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Friday, June 04, 2010

QPR Report Friday Snippets: Kenny Today...Lookback at QPR/Chelsea/Fulham/Brentford...John Gregory on Israeli Football

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- (Depressing) VIDEO: Brian Little's 1976-77 League Cup Semi-Final Hatrick vs QPR at Highbuary

- Chairmen and CEOs off to Malta

- Paddy Kennedy: Vital Football/Sheffield United Profile

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South Yorkshire Post/James Shield - Blades keeper rejoins Warnock in controversial move to QPR
- PADDY Kenny is expected to join Queens Park Rangers later today.
The Sheffield United goalkeeper spent last night in the capital completing his medical and, barring any unforseen developments, will put pen to paper on a three year contract with Neil Warnock's side.
- Kenny's departure is shrouded in controversy. Sources close to the player acknowledge that his decision to head south is likely to provoke an angry reaction both on the terraces and behind the scenes at Bramall Lane. United, who will invest the £750,000 they are set to receive on signing a replacement, stood-by Kenny during his nine month suspension imposed following a positive drugs test during the 2008/09 campaign.

The Republic of Ireland international publicly thanked the club for their support when he returned to action in April. But United were powerless to prevent him speaking to Rangers after Warnock triggered a buy-out clause in the deal Kenny signed in November. Indeed, attempts to declare the contract null and void because United had already tabled an offer of their own could have led to an ugly legal spat.

The terms United proposed are believed to have covered the next two seasons and included a salary increase. Rangers are known to have tempted Kenny, whose pay was slashed during his period in exile, with a guarantee of even greater financial security. However, the player is expected to insist that money is not the only reason for the move. Family considerations are also known to have influenced his thinking.

Rangers, who could delay Kenny's official unveiling until early next week, had been linked with Crystal Palace's Julian Speroni. The Star understands that Johannes Ertl, the Argentine's team mate at Selhurst Park, features on United's wanted-list. Ertl has won seven caps for Austria.

Meanwhile, Nick Montgomery has revealed that United's "ambition" convinced him to agree a new three year contract. The midfielder, whose deal at Bramall Lane had been set to expire, was Leeds' number one transfer target.

Montgomery said: "I know how desperate the manager (Kevin Blackwell) and his staff are to get us back up to the Premier League. That was a massive reason behind why I wanted to stay. I've got a good relationship with all of them and a lot of respect for them all too.

"So I'm looking forward to trying to make sure that we can achieve all of our objectives next season." South Yorkshire Star

Yorkshire Post/Nick Westby - Blades begin search as Kenny is lured to London by Warnock
PADDY KENNY was last night ready to bring the curtain down on an eventful eight years at Bramall Lane by joining Sheffield United's Championship rivals Queens Park Rangers.
The 32-year-old was in London finalising the terms of his £750,000 switch and is expected to be unveiled today, just two months after returning to the Blades' first team following a nine-month ban for failing a drugs test.

The news represents a blADVERTISEMENTow to the United management and fans who were looking forward to seeing Kenny back in goal next season after he missed all-but two games of the 2009-10 campaign because of the ban.

During his suspension, the Halifax-born Republic of Ireland international signed a contract extension until the end of next season but has been lured to Loftus Road by former manager Neil Warnock after QPR activated a release clause in his contract.

Sources close to Kenny told the Yorkshire Post that the goalkeeper felt the Blades had not done enough to retain his services.

But after holding discussions with Kenny and his representatives in the wake of QPR making their interest known, United will feel they have been let down by a player they stood by during his darkest days.

Kenny was suspended last September after testing positive for traces of ephedrine, a banned substance, believed to be contained in a cough mixture bought over the counter, when randomly checked following United's victory over Preston North End in the Championship play-off semi-final at the end of the 2008-09 season.

The club suspended the player on June 4, pending the result of the investigation, but even after the ban was enforced and he was made to train separately from the first team, the Blades honoured his contract and in November both parties agreed to extend his stay at Bramall Lane.

