He's already lifted silverware with his boyhood team, played in the Premier League, and experienced European football.
It's a fairy-tale narrative for any football fan from Leicestershire, but Kiernan is eager to write new chapters into his Foxes story. The 23-year-old is a popular member of the senior squad at the Club and already has a song which is bellowed by the Blue Army on matchday.
Set to the tune of the Oasis classic Wonderwall, it's a ditty which follows him wherever he goes. For a man who can remember watching Leicester City toil in the Championship – and even slip into the third tier – it's a surreal marker of the progress he's made at the Club.
Away from football, he's still friends with his old team-mates at Shepshed Dynamo Warriors. He's learning Spanish and is eager to improve his golf handicap. He’s recently joined TikTok. On the field, Leicester's No.22 is a tireless midfielder, a creative spark and an emerging talent.
He's joined us at Esquires Coffee, just off New Walk, to take stock on that meritorious rise. It’s a tale which starts around the turn of the new millennium.
“My earliest memories are growing up in Shepshed,” says Kiernan, who was born in 1998 in Nottingham, but grew up in Shepshed. “I lived across the road from a little field. Probably the first thing I remember is kicking a ball. I used to go over to that field and I’d play either with my mum or my friends. Shepshed’s a small town. Everybody knows everybody.
“When I was about four years old, my mum was trying to get me into a team and no teams would accept me because I was so young. Shepshed were the only team. They set up a fun day for young kids to go and play and have fun. They saw me play there and invited me to go down and train.
The Shepshed-based midfielder is eager to continue his rise at the Football Club.
“From about five or six, I was playing for Shepshed Dynamo. It was just about playing with friends, really. I was playing in the year above and back then I was a striker and I was scoring a lot of goals!"
It's often the case that young players’ positions change during their development (Luke Thomas also started out as a striker who idolised Thierry Henry). Kiernan was no different. At the age of six, he was playing with older boys, a testament to his talent, but even by the standards of his own age group, he was diminutive. Perhaps that’s why he dropped to midfield.
“I’m not too sure to be honest,” he adds, trying to recall the exact moment it happened. “I was pretty good technically because I was so small. I had to improve technically quite quickly because I was playing with older boys. I could handle the ball well.
“Somebody at the club must’ve thought, instead of having me wait for the ball at the top of the pitch, about moving me a bit deeper so I could run with it a little. I know all the boys who were in that Shepshed team. The lads who were my age, I’m still best friends with some of them, which is great.”
It’s clear, speaking to the now 23-year-old, that his life is still rooted in Shepshed. His mum Venessa and his stepdad Rick live in the same house which the Foxes midfielder grew up in and will, according to Kiernan, stay there forever.
Venessa’s been there throughout his life, willing him on, following him up and down the country, and abroad, just as dad Terry has been too. Kiernan first met best friends Billy and Morgan in Shepshed. He came across Cal, another close friend, at the Club’s Academy.
Kiernan grew up in north Leicestershire and is a self-proclaimed Leicester lad.
“I’ve got such a good support mechanism,” he explains. “I’ve already mentioned my mum. She’s been there since day one. She came out to Germany for a youth tournament with the Club. She came with one of the other lads’ mums. I didn’t actually know they were coming.
“That shows you that she’s been following me wherever I go. My dad’s been there from day one. My friends were always understanding when I was missing parties. I still know them now and I met them when I was like six years old.
“They’ve supported me and they knew from playing school football that I’d play at a good level. It’s important. You need that. Knowing you’ve got that support, it lets you be free and express yourself. I’m just thankful for everyone I’ve got in my life because they’re all helping me in their own way.”
Life in a football academy is peculiar. You’re surrounded by boys who all share the same dream, but you know you can’t all make it. Early on, it’s about evening training sessions after school, before things begin to escalate in your late teenage years. Those Shepshed roots are a key part of the KDH story.
“I think it was about the time when I was in the Under-14s, that’s the stage of your development where it starts to become a little more serious,” he continues. “You’re implementing formations and tactics. You’re going from nine to 11-a-side.
The 23-year-old has represented the Foxes at every age level.
