Local derby perfect stage to become a Norwich City legend
Leon McKenzie insists Portman Road is the perfect stage to become a Norwich derby legend.
McKenzie took all of 40 minutes on his Canaries' debut back in December 2003 to etch his name into East Anglian football folklore with both goals in a 2-0 away win that triggered City's march to the Premier League.
The 32-year-old – now trying to save Northampton from dropping out of the Football League – is sure history can repeat itself again in tomorrow's crucial Championship test for Paul Lambert's promotion chasers.
'They have good players and a fantastic manager who I respect a lot,' said McKenzie. 'He has done a really good job since he has come in.
'The players are definitely good enough and even if it was the play-offs I would still be confident they could do it. For me, Norwich will get promoted. Definitely. 100pc.
'Grant Holt is now scoring goals and is a great captain and I have the utmost respect for him. He is the new hero as far as I am concerned.
'I've been back a few times and it's hard if I'm honest because I miss it so much. But my friend, Elliott Ward, is there at the moment, and he is having a good season and the manager has got a mix of youth and experience. Trust me, you've definitely got a good one there.'
- 1 Can you spot yourself in the Classic Ibiza crowd at Blickling?
- 2 'I'm sorry' - Woman behind cancelled festival offers customers £100,000
- 3 New tenant bid for former Argos store on retail park
- 4 Congestion eases after crash on outskirts of Norwich by A47 junction
- 5 Massive care village and research park planned for edge of Norwich
- 6 Adder warning in coastal areas as snakes come out to bask
- 7 9 West End shows heading to Norwich in 2023
- 8 Water company 'very sorry' as people fill sandbags in flooded street
- 9 Jailed this week: Paedophile and teen who blinded man
- 10 Brick and flint north Norfolk cottage a stone's throw from the beach on sale for £650k
McKenzie was pitched straight into East Anglian combat within a week of his �325,000 transfer from Posh.
'Coming from Peterborough maybe a few people knew what I was about but I still felt I had to prove myself at that level,' he recalled.
'I remember that first game and without being big-headed I just felt this was my time and I wanted to show I wasn't here to muck about.
'I wanted to come in and do well straight away. I had never experienced a derby like it and probably only when I came here did I realise how big it was.
'We played on the Sunday and I turned up on the Monday or the Tuesday. For the rest of that week I tried to lock myself off from what it meant but afterwards it was like, 'Wow, this is a big game' and I guess no-one can ever take that away from me what I did and where I came from.'
McKenzie was an interested spectator for last week's televised Championship win over Nottingham Forest which put Lambert's side firmly back in the hunt for the second automatic promotion spot.
'That atmosphere is one of the things I miss,' he said. 'I just thought, 'Man, you can't beat that,' and it brought back a lot of happy memories because when the crowd at Carrow Road are behind you it drives you on as a player. You could see that the other night. I don't have a bad word to say against the club because Norwich made me what I was as a footballer. It was a great time in my career and some of my best times.
'They gave me an opportunity and I always tried to conduct myself the best way I could during my time. It meant a lot to me how the fans took to me. Obviously I had to leave for behind-closed-doors reasons and it was an unhappy time for me, but as a club it was probably the best time I had in my career.'
City's battle to reach the top flight is a world away from the Cobblers' struggles to remain in League Two.
'A new manager (Gary Johnson) has come in and unfortunately for me I'm not playing at the moment. I have had to sit on the bench which is frustrating as I'm top scorer, but I can't buy a game,' said McKenzie. 'That's football. I'm not a young man anymore and I have a knee situation. I've scored nine in 16 games but everyone has opinions and I have to respect that. Hopefully I can be involved in the last two or three games and do my bit to keep the club in the league.'