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Monday, April 04, 2011

QPR Report Monday: Sheffield United/Warnock/Kenny...Flashbacks: QPR in Administration & Sousa on The Brink


- Throughout the day, updates, comments and perspectives re QPR and football in general are posted and discussed on the QPR Report Messageboard...Also Follow: QPR REPORT ON TWITTER

Yann Tear/Ealing Gazette - Warnock plans QPR talks - April 4, 2011
- NEIL Warnock is to hold talks with the QPR board on Tuesday to discuss strategies for life in the Premier League.
- There is likely to be a preliminary debate about the amount of money the Rangers boss will need to make an impact in the top flight, should they get there.
- "We'll be talking in general about the rest of the season and what we will be looking for in the summer, depending on where we are," said Warnock.
- "We can't really do too much until we know for certain what division we're in.
- "I don't think we can start planning just yet, but we've got to cover all eventualities. We may discuss budgets, but it's not certain." Ealing Gazette

- Two Years Ago: Sousa on the Brink: Speaks Out re Blackstock Loan

- Birthday for Paul Parker

- Ten Years Ago: QPR Enter Administration

- Four Year Flashback: John Gregory in a critical mood re Pre-Season Preparations & Players

- Fulham's Al-Fayed Dismisses Fan Criticism of Michael Jackson Statue (Go Support Chelsea)

- Paul Inced Axed by Notts County

- Kevin Gallen Debuted for His New Club

- Twenty-Nine Years Ago yesterday: QPR Reach the FA Cup Final For the First Time

- Three Years Ago: QPR's PR Firm Profiled...Rowan Vine Breaks His Leg...John Gregory Linked to QPR


- VIDEO: 1923 - QPR vs Sheffield United

- Earlier Previews re QPR vs Sheffield United

The Star - NEIL WARNOCK’S HEARTACHE Michael Morgan
- NEIL WARNOCK admits hometown club Sheffield United’s relegation plight has broken his heart

Neil Warnock led his beloved Blades to the Premier League during a roller-coaster eight years as manager.

Now his QPR table-toppers host United tonight with his old side marooned in the drop zone four points adrift of safety.

Warnock admitted: “I won’t enjoy this game at all. Sure, I want to win for Rangers, my players, our supporters and myself but, at the same time, I don’t like seeing United where they are.

“I don’t take any pleasure whatsoever from it because I still vividly remember those days when I was a lad standing on the Kop and cheering my heroes on.

“And I still look back and fondly remember that season when we went up into the top flight back in 2006.

“This Rangers team is the best I’ve had. But I certainly don’t think it has a better spirit than the Sheffield United team that got promotion to the Premier League.”

Warnock is bidding for a seventh promotion as a manager to equal Dave Bassett and Graham Taylor’s record.

THE SUN - Warnock’s pain at Blades plight By VIKKI ORVICE
- NEIL WARNOCK will take no pleasure from pushing Sheffield United closer to the drop tonight.
Warnock's old club are stuck in the Championship relegation zone ahead of tonight's trip to leaders QPR.

Rangers boss Warnock, who followed the Blades as a kid, admitted: "I want to win for Rangers, my players, the supporters here. But I don't like seeing United where they are."

Blades chief Micky Adams said: "Me and Neil have crossed swords on many occasions, so there will be no surprises.

"We know we can't go there and only have four or five lads switched on."

MIRROR - Warnock takes no pleasure in Blades' problems

Neil Warnock admits Sheffield United’s plight is breaking his heart.

Warnock led his beloved Blades to the Premier League during eight years as boss of the club he has supported all his life.

Now his QPR table-toppers welcome United to Loftus Road with them in the drop zone, seven points adrift of safety.

Warnock, who left his hometown club four years ago, said: “I won’t enjoy this game at all. Sure, I want to win for Rangers, but I don’t like seeing United where they are.


INDEPENDENT - Paddy Kenny: 'Drugs ban made me see how lucky I am to be a footballer'

QPR's keeper tells Glenn Moore how he fought back from suspension and is now on the verge of a Premier League return

A year ago Paddy Kenny was a banned footballer, practising in the park after being suspended for giving a positive drugs test. Already in his thirties, his career was in doubt. Today he is leaner, fitter, happier, and preparing for what appears an inevitable return to the Premier League with Championship leaders Queen's Park Rangers.

