Leon's humour as sharp as his finishing

PUBLISHED: 09:09 20 March 2006 | UPDATED: 09:17 14 September 2010

Leon McKenzie wore the smile as wide as the Barclay End goalmouth when he jokingly took the credit for Norwich City's recent revival - but the stats show he may well have a case.

By CHRIS LAKEY

Leon McKenzie wore the smile as wide as the Barclay End goalmouth when he jokingly took the credit for Norwich City's recent revival - but the stats show he may well have a case.

The Canaries are now beaten just once in the last seven games after McKenzie's opener set them on the way to a 2-1 victory over Sheffield United on Saturday - but just as pertinent is McKenzie's influence on the team.

The fans' favourite has had a traumatic season, with injuries and off-the-field problems, but after finally shaking off ankle problems around Christmas, he has had a big say in City's form.

In the 10 games he has featured in since mid-December, City have won seven, drawn two and list just one - the 4-1 no-show at Crystal Palace at the end of last month.

And while McKenzie has been capable of raising the decibel level among the fans simply by stepping out on to the pitch, it seems the team may well be feeling the knock-on effect as he finally finds his feet in terms of match fitness.

When asked the reason for City's latest nice little run of form, McKenzie answers with the lightning sharp reaction that brought him his second goal in the last three games: “Having me back!”

But just as quickly comes the self-effacing follow-up.

“I play to perform the best I can do and if that helps everyone else and the manager and the players in my team I get a buzz out of it as well,” he said.

“You get to a certain time when you get sick of performing badly or sick of losing, whatever it is, and I think as a team you just find that bond again and it might just take someone, something, in the team to spark it off, and you get it back.”

False modesty, perhaps?

“I'm being modest - but I think it's better to be modest than too big-headed,” added McKenzie, clutching the sponsor's man of the match champagne.

The fact of the matter, though, is while McKenzie is smiling now, he knows that a run of form now may be too little, too late - unlike, for example, Crystal Palace's mad dash to the line last season

“I think we have enough in the team to get into a decent position, but I can't speak for anyone else,” he said. “I'd love to be in that position. Sheffield United looked like a second-placed team today and I think we are proving we can match it - but with the season we have had it might be a bit too late.”

McKenzie may well have had to dig into his boxing background in the last couple of matches - a week ago at Leeds he was the lone striker up against the not inconsiderable hulks of Paul Butler and Sean Gregan. On Saturday, it was the uncompromising Chris Morgan and Craig Short - but there's nothing McKenzie likes more than a scrap.

“It's always going to be rough, they're a lot bigger than me, but I just like to get amongst it,” he said. “Last week I was up there on my own, but I don't lie down too easy and I'd rather give them a good game.

“The way it's going at the moment I am doing a bit of everything and I can handle that and the goals are coming as well, which is a good thing.

“As a striker I always expect to score goals. If I'm playing I will give it my best, 110pc as always, and that's what gets me through.

“I've come back and tried to give my bit to the team and everything else falls into place and luckily I've given a couple of goals now - but it's been a tough year for me.”

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