“I CAN say hand on heart that I went for the ball. It’s just that I caught him with my elbow.

“And what made it worse is that his actual tooth stuck in my elbow. I wouldn’t mind but it was a big one, like a horse’s tooth.”

They don’t make them like Mick Kennedy anymore. Modern football wouldn’t allow it.

The above quotes probably explained why the former City midfielder, who sadly passed away at the weekend aged just 57, won only two caps for the Republic of Ireland.

Boss Jack Charlton was so appalled by Kennedy’s challenge on Czechoslovakia’s Milan Luhovy in a friendly in Iceland that he never played him again.

Charlton’s Ireland team were hardly seen as shrinking violets but Kennedy’s “robust” approach was even too much for them.

Yet ask any fan of the clubs he represented and you will not hear a bad word against him.

Like an ice hockey enforcer, Kennedy wore his no-holds barred image as a badge of honour.

He once received an FA fine for bringing the game into disrepute after a newspaper interview proclaiming: “I’m the hardest man in football and I’m proud of it”.

Charlton admitted in his autobiography that some of Kennedy’s tackles had to be seen to be believed. A master of the dark arts happy to mix it on or off the ball.

But he could also play. The macho image overshadowed a good passer who could set the tempo of his team and drive them on.

Just watch again the pin-point cross on to Leigh Palin’s head for the killer third goal in City’s memorable Littlewoods Cup win over Everton at Valley Parade in 1988.

Terry Dolan’s side weren’t given a prayer that night on Stuart McCall’s first return to the club.

Third from bottom in Division Two, having won only one of their previous 12 games, City were not expected to trouble the high-flying visitors.

Everton predictably had most of the play but City stuck to their task magnificently to pull off a famous 3-1 win. Kennedy was at the forefront of that resistance.

It was also his quick free-kick which caught Spurs off guard as Brian Mitchell rammed home the only goal of the game in another City giant-killing a few weeks later, this time in the FA Cup.

He had arrived back in West Yorkshire, having had an earlier spell with Huddersfield, at the start of 1988 to bolster the promotion push in the “nearly season.”

Kennedy’s capture for £250,000 had been a surprise – not so much for City welcoming an added physical presence into the team’s engine room but from the fact that Portsmouth had let him go.

In his final game in Pompey blue, he had skippered them to victory at bitter rivals Southampton.

Chairman John Deacon then chose the moment to bury bad news by announcing Kennedy was being sold – a move that effectively whipped the rug from under his former team’s survival chances in their first year back in the top flight.

For City, Kennedy’s arrival provided a timely mid-season boost in their promotion push – even if he did ruffle a few feathers from the off.

Having watched their League Cup defeat at Luton, the new signing met his team-mates for the first time in Brighton – where Dolan had taken the squad for a weekend away.

Dolan said: “We had a very good team spirit in those days but I think the rest were a bit surprised because he wasn’t frightened of telling players what he thought about them.

“He didn’t waste any time doing that but we knew he would be a good acquisition. We normally played with two midfield players and he came in to play alongside Stuart and gave us something different.

“Micky was the type of player we didn’t have and gave us better balance. He had this hard man reputation – and he could win the ball whichever way you wanted – but he was a far better footballer than people gave him credit for.

“He was as good with his left foot as he was with his right and he had a very long throw which is always a good weapon to have.

“And he would have played with a broken leg if he had to. On several occasions he’d have an ankle or knee injury and anybody else would be out for two or three weeks.

“But he just used to tell the physio Bryan Edwards to stick a needle it and he’d be all right.”

McCall said: “Micky had a desire and determination to be a winner, be it on a Saturday, during the week in training or playing cards on the bus. He was a likeable strong-minded character.”

Ian Ormondroyd remembers the pipe-smoking figure on the back seat coming back from away games.

“Can you imagine that nowadays?” he laughed. “But he was certainly a character.

“Terry brought him in to give the team a bit more steel and shake the other players up.

“We used to train in an indoor hall in Scholemoor in bad weather and he’d, shall we say, toughen us up by being aggressive.

“The first couple of days he came in, a few of us were thinking ‘wow’ because he didn’t hang back. But we needed to be a bit more forceful and he changed us in that respect.

“There were a few players around at that time that you dreaded being up against and he was one of them.”