“At 14, I was still about 4ft 5in, but that’s the point where you start maybe sacrificing seeing your friends because you’re in training after school. From that point, that’s when I realised this is what I want to do and I’ve got to sacrifice things in order to do it. A lot of it is time.
“Time with friends and family. I missed out on playing with friends after school. Later on, it was parties. There were clubs at school that maybe I would’ve wanted to be a part of. You’ve got your friends at the Club of course, but when you’re in training, you’re not with your family too. There might be family meals or something.
“It’s part and parcel of growing up in that academy life. You're training three or four times a week. It’s something every footballer has to go through. It’s just about which path you want to take at the end of the day.”
After being spotted by Leicester scouts, either at a tournament at a Butlins in Skegness or Derby Road Playing Fields in Loughborough, according to Kiernan’s own recollection, the aspiring midfielder started to fall in love with the Club.
He would regularly make the walk down Raw Dykes Road and onto Filbert Way to watch the Foxes play. His early idols provide an insight into the era.
Kiernan was an eager spectator at King Power Stadium as the Club started their climb through the divisions.
“When I started at Leicester, the first team players were the likes of Matt Oakley and Richie Wellens,” he says. “They were the players I looked at and thought: ‘Imagine that’s me one day!’ Someone like Paul Scholes has always been my idol too. I used to watch him even as a kid.
“The way he played the game was everything I wanted to be as a footballer.”
Kiernan was surging through the Academy’s levels. He was fast-tracked through the Under-18s and into the Development Squad. Following his Under-23s debut in 2017, he rapidly became a lynchpin of the side. He’d soon be captain, leading a squad in Hong Kong for the HKFC Citi Soccer Sevens, playing effectively every game in Premier League 2, also starring in EFL Trophy ties against Football League opposition.
“Towards the end of that season, from January to the end of the season, I was playing regularly, I was captain of the Under-23s, I was playing really well in the EFL Trophy, and that was the point when I looked to kick on,” Kiernan recalls.
“We’d built a really good team at that time and a lot of those players are playing a good level of football now. They were really good times in my career. I was training with the first team as well so I was mixing between both teams. I knew the manager liked me and I thought I’d get a chance soon.
“I knew I had to keep it up, but I thought that chance was coming. That’s when it got real because I knew I had to stay switched on. At any point, the gaffer could’ve turned to me and given me that chance.”
He had to wait a little longer. In January 2020, his big shot finally arrived. At the age of 22, the name Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall was printed onto a first team teamsheet for the first time. He was named a sub for a third round tie away at Brentford in the Emirates FA Cup.
The cup clash at the soon-to-be-demolished Griffin Park was a fraught affair. Kelechi Iheanacho’s early strike nudged the Foxes ahead, but it was far from simple for the visitors in west London. Brentford were knocking at the door.
The 23-year-old impressed many during loan spells with Blackpool and Luton Town in the Football League.
Nevertheless, manager Brendan Rodgers turned to his bench and elected to put Kiernan on for the final 22 minutes. That trust spoke volumes about his opinion of the Shepshed native.
“I’ll be honest, it was a bit of a shock when he turned around and pointed to me,” Kiernan admits. “It was a really tough game, so the fact he looked to me, in my head, I thought: ‘Wow, he must trust me’. It wasn’t like he was throwing me on when we’re 4-0 up.
“He must’ve trusted my ability. It gave me a lot of motivation. They were my first minutes in senior football. It was quite daunting, a little scary and nerve-racking, but I felt like I came on and did well. From that point on, I feel like I’ve kicked on month by month. Now I’m where I am today.”
Leicester won 1-0 and Dewsbury-Hall had shown enough to suggest he could handle the rigours of a serious match of football. Two days later, another landmark occasion came his way. A maiden loan spell away from the Club at third tier side Blackpool was agreed.
“That was a whirlwind two months, I’ll be honest,” he says, looking back to that spell at Bloomfield Road. “I remember when I went to meet the people at Blackpool, they told me I might not get straight in and they explained how it might take a while.
“In my head, I thought: ‘No, I want to implement the way I play and get into the team straight away’. I managed to do that and scored on my debut.
“From making my debut at Leicester, a month and a half after that, I was playing regularly for Blackpool. I’d scored four goals. I’d done really well and a lot of people noticed me. Blackpool was a fantastic time for me. It was exactly what I needed at that time.
