Lincoln City’s new head coach Mark Kennedy has promised an attractive brand of attacking, aggressive football that “gets fans off their seats” next season, as well as praising the structure of the club which gives him “opportunity for success”.
The former Irish international Kennedy, 45, joined the club as Lincoln City head coach on Thursday, May 12, announced as the replacement for Michael Appleton who left at the end of the 2021/22 season.
It will be just his second job in first team management, having briefly taken charge of then-financially stricken Macclesfield Town, which ultimately resulted in relegation from League Two, but his battle scars have only made him more determined to achieve great things in the game.
Once the most expensive teenage footballer in British history, Mark Kennedy’s playing career saw him pull on the shirt of Liverpool, Manchester City, Wolverhampton Wanderers and more, over a near 20-year career on the pitch.
Since retiring from the game, he has worked in academy coaching at Ipswich Town and Wolves, as well as current Premier League champions Manchester City, before most recently serving as Lee Bowyer’s assistant at Championship outfit Birmingham City.
In his first interview with the media since signing a four-year contract as head coach, Mark spoke to The Lincolnite about the passion of himself and the fanbase, his football philosophy, and the lessons he learned along the way on his coaching journey.
The Lincolnite: What lessons have you learned on your coaching journey? Obviously you took the job on at Macclesfield and decided to take a step back into coaching again after that? What was it that made you feel ready for a first team job again?
Mark Kennedy: “I started my coaching journey at the wrong end, when I retired from football I got a first team job which ultimately is what I wanted to do, but through various conversations with different people I respect I realised that I was at completely the wrong end of the spectrum.
“It was from that point where I chose to take a step back and learn my trade basically, I started to understand what coaching really looks like so I looked to get a job in elite academy football and retrain myself to get a clear understanding of what methodologies, philosophies, periodisation, all those sexy words you hear.
“I knew it would take some time and I knew it wouldn’t happen overnight, the Macclesfield opportunity came up quicker than I wanted it to, but it was something I hugely embraced.
“I knew what I was getting into before I went there and although it would have frightened the life out of a lot of people, that was the reason why I took the job. I’ll certainly be a lot better off because of that experience.”
TL: What are some of the similarities or differences between Mark Kennedy the player and the manager?
MK: “I was very lucky in my playing career that I always played for clubs who played an attractive brand of football and had a clear identity. I just think football has changed so much now, the environments have changed, I think football is heavily geared around head coaches, we can see that; it’s about maximising the multi-disciplinary departments and the people around you.
“When I played there was ultimately a manager who was in charge of everything and thankfully one of the huge attractions of Lincoln was the fact that the structures and the frameworks are in place, they are all highly regarded and super impressive people.
“The biggest compliment I can pay Lincoln is that if we’re successful it will be down to the club, and if we’re not it will be down to me, because the structure is already in place to give the head coach the opportunity for success.”
TL: Will it be at the forefront of your agenda to win your home games and make the stadium a fortress again?
MK: “Home form at any club in any footballing pyramid is so important, the support here is outstanding, it’s very vociferous, we know that in terms of filling the stadium capacity it’s the best in the league. We want to give the fans a brand of football they can be proud of, something they can identify with, and something that gets them off their seats.
“The one thing that really stood out to me when I spoke to the board was their passion for the fans and the connection, that was really evident and was one of the main reasons why I came here. We want to make sure there is that connection.”
TL: How would you describe your personality on the touchline? Are you a reserved character or will you show your passion?
MK: “My wife wrote me a card last night saying we look forward to watching your hand gestures on the touchline, which suggests I might be a little bit animated. You can quite clearly see that I am a passionate guy on the side, however somebody running up and down the line ranting and raving doesn’t necessarily mean they know what they’re doing.
“I’ve worked with coaches who are very quiet on the side and they are some of the best I’ve worked with, but I think my passion will be there for all to see. I’m certainly not someone who will stand on the side with their arms folded, sitting in the dugout, I’ll be at the forefront of the pitch that’s for sure.”