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Accomplished shot-stopper aims to make big impression

18 January 2017

Supporters can now read the interview loanee Jake Kean gave to 'The Stag' for our match at home to Crewe Alexandra...

Making an impression at a new club is not always easy, but the nomadic existence Jake Kean has led during his career so far ensures he is a past master in that particular field. In his ongoing pursuit of first team football, the 25-year-old has already been on the books of 11 different clubs, with One Call Stadium, Mansfield his latest destination. 

Starting out at Derby County as a youngster and having moved to Blackburn Rovers, Norwich City and, latterly, Sheffield Wednesday, Kean has also completed six loan spells at Hartlepool, Rochdale, Yeovil, Oldham, Colchester and Swindon, prior to starting his temporary stint with the Stags. 

It meant that coming in at relatively short notice to make his Mansfield debut in the 1-0 win at Blackpool on Monday 02 January held no fears for him – and enabled him to deliver the kind of assured performance that his new boss Steve Evans had been hoping for. 

“It’s always a little bit tricky coming straight into a new team, but I have done the same thing a couple of times before where I have only had a couple of days’ training and then come in to play,” explains Kean. 

“To be fair to the lads in the dressing room, though, they were brilliant to me and made it a lot easier for me to slot right in and I was delighted with the way it went. 

“It’s always nice to get a clean sheet, but the main thing was to pick up the three points and hopefully we can continue in that vein. 

“Although there were four debutants in the team I don’t think it was easy to tell with the way everyone started – everyone was organised and knew their jobs. With the way the lads defended in front of me, it bodes well for the games to come.” 

Also making their bows at Bloomfield Road in a new-look Mansfield side were fellow loan signing Ben Whiteman, from Sheffield United, who featured at right midfield, central midfielder Joel Byrom, from Northampton, and striker Yoann Arquin, who has recently played in Sweden. Manager Evans is eager to bring in more new personnel before the close of the January transfer window – indicating after the game in Lancashire that he has made bids for two other players – which Kean believes will help add healthy competition to the squad. 

He says: “The gaffer knows what he wants and how to set the team up for matches. I could see that when I watched the game against Doncaster, when I thought we were unlucky not to win, and again against Blackpool. 

“He and the rest of the management put in a lot of work to get it right and if the players don’t do it for him, he is ruthless enough to bring in others who he thinks will. With the potential of more players to come in, it’s an exciting time to be at the club. 

“You have only got to look at Steve Evans’ record of promotions to see what he has come here to do. The only thing on his mind is promotion and if he thinks he needs to bring in other people to help him do that, alongside the current squad, then he will.” 

Kean’s loan with Mansfield is set to last until the end of the season, having not made a first team appearance since his move to Hillsborough last summer. 

“I am not the type of person who will settle for training from Monday to Friday and then not play on a Saturday,” he says. 

“I wanted to get some game time under my belt, which is why this appealed to me. 

“At the moment, it is predominantly about getting that game time because I still have 18 months left to run on my contract at Wednesday. 

“But you can never say never in football and anything can happen. I have come here with the ambition of trying to help the club towards promotion by the end of the season and if that were to happen then I couldn’t see why I wouldn’t want to talk about staying longer.” 

Kean first got his chance at Derby as an 11-year-old, having previously played for Mickleover Sports as a junior. He initially started out as a central defender, until his team ‘needed someone to go in goal’. 

As a Rams’ fan, he was disappointed not to make a first team start at his hometown club, but a move to Blackburn, thanks to a recommendation from goalkeeping coach Gary Walsh (formerly of Manchester United) gave the young custodian his big break. 

Kean recalls: “Mart Poom was the first ‘keeper I remember at Derby – and that’s why I wear the number 21 shirt like he did. Along with Carlo Cudicini and Gianluca Buffon, he was one of my favourite ‘keepers growing up. 

“It was a setback to be let go by Derby, but in the long term it was the best thing that ever happened to me. When I moved to Blackburn, away from home and my mates, I had to move out of my comfort zone. 

“I made my Blackburn debut under Henning Berg in the Premier League against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, which was just a blur in my memory. Thankfully, my mum and dad were able to go along and watch, but they were the only people I told. I didn’t want to tell my mates in case we got hammered 7-0!” 

More recently, Kean has found himself competing with the likes of distinguished ‘keepers John Ruddy (at Norwich) and Kieren Westwood (at Sheffield Wednesday), having also worked under Bobby Mimms at Blackburn. 

The former England under-20s shot stopper hopes such experience has rubbed off on him in his long-term goal to make it at the highest level. 

“I don’t really like to talk about what I think my strengths are as a goalkeeper, but hopefully the Mansfield fans will see for themselves during my time here,” he says. 

“I’m grateful for the opportunity to play at Mansfield and be part of a side that is aiming to be promoted.”

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