"If you'd have said then, that you'd seen this in a crystal ball, I'd have said you were having a laugh," says Kenny as he sits in the sunshine at QPR's west London training ground.

It has been quite a turnaround, which will be underlined this evening when Kenny's former club, Sheffield United, come to Loftus Road. Kenny spent the best part of a decade with the Blades, playing more than 400 games, but to judge from the frosty reception he was given at Bramall Lane in October it will not be a happy reunion. Sheffield United fans are unhappy that Kenny left the club last summer after they had stood by him during his ban, even handing him a new contract. That United are heading for relegation, and Kenny for promotion, will add to the tension.

The crowd is very close to the pitch at QPR and, said Kenny, "it can get interesting when you back up against the fence to take a goal-kick. I'll need to keep my concentration."

All Kenny will say on the reaction to him in Sheffield is "I was quite disappointed," it is understood, though, that the issue was not quite as clear-cut as his former club suggested at the time. The deal Kenny signed while banned involved a significant pay cut, agreed on the understanding he would get a new deal if he proved his fitness when the ban expired. When he did so, he was told he would have to wait until Christmas. Only when QPR came in, and met the £750,000 release clause, was a new contract offered.

An earlier offer had been anticipated because Kenny forced his way back into the starting XI within two days of his ban expiring despite not even being allowed to train with the club until the last month of his suspension. The discovery that he had to cut all contact with the first-team squad compounded the blow of a ban Kenny had not anticipated.

"The barrister was adamant I would get three months backdated and I would be able to come back at the start of the season," he says. "So when at the hearing they said 'we agree you've not taken it to enhance performance, but we are hitting you with a nine-month ban for negligence', it was a massive shock."

Kenny was on holiday, in Egypt, when he was told he had failed a drugs test following Sheffield United's Championship promotion play-off against Preston on 11 May 2009 (United won 1-0, but lost in the final to Burnley). "I looked back and realised I'd taken these tablets for a chest infection." They were ChestEze, an over-the-counter drug containing ephedrine hydrochloride.

"I seriously didn't think about it," says Kenny. "In hindsight it was so stupid and clumsy of me. It is a lesson for everyone that you have got to be careful.

"There is stuff that 99.9 per cent of people on the street can take and you can't, it's that simple. I don't know the ins and outs of Kolo Touré's situation but I do know it's easily done.

"The scientist who did my tests said I would have had to take 50 to 60 tablets 10 minutes before kick-off to get a 10-minute buzz." Nevertheless, the Regulatory Commission handed down the ban because he had not bothered checking whether the tablets contained a banned substance.

In the circumstances, it would have been easy to feel embittered and let himself go. Instead, Kenny decided to turn his life around. "I hired a personal trainer, trained with him five times a week, and went to the gym on Saturday on my own. Twice a week a friend would hit a few shots at me in the park.

"It was odd being at home everyday. I missed the banter. I played a lot of golf just to keep busy.

"Saturdays were the hardest, watching the goals come in on Soccer Saturday. Normally, I'd spend the day preparing for a game, then playing. All of a sudden it was taken away from you. I wasn't even allowed in the club.

"When I was allowed back I was fitter than when I left. I think the club were surprised but I'd worked really hard. To get a couple of games in before the season finished [he played in Sheffield United's final two matches, keeping clean sheets in both] was a massive bonus."

It was not just his body Kenny had worked on, it was his attitude to his profession. "I'd been full-time for 10 years prior to that and, apart from a four-month injury, I'd been more or less playing solidly all that time. Having that time out made me look at things. It made me realise what a good job I've got and how lucky I am to have it.

"I'm a different person now. I train differently – a lot harder – and look after myself a lot better. It was a reality check. Off the pitch now it's about my missus, my kids, golf and the dog." Kenny pauses and smiles ruefully. "I've got quite boring. I suppose that is a good thing for me."

His manager would agree. Neil Warnock knows Kenny better than most, the pair go way back, more than a dozen years to the days when Kenny was supplementing his income as an engineer keeping goal for Bradford Park Avenue, and Warnock was managing Bury.

