Caley Thistle manager John Robertson reckons Kai Kennedy may not have been lining up against the Highlanders on Saturday were it not for the Covid-19 pandemic.
Kennedy spent the early part of the season on loan at Inverness from Rangers and made a strong impression in 10 appearances, netting one goal.
💫 Magic from Kai Kennedy! pic.twitter.com/RMIHVmXSS1
— Inverness Caledonian Thistle FC (@ICTFC) December 7, 2020
The 18-year-old opted not to extend his loan deal at Caledonian Stadium however, having struggled to settle in the Highlands due to the rules enforced by the pandemic.
After signing a new deal at Ibrox Kennedy has since joined Championship rivals Raith Rovers on loan until the end of the season, and could come up against the Highlanders in Saturday’s encounter between the sides at Stark’s Park.
Robertson says the circumstances behind Kennedy’s departure are understandable but he feels normal conditions would have allowed the teenager to integrate more smoothly.
Robertson said: “Had we known a bit earlier we possibly could have moved a player in with him, or moved Kai into a family environment as clubs do on occasions so there were more people around him.
“He never made any reference to that, and whenever we spoke to his parents they felt he was happy.
“Rangers wanted him back down the week before Christmas to see his improvement and catch up a bit on his strength and conditioning.
“As it was around Christmas time it was the right thing to do, but I think the lad went back home and that may have accentuated his feelings that’s where he wanted to be.
“In fairness to Kai it’s a pandemic. Had it been normal circumstances I’m sure everything would have been much better. He had a great bond with our younger players, such as Daniel MacKay, Roddy MacGregor and Cameron Harper, along with Wallace Duffy, Robbie Deas and Scott Allardice.
“They weren’t allowed to visit each other’s homes due to the rules. Had it been normal I’m sure they would have been around at each other’s houses, they would have gone to Costa, Nando’s and all the places young football players go.
“When you take that aspect out of it we totally get where Kai is coming from.”
Robertson feels Kennedy’s situation has served as a further example of the challenges Inverness face in bringing players to the Highlanders on a short-term basis.
He added: “Fans in particular bemoan the fact we are not seen to be taking more loans at times.
“It’s very difficult to get an experienced loan player, as their wives and partners have jobs and their kids go to school.
“It tends to be younger players, but they don’t always settle.
“Our location hurts us because the likes of Rangers, Celtic, Hearts, Hibs, Dundee United and Motherwell can send their players out to local teams. They can still stay at home with their parents, and see their girlfriends.
“It’s been part of the challenge for us over the years, and it will be part of the challenge over the coming years.
“That’s why I try to be very particular and methodical with the players I bring in, so I know they are a good fit for the club.
“Kai was a very good fit for the club, but we understand his personal circumstances.”
Robertson says he will continue to explore bringing players in regardless of their age, adding: “I’m looking first and foremost at the quality of the player. If he’s 18 or 38 it doesn’t matter, as long as he has the right aspects for what we need.
“Kai coming up has shown younger players can integrate with the squad because there is a younger element, but I’ll not rubber stamp that it has be a young lad.”