McKenzie: Worst is behind me

City favourite Leon McKenzie insists that after all the trials and tribulations of this wretched season he will emerge a stronger and better person.

City favourite Leon McKenzie insists that after all the trials and tribulations of this wretched season he will emerge a stronger and better person.

For if there is one player who sums up all the problems that the 2005-2006 season have brought to the Canaries' door - be it on or off the field - it is the 27-year-old striker. His reappearance in the 1-1 draw at Hull City last Saturday and the 3-0 midweek win over Brighton & Hove Albion at least offers one large straw to cling to in troubled times.

“It's just been one of those seasons - both for me individually and for the football club,” said McKenzie, as he emerges - still smiling - from nine dark months being put through the football mill.

Serious injury and a very public divorce courtesy of his ex-wife's decision to reveal all to Sunday tabloid newspaper have both left their mark. But McKenzie now knows where his friends are - many are at City's Colney training headquarters.

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“I've got a lot of friends and family and, to be honest, I'm not one of those who comes into work and says this and that, I can't do this because I'm feeling that.

“I don't do that. I come in to do my work. I'm quite strong like that. But they've offered their help and they've been there - been there to support me if I needed it.

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“But now it's all about looking forward,” said McKenzie, who came agonisingly close to marking his return in perfect fashion when his second-half shot slammed against the post on Tuesday night.

“I've been pleased with how the last couple of games have gone and, yes, it would have been nice to have got a little goal. But I don't worry about that. The goals are in me,” added the former Posh striker, naturally wary of pushing his injured ankle too hard, too soon - as happened in the home clash with Burnley on December 28 when the typically fearless McKenzie's lunge at a far-post chance left the striker facing another six weeks on the sidelines.

And there are no noises about demanding a first-team start. Arriving as a second-half supersub pairing with Paul McVeigh is just what McKenzie's doctor would order.

“Right now, that's fine - 20, 25 minutes. It's getting there and it felt a lot better on Tuesday night. A couple more run-outs and then, maybe, 45 minutes with the reserves and then I'll be looking to pick it up at first-team level.

“But people have to remember that I've been out for a long, long time. I'm just getting back into it and I don't want to come back and hurt myself again.”

And besides, says McKenzie, it's not about him.

“Like I say, I'm just getting back into it again. The most important thing now is getting the three points and the team winning. It's not about me and whether Leon McKenzie scores a goal. It's about the team.

“And everyone knows me now, knows what I'm about. They know that I'll always fight for the cause.”

In the bitter inquests that follow the end of this season if the Canaries do, eventually, fall short of their play-off target, the wider effects of McKenzie's trouble and strife - be it injury or otherwise - should not be under-estimated.

In the meantime, the player himself is drawing every positive he can from a rough ride on life's rollercoaster.

“You have these ups and downs in football and sometimes it's hard, but at the end of the day it's made me a stronger person - definitely.”

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