Sheffield United 0 - QPR 3 Blades quick to cut Blackwell loose after emphatic home loss

FOR nearly two hours, there had been rumours of his demise.

When Kevin Blackwell finally stepped into the car park to go home, the truth was out. His time as manager of Sheffield United was up.

There were no angry protesters outside, which is rare in times of strife at Bramall Lane; instead just a few puzzled brows.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

"What are you lot hanging about for?" he asked the weary band of reporters who had long since realised there would be no post-match press conference.

"Are you able to tell us anything?" this one asked.

"No," he replied with an embarrassed smile.

Wearing his best suit yet carrying no possessions, Blackwell headed towards his family who were waiting anxiously in a nearby Range Rover.

Before he was able to get inside, there was still one final act to carry out as a Blade: a small group of autograph hunters asked for his signature and two cameramen had dashed over to capture the scene. It was hard not to admire Blackwell's patience and his class.

When the car door was finally shut, Blackwell drove off with a quick wave goodbye and another chapter in United's history was over.

There had been no long-running saga, no endless speculation; it had been a quick, clean severing of the ties. Both parties agreed on the move, according to the club's statement.

Blackwell had not even started the afternoon as the focus of the fans' ire. That dubious honour was reserved for Paddy Kenny, the club's former goalkeeper who was returning for the first time as a Queens Park Rangers player after a controversial summer move.

Kenny was subjected to dog's abuse but it never affected his performance. Well, we do not actually know that for sure since the Blades never seriously put him to the test.

It was a team performance that was just as subdued as the one at Hartlepool United in the Carling Cup three days earlier. Together, they cost Blackwell his job.

Neil Warnock, the former Sheffield United manager who set Blackwell on the road to football management, is now manager of QPR. How ironic that he should help hammer the final nail into his coffin.

When Warnock spoke to the press after the game, he had no knowledge of Blackwell's imminent departure. There was a jibe at Blackwell's expense but the Rangers manager was more intent on defending his goalkeeper.

Kenny had spent his final season with the Blades serving a nine-month ban for failing a drugs test. Blades supporters regarded his decision to join QPR this summer as an act of treachery considering the club's loyalty to their suspended star.

"Paddy knew he would get that sort of reaction," said Warnock. "But it's difficult because you only hear one side of the coin when you are up here.

"The lad had his wages slashed while he was banned. He asked for a new contract and didn't get a new contract. He was told to wait until Christmas for a new contract and then I came in.

"After that, they offered him a new contract.

"So I think it was the right time for Paddy to get away and have two or three years in a different environment."

Warnock had signed Kenny for the Blades eight years earlier and the goalkeeper had played a key role in a side that reached semifinals of both the League Cup and FA Cup and won promotion to the Premier League.

"I think Paddy Kenny has been an outstanding servant to Sheffield United, one of the best servants the club has had," he said. "It is all very unfair. I bet the people he used to go see in the hospital, and the people he used to go present prizes to – when he was the only player that would turn up – are not disappointed for him."

Kenny had been left in no doubts about his standing with the home fans but was rarely troubled as the game soon turned into a nightmare for the Blades.

Goals from Hogan Ephraim, Jamie Mackie and a penalty from Adel Taarabt put Rangers 3-0 ahead with only 23 minutes gone.

A section of fans turned their anger on Blackwell who must have felt like the world was falling in around his ears.

At times, his players resembled strangers; some were going for the same balls, others were putting them where no one expected.

Ephraim broke the deadlock after 11 minutes, finding acres of space to collect a pass from Taarabt and then slidethe ball beyond goalkeeper Steve Simonsen.

Mackie doubled the advantage in the 20th minute, rising highest at the far post to head in Ephraim's cross.

Two minutes later, Simonsen tripped Heider Helguson after spilling a routine shot from Ephraim. Taarabt converted the subsequent penalty with ease. The Blades never looked likely to get back into the contest and there were even jeers of disapproval when the fourth official displayed five minutes of added time at the end. They simply could not wait to get home.

Blackwell shook hands with Warnock at the final whistle and disappeared down the tunnel. On this occasion, there was no light at the end of it.

PADDY KENNY CLOCKWATCH

FOR eight years, Paddy Kenny was a hero to Sheffield United supporters but his decision to join QPR this summer shattered the relationship.