“From then on, I played until the season was stopped because of COVID. It was a shame it stopped early because I really felt I was doing well, but those 10 games I had with Blackpool really set me up for everything else which has happened.”
There was no stopping the Premier League pantomime, with the season resuming over the summer months in front of empty stadia, but the third and fourth tier campaign’s were curtailed. Kiernan’s big chance in the Football League had been cut short. He’d done enough, though, to earn a step up in 2020/21.
Wherever Dewsbury-Hall has gone in his early career, acclaim from the terraces has followed.
A season-long stretch at Luton Town was next up: “That was so good. It was obviously a step up, in the Championship, and it was everything I needed as a player. I developed as a player, as a person, everything.
“It was a tough decision to go there. At that point, I was playing in pre-season at Leicester and I was doing really well. I did think about staying at Leicester because I might have had a chance at playing some games. I looked at it and I’d only played 10 games in senior football.
“Everyone has different paths and I thought going to play a full season of senior football would be good for me. That’s what I did. I went there and managed to get into the team. I wanted to implement myself straight away again. I ended up playing 40 games that season. It was a really, really successful season.
“I picked up a couple of awards, which was great, and we finished in the top half. For Luton at that time, it was possibly overachieving. It’s a great club with great people. I learned so much there. I went there as a boy and I came back a man. Now, I’m ready to kick on again after those experiences.”
Both at Blackpool and Luton, Kiernan’s character shone through for each set of supporters. Like at Leicester, where they sing his name from the terraces, he made a big impression. To this day, his Twitter feed is swelled by messages of good will from Lancashire and Bedfordshire.
“The fans of both clubs were fantastic,” he adds. “It’s such a shame because at Luton, because of COVID, I only ever had two games with fans in the stadium. The love I got from both sets of fans was extraordinary.
“I can’t thank them enough for the way they treated me. It’s big as a player. It gives you confidence and you play better. I still get messages to this day from fans of both clubs saying really nice things. I’m grateful to them for the way they took me in as a loan player and treated me as one of their own.”
This summer, though, he was back in Leicester. He’d been given an indication by Rodgers and the backroom team at the Club that he would get a chance to impress in pre-season. Kiernan wasn’t going to leave anything to chance. This was an opportunity he wanted to seize. On day one in Seagrave, he was one of the Club’s top performers in testing. He was no longer the slight youngster people may have remembered. He was in peak physical condition.
“I’ll be honest, I broke up from Luton and, about a month before pre-season, I went on a really strict gym and fitness regime,” he reveals. “I had two pre-seasons. I thought: ‘I’ve got to give myself the best chance now’. I knew I’d done well at Luton, but it was a new slate. I needed to go in and be ready.
“A month before pre-season, I was completely dedicated to training and my fitness... everything. On the first day of pre-season, I wanted to be in great shape, ready to show people that I was ready and fit. That was the plan. On the first day of testing in pre-season, I just hit the ground running.
“I played in pre-season as well and scored and assisted, so everything which I wanted to happen did happen. The season’s come around and I’ve got some game time. We’ve got a lot of competition in midfield. It’s probably one of the toughest areas of our team to get into. There’s a lot of good players. My time will come and so I just have to keep working hard and, when I get my chance to play, I’ll try and take it.”
The Club's No.22 has his sights set firmly on further progress.
The support and guidance he received from Rodgers in those early days back in Leicester made a huge impression on Kiernan. He felt wanted at LCFC Training Ground. The Academy's representation in the first team squad at the Club is as healthy as ever, with Kiernan a prominent figure of the side.
“We had some really, really positive conversations,” he continues. “He just said this was the plan for me. The plan was to get a lot of experience. He told me that I’d done exactly what they wanted me to do out on loan and they could see a difference in me.
“You could see that he was really interested in what I was doing. As a player, you want that. You want the manager to be interested. It fills you with confidence and motivation. He just said to trust him and keep working. My chances will come. I believe that wholeheartedly, but I know I have to work.”
