Such is the club captain’s importance that he made the starting line-up of the play-off semi final against Blackpool despite an injury that was supposed to have kept him out of the final itself should we have made it.
Paul arrived as one of Billy Davies’ main group of signings and was instantly given the responsibility of guiding the team on the field. Clearly the manager had great trust in him, having worked with him during his time at Preston North End.
In that first season he became a rock and a die-for-the-cause general in the midfield. His tenacious tackling and his marshalling of the troops often meant he was forgiven for the odd pass that went astray.
Unfortunately with things not meeting the fans’ expectations this season they have sought a scapegoat. Football fans are so fickle – their leader and talisman was now the target of abuse!
On Saturday, at home to Swansea City, we began to see the McKenna of old. Playing just ahead of the back four, looking to collect the ball from Morgan and Chambers and move it on with accuracy, pace and precision to the likes of Lewis McGugan, Chris Cohen and Dexter Blackstock.
It enabled the side to re-establish the flowing passing game that won them so many admirers last season. Victory came in that game and McKenna must be recognised for his role in that success, in addition to the deserved plaudits afforded McGugan.
On Tuesday evening it was a different performance from a Forest side strangled for much of the game by a superbly organised and disciplined Sheffield United side – as one fan said, a typical Blades’ performance.
Just when the faithful were beginning to accept that no matter what we tried it was not going to be our night – after Cresswell had given the visitors an early lead - who should step forward but Paul McKenna with a pile driver from fully 25 yards that the Blades keeper could only help into his own net such was the ferocity. A performance that rightly earned him the Man of the Match.
Arise the man! Arise the captain! Arise Paul McKenna!
Disclaimer: The views in this article are that of the writer and may not replicate those of the Professional Footballers' Association.
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