McKenzie: Set ’em alight Earnie!
IF Robert Earnshaw is looking for tips about how to impress in his first East Anglian derby, he could do much worse than follow Leon McKenzie's lead. The former Peterborough United striker netted twice in a sensational Boy's Own start to his City career, which helped propel the team to the top of the table in their Nationwide League championship-winning season.
IF Robert Earnshaw is looking for tips about how to impress in his first East Anglian derby, he could do much worse than follow Leon McKenzie's lead.
The former Peterborough United striker netted twice in a sensational Boy's Own start to his City career, which helped propel the team to the top of the table in their Nationwide League championship-winning season.
And tomorrow City fans will be hoping Earnshaw can make an equally explosive start when takes to the field for his debut against the Tractor Boys in front of a full house in the Coca-Cola Championship at Carrow Road (11.15am).
"All I can do is give him my blessings and hopefully he has the sort of luck I had when I first came," said McKenzie.
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"It's a massive game in which to come out on top," he said. "If you have some luck in the game it stays with you forever.
"The memories I have of when I first joined are that I was signed after Hucks and Crouchie and they did ever so well - I was coming in to fill big boots.
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"Not a lot of people knew of me at that standard, so I was hoping that the fans were with me but I wasn't sure if it was going to come off.
"But I played and showed how I can play and got my goals - it put the icing on the cake and they could see I was ready to fight for the cause."
McKenzie said he had already made his mark on this fixture with his heroics at Portman Road in December 2003 and now admitted it was time for someone else to do the same.
"Whether they'll get two or not I don't know, but hopefully they will get one and that will be it for Ipswich.
"It's all about Earnie at the moment, but there's JJ as well - I wish that they gel well together, it will be the first time they've played together."
Last time the two sides met, at Portman Road in September, the Canaries won 1-0 and Dean Ashton was still a Norwich City player.
Ashton may have gone, but City now have a new hope after Earnshaw's £2.75 million move from West Bromwich Albion was completed just hours before the January transfer window closed.
"Earnie is sharp, I've always rated him and watched him along the way," said McKenzie, who admitted he would love the chance to play alongside the Welsh striker before the season is out.
"Of course," he said. "I could do that job, no problem at all - it would be exciting for him to play with me, don't worry about that." But before McKenzie can think of playing alongside Earnshaw, he must win his season-long fight for fitness.
Earlier in the season, McKenzie spent three months out following surgery on an ankle injury sustained in training.
He returned to the first team at the end of December, only to suffer injury again in the 2-1 win over Burnley at Carrow Road.
"It's been very frustrating but what can you do? - that's the way it goes sometimes in football," he said.
But despite all his injury troubles McKenzie, who has scored 18 goals in 65 senior appearances for the Canaries, said he was champing at the bit to get back into the side and was working hard in training to get his fitness back.
"I'll keep battling on and will hopefully get a little bit of luck on my side towards the end of the season and the team will as well," he said.
"I can only hope to get back playing to the best of my ability and get a few games under my belt.
"It just takes time and the more games you play, the fitter you get," he said. "I haven't played many games, so we will just see about playing in a few substitute appearances and then hopefully I'll come in and start some."
No matter what the rest of the season holds for McKenzie, he says he owes a huge debt to the fans, who have continued to stick by him.
"I would just like to thank all the fans out there and give them my appreciation - they really know what I'm about," he said. "