The goalkeeper even paid tribute to United in an interview in the Blades' matchday programme just weeks before his return to action in the penultimate game of the season, a 2-0 win over Swansea City at Bramall Lane in April.

In the interview Kenny said: "Being given the ban, I was crying in the car coming home, thinking my career was over because you don't know what is around the corner but, luckily, this club stood by me."

Kenny first joined Sheffield United in August 2002 from Bury, initially on loan.

Warnock – who had also been his manager at Gigg Lane – made the move permanent three months later in a deal worth £42,000.

Kenny was voted player of the season in his first year at the club and helped the Blades to the Championship play-off final, where they were beaten 3-0 by Wolves.

He played every minute of their successful promotion campaign in 2005-06

Brian Kerr handed him his first Republic of Ireland cap in 2004.

He played seven times for his country before asking Steve Staunton to leave him out of his plans in early 2007 for personal reasons, following an incident outside a Halifax curry house in November 2006 which resulted in Kenny having his eyebrow bitten off.

He returned to the international scene in 2008, by which time Shay Given was established as the Irish No 1.

Kenny was placed on the transfer list at the end of 2008 after being late for training, but was taken off it after signing a new contract just days before it emerged he had failed the drugs test.

Now Warnock has swooped in to offer him the chance to resurrect his career at Loftus Road.

"It's the third time I've signed Paddy and I'm delighted to be linking up with him again," said Warnock.

"There were times when it was him or Shay Given for the Irish spot, and in my opinion Paddy didn't get the recognition he deserved. It's well known he's made mistakes in the past but he'll be a great capture for QPR, and I'm sure he's going to be popular in the changing room and with our fans."

Kenny's departure means a new goalkeeper becomes the priority for Blades manager Kevin Blackwell this summer.

In Kenny's absence last year he had to bring a number of young goalkeepers in on loan from Premier League clubs, Mark Bunn of Blackburn Rovers and Steve Simonsen of Stoke City among them.

Simonsen played seven times during a one-month loan spell towards the end of the season and the 31-year-old could be the man Blackwell now turns to as he looks for somebody to establish themselves as the No 1 goalkeeper. Yorkshire Post

Skysports - Hendrie waits on Brighton
Midfielder also attracting interest from QPR and Greece
- Lee Hendrie is waiting on an offer from Brighton & Hove Albion after revealing Queens Park Rangers have also shown an interest.

The experienced midfielder is available on a free transfer after being released by Derby County and he spent the end of last season on loan at Brighton.

He is aware he would have to accept a pay cut to join the Seagulls permanently and is waiting to see what the League One club are prepared to offer.

"It's in Brighton's court," the former England international told The Argus. "We're waiting to see what sort of package they come up with.

"I pretty much realise it would be a pay cut. It's just how much less it would be. But then they wouldn't have to pay a transfer fee for me so that could come into it as well.

"It's just about waiting to see if they are coming back."

The 33-year-old is also on QPR boss Neil Warnock's list of targets, while an unnamed Greek club are willing to offer Hendrie a deal.

He added: "There are a couple of options. QPR could be coming back if something else doesn't work out for them and there's a club in Greece who want me straight away.

"I've set myself the target of being fixed up at the end of June Skysports

Reposted on When Saturday Comes from 2001: A QPR Fan Looks at London Neighbours QPR, Fulham, Brentford...and Chelsea

When Saturday Comes Shallow end - WSC 167 Jan 01 The three smaller west London clubs have more in common than antipathy towards Chelsea. They even share some fans, says Anthony Hobbs

In footballing terms, the citizens of west London have had plenty to moan about over the years. A good number of them have become pretty adept at it, to the point of weary cynicism. With my own club, Queens Park Rangers, currently bouncing around at the bottom of the First Division and playing some staggeringly uninspiring football, this latent negativity does not need much persuading to come out into the open.