"Trevor Storton [the Bradford PA manager] told me, 'I've a goalie here who looks a bit good to me'," recalled Warnock. "I watched him on a filthy night and he was out of condition, a porky young lad, but I just liked the look of him. And when we met I liked the way he was, he was a likeable rogue.

"I signed him, but we had Dean Kiely in goal so I sent him on loan to Whitby Town to get games. He rang me one night to say, 'gaffer, it's that cold if we are attacking I can't feel me fingers'. I said to him, 'it will make Bury seem like Saint-Tropez when you come back.'"

When Kiely moved on, Kenny got his chance and, after being knocked out in his first match, did enough to persuade Warnock to sign him again, for Sheffield United in 2002. There the pair won promotion, then suffered relegation together. Their paths then diverged, Warnock leaving Sheffield, then taking over at Crystal Palace. But when the manager wanted players with character as he rebuilt QPR last summer, he thought of Kenny. The keeper did not take much persuading.

"When I spoke to the gaffer I knew this was where I wanted to be," says Kenny. "I knew what he was like, and he knows what he gets from me. We've had our run-ins, but the good thing about him is whatever is said behind closed doors in the changing rooms is forgotten the next day."

The biggest "run-ins" came when Kenny's off-field behaviour caused Warnock headaches, and created unwanted headlines. Kenny did not always choose his company wisely and a difficult marriage did not help. "He had some personal problems which interfered with his career," said Warnock, "but once I knew he had sorted them out I knew he would be a different player. He's an entirely different professional, he's so dedicated.

"People say it was a gamble, but it wasn't really. I had this feeling that this would be his best spell as a goalkeeper and I don't think there is anybody in the country who can touch him when he is like that. I just feel he is 'content', like I am. It's made for a great signing."

A new partner, and a change of location after living in Yorkshire all his life, has helped, adding to a sense of a fresh start for Kenny. "I've new people to impress, new fans, and I think that has brought the best out of me," he says.

The new training regime is another factor. At just over 6ft tall, Kenny is shorter than every Premier League goalkeeper bar Wayne Hennessey (Wolves) and Richard Kingson (Blackpool). He is, though, more agile than many. "I am 10 pounds lighter than a few years ago which is a massive help. I move around the goal quicker," Kenny says. Warnock added: "He's not the tallest, but he comes for everything. I've never worried about his size, it's perfect for the agility keepers need."

A recent save from Ayegbeni Yakubu demonstrated that perfectly, Kenny stretching and arching to turn over a lob from Leicester's loanee striker. QPR went on to win 1-0, one of 21 clean sheets in their 38-match campaign to date. Kenny has played in them all, conceding just 23 goals as Rangers have gone 10 points clear of the play-off places – a gap that can be extended to 13 if they win tonight against a United side now seven points adrift of safety.

The only missing element for Kenny is a return to international football. His form – the best of his life according to player and manager – makes it all the more surprising the Republic of Ireland manager Giovanni Trapattoni did not call when Shay Given was injured this season. Not that Warnock is unhappy that his goalkeeper spent last week relaxing, instead of playing for the Republic. "I'm delighted," said the QPR manager, adding of the players who were called up instead, "I think David Forde and Keiren Westwood are the best keepers on the planet, they should always be in the Republic of Ireland squad and they should never take Paddy Kenny."

Kenny does not agree, he'd like a recall but it appears he is still being punished for briefly withdrawing from selection to deal with problems in his personal life more than three years ago. "It would be nice to get back in at some point," he says, "but at the moment we have a promotion charge on and I think it is important to keep my mind focused on what we are doing here. Hopefully, if I get a call in the future I'll be ready."

Kenny, like Warnock, has unfinished business with the Premier League. The goalkeeper says he can still picture Danny Webber running through on goal late in what proved Sheffield United's last game in the top flight. They were 2-1 down at the time and a draw would have kept them up. Webber hit the post, Wigan held on and United went down with a goal difference just one worse than the Latics.

"It was heartbreaking," he says. Daring to look ahead he adds: "I think anyone who goes up will find it difficult, but maybe we're financially better positioned than Sheffield were and will have the money available to keep us up there."

Returning to Old Trafford, the Emirates and Anfield will be a long way from playing at Bradford Park Avenue and Whitby Town, and even further from all those lonely afternoons in the gym watching Soccer Saturday.

