Young Celt Kerr McInroy has been speaking to The Celtic View this week on his return from injury and the part Neil Lennon has played in his recovery.
There may be a degree of genuine empathy on the part of Neil Lennon, coupled with evidenced sympathy the Celtic manager has for the young midfielder’s injury plight.
The 18 year old had been tearing up trees at reserve level, even catching the eye of manager Neil Lennon, before suffering his first-ever injury during a 3-1 Reserve League win over Motherwell last May and it was a rather unfortunate one to get.
— Celtic Football Club (@CelticFC) March 11, 2020
A torn anterior cruciate ligament that required surgery and a lengthy recuperation period, ruled the youngster out of action for close on 10 months.
Now back in action McInroy made his comeback as the young Celts defeated Hibs 4-1 to reach the Reserve Cup Final. He then made the starting eleven for the first time since getting the medical all clear, in a 3-0 Glasgow Cup win over Queens Park. The youngster even got an assist on his first game back. Something he has in common with his gaffer.
Neil Lennon made his first team debut for Manchester City on 30 April 1988 but following the appointment of Howard Kendall in 1989 the now Celtic manager was deemed surplus to requirements.
Lower league Crewe Alexandra had a reputation for picking up discarded young talent from the bigger clubs in their catchment area and readying them for first team football. Dario Gradi as a manager had moulded a plethora of these top league rejects into top quality young footballers, with the likes of Danny Murphy Seth Johnson and Dean Ashton all later coming through the ranks at Gresty Road. Gradi knew a footballer when he saw one, and he saw just that in Neil Lennon.
It was Gradi who gave Lennon a third chance in the lower divisions having walked out on Motherwell as a youngster and being released by Kendall at Manchester City. That season Neil Lennon repaid the faith shown in him when was voted Crewe’s Player of the year.
That award was all the more remarkable when you consider Lennon had been feeling the effects of worrying back pain. It was only in the close season, after a visit to Belfast’s Musgrave hospital, when Lennon realised the extent of his injury – a stress fracture in his lumbar spine.
The diagnosis meant immediate surgery and the news, even if the operation proved to be a success it would be a long road to recovery. The fracture repair could well be a success but there would be no guarantee on a return to his profession.
Neil Lennon spent his 20th birthday in hospital. A year and a half of hard work, miserable pain and sacrifice followed before Lennon could return to kicking a football. Professional footballing purgatory.
After 18 months of torture Lennon returned on 24 October 1992. He set up a goal and Crewe Alexandra and Lennon reached the third division playoff against York City. Crewe lost the game but Neil Lennon had won his battle. The following season Crewe and Lennon won promotion.
When Lennon returned he may have looked awkward as he manoeuvred around the field, the injury had left him with an artificially straightened trunk, the quality however remained and all that hard work paid off as Lennon went on to have the finest of careers in the game.
All of this may explain why Neil Lennon has paid such close attention to young Kerr McInroy, himself a young midfielder who had just starting to shine when struck down by an injury and a long period of recovery. Perhaps he sees a little of himself in a player The Celtic View describe as a ‘combative central midfielder.’ Much like his gaffer then.
Lennon has even had McInroy training with the first-team on a handful of occasions since his return and he had this to say to the Celtic View this week on his manager.
“The gaffer wasn’t long in the door when I first got injured, but he’s been really good with me.
“He’s kept in touch with me regularly, asking how I’ve been getting on, and since I’ve been back, I’ve trained a couple of times with the first-team. He’s been brilliant with me, really encouraging as well.
“From here I just want to get as many minutes under my belt as I can. If I can make some more steps up to the first-team, that’d be even better.”
Kerr McInroy may well be one to keep an eye on. It’s clear the manager is paying close attention.
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