True, some of the neighbours seem to be doing all right at the moment, but for how long? Back in 1982-83, the newly arrived Ken Bates was interviewed on Football Focus. Asked how he reacted to the fact that Fulham and QPR were riding high at the top of the Second Division while his own “fashionable” be­hemoth thrashed around at the bottom, he retorted that “they’re entitled to their brief moment of glory”. While the remark summed up a patronising attitude from Chelsea which guarantees contempt for them from other west London fans, it has to be admitted that history has proved him correct.

In recent years, while Rangers have gone from European contenders to First Division strugglers, Brentford have been up and down to say the least and Fulham have only just started to enjoy themselves after years of decline. This is an area of London that has rarely been short of sizeable egos and large boasts, with Bates, Ron Noades and Mohammed Fayed currently more than living up to the standards set by Jim Gregory at Rangers and the unlamented Ernie Clay at Fulham, but too often the rhetoric has been far more impressive than the football.

One of west London’s problems is that none of its three smaller clubs has established itself over a long period of time as the most credible alternative to Chelsea. While each has a solid hard core of support, they cannot rely on the loyalty of a huge following like, say, Manchester City, who can call on 25,000 stalwarts even in the depths of the Second Division. QPR, Ful­ham, Brentford and even Chelsea themselves have had to maintain success on the field in order to get bodies through the turn­stiles, but none has been able to do so consistently. As Noades charmlessly re­marked to Brentford fans recently: “Because we’re not winning every week and playing attractive foot­ball, the gates go down to 4,000 even when we are at home to the league lead­ers.”

Perhaps that is hardly surprising, since Brentford have been largely eclipsed by their neighbours since their First Division heyday in the late 1930s. Similarly, Fulham failed to capitalise on their last spell in the First Division in the Sixties and QPR could not sustain the suc­cess of the late Seventies and early Eighties. Whe­ther it is a cause or an effect of such short bursts of prominence, it seems that a larger than average pro­portion of the local population professes a general interest in football with a leaning towards one of the local sides, rather than a fanatical devotion to a particular club. Indeed, rivalries shift ar­ound here, to the point where they can start to appear a little contrived.

From a QPR standpoint, for example, the view of the neighbours goes something like this: way back in the mists of time when we were in the Third Division South, many cited Brentford as our local rivals. As we progressed up the divisions while the Bees stayed where they were, we strove to develop a rivalry with Chel­sea who, being bigger and more successful, were largely indifferent. By the Eighties, we were regularly finishing above Chelsea, which perhaps led to a little more interest on their part. Fulham might have liked a rivalry with us at that time, but we couldn’t really be bothered. Now, while you still hear the odd anti-Chel­sea chant at Loftus Road, it’s a little bit half hearted. We’ve briefly enjoyed a bit of banter with Fulham as we have passed them on our travels in opposite directions through the divisions, but now they seem to be turning their attention towards next season’s revived confrontation with Chelsea.

With support meandering from one club to another and teams yo-yoing up and down the divisions, each of the clubs has had a real struggle to maintain support and interest in their times of crises. Rangers’ support, for example, already 3,000 down on recent years and still falling, would undoubtedly drop further should we slip into the Second Division.

One wonders whether this floating support is bigger than any of the clubs is prepared to admit. Per­haps the vehement reaction to the ill-fated “Ful­ham Park Rangers” scheme of the mid-Eighties per­suaded them that the loyal following of each club was larger than it really is. Whatever the reason, none of the people in charge appears to have reacted by at­tempting to root their club properly in the local com­munity, thereby building a solid enough base to ride out the bad times, preferring instead the rocky road of relying on rich benefactors.

I don’t want to begrudge Fulham their spot in the sunshine. After all, their hardcore of support has suffered its fair share of misery over the years. But I can’t help wondering whether the success they are enjoying is sustainable. Fayed has got a bottomless pit of cash, but if for any reason he loses interest, there seems little indication that anyone has thought of a Plan B. On a larger scale, free spending Chelsea don’t look a bad bet to be the first big name to slip off the back of the Premiership gravy train. One wonders what may become of them if they do.

