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Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Silent Stars

Turls heralds the impact of the midfield generals so often overlooked, but crucial to many sides' success in the Championship this term.

Paul McKenna has been key to Nottingham Forest's success this season

As Billy Davies reveals that Nottingham Forest's club captain Paul McKenna will be out for the rest of the season — including the play offs — Forest fans will be left wondering what could have been.

Now many people will say that one club cannot rely so heavily on one man but McKenna had quickly established himself as the heartbeat of the Forest team.

With everything going through the seasoned central midfield, the Reds had the experienced focal point which they severely lacked last season.

The former Preston captain isn't a man of tricks. Or speed. And he doesn't score a great amount of goals. But Billy Davies knew that by bringing McKenna in, it would allow the younger players to turn to him for advice and look to him when the going gets tough. McKenna did just that.

After Forest beat PNE earlier in the year, I spoke to Lakes and told him that every time the Forest defence got the ball, they played a short pass to McKenna, who turned and started the attack.

If the attack petered out, it would be played back to McKenna who would look across the pitch for a suitable pass. Lakes's response was simple: "He was the difference".

And he was. He was exactly what PNE were missing and it was a kick in the balls that it was their former hero who put them to the sword.

Since McKenna's injury, Forest have stumbled. Obviously he is not the only player who is missing though.

Nicky Shorey left in the January window and has been sorely missed. He offered balance to the defence and attack and allowed Chris Cohen and Chris Gunter to play in their preferred position.

However, McKenna added a little something extra to the Forest team: cohesion. McKenna played in the centre of midfield and the whole team was built around him.

He was the epicentre of the starting XI. Everything and everyone was attached to him. Without him, the younger players - Anderson, McGugan, Majewski - were missing the man that they could turn to for assistance.

Forest will still make the play-offs and still have as good a chance as anyone as going up but many fans will be left wondering: if McKenna had stayed fit, would we still be in the hunt for automatic promotion?

The only consolidation that is on offer is this: the McKenna-less latter stages of this season have provided Forest's younger stars with the opportunity to mature as leaders.

They may not be grabbing it with both hands yet but it will put them all in good stead for the future.

McKenna isn't the only unheralded string puller though. Kevin Nolan hasn't grabbed all the headlines as he has steered Newcastle to automatic promotion.

Although it would be foolish to say he has been overlooked all season, he hasn't taken the plaudits his performances have deserved.

The same can be said of West Brom's Graham Dorrans. The Baggies have been as free flowing has ever and a lot of it has come as a result of the steady head of the Scotsman.

Graham Dorrans has been central to West Brom's promotion charge this term

The list goes on as central midfielders up and down the country are forced to take the back seat, allowing more exciting players take their turn in the spotlight.

Richie Wellens has been a massive success at the Walkers Stadium as he has helped catapult Leicester City into the the play-off hunt.

Darren Pratley, too, has ran the show for an impressive Swansea, and their will be countless other players whose work seems to go unnoticed by one and all.

They may not be pretty players who score rasping volleys from 30 yards out. They may not be the rock-solid defenders who throw themselves into last ditch tackles.

These players don't play for recognition or awards. They play for the team and no-one else.

1 comment:

  1. Dorrans has been outstanding this season, very impressed with his performances and goal-scoring abilities, not to mention his success rate at spot kicks.

    Nolan, too has been extremely influential, though he has been playing as the '1' behind a lone striker for much of the season - much like Tim Cahill does at Everton.

    The 'holding' midfield player is a player that in Europe's top leagues - no offence/patronising intended, for the Championship is in the top-10 leagues in Europe - has received constant acknowledgement. Essien, Makelele, Alonso, Iniesta/Xavi, Vieria. Meanwhile, the Championship has relied on these players for a long time. Graeme Kavanagh, the aforementioned Paul McKenna, Alex Rae and Michael Tonge. They've all been impressive and vital cogs in promotion-winning or top six teams.