Ben Kennedy plays the game with his heart on his sleeve. He will do anything to win and is never one to back away from a challenge.
In the past that attitude has occasionally got him into trouble. In the present, a more thoughtful approach is bringing the best out of Stevenage FC’s charismatic boy from Belfast.
Life is good right now for Ben Kennedy. 79 first team appearances, 16 goals, and a new contract that establishes himself as a pivotal player in Stevenage’s push for a play-off spot.
But life in Hertfordshire hasn’t always been easy for Ben and when he first left the family home at 16 years old, he admits he was scared.
“When I was in the airport about to leave my family for the first time, I looked back at them and had tears in my eyes.
“It was really hard at first and people in Belfast would have bet their money I would be back home within a year.”
One person who Ben credits for helping him settle into life living in ‘digs’ and achieve his dream of becoming a professional footballer is first team manager Darren Sarll.
“The gaffer was brilliant when he was our youth team manager. He was always there for all of us lads living away from home and for me he was like a father figure. He helped me settle and if it wasn’t for him I might have packed it in and gone home. I owe him a lot.”
Another person who Kennedy says he wants to repay is Chairman Phil Wallace.
“Last season was probably the worst one of my life so far, Ben explains. “I had two operations and was not enjoying my football at all. I was feeling lonely and almost depressed. I went to the Gaffer and Chairman and told them I needed to go home and get my head straight.”
On his return to Stevenage a few weeks later, Ben revealed how he bumped into the Chairman in the corridor at a home game. A handshake was exchanged and a simple “thank you” was what Kennedy said.
This season Ben has matured from a petulant teenager with the potential to produce a moment of magic, into a genuine match winner who is relishing the extra responsibility that his teammates demand from him.
“I used to be an angry head and would always get involved with the opposition players or fans. If ever there was a fight I would be in the middle of it. These days I try and think before I act and I would rather save my energy,” (laughingly adding) “for when I score the winner at Kenilworth!”
Although now grown up, the charisma from the fans favourite is still there. One thing is for sure though, If Ben Kennedy scores the winner against Accrington on Saturday that secures Stevenage a play-off spot, both Chairman and Manager will consider it a debt repaid.
Tickets are available on the gate for tomorrow's huge end of season game v Accrington Stanley.