July 29, 2009: The long and winding road in muggy conditions to Saitama Stadium on Saturday was well worth it to see Josh Kennedy in action for Grampus.
The big man did not disappoint, causing chaos in the Reds defence and helping himself to a goal, too, courtesy of a bad mistake by Yamagishi in the Reds goal.
Towering target men can often be the target of unfair criticism based purely on their height -- "he can't run, he can't control the ball, he can't be involved in build-up play, he's poor on the ground" -- but it would be folly for the football technicians to write them off so easily. Just look at how effective Peter Crouch is in England.
No, Kennedy is a great signing for Grampus, as he is a natural outlet for his own defenders and guaranteed to create problems for opposing defenders.
If Grampus are under pressure, a 50-metre pass with a swish of Abe's left foot and the pressure is eased.
And when it comes to attacking, if in doubt knock it into the box and see what happens. Magnum did just that on Saturday, and Kennedy did the rest, leaving Tsuboi like a drowning man, struggling for air deep in his own penalty area.
Kennedy also played his part in Tamada's two goals, although the "No. 16" did not appear in the "assist" column on the official scoresheet and played down his role after the game, too.
But for both Tamada goals it was a case of long ball into Kennedy, Reds defence scrambling, and Ogawa finding the space to link with Tamada. Simple, but effective -- and difficult to stop, especially when Tulio was absent again.
Kennedy enjoyed other good moments, too; for example a superb clearing header to deny Takahara in the first half, and a midfield tackle on Ponte which took the Reds playmaker by surprise.
No wonder the Grampus fans produced a steady chorus of "Come on Joshua" as the match progressed.
After nine years in Germany, Kennedy has got the fresh challenge he wanted -- and the J.League has a player who will continue to make the news.