Ben Kennedy on his development, the FA Cup and partnering Harry McKirdy
PUBLISHED: 15:59 03 November 2016 | UPDATED: 16:33 03 November 2016
Danny Loo Photography 2016
It is a rare thing for a Football League club to have the faith to start a game with two teenagers in attack.
Stevenage did just that last weekend with 19-year-olds Ben Kennedy and Harry McKirdy leading the line and guiding their side to a 2-1 League Two win at Mansfield.
For one, on loan Aston Villa loanee McKirdy, it was his first professional start and he grabbed the winner, for the other it was another match to add to over 50 games he has played for the Hertfordshire club across three seasons.
Northern Irishman Kennedy has been a fixture in Stevenage sides managed by Graham Westley, then Teddy Sheringham and now Darren Sarll.
Kennedy, the elder statesman of the two, he is two months older than McKirdy, was tasked with helping to guide his team-mate through his full debut.
He said: “All I say is just enjoy yourself.
“Believe or not Harry [McKirdy] is only two months younger than me, that was his first league start on Saturday and we played up front.”
Kennedy revealed he was guided through his fledgling period with the Lamex Stadium club by former team-mate Chris Beardsley.
“Sarlly said to me on the Friday who was the player that helped you the most? And I said ‘Beardo’
“I remember the first game I played when I started up front with Beardo [a 3-1 win at Hartlepool when he netted a brace].
“I think we were waiting for the train and he came to me and said ‘you’re rooming with me’ and I walked off starting to sweat wondering ‘what’s this man going to do to me’ and there’s me with a packet of sweets in the bag and Beardo with a foam roller under his arm being all professional.
“Beardo was brilliant for me, he taught me a lot of things, how to live my life, I give a lot of respect to Beardo.
“Sarlly said to me do the same with Harry and to be fair on Saturday we did well.”
Looking back on his time in the first team, Kennedy, who made his debut in January 2015, said: “I’ve come a long way, I wouldn’t change it for anything, I have enjoyed every minute of it and I just want to keep building on from it and learning.
“I have played 50-60 games, but I’m still only 19 so I’m still learning, people take me as an old player now, but I’m still only 19.
“I still get that buzz and nerves the night before the game.
“I always want to get that first touch and after that I relax.
“I do get nervous, I get excited the night before [a game] I lie in bed and think about tomorrow what if I did this? What if I did that?”
He’ll be doing the same this Friday night ahead of Stevenage’s trip to League One Port Vale in the FA Cup first round.
While the magic of the cup is there for many, for Kennedy every match has the same importance.
“For me it’s just another game,” he said.
“I don’t really look much into it, it’s just another game of football and another 90 minutes that you need to, and want to, win.
“Every game you’re just focussed on winning, whoever the opponent is whether it’s Chelsea or Port Vale it doesn’t matter.
“It’s always good to play against higher teams as it shows you where you are at, whether you can play in those leagues, but I’m sure every man in the squad will be alright on Saturday, we’ll do well.”