To make matters worse, the goalkeeper had spent the previous nine months serving a drugs ban.

Kenny was back at Bramall Lane for the first time on Saturday and faced a hostile reception.

However, he kept a clean sheet and his side returned to London with all three points.

Ian Appleyard studies his afternoon.

2.07pm: Kenny emerges from the players' tunnel for his first warm-up as an opposition goalkeeper and is jeered by the small number of early arrivals in the stands.

2.56pm: Handshakes as the teams line up and Kenny is greeted warmly, especially by Stephen Quinn and Chris Morgan

2.57pm: Time to close your ears, Paddy. Blades fans are venting clear disapproval as he makes his way to the visitors' end.

2.59pm: Things get even worse. Kenny has to swap ends and is greeted by deafening jeers at the Kop end.

3.03pm: Kenny is subjected to a series of vicious taunts about not only his weight but his wife and his alleged pursuit of money.

3.34pm: It has been quiet on the field so far but a header from Richard Cresswell finally forces Kenny to make a save and tip the ball over the crossbar.

3.45pm: At last, another save to make – this time, tipping over a mis-directed header from one of his own defenders.

4.14pm: Aye, aye. Former team-mate Cresswell bumps into Kenny as he is attempting to take a quick kick. No harm done.

4.16pm: Kenny produces his one and only impressive save of the afternoon to deny Ched Evans - and the flag is up for offside.

4.19pm: Dashes out of box to clear from the advancing Cresswell.

4.22pm: A speculative shot from Leon Britton sails wide of his far post.

4.44pm: A routine catch from a right-wing cross is the extent of Kenny's involvement.

4.50pm: The final whistle blows and Kenny punches the air in delight as Queens Park Rangers celebrate an easy win.

4.51pm: Rangers manager Neil Warnock, the man who took Kenny to Bramall Lane during his time as Blades boss, puts a re-assuring arm around his goalkeeper as the pair exchange words coming off the field.

4.52pm: As he enters the tunnel, Kenny tests the water by applauding home supporters in the main stand. A large number respond with use of the v-sign.

MATCH FOCUS

Hero: Hogan Ephraim

Just shaded Adel Taarabt with a dazzling performance in the QPR attack. Scored the opening goal for Neil Warnock's side and was involved in the other two as the visitors raced into a three-goal lead before the interval.

Villain: Paddy Kenny

It was never going to be anyone else on the ex-Blades goalkeeper's first return to Bramall Lane and home supporters certainly pulled no punches with the abuse which rained down on him from the stands.

Key moment

Nearly two hours after the final whistle, when Sheffield United issued a statement confirming that manager Kevin Blackwell had gone. He had taken over from Bryan Robson in February 2008.

Ref watch

Andy Woolmer: A tough afternoon with a number of penalty appeals to test his judgment. Booed off at the interval after rejecting shouts from Ched Evans and Kyle Bartley. The Blades also felt Woolmer was conned by Heider Helguson for Rangers' penalty.

Verdict

The Blades' abysmal display cost manager Blackwell his job. Three down after just 23 minutes, there was no way back. Former manager Neil Warnock had helped hammer the final nail in the coffin.

Quote of the day

Hey, I have signed eight players, Kevin, and it's only two-thirds of what you have spent on Ched Evans.

QPR manager Neil Warnock defends his spending power after comments by then Blades manager Blackwell.

Player focus

SHEFFIELD UNITED

Simonsen 5

Bartley 6

Ertl 6

Morgan 6

Taylor** 6

Ward 5

Britton 5

Montgomery 6

Quinn*** 5

Cresswell 5

Evans* 6

Substitutes:

Bogdanovic* (67) 5

Kozluk** (75) 5

Yeates*** (75) 5

Not used:

Aksalu

James

Chapell

QPR

Kenny 6

Orr 6

Hill 6

Derry 6

Hall* 6

Taarabt** 7

Helguson 7

Faurlin 7

Mackie 7

Gorkss 6

Ephraim *** 8

Substitutes:

Ramage* (51) 6

Clarke** (68) 6

Leigertwood*** (77) 5

Not used: Connolly

Cerny

German

Parker.

Next game

Middlesbrough, away; Sunday, August, 22; Championship.