bradford in March 2015.

He quickly became a favourite with the fans as he contributed to an upturn in fortunes which saw any lingering fears of being dragged into the bottom two disappear, and he was rewarded for his no-nonsense performances with a two-year deal at the end of that season.

With a knack of being in the right place at the right time, he bagged 19 goals in his 109 appearances for the Blues and left last week knowing that he will always be made to feel welcome at the place which became his home through four years of highs and lows. 

“It was strange driving away from Brunton Park,” he admitted. “It was disappointing because I’ve loved being at Carlisle and I’ve had an amazing four-and-a-half years there. I was sad to leave, but that’s football, and you’ve just got to pick yourself up and go again.

“It’s a frustrating way to end after a frustrating period with injury. When I got injured I think we were close to the top of the league and flying, and I’d won the player of the month award just before it happened as well, so I was on a real high.

"With the injury it was a rollercoaster of a period because I went through periods where I thought I wouldn’t play football again, and it was a difficult situation.

“Although it didn't happen as much as I’d have liked, to be able to get back on the pitch in the second half of this season and still be able to play football was amazing."

On the six appearances he made this season, he said: “When you’re coming on and playing in positions that you aren’t used to playing in, that made it more difficult.

"I would have loved the opportunity to play in my normal position to show what I could do and maybe play a few more minutes. However, I totally understand it’s hard for a new manager who comes in to a club to then play a player he doesn't know, and who has hardly played all season, and particularly when you’re trying to get into the play-offs."

Looking back at the relationship he built up with the Blue Army, he commented: “The fans at Carlisle are amazing and they’ve always treated me so well.

"It’s always amazing when the fans take to you, and I don’t think I read a bad word about me when I left, which was nice. I think as long as you give 100% to the club and the team, the fans will always do that.

“When I first arrived I knew I was coming into a difficult situation where the team weren’t doing too great, but it was an opportunity for me to help the club and also play football. During that time I just gave my all, and it worked out well in the end because we stayed up.

"It’s not always easy when you come into a team that’s struggling, but I feel like we’ve completely turned that around."

“I leave with so many great memories from my time at the club." he said. "The likes of the Liverpool and Everton cup games, and the play-off games, all of it has been amazing. I don’t think I would change any of it, apart from my injury!

“I got 11 goals in that play-off season and I think that was probably the best spell of my career in terms of goals scored. We had a really good season on a team level, and I was feeling great on a personal level as well.

"I was going onto the pitch in every game thinking I would score, and it happened more often than not. I had that momentum and everything felt great, so it was definitely one of the best spells of my career."

“I think my favourite goal for the club has to be the overhead kick at Morecambe," he said. "To be honest I don’t think any of the others even come close, because they were all from about two yards out!

"I scored quite a nice one against Bristol Rovers at home where I just lifted it over the keeper as well. Other than that, I don’t think there are any other contenders!"

Having mentioned the injury which, at one point, left him confined to a wheelchair, he admitted that it was an experience which was both new and frightening as he faced the prospect of a very long lay-off.

“Before I got the big injury, I hadn’t ever been injured for any length of time in my whole career," he explained. "I’d never really missed out on games, I just used to get through it.

"With that injury, it was like I got injured everywhere at once. I have to thank Dolly and Paddy [Maher] who helped me massively when it came to getting me back out there. The lads were great as well, but Dolly and Paddy listened to me and allowed me to do what I needed to do to get me back in a position where I could play.

“I’ve trained since November and I’m back and feeling fit, so I’m looking forward to getting a pre-season under my belt which will get me back on a level playing field with my team mates.

"When I look back, I was in a wheelchair for three months, and when you’re sat there you just think it’s all over. Deep down I always had that hope that I'd get fully fit again, which I never lost sight of. I knew if I could train again then I would play football again.

“It was a tough situation but it’s something which has made me very mentally strong, and I’m just looking forward to enjoying playing again. I put in a lot of hard work and to now be in a position where I can play again has made it all worthwhile.

"I remember coming back last pre-season where all the lads were doing fitness tests and things like that, which no one ever enjoys, but I was just wishing I was involved. All I was able to do was run around the edge of the pitch by myself for about three months. It does get very lonely, but I think the lads dragged me through and kept me going, because I knew there was an end goal."

“The highlight of it all recently was when I came on at Morecambe at the start of this year," he added. "To eventually get out there after everything I’d gone though was amazing.

"If I was going to pick any away game where it could have happened it would have been Morecambe, because we always take such a great following there. That reception I got from them will stick with me forever.

“I do feel like I’ve got something to prove now. I want to be successful, I would have loved an opportunity to prove myself at Carlisle, but wherever I go I’ll try and do that. I’ve been speaking to my agent about bits and pieces but it’s still quite early in terms of getting anything sorted yet."

“It isn’t often that any player builds the sort of relationship I’ve had with the Carlisle fans and I’ll always be grateful for that," he concluded. "At this level players seem to come and go, but for four-and-a-half years they’ve been amazing, and I can’t thank them enough for how they’ve been with me and my family.

“They’ve always wanted me to do well and play, and you always want the fans to put you in their team. The ‘Here’s to you Jason Kennedy’ song did start at Bradford, but nowhere near as much as I’ve had it sang at me while I’ve been at Carlisle!

"That song will stick with me and, whenever I’ve heard it, it’s always been brilliant.”

Read Time: 7 mins