Jonjoe Kenny: Everton loanee hopes Bundesliga return can bring back some joy
Follow all the action from Borussia Dortmund vs Schalke live on skysports.com and on the Sky Sports app from 1.30pm on Saturday
By Johnny Phillips
Last Updated: 15/05/20 4:22pm
It was the desire to play regularly that took Jonjoe Kenny from Everton, his boyhood club, to the Bundesliga.
The loan move to Schalke has been a resounding success, with Kenny establishing himself as first choice right-back under head coach David Wagner.
On Saturday, his Everton team-mates will be watching on with interest as the Bundesliga resumes following a two-month break during the coronavirus lockdown.
The keenly-contested Revierderby between Borussia Dortmund and Schalke will be played behind closed doors. It will be a strange atmosphere, but Kenny hopes the occasion will go some way to lifting the mood of supporters.
"Fans make football," he says. "It increases the tempo. When we are playing at home they are like another man on the pitch because they get us going.
"But it's a worldwide thing, not just a football situation, so keeping the fans away from the game is for their own safety, for everyone's safety. I know they will be supporting at home and it'll just bring back a little bit of normality and joy into people's lives."
Isolated from his team-mates and unable to return to his homeland, Kenny has been remarkably sanguine about experiencing the lockdown in Germany.
"I tried to stay focused on keeping myself fit, eating the right things, going to bed at the normal time - not at three in the morning and getting up in the middle of the day," he adds.
"Over here it was done brilliantly, you weren't allowed in shops without a mask, everyone was involved in it. Whatever the government rules were everybody stuck to them, so it was really great to see that."
It has been a lengthy and measured process to get back to the level of training that has now been permitted at Bundesliga clubs. After two weeks of home-training, downloading fitness programmes and ticking over the miles on a cycle machine the players made a staggered return to their clubs.
"We started training in twos and at first it was an awkward situation, but it was just good to be back out there," Kenny reveals.
"I wasn't sure how they were going to put on a session with just two people, but the ones with two were the hardest I've ever done. We'd train, then others would come in at different times. It gradually got better and better with the government guidelines. It was well rehearsed, the sessions were good, then it went into bigger groups of four and then six so the sessions increased.
"Obviously it'll be two months to the day [since the league stopped] and when you're coming back from pre-season after six weeks you feel it. So the game will be a good test for everyone. It's not just Schalke, the whole league is in the same situation so everyone is in the same boat."
Schalke have nine games left of the season to nail down a European spot. Kenny will have some decisions of his own to make after that, but for now he is focused entirely on helping his current team. He has never been afraid to make steps into the unknown.
Since his earliest childhood memories playing football for Custy Lee Jones juniors in the renowned Scotland - Scottie, to the locals - Road League where he played in a higher age group, there has been a desire to play whenever possible. At nine years old Kenny was spotted by Everton while representing Liverpool Schoolboys.
"I remember the day Everton came to me and said that they wanted to take me on trial. I had a game the next day for my Sunday league team and I didn't want to miss that game!"
Kenny was taken along to the Everton trial by his proud dad and uncle. He impressed so much that the Blues signed him up on the same day. He made steady progress year on year and after loan spells in League One with Wigan Athletic and League Two with Oxford United, his Everton debut four years ago this week was the realisation of a dream, but it also stoked his inner hunger.
"As a kid you think 'Just one game for Everton'. But once you get one then the buzz, the feeling you get, you just want more and more and more," Kenny explains.
"It becomes a bit of an addiction, wanting that feeling constantly, wanting to be part of the first team, as one of the lads with everyone living a first team life. It took me a couple more seasons to get into that but once I was in there I was loving the way it was going."
Unable to dislodge club captain Seamus Coleman from former manager Marco Silva's starting line-up, Kenny needed to look further afield last summer. Now Carlo Ancelotti will be watching on with keen interest when the full-back lines up against Dortmund on Saturday afternoon. Kenny is optimistic about Everton's future despite the spate of false dawns that have emerged in recent seasons.
"You just look at the manager Everton have brought in, he's a natural winner. He's managed huge teams and players and won trophies wherever he has been. That was a great start, to get someone of the stature of the manager in. And then you look at the players we've got. Dominic Calvert-Lewin has been on fire and I think he has more to come.
"He has become the main man which he was always destined to become because of the type of player and person he is. And you can forget that Richarlison is only young, with Moise Kean, Tom Davies and Mason Holgate. You've still got a good young core so it's not a very old team.
"And in the backroom staff [director of football] Marcel Brands has been brilliant personally, to get me out on loan. Everyone is in a position where they can see the club is looking to go forward."
Kenny's career is on an upward trajectory, too, and he intends to savour the rest of the season at his temporary home.
"I've just loved it from day one," he concludes.
"The manager here is brilliant, I couldn't speak highly enough of him. When the games got going in pre-season I felt comfortable and once I got my own place and came out of the hotel I felt right at home."
Follow football's return with Sky Sports
After almost two months away, the Bundesliga becomes the first major European league to return this weekend - you can follow all the action live on skysports.com.
Get your fix with minute-by-minute coverage and reports from the weekend's biggest games, starting with the Revierderby between Borussia Dortmund and Schalke on Saturday, kick-off at 2.30pm.
On Sunday, follow league leaders Bayern Munich's trip to Union Berlin, kick-off at 5pm, and on Monday night a match with huge impact at both ends of the table as Champions League-chasing Bayer Leverkusen travel to relegation-threatened Werder Bremen, kick-off at 7.30pm.
Watch more from our interview with Jonjoe Kenny on Soccer Saturday at 3pm