LIFE-LONG Derry City supporter, Mikhail Kennedy insists the lure of playing for his hometown club and the opportunity to help the ‘Candy Stripes’ challenge for the Airtricity Premier Division title was too good to turn down.
The 20 year-old Charlton Athletic striker revealed he turned down several offers from clubs in Ireland once he heard Derry City were interested in snapping him up on loan.
Kennedy penned a five month loan deal on Wednesday afternoon and reckons the move is a ‘brilliant opportunity’ for him to develop his promising career.
He claims it’s a ‘dream come true’ to represent the Candy Stripes and reckons he will thrive on the pressure of playing in front of his family and friends at Maginn Park this season.
It’s understood Sligo Rovers were one of those clubs interested in luring Kennedy on a short term loan deal, however, there was only one destination on the mind of the Shantallow native who’s excited about linking up with N. Ireland Under-21 international, Conor McDermott and the other familiar faces at the Brandywell club.
“It’s a brilliant opportunity for me,” said Kennedy. “I could have stayed and played under-23 football and maybe waited for an injury at Charlton. But when I spoke to the manager about it, he said, ‘listen this is the opportunity you need’.
“He said he would prefer I came here and played for a team which would be playing Europa League this year and challenge for the league. So it’s a real opportunity.
“One of the main reasons which persuaded me to come here, and I had other offers from clubs in Ireland, was that I’m coming into a settled squad with lads that I know and played with before.
“You look at (Ronan) Curtis, Aaron (McEneff) and all the young lads, they wouldn’t look out of place in any English team. There’s a real team spirit here and watching them last year I could see that. So my mind was made up once I heard Derry were in for me.”
The signing will be a major boost to City boss Shiels, who had earlier this week played down speculation linking Kennedy with a move to the Brandywell club in the knowledge that other clubs were circulating in the hope of snapping him up from under the noses of his hometown club.
There’s a lot of benefits but there’s a lot of pressures as well. I’ve supported Derry my whole life and, in a way it’s a dream come true to play for them.Mikhail Kennedy
The N. Ireland U23 international, who netted twice in the Addicks’ 5-2 win over Middlesbrough in the Premier League Cup on Monday afternoon, reckons a return to Derry is an exciting prospect as they bid to challenge for the Premier Division title and in the Europa League this season.
And while there’s the obvious benefits of returning to his family home, the former St Columb’s College student is fully aware that playing for your hometown club doesn’t come without its pressure.
“A lot of people will say, ‘he’s come back to Derry, he’s homesick and it’s a step backwards’. But I sat down with my agent and we spoke about it and I could have went to the Conference to maybe a midtable team and in a month and a half time, if they’re safe, you’ve playing for nothing. It would be long ball football and it’s not going to benefit me,
“Whereas I could come here to a team which is on the up, going to be challenging for the league this year, the Europa League with youngsters who play football - it’s a no brainer!
“There’s a lot of benefits but there’s a lot of pressures as well. I’ve supported Derry my whole life and, in a way it’s a dream come true to play for them.
“But with that comes a lot of pressure because I have a lot of family and friends who are massive Derry fans. I could have went down south and I wouldn’t have had that pressure. But I will enjoy it and thrive off it. That’s what I want to do I want to make them proud as well. So it’s a big opportunity.”
Kennedy has been in scintillating form for the Addicks’ U23s of late with seven goals in the last three games, however, he admits it’s been a disappointing season so far given his lack of first team opportunities. And he’s hoping his loan deal with the Candy Stripes will improve his chances of breaking into Karl Robinson’s side next season.
“It’s been a disappointing season. I’ve been gutted I haven’t had a chance with the first team but to be fair to the manager, he’s come in and been brilliant with me. He’s really taken an interest and told me I’m not that far away.
At the minute he just wants people with experience.
“I could have cried about it, I could have sulked and threw the toys out of the pram but decided I would work hard and at the minute I’m the top goalscorer in the whole club. So I’m coming here in good form and I hope to carry that on.
“The manager said I will be playing up until the start of June and then he wants me to take a couple of weeks off because they really want to get a good look at me next season - he told me ‘it could be your year’. It was good to hear that I’m still part of his plans. I just need this couple of months experience playing with experienced men and against experience men. Hopefully I will be coming back a different man.
“I have to (hit the ground running) I’ve no excuses. It’s not like I’m not fit or just getting match fitness as I’ve been playing all season. I’ve been playing every week. “Hopefully I can stay away from injuries and get amongst the goals again.”