Jason Kennedy says his emotional comeback appearance for Carlisle United this week was one of the highlights of his career.

The midfielder’s injury-time cameo at Morecambe was his first outing for 441 days after a long-term pelvis injury.

Kennedy’s long-awaited return was greeted with huge cheers from United’s travelling support.

The 32-year-old says it was especially rewarding after, months earlier, he feared whether he would be able to kick a ball again for Carlisle.

“I can’t describe it,” he said. “At one stage, when the injury happened, I thought I’d maybe never pull on the shirt again. That was hard to take.

“When I had the conversation the first time with the specialist, it was a 50-50 chance.

“So this was just what I needed after the year I’ve had – to come on to that reception, especially with all the fans that travelled across.

“It was amazing. It’s up with the best two minutes of my career so far.”

Play-off chasing United - who host third-placed Mansfield tomorrow - this week said they planned to arrange some friendlies in order to help Kennedy build up his match fitness.

His previous first-team outing had come against Wycombe in October 2017 before his long lay-off, which included a spell in a wheelchair after surgery.

Kennedy’s return was also acclaimed by team-mates and the former Middlesbrough, Darlington, Rochdale and Bradford man says he is excited about the prospect of more action in 2019. He also praised those at United who have helped him.

“When I saw the specialist in December and he gave me the all-clear it was almost like he didn’t believe me that everything was right!” he said.

“Everyone involved has been brilliant - the gaffer, Dolly [physio Neil Dalton] especially, Paddy [Maher, fitness coach] and Lee [Fearn, former fitness coach] with one-on-one work.

“They’ve helped me get strong. I’ve covered every rehab thing you could possibly think of so it’s all put me in good stead. They’ve also looked after me when I’ve needed my rest, and let me understand my own body, and it’s paid off in the end.

“It was perfect on the first day of the new year just to come on for two minutes. It was amazing to be out there.

“If there was any place I’d want to come out away from home that was definitely the one. I’ve had good games at Morecambe previously, and we always get a good following. It was just short of 1,800 - that just makes it worthwhile.”

Kennedy says he has appreciated the encouragement of supporters throughout his long spell on the sidelines.

He added: “On social media the fans have always given me messages of encouragement, saying they want me back playing, and back involved – so to eventually reach the stage where I’m ready and can kick on, it’s great.

“The gaffer pulled me towards the end [of the Morecambe game] and asked if I wanted to go on. I was ready and I’ve been waiting for that moment a long time.

“When I passed the ball to Hallam [Hope] I was thinking, should I bomb on and get in the box? But with us being 2-0 and close to the end I thought I’d stay out…

“But I’m desperate to get out there and get goals.”

Kennedy admits he cannot rush his return to more regular involvement, especially given his team-mates’ form of five straight wins.

He added: “The gaffer spoke to me just before the Christmas period saying they need to get me on an 11-a-side pitch, playing 11 v 11, which unfortunately with the amount of games we’ve had has been quite difficult at this minute.

“If needed, I’m up for selection now. Hopefully I’ll get more game time. But I need to get on a full-size pitch and play a full game. Running out there [on Tuesday] felt a bit strange, a bit surreal, being back on a full-size pitch.

“I’m not rushing it but if the opportunity comes along where the gaffer wants me to play, then I’ll play.”