In not too many years’ time, it would be no surprise to me to find talk of mergers and ground shares starting up again. At the moment, it is QPR and Brentford, as current paupers of the area, who appear to have the shortest odds on being involved. But in an area of shifting sands and shifting loyalties, a few short years could make a very big difference.

From WSC 167 January 2001. What was happening this month - When Saturday Comes

Jewish Chronicle - : John Gregory
He didn’t save Nazareth. But, says James Montague, he is relishing life at Ashdod

June 3, 2010
John Gregory at home with Ashdod, a marked change from his days at Villa

The writing was on the wall for Nazareth long before their 7-0 capitulation to Hapoel Ramat Gan on a remarkable last day of the Israeli season. Relegation was assured a week before, but the signs had not looked good for a while.

Teetering on bankruptcy, losing heavily every week on the pitch whilst enduring the racism that follows clubs like Bnei Sakhnin, who proudly claim an Israeli-Arab identity, it had been a miserable season.

But there was one shining light, one that has enthralled fans, not to mention the media: the tongue-in-cheek stoicism of their English manager.

Gregory used to be a contender. After taking Aston Villa to the top of the Premier League, he was tipped as a potential England boss. But bad luck, bust-ups with various chairmen and, ultimately, poor results saw him sacked from successive jobs. When he left QPR in 2007 he disappeared from football. Many thought that would be the last we would see of him.

But last December he stepped out of the wilderness in unconventional style, taking charge of Nazareth, who were rooted to the bottom of the Ligat Ha'al. It was an unconventional move to say the least.

"I have a connection with Najwan Ghrayib [who he signed for Villa in 1999] who is a coach here. I was on holiday and they offered me a contract," he said.

"They are a third or fourth division club playing in the Israeli Premier League. People were saying it was a bad career move, but the more people said that, the more I wanted to come. I'm an Englishman. We love the underdog. Money wasn't an issue. If you're a singer you need to sing, doesn't matter who your audience is. I need to get on the coaching pitch and get my fix."

Nazareth is a modest outfit, even by Israeli standards. They came into a newly expanded Israeli Premier League along with five other teams. But the club from the Galilee, which has a mixed team of Jews and Arabs, only attracts a few thousand home fans. Money has been so tight many of the players were not paid for over two months, not exactly ideal preparation for a relegation dogfight.

"They come off the training pitch and you have no wages to give them, they have no money for food, to pay the rent, food for kids. Players had electricity cut off. I was getting calls from players saying that they didn't have petrol to get to the game," he said. "I was almost acting as a psychologist and CEO. "

Then there's the political situation. Israeli football remains a hotbed of political antagonisms. Travelling teams with supporters singing songs in Arabic do not get a friendly reception from the famously fiery nationalistic support.

When Sakhnin or Nazareth play in Jerusalem they are met by a police escort. But Gregory soon discovered that the fiercest rivalry was with Bnei Sakhnin.

"They don't get on at all, it's worse than when we play Beitar," he laughed. "When we played at Sakhnin the fans had stones and boulders, there were rockets going off. We had to be smuggled out of the town."

Gregory has won plaudits for masterminding some impressive results, including victory over Maccabi Tel Aviv. It was a miracle that Nazareth kept their chance of avoiding relegation alive until the penultimate game of the season .

"He is completely different to any other manager here," one Israeli pundit said. "Football managers in Israel wear scruffy T-shirts and jeans, but Gregory wears training tops and looks like a coach. In interviews, he even talks in English football clich├ęs. But he comes across very well on TV and knows what he's doing."

Gregory certainly didn't appear to be feeling the strain, giving affable interviews to anyone that wanted them. Keeping Nazareth up, he said, would have been the "biggest achievement of my life".

His move to Ashdod came as something of a surprise as he was strongly linked with former champions Betar Jerusalem. After signing a three-year contract with Ashdod, Gregory said: "I am certain that I have reached the best place in Israel and I wish to steer Ashdod to new heights in Israeli football."

Only time will tell. Jewish Chronicle

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