Paddy power: Kenny's remarkable career

* Born Halifax, W Yorks, 17 May 1978.

* Signed by Neil Warnock at Bury (1998), Sheffield United (2002) and QPR (2011).

* Made 600 league and cup appearances, Bury (150), Sheffield United (410), QPR (40 to date).

* Sheffield United supporters' Player of the Season in 2002-03. Played every minute of 2005-06 Championship promotion season. Ever-present during club's single season in Premier League.

* Made debut for Republic of Ireland in 2004, has gone on to win seven caps.

* Tested positive for the prohibited substance ephedrine in May 2009.

* Banned in July 2009 for nine months for "negligence" after commission rules drug not taken deliberately and not performance-enhancing.

* Returned to Sheffield United first team in April 2010. - Independent

QPR Report Q&A: The Sheffield United Perspective

This week, Vital Football Sheffield United's Ben Shepherd has very kindly provided his perspective of Sheffield United and QPR

Starting simply: How long have you supported Sheffield United?

I went to my first game just before my seventh birthday, and I've never looked back since. My passion doesn't necessarily come out in the obvious ways; I don't stand and shout, but even when we've been near the bottom or even languishing in mnd-table I've never not enjoyed a matchday.

How long have you been involved with your Website? How did you get to your site?

I've been doing it now since May 2008. United have one or two big forums elsewhere so it's not particularly big, but it's certainly grown. When I started we had around 60 members, and we now have close to 500.

How do you get on with the other Sheffield United fan sites: Are there any serious inter-board conflicts (as there certainly are between certain QPR boards!)?

Basically, we think those on the Blades Mad site are rather moronic, and often comment when things are getting emotional on ours we don't want to come across like they do; but there's no real rivalry.

What do Sheffield United fans think of Sheffield Wednesday? Is it rivalry? Is it hatred? Is it an equal two-way rivalry? (Any other rivals besides them?)

The "Wendys" as you often hear is a great rivalry. I personally really enjoy it. It's like a sibling rivalry to me. It's about getting one up on them, rather than an out and out hatred for me. Others might disagree, but I see it as a true footballing rivalry where it doesn't matter what's going on in the grand scheme of things, but come the week of a derby and the week after, work places are split, and even families, but at the end of the day, you'd still stick up for Sheffield football if need be. After all, we invented it.

- How do you feel about Sheffield Wednesday suffering in the Third Division?

For the times they were on top for so long, it's nice to be the best team in the city, it's just a shame when they've suffered so much we've not pulled away from them, and instead look like joining them. However, it's a sorry state of affairs if both sides are in the third division next season.

Are you happy with your manager and team and how things are? - Can you explain/do you understand how things got to this point? What did you think of Blackwell - Maybe at least in hindsight, a mistake not to keep him? (I remember we were linked to him a couple of years ago)

Somebody summed it up perfectly a week or so ago. "If we'd got Blackwell we wouldn't be in this mess, but I still enjoy it more now." He just sapped the life out of the club, there was no spirit, it was awful - but on the other hand, he got results and has one of the best records at the club in terms of win percentage.

What do you think of the current - and previous- Owners? WHY are they involved? WHO ARE THEY?! What do you expect? Could they realistically have done more to boost your chances?

Propaganda merchants, businessmen, ruthless. Very split opinions on the board. Kevin McCabe took over and pretty much saved the club, he put money in, we went up and is now gradually taking his money back. Our debts at the club are owed to Mr McCabe, not the bank which in a sense is a good position to be in (as long as he stays). He appointed Trevor Birch (ex-Chelsea, saw the arrival of Abramovich) as Chief Exec and Chris Steer as Chairman of the football club, but he's the puppeteer, he still makes the calls and pulls the strings, they're there to basically get the stick.

How do you think Sheffield Uited treats its fans? Appreciates them? Listens to them? Screws them?

We get positive PR pushed down our throat all the time, they patronise the fans no end. I know the official site has to be positive but there's limits, and they expect you to take it all in. As an example, this was the opening line of the match report when we lost to Sheffield Wednesday a couple of years ago. United may hold the city advantage in terms of league position and average attendance but Saturday's victory gave Wednesday bragging rights. Have you ever seen anything like that?

