COS columnist Tom Victor looks at the return to prominence of a once disgraced player.
On Tuesday night, Paddy Kenny saved a David Cotterill penalty at the Liberty Stadium to ensure QPR extended their unbeaten league run to 12 games.
The stop marked the pinnacle of a remarkable comeback for the Irish international, who one year ago had no idea where his next start – let alone his next clean sheet – was going to come from.
Suspended by former club Sheffield United in May 2009 after testing positive for banned substance ephedrine, Kenny was facing the uninviting prospect of looking for a new club at the age of 32 with the club showing no immediate intentions of renewing his contract.
But hard work during his suspension earned the player a new Sheffield United deal, before former Blades boss stepped in to bring him to West London for £750,000 this June.
Since joining the R’s, the only way has been up for the former Bury number one: he has only conceded three goals in his 12 Championship starts, forming a fruitful partnership with a newly-formed back four of Matt Connolly, Clint Hill, Kaspars Gorkss and Spurs loanee Kyle Walker.
And Kenny’s renaissance is demonstrative of Warnock’s phenomenal ability to get the best out of players whose careers had seemed to be stagnating.
Jamie Mackie has scored as many goals in 10 games this campaign as he did in the entirety of last season with Plymouth (and half as many as he netted in three years in Devon), while five-goal strike-partner Heidar Helguson is now a permanent fixture in the first team after being loaned out twice last season.
Elsewhere Warnock has packed his side with familiar faces, Hill and Shaun Derry arriving from former club Crystal Palace while Kenny and former R’s captain Mikele Leigertwood both represented Warnock’s Sheffield United in their recent Premier League stint.
Even the players remaining from Flavio Briatore’s tenure (it is easier to link the team to the controversial chairman than to the numerous managers appointed by him) seem to have gained a new lease of life under the man affectionately nicknamed ‘Colin W***er by his peers.
Former loanee Adel Taarabt has grown since his permanent move from Tottenham freed him from the burden of Premier League expectation, while Alejandro Faurlin has overcome the pressures of his £3.5m price-tag to put his name forward as a potential long-term replacement for veteran club captain Martin Rowlands.
Taarabt could easily have turned down a move to a lower division, while Faurlin might have faltered under the weight of expectation after initially struggling to adapt following his move from the Argentine Primera Division. But both – while hardly unimpressive last season – have added a level of consistency to their unquestionable ability in QPR’s run to the top of the table.
Perhaps we should not be surprised by the success of Warnock at Loftus Road. After all, this is the man who almost kept up a Sheffield United team containing Chris Morgan, Christian Nade and Keith Gillespie.
Say whatever else you like about the man once dubbed ‘The Championship Mourinho’ – the man knows England’s second tier, whether that means keeping a team in it or lifting them out into the top flight.
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