Stuff I love - Neil Kilkenny
Most Leeds United fans like their heroes to be hard tacklers, scorers of spectacular goals or wingers capable of beating their opponent by pace or a clever trick. However I'm not most Leeds fans. There's something of the contrarian about me and I love to support an underdog. So my Leeds United hero during the 2010/2011 season was Neil Kilkenny. And he certainly isn't a player who falls into any of the aforementioned categories. This means that he is at best underrated or at worst disliked by many Leeds fans. In fact his poor tackling and lack of pace are a source of disgruntlement amongst a minority of the support.
However rather than look at his negatives I prefer to see the positives. What Kilkenny does is pretty simple but he seemed to be the only player in the 2010/2011 Leeds squad capable of it. When he has the ball he retains it shielding it from opponents and picking a pass to one of his team mates. His detractors will say that he only passes backwards or at best sideways. Certainly if he weighs up the percentages and decides its safer to go backwards or side wards that is what he will do. However he is capable of a full range of passing from long crossballs out to the wing to little dinks over defenders into the path of an on-running forward.
When he doesn't have the ball he maintains good position. Although not a strong tackler or very mobile he will usually keep himself between his opponent and the goal. His ability to read the game means that he will often intercept passes made by his opponents.
For his team mates he is a godsend. He will make himself available to receive passes which means that lesser talented ball players don't have to play endless long aimless passes (they don't have to but they still will do!). The ability to take possession of the ball while under pressure from an opponent and still ensure that it reaches one of his team mates is perhaps his most under noticed talents.
Perhaps the thing that most gets up the Kilkenny-detractors nose his the way he conducts himself on the pitch. He is constantly talking and ordering his team mates about. He'll point to where the ball should be played and isn't adverse to having a moan at somebody when they don't do as he suggests. Ironically a lot of people have slagged off Leeds United players past and present for being too quiet.
The bottom line for me is that over the last couple of seasons Leeds United have won more games and played better football when Neil Kilkenny has been in the team. Unfortunately as I write it looks like he's played his last game for Leeds. He is out of contract this Summer and its rumoured he's already signed with a new club.
I'm sure another hero will come along but I for one will miss the little Australian.