DEREK Kennedy admits ending his four-and-a-half year stint at Neilston Juniors was a difficult decision to come to, but the striker says he had to put his family before football.
Time at home is all-important to Derek right now after his wife Jill gave birth to their son Teddy 13 weeks ago.
No one knows how precious time with a new baby can be more than Derek.
His world was turned upside down days before Christmas in 2012, when his first son Jack died after contracting a deadly virus, just before his sixth birthday, which was on Christmas Day.
Jack went to bed with a slight temperature, but there was nothing to suggest he was seriously ill. After waking up in the morning and telling his dad he was tired, Jack went back to sleep for the last time.
Barely an hour later, Derek found Jack unconscious and not breathing in his room.
Jack was treated at Paisley’s RAH where doctors got his heart started again. He was to be transferred to Yorkhill Children’s Hospital, but there were no beds available. Instead he was taken to Edinburgh, but there was no room in the ambulance for devastated parents Derek and Jack’s mum Arlene Clark.
Ninety minutes later Jack and his parents finally arrived at the hospital where he was taken into the intensive care unit. Jack passed away hours later.
After experiencing every parents’ worst nightmare, Derek and Arlene set up the charity Brightest Star in Jack’s name to help other grieving families.
Derek said the decision to end his third spell at Brig O’Lea was one he deliberated long and hard over, but after going thorough the trauma of losing Jack, deciding to go was solely down to wanting to spend time with Jill and Teddy.
He said: “I just needed a break. My wife has just had a wee boy and with the commitment of going to training and games I just needed a break, it’s not fair on my wife right now if I’m going out every Monday, Wednesday and Saturday but she knows I want to get back into it.”
“It was a really hard decision to come to, I went back and forth a few times with it and hopefully there are no regrets.”
The 32-year-old first joined the Farmer’s Boys back in 2005 and the club won a league and League Cup double in his first season. After leaving for Clydebank in October 2006, then having a spell at Cambuslang, he returned to Neilston briefly in 2008 before moving to amateur football when Jack was young He signed for a third time at Brig O’Lea in 2012 and was part of the team that won the Central District First Division title in 2014. Those league and cup wins are the highlights of Kennedy’s time at Neilston, but he admitted relegation from the Super League First and the club’s struggles in the Central District First Division last year were tough to take.
He said: “The first spell when we won the league and the League Cup that was really good, that was probably the best team we had in my time at the club. Then winning the league with Andy Whiteford when he was the manager, we had a great team spirit.
“I’ve enjoyed most of my time at the club, the last couple of years have been a bit more difficult with getting relegated and struggling a bit last year.”
Neilston were thrown into turmoil last summer when former manager Robert Graham left the club late in the summer, leaving the new management team of Martin Campbell and John Paul Dow short on time to evaluate the squad and sign players.
Kennedy insists that with Campbell and Dow being able to plan ahead for next season gives Neilston every chance of challenging for promotion back to the Super Leagues next year.
He said: “There is a good bunch of boys there, it’s maybe just lacking a bit of experience. We haven’t played a team this season where I felt we were inferior.
“It’s just lapses in concentration, the odd mistake has cost us big time.
“I think once Martin and John Paul get a full summer and the chance to build for next season they can look to challenge again next year.
“I think Rab (Robert Graham) probably knows himself the rebuilding of the team was too big a job, I think he probably should’ve stepped aside earlier to give the next management team more of a chance. It hurt us this season that he decided to leave in the summer and didn’t give the chance for the new managers to assess the squad and get the right players in.”