EXCLUSIVE: QPR keeper reveals the ‘heartbreak’ driving him on this season
Paddy Kenny on his second chance in the Premier League, his relationship with Neil Warnock and the Rs’ survival chances
Paddy Kenny believes that he is in the form of his life at QPR this season, and admits that helping the Rs secure Premier League survival would finally banish the pain of his Sheffield United nightmare.
Kenny is still haunted by the memories of the final moments of the 2006-07 campaign, a rainy day at Bramall Lane when he was in goal for Neil Warnock’s Sheffield United side who were beaten 2-1 by Wigan Athletic and relegated to the Championship on goal difference.
The agony on that final day of the season was the beginning of what Kenny labels one of the toughest periods of his career. Two years later, in September 2009, that career went into freefall when he was banned from the game for nine months after testing positive for the banned substance ephedrine.
He returned to play only a handful more games for United, the club who he had spent the best part of a decade with, before in the summer of 2010 Warnock, who had since moved to QPR after rebuilding his own managerial career at Crystal Palace, told Kenny he was needed to underpin Rangers’ push for promotion to the Premier League.
And after making the switch to west London, Kenny has barely looked back. He was an ever-present as the Rs won the Championship last season, and has begun the current campaign in equally impressive form. At 33 years of age, Kenny has been handed a second chance – and it is one which he has no intention of wasting.
“I feel like I’m at the peak of my form,” Kenny told London24. “In my position a lot of it is down to experience, I’m 33 now, and you’ve seen a lot of keepers over the last five or 10 years who have been at their best when they’ve turned 30. Hopefully I’ve got all those best years to come.
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“When you get relegated like I was with Sheffield United, you never know if you’re going to get another opportunity. The circumstances; going down by one goal, were heartbreaking, so to get promoted last season and get a second chance is massive for me.
“As you get older you don’t know how many more chances you’ll get. I want to do well this season and hopefully achieve what I couldn’t at Sheffield United – stay up.
“I spoke to the manager during that summer before I came down and he said to me ‘we’re going for promotion, plain and simple’, and he wanted me to come down and be a part of it.
“When I got that opportunity, I thought it was a chance after my ban to kick-start my career again. It was a new challenge; I had new fans to impress, fresh staff, and fresh team-mates. It’s been a time that I’ve enjoyed and I think it’s brought the best out of me.
“It [the drugs ban] did change my outlook, you never know if that’s the end of it. I sat down a few times and had a good think, and realised that I’ve got the best job in the world.
“Sometimes you don’t appreciate what you’ve got, and it made me realise that. I think that’s what’s making me play better this season. At the moment I feel I’m doing really well and hopefully that can continue and maybe even improve as well.”
Kenny lays much of the credit for the resurrection of his career at Loftus Road with Warnock, who has now managed the charismatic goalkeeper at three clubs stretching back 13 years, first at Bury, then at Sheffield United, and finally at QPR.
“It works both ways with me and the manager, he knows what he gets from me week in, week out, and I know what I get from him,” said Kenny. “It’s worked well over the years and I can’t thank him enough for what he’s done for me, and hopefully I can repay him this season by doing my bit.
“He gives out praise at the right time, but obviously he wants to keep your feet on the ground as well. As well as things go, they can soon go the other way, he helps you keep a steady head.”
Such is the confidence Kenny inspires in his defence, his was just about the only position safe when new owner Tony Fernandes’ arrival heralded a flood of new signings during the summer.
Indeed, Kenny has rendered himself virtually irreplaceable, producing a string of fine performances which have helped Rangers to a respectable 12th place in the Premier League table.
QPR have shown a stubborn resilience at Loftus Road, which was in evidence again against Manchester City at the weekend, and Kenny believes their form on their own turf will be vital.
While Warnock’s men were narrowly and undeservedly beaten by the league leaders, there have been enough encouraging signs this season to suggest that Kenny’s second stint in the top flight will have a far happier ending than the first.
“You’ve got to look at your home games, it’s massive that we have good home form this season, and hopefully pick up some points away from home as well,” he added.
“If you’d looked at the games we’d had prior to the Chelsea one, you wouldn’t have picked that one out as your first win, but things don’t always work out like you’d expect.
“Apart from the couple of hammerings we’ve had, we’ve given it all we’ve got and picked up a couple of good wins away at Everton and Wolves. Without a doubt we’ve shown that we can stay up this season. Apart from the Bolton and Fulham game we’ve been a match for anyone. I don’t see why we can’t.
“You want to finish as high as you can, but I think if someone offered us 17th now we’d snap their hand off. You can’t be too greedy, it’s our first season up, we’ve had a big turnaround in players, we’ll just see how the season goes and you never know, we might finish higher.”
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