"I'm in a good place but there's definitely more to come" - Keane finally showing what he can do at Town after a season to forget

Jordan Keane's story so far with FC Halifax Town personifies the club's oscillating fortunes over the last 15 months.
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The defender, like The Shaymen, was on the up in the summer of 2022, having just been part of Stockport County's title winning side.

He joined a club who had finished fourth the previous season, amassing a magnificent 84 points in the process before losing in the play-offs.

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But Keane's and Town's fortunes soon took a turn for the worse.

Jordan KeaneJordan Keane
Jordan Keane

"I'd say it was my toughest year in football, and I've had some bad times to be honest," Keane told the Courier.

"Coming off the back of such a high, and then I got married in the summer, it was brilliant.

"I'd just won the league, I got married, I'm fit and strong and I've come back and then it's just gone drastically downhill pretty quick.

"Within ten games, everything's changed.

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"It tested me physically and mentally. Not being fit and then trying to get fit.

"I'd always class myself as being strong mentally, whatever's thrown at me I can deal with.

"I've tried to remain consistent with it, not get too high or too low."

Keane made 22 league appearances for Town last season, including 11 of the first 12 games, but found a first-team place harder to come by after that, with form a struggle.

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The 30-year-old also had operation on his foot after playing through an injury for a few games after the turn of the year.

"I thought 'I'll play on' because my natural instinct was to play through it, we were in a tough moment and just to crack on," he said of that time.

"It just got too painful where other parts of my body started to hurt - my knee, my back.

"I'm not the most naturally fit lad, I have to work hard to keep my fitness up anyway but I was playing catch-up trying to get up to speed.

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"People were probably looking thinking 'he's miles off it' and rightly so.

"I hold my hands up, there were some points last year where, albeit the team were playing badly and losing, I just couldn't get up to speed.

"It was frustrating, you're hearing things from fans, which you try to block out as much as possible.

"You'd like to have a conversation with some of them and say 'I understand where you're coming from but bear with us'."

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Was there ever a time when Keane thought about moving elsewhere?

"I've always been determined to make it work," he said.

"Going from what happened at Stockport to here, I had a goal in mind of repeating that.

"It just wasn't happening. But I've always had to be told to move on.

"I've just been trying to prove a point about how good I can be and how good the team can be as well."

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Keane is one of the senior voices in the Town squad, a natural leader who is considered a vital guiding presence among a young group of players.

"I've always been like that, even when I was a kid, that's how I was brought up," he said.

"Even stuff away from football, I want to try and help and do the best I can, which is why I've started going into coaching a bit.

"Last year, there were days where you're travelling in thinking 'how do we turn this round?' or 'what do I do, do I just shut up and be quiet and take a back seat?'.

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"There were times I did that, especially towards the back end of the season when I was injured and the lads were doing well and we had our sights on Wembley.

"I spoke to the gaffer saying, because I was injured, I'd rather not be a part of it and just concentrate on myself and get myself fit, but still try and help the best I can.

"I think I changed the way I did it to be a bit more individual based, speaking to lads one on one.

"The lads in it are in the heat of the battle, so maybe it was more giving a day or two to settle down and then have chats on the Monday or the Tuesday.

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"What I'm learning as I get older is there's different ways of doing things and dealing with younger players because it is a young changing room.

"Me, Sam Johnson and Luke Summerfield are the older ones - I'm one of the eldest at 30!

"So that's on me to learn how to deal with the younger lads. I'd like to think I have a good relationship with everybody."

As with The Shaymen, who are sixth in the National League, things are looking up for Keane, who is now a first-team regular at the heart of the Halifax defence.

And Keane feels he is in his best form in a Town shirt.

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"I would say so, yeah. Last season was a bit of a disaster - didn't get off to a great start, new team, new manager.

"It couldn't have gone any worse, I think everyone agrees with that.

"Personally, I just picked up bad injuries at silly times which didn't really allow me to get into form.

"The start of the season was what it was last year, (I was) playing through injuries and probably doing myself a disservice if anything.

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"When you go somewhere new, you always want to impress and put your best self out there, which just wasn't the case.

"But I went away in the summer, I was injured at the time, missed out on Wembley and it was like a kick up the backside really to be like 'you've missed out on this'

"Albeit I had a good season last year with winning the league, but as soon as you're out of the picture for a week or two, you're not really seen.

"Obviously I was buzzing for the lads to win at Wembley, but individually it spurred me on to be 'OK, get fit, get strong and come back with your head down and prove people wrong' because Halifax fans haven't seen the best of me.

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"I was very much tunnel vision coming back in. I had a chat with a few fans at the open day in the summer and I was saying 'I'm happy to wait my turn, I know how football works, but once I'm back playing and I'm fit.....'. I still don't think I'm fully fit yet.

"I'm thinking now 'just get to double figures (for appearances) and my form will take care of itself'.

"There's still bits I'm not happy with, but I'm probably my own worst critic, I'm always trying to improve.

"There's still more to come. I'm not happy enough with where I am at the minute, I still want to get fitter and stronger and better."

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And Keane reckons he is as fit as he has ever been at Halifax, too.

"I'm doing my extra work away from training and working with Aaron (Scholes, physio) on a loading programme, making sure I'm fit and available and strong," he said.

"It's a case of planning my week, being a bit more savvy with my time.

"I've got a little one as well so it's a case of getting home from training, have half-an-hour and then going to pick her up then a mad two or three hours!

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"But I'm trying to fully take my rest periods rather than being on the go all the time.

"I'm in a good place but there's definitely more to come, I can definitely get fitter."

Just as The Shaymen are a different team to the one that started so disastrously last season, Keane too looks a player transformed.

"It's tough watching football when you're involved in it and I've never been a good watcher," he said.

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"Me and the manager have had conversations that aren't easy, but we both respect each other enough to be honest within those conversations and to try and get the right solution, which was to be patient, wait for the chance and then grab it with both hands.

"That's my mindset at the minute - I want to play all season, I want to be one of the better players all season and help this team achieve something.

"I know I played a few games in the FA Trophy but I wasn't involved really and that spurs you on to be 'right, this is it now, tunnel vision, be fit, be healthy and try to play your best football'."

Matching his promotion at Stockport two years on would be a remarkable ending to both Keane's and Halifax's fluctuating fortunes since last summer.

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"If I was to give a message for our team, it would be try and be consistent," Keane said.

"Last year we had a ten game spell where we were good and then we were back down for 10, 15, then back up for eight games, and you end up mid-table.

"If we can be consistent and perform at a level - yes there might be the odd result that slips - but if we're at a base where we're consistent with our performances, let's see what comes.

"We don't need to put any pressure on it, we just need to remain consistent and everything else takes care of itself.

"We've had a chat amongst ourselves saying we need to work together, be together and be consistent, that's the main thing."