Norwich City top 100 appearances: Darren Kenton (84)
We continue our look through the top 100 players in Norwich City's appearance list, with Paddy Davitt reflecting on Darren Kenton's on-off relationship with the Canaries.
84 Darren Kenton 175 appearances 9 goals
Darren Kenton started as a Canary and finished as a Rhino. The pacy defender spent nine years in the senior set-up at Norwich City but was routinely linked with a Carrow Road departure. He finally left for Southampton the season after missing out on the Premier League in City's heart-breaking Championship play-off final penalty defeat to Birmingham City in 2002.
The Kenton family moved to Peterborough when he was aged just one but Norwich's fabled youth set-up him away from the potential clutches of the Posh.
Kenton turned professional after playing a leading role in a Canaries' title-winning squad at youth level. Mike Walker handed him a senior debut against Tranmere one month past his 19th birthday but it was under the guidance of Bruce Rioch the young full-back established himself as the latest product in a successful junior production line.
But the first in a series of contractual stand-offs with City came in August 1999 when he was placed on the transfer list before signing a one-year extension later that year. The urban myth that sprung up was the fiery Rioch delivered an ultimatum to Kenton who decided his short term future was best served in Norfolk. Kenton's consistent displays in the Nigel Worthington era saw him touted with top flight Newcastle United just months after that promotion near miss at Cardiff.
A link which prompted this reported line from the club's official spokesman as rumours intensified Kenton was bound for the north-east. 'We've heard about the speculation in a national newspaper but I think at this stage that's exactly what it is. We are one of the leading Division One clubs and, with the transfer window approaching, we're going to see more newspapers putting two and two together and getting five. Darren is one of the best defenders in the division and I think this will be the first of maybe four or five clubs who will be linked with him. But we've had no approach from Newcastle.'
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That January 2003 transfer window came and went with Kenton routinely linked to a number of top flight clubs; principally Southampton. When City failed to match their play-off run from the previous season a parting of the ways was inevitable. Kenton walked out on his boyhood club on a free transfer and headed to the Saints.
Aged just 24 after finally getting to the Premier League you would have got long odds on Kenton playing just another 101 league appearances in his promising career. Yet his best days were already behind him. An injury-hit spell on the south-coast set the tone for a frustrating downward spiral. Spells at Leicester and Leeds failed to halt the decline before he headed across the Atlantic to sign for the Rochester Rhinos in the second tier of US football.