In a week where the media have been frantically fuelling rumours of Ange Postecoglou’s imminent departure to Leeds, we were all dealt a curve ball this afternoon as John Kennedy stepped out on media duty at Lennoxtown.
The manager’s absence will have immediately raised eyebrows amongst the waiting media but his assistant manager was quick to take the sting out of any further speculation.
“We’ve just tied him to the chair upstairs and we have a couple of security guys at his door!”
Kennedy was – as he always is – calm and measured with his responses ahead of the Scottish Cup tie with St Mirren, and you can see why Ange puts such trust in him.
Not yet 40 years of age he has a vast amount of coaching experience for someone so young and it’s amazing to think he’s now been a key member of Celtic’s coaching team for almost ten years.
Initially as part of Ronny Deila’s staff from the 2014/15 season, Kennedy has since gone on to work with Brendan Rodgers, Neil Lennon and now Ange Postecoglou.
Anyone who questions his credentials as a highly capable coach haven’t been watching closely enough.
A HIGHLY VALUED COG IN THE ANGE MACHINE
John Kennedy of course was once Celtic manager in his own right – albeit on an interim basis – during the dying embers of the miserable 2020/21 season.
It’s not a time any of us will look back fondly on, but Kennedy himself will have been strengthened by the experience.
Following last season’s title success, he’s now firmly established himself as a key component of Ange Postecoglou’s team, and alongside Harry Kewell and Gavin Strachan is responsible for the day to day training programme at Lennoxtown.
Though he seems well settled in his role under the Australian, Kennedy emerged as a shock contender for the Head Coach’s job at Danish side FC Midtjylland at the beginning of this season.
Speaking at the time Ange was quick to credit the suitability of Kennedy for such a role, whilst reiterating his ongoing importance to Celtic
“It wouldn’t surprise me if there’s interest in him. He’s a Celtic man through and through but having had an unfortunate end to his playing career he’s made a concerted effort to get as many skills and learning experiences as possible.
Should he want to move to the next phase of being a manager – and you’d have to ask him that – then he’d be an outstanding candidate.
“But he’s a really important part of our set up here. He leads many of the footballing areas for me and he’s done a fantastic job in my time here.”
ANGE TO LEEDS?
The possibility of Ange Postecoglou joining Leeds was always going to be raised at today’s press conference and perhaps it was a smart move by the manager to side step this one and ensure full focus remains on his side’s Scottish Cup tie.
True to form the suggestion was put to Kennedy just three questions in.
His response was textbook.
“There’s always speculation, and credit to the manager in terms of the job he’s done here.
It’s a bit like players. When they come in and do well they get linked to other clubs. And I think the manger has shown his abilities as a manager.
I think when you do that and you have success with that you attract attention, and that’s what’s happened.
But ultimately it’s a lot of speculation, there’s a lot of noise, but I know first-hand the way he works.
He’s really focused on his job here, he loves being here. He’s in the middle of building something very special.
So, I think his mind’s firmly focussed on being at Celtic and doing the best he can here.”
You never know in football and things can change very quickly but a lot of confidence can be taken from Kennedy’s response.
Ange is “building something very special” here.
CELTIC v ST MIRREN
Turning attentions to the game itself, Kennedy was quick to praise the work that Stevie Robinson has been doing with his St Mirren side this year.
The Paisley side are of course the only team to have inflicted defeat on Celtic domestically this season and the players know all too well the threat they can possess.
In a cup tie anything can happen and the most important thing is to be in the hat when the draw for the quarter finals is made.
“We stick to process. We know how we want to play. We’ll not change that.
Our approach will be the same as it always is.
The players have been excellent (this week). They’ve responded really well to all the work we’ve given them, and they’re in good shape at the moment.”
As expected John Kennedy wouldn’t be drawn on any talk of a treble but as the only trophy to have evaded Ange last season there’s no doubt the group will be extremely focussed for this one.
It’s another night under the lights at Celtic Park, and another one to look forward to.