Jeff Thorpe, the former Carlisle winger, knew a little about the torture of injury. Not just the physical side, but the mental challenges that some too readily dismiss.

"Little comments can set you off," he once said. "I was injured a lot and any sportsman will tell you that's the hardest time. People say, 'Injured again Jeff, what's wrong this time?'

"Directors and coaches. No doubt they thought it was clever or harmless, but it got to me."

And why wouldn't it? The implication that a player is just built that way - or worse, that there is even the tiniest amount of choice in the matter - must be the most desolate thing a footballer can hear.

On Twitter recently, the ex-Blues goalkeeper Keiren Westwood took umbrage at being called "injury-prone" by a supporter, producing his appearance stats in his defence.

At the same time, Westwood must be highly frustrated at missing the amount of football he has this season for Sheffield Wednesday. The sideline is no place to be for a footballer as committed and talented as he, and with this in mind the final day of the season is an appropriate point to remember someone else who knows, acutely, what "the hardest time" truly means.

This is one of those areas where you really have to experience it to know how it is, every hour of every day, knowing that the light is a long way down the tunnel, that what you live for is going to elude you for some time yet.

In a way it makes it worse to know that, in Jason Kennedy, Carlisle have been forced to live without one of their best players and pros for so long, and must continue to do so until winter at the earliest, a pelvis operation requiring the most painstaking slog back.

At the end of a campaign engulfed in managerial uncertainty, financial worry and other doubts about the big picture, it pays to remember that football is also a game of individuals, of people - of good people, in Kennedy's case - and they should be in our thoughts even when they are not on the first-team grass.

It is, sadly, more than six months since the midfielder last kicked a ball, that moment coming in the final seven minutes (plus added time) of Carlisle's 3-3 draw with Wycombe on October 17. In 2017, he was able to start just six games, and it seems likely his next outing will come in 2019.

Even a player with a hamstring strain or a groin tweak would only be human if he didn't feel a slightly lesser version of himself when he's waking up and not throwing his boots in his bag, not turning up to the ground, not feeling that same anticipation we all share, even on dead-rubber days like this.

From that first moment of wakefulness on Saturday morning to 3pm is, in many ways, the best time of the week. All our hopes and fears are there, to some degree, along with the glorious blank canvas of the afternoon's fixture. This is the drug that holds fans, players, managers and more. Participating in it is everything.

For an excellent period, few Carlisle players participated better than Kennedy. As Keith Curle bows out as manager today it is fair to recognise the 31-year-old as one of his most influential and important signings - first, in a relegation dogfight, and then, in that irresistible run in the autumn of 2016, when goals flew in from Kennedy's toes, head and other parts.

It does not seem so long ago that he was scoring 10 goals in 22 games, and 11 in 32 overall in 2016/17, picking up October's divisional player of the month award and making such a habit of arriving onto chances that those who nicknamed him the "Ginger Lampard" were doing so only half in jest.

Kennedy, it can be said emphatically, embodied the better side of Carlisle United that Curle engineered, and so you hope these long days in the shadows have not been too hellish, and that whatever agony accompanies this interminable period out can continue to be managed, calmed, smothered by the better things in life, however big or small.

Most importantly this will have been at home, and those with an interest in the welfare of an injured player will have been cheered by each little bulletin posted on Twitter by Kennedy's wife, Tracey. This week's domestic revelation was that the midfielder had cleaned out his wife's car unprompted. A few days earlier, a long, tiring walk had marked the end of three-and-a-half months in a wheelchair.

Without these insights, it would be natural for a player to disappear completely from public view, which must also be hard to take when hearing the roar of the crowd is, normally, the weekly wish. Through social media we have also learned of visits to Kennedy's home by team-mates old and new. Carlisle's medical department have been reliably supportive.

As, Tracey posted last Thursday, has Curle, for providing "continuous support over a difficult few months" not just to the player, but his family.

This is what you hope to hear, but don't always see. It helps to strip away the idea that these are just bodies in shirts, to be kept or dispensed with at the publication of a retained list; cheered or booed as we see fit.

Anything that would make an injured pro like Kennedy feel a burden would certainly be a reckless use of thoughts. Andrew Jenkins presumably did not intend to offend when he disclosed the player's wage at a recent fans' forum, in the same breath mentioning he was wheelchair-bound, but there are reasons why tact should have intervened before those words passed the chairman's lips.

It is because Kennedy is rather more than a wage, and an injury, and one imagines the weekly take-home does not cushion the full blow of non-involvement, or even much of it, when you consider how the man played, worked, ran, every game the same as the last, hence Curle having constructed a significant part of his Carlisle United around him.

Missed he has been, for all sorts of reasons, and as we now sit 90 minutes away from close-season you hope the path forward can be as smooth as possible - that, when he's fully healed, he can play with as much of the old Kennedy force as he can, and those bright days of 2016 won't feel too nostalgic.

It is a travesty of fate, of physical luck, that this campaign has mostly occurred without him, and Brunton Park has been a lesser place. Whatever the next United chapter holds, we should, every so often, try to imagine ourselves as Kennedy, nudging forward every day, not in the headlines or under the floodlights, but rebuilding himself, brick by brick; still one of us, as long as he's there.