MATTHEW KENNEDY doesn’t regret turning his back on the chance to join one of the Old Firm clubs.
He took the decision to move from Kilmarnock to Everton when he was only 17.
Fame in England’s top flight didn’t come his way, but he believes he gained a massive amount from spending six years south of the border.
The 23-year-old has gone from being a boy who thought a sugary cereal was the ideal pre-match meal to a man focused on plotting a second wave of success in football.
He hopes St Johnstone will be the beneficiaries and is looking to show what he can do against Rangers today.
“I was just a baby when I joined Everton,” he admitted.
“I was quite immature, so moving south was probably the best thing for me.
“When it came to eating and gym work, I wasn’t interested. I’d have a bowl of Coco Pops before a game.
“I really didn’t think about that stuff.
“Down south, the focus on nutrition is at a different level. There’s so many games that you need to be eating perfectly every day or you won’t recover.
“Even during my spells at Cardiff and Portsmouth there were nutritionists coming in every week.
“More than anything, I’ve grown as a person.
“I was living in a flat by myself at the age of 18. Not a lot of people do that and I was forced to grow up very quickly.”
Kennedy didn’t hesitate when he got the chance to sign at Goodison in 2012.
He went on: “When the Everton move happened, I had Rangers and Celtic interested.
“I had to decide to either stay at Kilmarnock, go to the Old Firm or head for England.
“A few clubs down south were sniffing and then Everton came in.
“I was in Kilmarnock manager Kenny Shiels’ office for the whole transfer window, with him begging me to stay.
“I really liked him, he brought me through and gave me a chance, but I couldn’t turn Everton down.
“It was a dream come true. Everyone wants to go to the Premier League and I was no different.
“I did well. I made the bench a few times and boss Roberto Martinez wanted me to stay.
“But my Under-21’s coach David Unsworth said I should go to Cardiff because I’d have a good chance of playing.
“At Everton, you feel you’re going to get a chance when you’re training with the first team every day.
“Then they’ll go and buy someone for £25m in the same position.
“Kevin Mirallas and Aaron Lennon were wide men at the time, Ross Barkley and Marouane Fellaini were in the No. 10 role.
“I still look back on that time and think I definitely improved as a player.
“I don’t regret not going to Rangers or Celtic. I achieved my dream as a young boy by playing for Kilmarnock.”