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Total wipe out or a car crash- John Kennedy opens up on the horror knee injury that ended his playing dreams

Almost 20 years on from the night that his playing career was effectively ended John Kennedy has been reflecting on the impact of Ioan Ganea’s brutal assault on his knee.

A week earlier he was striding off the pitch at the Nou Camp having kept a clean sheet in a fabled Celtic victory that had taken Martin O’Neill’s side into the last eight of the UEFA Cup.

With the Seville side about to break up Kennedy and David Marshall were a glimpse towards the future, on the back of the draw with Barcelona they both starred in a win at Ibrox to set up the Whitewash that Chris Sutton sealed in style.

A friendly at home to Romania should have been a gentle introduction to full internationals after coming through every level with the Scotland youth sides.

Twenty minutes into the match, which had been low-key throughout Kennedy was the victim of a sickening assault by the then Wolves striker. The evening of his international debut ended in the Victoria Infirmary with his career in doubt at the age of 20.

It was a tough one. I still remember it clearly in terms of the game itself. You almost go into a state of shock when you get such a bad injury.

I thought my leg was broken so I said to the physio that my shin had snapped and they told me to sit down and the stretcher came.

I went to the hospital. They were concerned about my knee ligaments and everything else but they couldn’t do anything until I got scanned.

You’re sitting literally in the hands of the doctors Roddy MacDonald, who was here at the time, we visited the hospital and got some scans. The doctor in Glasgow at the time, his words were basically ‘I’ve never seen anything like this. It was such a horrific injury.

Basically everything in my knee had been obliterated and snapped to pieces so when I took the step on the pitch, it then transpired that there was nothing holding my knee together so it dislocated at that point.

He advised at the time that I was probably best going to America or somewhere that’s more used to bigger injuries so we did that and the club were terrific.

The first time I was in America I spent six weeks out there and the doctor was an unbelievable guy and he said to me ‘you only really see this injury in two cases – in the NFL when there’s a total wipe out and in a car crash.

He never gave me a clear timeline of when I would play again but he gave me a chance. The most difficult part was up to that point, it was unknown and that whole time all you can thinking about is ‘I’m done, I’ll never play for Celtic again.

As soon I was given a bit of hope, it set me back on track but there was a month where my head was scrambled and it was really unclear what I was going to do.

Something just clicked in me. As long as I had a bit of hope then I’ll tackle it head on and that’s what we did.

It was three years between I was playing games and I had several setbacks along the way but we eventually got there and my whole drive was to walk back out at Celtic Park.

There were a variety of set-backs for Kennedy as he attempted to resume his playing career, thanks largely to the surgery undertaken by Dr Richard Steadman in Colorado.

After the title winning appearance at Kilmarnock Kennedy played 14 matches the following season but as the fans celebrated a late winner from Massimo Donati Kennedy was back in hospital having another knee injury assessed.

Norwich City on loan offered regular matches in the 2008/09 season but after 16 appearances in the Championship another knee injury was one too many as he was forced to admit defeat to Ganea’s assault.

Now with a key role in five trebles Kennedy is a key part of Celtic’s management team but there could have been an equally successful playing career had it not been for a pointless Scotland friendly.

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