How Brendan Kiernan's positive attitude enabled him to bounce back from play-off final disappointment to re-establish himself at Harrogate Town
A summer arrival from Welling United, the versatile former AFC Wimbledon attacker hit the ground running, lighting up the early part of the season with his quick feet and desire to take on defenders.
Seven goals and a trio of assists materialised within the first four months of his stay at Wetherby Road, though the 27-year-old became more of a peripheral figure after the turn of the year.
Indeed, by the time Harrogate made it to Wembley for their National League play-off final showdown with Notts County, Kiernan couldn’t even make it as far as the substitutes’ bench and watched the biggest game in the club’s history unfold from the stands.
He began 2020/21 - Town's first year in the EFL - very much on the fringes of Simon Weaver’s squad, though he has subsequently forced his way back into contention.
He followed up decent League Two showings against Port Vale and Bolton Wanderers with a man-of-the-match display against Leicester City Under-21s in midweek, scoring one himself and putting another on a plate for team-mate Jon Stead.
Weaver wants to add pace in the final third and also spoke about his forwards not doing enough "between the posts" to influence proceedings in the wake of last weekend's defeat to Bolton.
Kiernan arrived as a second-half substitute in that game and did add something to the Town front-line by virtue of some clever movement. He even managed to put the ball in the back of the net, only for the 'goal' to be ruled out for offside.
His contribution didn't go unnoticed by Weaver and, such is the impression he has made playing through the middle rather than in his usual role on the wing, the ex-Crystal Palace trainee could well start up front in Monday’s Yorkshire derby clash with Bradford City.
But, it's not just about what he's been doing on the pitch. That Kiernan is now very much in his manager's thinking when it comes to naming a starting XI owes as much to his character and positive attitude as his mercurial ability with a ball at his feet.
“It’s not been easy for Brendan, he was out of the squad for the play-off games at the end of last season, which will have been really disappointing for him,” Weaver said.
“But, he deserves a lot of credit for the attitude he’s shown. He came back for pre-season and has absolutely gone for it. He’s always got that big smile on his face.
“He’s created a spark when we’ve played him down the middle. He’s been really energetic and shown a lot of tenacity to try and get in between the full-backs and centre-halves and make things happen.
“He’s scored against Grimsby and Leicester in the [EFL] Trophy games and also had one ruled out against Bolton by what was a very close offside call. He has looked really lively.
“There’s a lot of competition for places at the moment, but he’s definitely put himself in contention to start against Bradford.”