The forgotten Irish international had a day of glory long overdue. The Dubliner jabbed his shot past Spurs and USA goalkeeper Kasey Keller in the 66th minute to cancel out Teddy Sheringham’s opening goal. The fact that Kenna had been playing through pain would probably go unnoticed, but his goal for City gives him the spotlight he truly deserves.
The courageous Kenna has played for the last four weeks with an Achilles tendon injury when he should have been resting. But who wants to know about such heroics? His goal is bigger news, isn’t it? The gutsy defender disregarded the injury and played through the pain barrier for his team. Kenna has made his Birmingham manager, Steve Bruce, very proud as the Irish defender continues to play for the depleted Blues. The injury-plagued side has forced Bruce to play the injured Kenna and the Irishman has pulled through with flying colors; it’s no wonder he is acting captain at St. Andrews.
It’s good to see the not-so-famous players getting some recognition and Kenna’s first goal for Birmingham has brought some long overdue attention his way. It’s justice that the player should be applauded both for his bravery and for a career that supporters too often take for granted. There are hundreds of club and Irish players like Kenna who play top-level soccer and then their career is over without a mention. Indeed, the game is built on these types of professionals, who in turn set the stage for the superstars. Kenna is not of the same stature as the Roy Keanes and neither is he up there with the likes of Paul McGrath and Dennis Irwin. But what Kenna has done, and is still doing, is the everyday footballer’s story, and it needs to be identified every now and then. It keeps us reminded of the unsung heroes in the game, and it keeps the superstars aware of the laborers that keep them on their pedestals.
Kenna was born in Dublin Ireland on Aug. 27, 1970. He gained interest from many clubs after he established himself with Southampton in the early ’90s. Then in 1995, when he received FAI-Opel U23/Young Player of the Year he joined Blackburn Rovers in the run in to their historic premier title. It was no surprise when Kenna got the call for the wearing of the green and he went on to win 27 caps for the Republic of Ireland. He made his debut at Lansdowne Road in 1995 in a 1-0 victory over Portugal. He played in 10 World Cup qualifiers and nine European Championship qualifiers.
Interestingly enough, Terry Conroy and Matt Holland are also on 27 caps and could be very much described as unsung heroes in the Irish game.
Kenna became prone to injury and began to struggle for a place with Blackburn under Graeme Souness in the 2000-01 promotion campaign. Kenna’s footballing days were perhaps on the downside when he was loaned off to Tranmere Rovers, who were battling relegation in the First Division. He didn’t get off to a good start with Tranmere when beaten 2-1 at Gillingham in his debut. The downside of his career continued when in the early days of the 2001-02 season he was informed that he was free to leave the club. It seemed Kenna was approaching his final days when he joined Second Division Wigan Athletic, once again on loan.
The plucky 5-11 defender was now in Wigan’s shop window hoping to get a break after playing seven games and scoring one goal. Off Kenna went on loan again, this time to fellow First Division Birmingham City, and within six appearances he earned a free move to St. Andrews. He went on to play 24 games in his first season for the Blues, helping them to win promotion to the premiership.
His acting status as captain comes as no surprise at City because he is the most experienced player at the club. He has proved himself at top level, making 132 appearances for Southampton and another 193 for Blackburn Rovers. He was rated so highly that Rovers bought him for