Boot on the other foot as Kenny eyes third top-flight promotion

IN SAFE HANDS: Paddy Kenny is enjoying having Neil Sullivan as his goalkeeping coach. Picture: Steve Riding.
IN SAFE HANDS: Paddy Kenny is enjoying having Neil Sullivan as his goalkeeping coach. Picture: Steve Riding.
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THE last time Leeds United hosted QPR at Elland Road, the West London club were on the receiving end of a good kicking – in a footballing sense.

Paddy Kenny, between the posts for Rangers that Saturday afternoon just before Christmas 2010, recalls his former club being rumbled 2-0.

Simon Grayson’s United put the equivalent of a size 12 into the rear end of future Elland Road manager Neil Warnock’s high-flying Rangers, who suffered a rare defeat in what turned out to be a procession to the Championship title in 2010-11.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, current Whites No 1 Kenny does not have any particular reason to recollect that game, watched by just short of 30,000, with particular fondness but he does have one abiding memory.

Kenny told the Yorkshire Post: “It was freezing and I remember Leeds scoring in the first half.

“I was laid on the floor after it had gone in and when I looked, there was a shoe next to me. Someone had thrown a shoe onto the pitch.

“There wasn’t that much between us at that point in the league. That season, I think I had 24 clean sheets and played 44 games – I missed the last two games. It was a great season.”

On what Rangers can expect today, he added: “They still have a lot of big players, but I don’t think they will like coming to Elland Road.

“We’ve a good unit now and I’m sure we will be in their faces and it will be a tough game.”

That winter’s day in West Yorkshire was indeed a rare bleak episode in the 2010-11 campaign for Rangers, who were outclassed and outfought by a rampant United.

Kenny is hoping it will be a case of deja vu today, with Leeds, just as then, heading into the game in fine fettle, courtesy of a six-game unbeaten run.

Brian McDermott’s side also have the incentive of going top of the table if they win today’s early kick-off.

Some 32 months ago, the hosts were positively flying after making it nine games without defeat with victory over the Rs, an enriching time when messrs Max Gradel – who fired a double to sink QPR – Robert Snodgrass and Jonny Howson created havoc in a run which kept out the winter chill.

Leeds moved to within three points of Rangers that day, but ultimately their Premier League quest petered out in the Spring, and the present-day United players are mindful that the hard work is only just beginning after their impressive start to 2013-14.

Kenny, who also enjoyed promotion to the Premier League with Sheffield United, said: “It’s been a good start. If someone had said we’d have four wins and two draws in the league and cups, we’d have snapped their hands off, so we’re delighted.

“The reaction when we have gone behind – and there’s been a lot of games in which we have – and got seven points out of eight has shown we have been very resilient. Hopefully, when we do take the lead, we can kick on.

“Everything is looking up and we have got a good squad together now and, hopefully, we can pick up some more good results.

“We are looking to be up there in the top six and if we play like we have been doing, we’ll be there or thereabouts.”

Kenny, who made his 600th career appearance in the Capital One Cup win over Chesterfield, may be comfortably into his thirties but is planning to stick around for a good few years yet and insists he feels as fit as ever.

If he needs any further inspiration, he receives it on an almost daily basis at Thorp Arch, courtesy of the presence of former Whites No 1 and current academy goalkeeping coach Neil Sullivan, who played for Doncaster Rovers at the end of last season at the ripe age of 43.

Kenny, 35 in May, quipped: “Sulli is 75 and he played last season.

“It’s been a long road and I have enjoyed it and hope to get a few more years yet.

“I speak to players now who have retired and they say it’s hard and tell me that if I can play as long as I can, then do that.

“I feel as fit as I have ever done. You tailor things a little bit and, as you get older, you probably train a little bit less. It’s just a case of ticking over.”

Leeds anounced last night that striker Ross McCormack has agreed a new, improved four–year contract.

The Scotland international, scorer of four goals so far this season, had been the subject of three snubbed bids from Championship rival Middlesbrough in recent weeks.

United chairman Salah Nooruddin said: “It’s great news that we’ve been able to reach an agreement with Ross regarding his longer-term future.

“We received a number of sizeable offers for the player, but we are delighted to have agreed a new contract that will see Ross remain at Leeds United.

“We are looking to build a future for the football club, and we see Ross very much as part of that future.”

United manager Brian McDermott said: “I am delighted that we have managed to come to an agreement with Ross. I’m sure each and every Leeds fan will share my views and Ross will get a fabulous reception (today).

“I would like to very much thank the owners for their support in this.

“They have turned down three substantial offers for him and have ensured we retain his services in what will be the peak years of his footballing life.”

McCormack said: “I’ve said all along that this club is where I want to be and where I want to play my football. My family are settled here, I love the place, and I’m looking forward to the future now.”