Head strong Leon
CHRIS WISE Norwich City striker Leon McKenzie will be putting his off-the-field problems firmly to the back of his mind this afternoon if he is handed a recall by the manager Nigel Worthington.
Norwich City striker Leon McKenzie will be putting his off-the-field problems firmly to the back of his mind this afternoon if he is handed a recall by the manager Nigel Worthington.
The 27-year-old frontman is now fit and raring to go after recovering from the second ankle injury of a bitterly disappointing campaign - and in an exclusive interview with the Eastern Daily Press he made it clear that he would also be in the right frame of mind to do a good for the Canaries if called upon.
McKenzie could well be handed a place on the substitute's bench today as the Canaries make their first visit to Hull for nearly 20 years and would clearly relish an opportunity to get back out on the pitch again after a particularly testing period of his life.
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“I am focussed on my football, don't worry about that,” said the City striker, whose spell on the sidelines coincided with some unwelcome publicity in a Sunday newspaper.
“I can assure the manager, my colleagues and the supporters that it won't affect me out on the pitch.
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“I had personal problems when we were in the Premiership and that didn't stop me from scoring goals. This won't stop me either.
“Once I get out there I will be Leon McKenzie the footballer. I have never had a problem keeping the two things separate - and that won't change because of one newspaper article.”
McKenzie has no intention of becoming embroiled in a public slanging match with his former wife Vanesa, who made various allegations against him in the tabloid report. His agent Tim Webb issued a statement on the matter at the time and the City star said: “I am not going to go into any more details more about that.”
But he was prepared to make a general comment, adding: “Anyone who knows me, knows the person I am, will look at the story that was in the paper and make up their own minds.
“There were a lot of things that weren't true in that article. A lot of things that were misinterpreted.
“I love my kids more than anything and that is a fact. I am still waiting for a court date which will sort out when I can see them.”
As far as Leon McKenzie the footballer is concerned, the man himself is now keeping his fingers crossed that his injury problems are behind him after missing the bulk of the season with two separate knocks on the right ankle.
He was ruled out for three-and-a-half months after being injured in training at the beginning of September and then made just three appearances from the bench before being struck down again during City's home clash against Burnley just after Christmas.
This time the problem wasn't nearly as serious and McKenzie is now itching to make up for lost time.
“Some players seem to be more fortunate with injuries than others,” he said. “I seem to have had more than my fair share over the years but that's just one of those things. It's how you come back from them that is important.
“I just want to get out there and contribute like I know I can. It's going to take me a few games to get my match fitness up to scratch but I'm ready now if the manager needs me. Watching from the sidelines isn't much fun and I'm itching to pull on the shirt again.
“I have been working hard with the lads in training and I have come through without any problems.
“I spoke to the gaffer and he asked me to travel. I am not going to turn that down and hopefully I will be involved in the squad at the weekend.
“I have still got to build up my fitness, I know that, but a place on the bench would be nice. We'll just have to see what happens.
“In an ideal world I would have liked a little run-out for the reserves on Tuesday but unfortunately that game was called off.”
McKenzie is fully focused on his football at present. But it hasn't gone unnoticed that there is also a big date in the boxing calendar coming up, with Norwich's Jackson Williams fighting rising star Amir Khan in London on the same day that City play Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park.
The City striker, whose father Clinton and uncle Duke were both boxing champions, hopes to be in the crowd for that one and is looking forward to the occasion.
“It's a great opportunity for Jackson because he is fighting someone who is the man of the moment,” he said.
“It will obviously be tough but I am sure he will go out there and give a good account of himself.
“Amir Khan has got it all. He has got youth on his side, he's fast, he's strong - and he's getting bigger and hitting harder. When he starts fighting at the highest level he'll perhaps need to tighten up on his defence but I don't see any reason why he shouldn't follow in the footsteps of Duke and become a world champion.”