JAKE Kean feels “vindicated” after marking his return to face his former employers with a clean sheet, writes DAVID BROOME.
The Blackburn Rovers goalkeeper spent his formative years learning at the Derby County academy, but never made a first-team appearance, meaning that Saturday’s 3-0 FA Cup win was his first playing experience at Pride Park.
He had one nerve-wracking moment when he rashly came out of his area and failed to clear a loose ball, but recovered to deny Jamie Ward a certain goal, and otherwise kept the Rams at bay.
Kean, 21, said: “Apart from the work I made for myself with a moment of madness, I felt I had a good game.”
Born in Allestree, he was disappointed to be released by his hometown club, but was only unemployed for six hours before being offered a trial by Portsmouth, which then led to Blackburn snapping him up in 2009.
Kean said: “I’ve not forgotten about it.
“It was a very low point for me personally, but coming here and signing a contract and doing as well as I have done has given me the kick on I needed.”
He has had to be patient at Ewood Park, with the form of ex-England No. 1 Paul Robinson keeping him down the pecking order, and he has spent time on loan at Rochdale and Hartlepool United in recent seasons.
However, he has forced his way into the reckoning this season, coming into the Rovers side midway through last month and starting the last nine games between the sticks under former boss Henning Berg, caretaker Gary Bowyer and current manager Michael Appleton.
Kean said: “I feel vindicated in the way things have gone.
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“When I came back for the summer, no-one was too sure really what to expect.
“How things have worked out have been perfect for myself.
“I have got the hunger. I want to stay in the team and keep playing.”
Kean also revealed that he was still friends with some of the current Rams squad, both from his time at Moor Farm and former Blackburn players now at Derby.
He said: “I’m still good friends with OB (Mark O’Brien), and I go on holiday with Jeff Hendrick.
“Me and Frank Fielding were good friends at Blackburn, and Ross Atkins as well.
“My family are from around here and a lot of my friends still live here.
“My family are behind me all the way.
“Some of my friends are Derby fans but they support me first.”
On ousting Robinson from the team, he said: “I didn’t see it coming, but thankfully, things have gone my way.
“To learn from someone like Paul Robinson has been fantastic.”