Kiernan scored at Queens Park Rangers in a summer friendly and, before too long, with the scores locked in stalemate against Manchester City at Wembley in the Community Shield, he was being beckoned by the manager to take his place on the enormous turf at the national stadium. Another chance to shine – this time in front of over 20,000 Foxes fans. In the 2021/22 season's curtain-raiser, it was the Foxes who lifted the shield.
He recalls: “It was the first time I’d ever played at Wembley. It was the first time I’d played in front of all the Leicester fans. It was one of those situations where I wasn’t sure if I was going to come on. It was a tough game, 0-0 against Man City, and he turned to me and said I was ready to go on.
“I came on and we ended up nicking a goal and winning it. The Community Shield is a trophy to be won and to win at Wembley, what more do you want? The fans were ecstatic and that’s probably one of the best moments I’ve had in football. I hope there’s more of that to come.”
The Dewsbury-Hall song had got another airing at Wembley. It returned in late August as Kiernan emerged from the bench, in another testing circumstance, to help Leicester get over the line in a 2-1 victory over Norwich City at Carrow Road. A Premier League debut.
“That was surreal!” he laughs. “I walk on and I think, from the minute I came on to full-time, they were singing my song. It obviously wasn’t the longest time on the pitch, but they were singing it the whole time. As I’ve said, I’ve been at Leicester since I was eight years old.
“I’ve come through and played in the first team. Sometimes it doesn’t feel real. When the fans sing your name, as a homegrown player, it’s such a great feeling. It’s a credit to the fans because they’ve warmed to me and they’ve treated me so well. It’s a dream come true. To play in the Premier League for your hometown club… I’m not sure how many people can say that they do that. There’s not many.”
Stadion Wojska Polskiego would be the setting for his next opportunity – against Legia Warsaw in the UEFA Europa League. An ear-splitting atmosphere greeted Kiernan and his team-mates. Leicester would fall short on the night, but this was a start for Dewsbury-Hall in European competition.
The next objective for KDH is to play regularly for the Foxes in the Premier League.
“I mentioned how I looked up to people like Matt Oakley and Richie Wellens and how I wanted to do what they were doing,” he continues. “I never thought I’d be doing things which they didn’t do at the Club. Now I think I can and I want to do more and more.
“That was the most unbelievable atmosphere at a game of football I’ve ever witnessed in my life, playing or watching. I guess you can’t describe the atmosphere unless you were there. It was ridiculous. You know what? For my first start of the season, I’m happy with that.
“If the manager can throw me in there, he can throw me in anywhere. It’s what dreams are made of to play in Europe. I know we lost, but I don’t think I’ll come across many better experiences than that to be honest. It was unbelievable.”
Incremental gains have defined KDH’s recent progress at the Club. He’s represented Leicester City at every age group and in every senior competition the Club has competed in over recent seasons. His Premier League and European debuts are out of the way. He’s lifted a trophy at Wembley. One day, he’d love to do enough at King Power Stadium to impress the England coaches and represent his country. It'd be unwise to bet against him.
“In the next year or two, I’m just hoping to be playing in the Premier League for Leicester,” Kiernan explains. “I believe I can do it. I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t believe that. I wouldn’t deserve to be here if I didn’t believe that.
“I know my ability and I know, if I get in, I can keep my place and play in the Premier League for the club I’ve been at since I was eight years old.
“I’ve got aspirations to play for my country. That’s always been an aspiration. I know, especially now, you see a lot of young players getting into the England squad. It’s not a million miles away. If you start playing regularly in the Premier League and if you’re doing well, you’ve got a chance and you go from there.
“I want to be playing regularly for Leicester and then you never know.”
To be playing for Leicester City evidently fills Kiernan with pride. It’s a story which has spanned almost two decades, but it’s clear to anyone who watched him closely over recent seasons that we're still only reading its early pages.
“It’s a home from home for me at Leicester City,” he says. “I’ve been here more than half my life. A lot of people here are like family. They’ve known me for years. It’s a club that’s supported me from eight to now and it’s still supporting me.
“I owe them a massive amount of credit for what they’ve done for me and my family. It’s a great club. It’s just evolving better and better. Hopefully, I’ve got many more years here. I’m a Leicester lad. I wouldn’t want to move away. I want to stay here for as long as I can and continue building the story I have with Leicester City.”
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