SECOND season syndrome is a complaint that can affect a lot of players.

Having set the bar high with their first year at a club, maintaining those standards once the initial buzz has died down can prove too tough for some.

But on the reverse side, there are also those who make a sluggish start – only to come good in the long run.

Think Matt Duke in City’s recent history. One of Phil Parkinson’s first signings when he took the Valley Parade helm, the keeper looked so devoid of confidence that he was dropped within a couple of months, loaned out and seemingly bound for the exit at the end of that season.

Yet fast forward to the following campaign and Duke’s heroics played such a significant role in City’s incredible run to Wembley in the Capital One Cup.

Ditto Will Atkinson to a certain degree. The four months on loan preceding his full-time move were uninspiring to put it kindly but he also went on to make his mark among the “history makers” with superb performances against Arsenal and Aston Villa.

So for those who have written off Jason Kennedy, maybe it’s time to hold your horses.

The former Rochdale midfielder arrived with a decent reputation 12 months ago but proved unable to fulfil that promise. A last-minute winner at MK Dons aside, it was a season that he will want to consign to the shadows.

Kennedy spent the second half of it back at Spotland but was still a peripheral figure in their promotion drive, not showing enough to persuade Keith Hill to take him back again for good.

So instead he returned to Apperley Bridge for pre-season well down the midfield pecking list. After failing to force his way past Nathan Doyle and old pal Gary Jones last year, he now finds Billy Knott, Gary Liddle and Matty Dolan barring the way.

But Phil Parkinson has noticed a steely air to the softly-spoken Teessider. Kennedy clearly wants to prove that he can still be the player that was such a mainstay of the Dale team for so long.

Parkinson is delighted to have such a hungry player champing at the bit once again.

He said: “JK has come back and he looks a different player. He’s here and he’s competing for a place.

“He didn’t have the greatest start at Bradford. He found it difficult to dislodge Doyley and Gaz. But I sense a real determination in him. You can see it in training as if he’s saying ‘I want to make my mark here’.

“We’ve seen players do well here in the second year after a tough start. Look at Dukey and Will, who both went on to do a very important job for us.

“You sink or you swim, it’s as simple as that.

“Jason’s a quiet lad but there’s a toughness about him.

“He is determined to make his mark here and let’s see how he progresses.”

Given the budget juggling that Parkinson will have to do to swell current squad numbers, Kennedy’s presence next season is not guaranteed.

City would listen to any approaches for players not nailed down in the starting XI, as they did with new Cheltenham captain Matt Taylor.

But Saturday’s half-hour outing against Blackburn showed that he’s not prepared to settle for bit-part status if he is here for the length of his contract.

There were some tasty tackles for a friendly and Kennedy threw himself into the challenges with as much gusto as anyone.

For someone who might have wondered if he would play at Valley Parade again, it was a worthwhile exercise in reminding everyone – and his manager in particular – that he was still around.

Parkinson added: “JK was great when he got on. He's played at this level before and some of the tackles he put in out there showed how much he wants to be involved.

“Our supporters will get behind anybody who shows that level of commitment.

“Someone might come in for him along the way, similar to what happened with Matty Taylor.

“While Matty was here we were saying ‘are you going to be first choice’ and the answer was no. But if something comes in we’ll sit down and discuss it with you.

“It’s like that with JK really but there’s a look about him at the moment that he wants to get in the team.”