After making his debut for Collieries in August 2014, Jake Kenny immediately set about making the right back position his own following James Halpin’s decision to move into further education in the United States. The trip to Whitley Bay that August will be remembered by those who made the journey as the start of the new adventure under Michael Clegg and Kenny has been an ever present since. The 21 year old has racked up 131 appearances and has set his sights on breaking the 150 barrier before Christmas.
Despite only being young, Kenny has already been at a number of clubs in his quest to gain regular first team football, which is testament to his tenacious attitude which is evident both on and off the field. He signed for FC Halifax Town and at the time it was a huge opportunity for a schoolboy from Swinton. “The chance to sign for FC Halifax Town came through my high school. Myself and Josh Messer signed up for some trials and we both ended up signing for the youth team at The Shay. We also got the chance to make a few first team appearances alongside the likes of Lee Gregory, Liam Hogan and Dan Gardner who all left the club eventually to play in the Football League. It was really good to be around players of that standard at such a young age.”
“The club got promoted at the end of that season and nothing further came of it for either of us. Training at Halifax most days of the week was really enjoyable and I learnt lots from everybody there.”
Having been on the books of Halifax, who were surging back up the leagues following their reformation, it didn’t take long for Kenny and Messer to get signed up by their local side Salford City. “I knew a couple of the lads and the manager at Salford City so I went down there and ended up signing for them,” he explained.
“Unfortunately I didn’t get the opportunity to play many games at Moor Lane and they asked if I wanted to go on loan to St Helens Town. I was looking forward to heading there as I wanted to start playing regularly. However it didn’t happen there either so I left and had a fresh start with Hindsford in the Manchester League.”
“I really enjoyed my time at Hindsford because it was a team full of good, local lads who all wanted to win the league.”
Hindsford have a track record of nurturing talent in recent seasons with Kenny, Messer, Grimshaw and Mark Battersby having all played for The Tonics as well as Mike Phenix who went on to sign a professional contract with Barnsley.
With Michael Clegg on the verge of joining Collieries in the summer of 2014, he saw Kenny put in a solid performance in the Bolton Hospital Cup Final and immediately set about getting him down to pre-season training. In a sense, the defender bucked the trend being one of the only new faces at the club who hadn’t worked under the current management team before.
“I found exactly the same mentality here that I enjoyed so much at Hinsford in the sense that it was a team full of local lads and they had clear targets and ambitions. The transition was nice and it helped me to settle pretty quickly. We won the league title and Bolton Hospital Cup so we couldn’t have asked for a better season.”
During his time at Colls, Kenny has played a pivotal role in the successes under the current regime and this has been helped by the fact he has only suffered one major injury which came in a late 4-3 victory away at Squires Gate in August 2015. He ended up missing a couple of months of the campaign and gave Clegg a bit of a headache when selecting his starting eleven.
“The injury at Squires Gate was a strange one. I twisted my ankle badly and obviously put ice on it overnight. I didn’t think it was going to be too bad but I went to hospital for an x-ray in the morning and they said that I had broken a bone at the back of my ankle.”
“It was put in a cast and I was obviously out of action for quite a few weeks, which was tough for me as I hadn’t suffered a major injury during my time at Colls. It was only when I went back for a second time that they told me the break had happened well before the match at Squires Gate and was from a previous occasion which was a bit of a strange situation to be in.”
“Getting back into the team at Colls, no matter who you are, is always tough because of the strength in depth that we have. But the amount of games that we play each season means you always get a chance to get back in and prove yourself which is good.”
A big draw to playing for Colls is the support that the players get from the fans, according to Kenny. He spoke about how much he enjoyed trips to Shildon and Cleethorpes and hopes that there’ll be more occasions like that this coming season as the likes of Scarborough and Kendal are punched into the GPS.
“The fans at Colls are brilliant, especially on the big away days with the coach trips,” he said.
“I get on with all the fans and I think as a player in non-league you have a responsibility to interact with those who turn out and spend their spare time watching you. It’s always a great feeling when you win and you can go into the clubhouse and have a chat and a drink with all the fans. At the same time, it’s also nice when we lose and we know that they’ll still get behind us.”
Football at this level is a big commitment, with limited pay and often having to pay for travel expenses out of your own pocket. It’s arguably even tougher for Kenny who has been a student throughout his time at Collieries.
“I go to Edge Hill University full time and study Physical Education and School Sport. I’ve been quite lucky with being able to juggle studying and playing for Colls. It’s difficult at times, but I always manage to find a way of getting to games and training with lifts from others so I’ve only missed a handful of sessions during my time here.”
“It’s time consuming and takes a lot out of you but I love it here at Colls and I’m really looking forward to another season here, seeing how far we can push the bigger sides. That’s what we do best.”