Who are you Dangermen/Most valued/most overrated/most underrated players?

The dangerman is hard to say. We're a team who just look to get the ball in the right areas and feed off scraps, so the quickest reactions I suppose. Daniel Bogdanovic is dangerous, but the return of Darius Henderson is a big thing (providing he stays on the pitch).

Who would you say was the greatest Sheffield United player that you yourself personally saw? (You can name more than one if it's that close!)

For me it's Dane Whitehouse. He epitomised everything about the Blades. He was Sheffield born and bred, and he lived for the club, turning down big offers elsewhere before his career was cut short by that (insert expletive) Gareth Ainsworth.

Prediction for season promotion/relegation places - And how would that compare with pre-season prediction? In your heart of hearts, what were you expecting pre-season for Sheffield United - I imagine a promotion challenge?

I expected comfortable midtable this season. Basically, consolidate and start to build again. Not really worked out though has it. I think we'll go down with Preston and Sc**thorpe, with QPR, Leeds (pains me to say that) and Cardiff going up. However, if Leeds finish in the play-offs I don't think they'll do it.

What is your view and the general Sheffield United view of QPR (If we even feature in your consciousness)?.
I imagine with Warnock and now Paddy Kenny you probably do have a view.

I like our Neil, so I want him to do well. My personal view of QPR is that they're a good old fashioned London club, and so I don't mind them going up at all. As for Kenny, I'm a big fan, and unlike the majority of the fans I understood why he left. The club did pay him when he was suspended, and did "stand by him" in that sense but I feel we sold him down the river. He got no public support from the club (see the PRimage previously).

What are your past Encounter Memories - Best Memory/Worst Memory of Past QPR- Encounters? Who is your favourite QPR Player over the years? (And your least favourite)? We of course have Tony Currie in common.. And Kenny, as noted above. And Leigertwood. And a number of others.

My favourite player is probably Kenny but that won't be a popular choice. I do like Shaun Derry though, he's a different player to when he was with United but a typical Warnock type. He'll run through a brick wall for you , and is one of those you love to have, but hate when he's on another team (see: Chris Morgan).

Regarding Neil Warnock: What did you think of his time at Sheffield United? What did you think of his departure? What do you think of him now?

It was inevitable I think he was going to leave when he did, but it's still a shame. With the team we had, I believe he'd have taken us straight back to the the Premier League, but McCabe had bigger ideas for his global empire. We bought Ferencvaros, Chengdu Blades and Central Coast Marriners, and the chairman wanted a global name to go with it. Didn't work.

Are you looking forward to playing QPR?

No, but we've nothing to lose.

SCORE PREDICTION for QPR-Sheffield United?

Either 4-0 QPR, or 1-0 Blades

Where, realistically, do you think Sheffield United will be in five years time?
(I imagine even if you do go down, you'll bounce bank within a year or two, and be at least challenging for Premiership)

The Summer's huge. If we stay up we'll be in a similar position to what we are now. If we go down, we can rebuild and hopefully be pushing the play-offs.

Do you have any advice for QPR fans, in the event that we do go up? (Spend more/spend less; keep the manager; change the manager, etc)

Attack. We were ten points clear of relegation and started playing one up front. Needless to say it didn't work. Wigan, Blackpool and others have got promoted and attacked. It's vital

Very many thanks to Vital Football Sheffield United's Ben Shepherd

- Next: Sheffield United - Previews and Flashbacks

- Videos From Legends Night (Thanks to Pete/WATRB for posting them on the web)

- Neil Warnock's Weekly Column

- Lee Cook on His Gift Back to QPR

- "Save The Date: London Masters - Including QPR - London Wembley Arena, July 9 (Past QPR Masters "Championship"

- QPR "Smilies"

- John Burridge's Autobiography...Burridge Interviewed...Contemplated Suicide/love for Football

- Two Years Ago: Sousa Defending His QPR Job

- Three Year Flashback: Amit Bhatia Talking re QPR

- Play "Spot The Ball" #6

- QPR Community Trust - TIGER FEET 2- Tigercubs's Charity Walk to Watford - April 30
- Click Here for Application Form - QPR

- Cycling for Charity

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