Kayden Jackson smiles as he remembers a ‘special season’ at Accrington Stanley.
The striker’s time at the Wham Stadium kick-started his professional career, he formed a formidable partnership with fellow frontman Billy Kee and he won a League Two champions medal to complete his memorable single campaign with the Reds.
Ipswich frontman Kayden, now 26, signed for Stanley in 2017 from Barnsley after playing development and non-league football until he signed for the Tykes.
He didn’t know Billy but on and off the pitch they hit it off, Kayden scoring 16 goals and having eight assists while Billy notched 26 goals, winning the League Two Golden Boot, and eight assists in the historic 2017/18 campaign.
“I arrived at Accrington not quite knowing what to expect but you have to come out of your shell very quickly at Accrington!” said Kayden, who signed for then Championship side Ipswich for over £1m in a record deal for the Reds in August 2018.
“You had to be on your toes 24/7 off the pitch as Billy liked to take the micky and could pounce on you for any slip-up, it was all light-hearted.
“On it, we just clicked from the beginning. He read the game so well, he was so good at what he did, his knowledge of the game was brilliant and I learnt such a lot from him. He would go up for the ball and he knew immediately where I would be to flick it on and I knew where to go.
“It was weird but it was instant, we understood each other’s games and that helped us both have such a good season.
“I had come from Barnsley, it was my second year as a professional and I had barely played professional football, about 20 games the season before.
“So to have the chance to play with someone like Billy, with his intelligence, it was massive for me and I only benefited from it.
“Billy was a big character on and off the pitch – it didn’t matter if you were a seasoned professional with 1,000 games or an 18-year-old making his debut, Billy treated everyone the same, he was ready to have a laugh with you, and that was what was so good about the whole experience.
“He was a one of a kind and I hope he is in a better place now with his family and enjoying his life.
“As a team we had a great time. It just snowballed. Accrington Stanley is a unique football club and I have so many good memories, except when I have been back as a player with Ipswich. I know how the opposition always felt now when they came to Accrington!
“I have so many moments which stick in my mind, not just games, but the gaffer (John Coleman) singing karaoke on the bus back and Yosser (Mark Hughes) also singing, as well as falling down the bus steps!
“It was a surreal season and we just knew we were going to win the title.
“The gaffer was great with me and I will always have a lot of respect for him. He was unbelievable. I came in in pre-season, he gave me a chance, he put his faith in me and I never looked back.
“Without the gaffer and Accrington, I don’t know where I would be. It will always be a special time for me, it was one big family and who knows, maybe I could come back at some stage.”