Former Sheffield United and Leeds United goalkeeper Paddy Kenny pulls no punches in The Gloves Are Off . . .
The gloves are off . . .
Has there ever been a more suitable title for a footballer’s book than Paddy Kenny’s autobiography?
If there is, I really can’t think of one.
No, this really is a warts-and-all biography as the former Sheffield United and Republic of Ireland goalkeeper takes us, in a brutally honest fashion, on an emotional, roller-coaster life journey from his childhood days on a Halifax council estate and playing on park pitches to the riches of being a Premier League and international footballer.
It’s a tale of rejection, triumph over adversity, boozy nights out, two promotions, one drugs ban, two divorces and one eyebrow bitten off in a curry house as Kenny details a colourful career in football which very nearly didn’t happen when he was rejected as a youngster by his hometown club Halifax.
"My life has always been up and down, a very roller-coaster experience, and I wanted to do this book to clear up a few things that have been written about me over the years and put my side of the story across,” he writes.
And it’s fair to say the former goalkeeper has certainly got a few things off his chest in The gloves are off . . .
Kenny, who also starred for Queens Park Rangers, Leeds United and Bury among other clubs in a fine career, gives us a no holds barred account of working with some of the football’s biggest characters, his relationship with the managers he’s played under and what brought about his departure from the Lane in 2010.
He goes into great deal about the impact of being hit with a nine-month drugs ban for taking an over-the-counter cough medicine containing banned stimulant ephedrine as well as the so-called Tevez affair which led to the Blades ultimately being relegated in 2007 after just one season in the top flight.
The Argentine star was an illegal third-party signing but the punishment West Ham received was a record fine and not a points deduction that would have kept United up.
"There was some bull**** from the panel that a points deduction would have hurt West Ham’s supporters. What about the fans of the other teams all scrapping to stay up and playing by the rules?” he asks.
Thirteen years on the pain is still evident.
His departure from United three seasons later, when he would link up with Neil Warnock again at QPR, was also dogged by controversy but Kenny has used the book to set the record straight amid accusations he ‘jumped ship’ and had pushed for a move to the capital.
"The move to QPR was not motivated by money,” he writes. “I was promised a new deal at United and I was happy that the promise would be honoured. Even if they had offered to meet me halfway on the wages, at £7,500, I would have been happy with that.
"If they had said: ‘Let’s see how it goes in three or four months’, that would have been fine by me, too. But from their point of view there was only one option on the table – and after eight brilliant years, that was me leaving.”
Of course, large parts of the book are centred on his life on and off the pitch at United and playing for the one and only Warnock, who, as Bury manager, plucked Kenny from non-league obscurity as a youngster.
"We had some real lows together, but also some unbelievable highs and I will always be grateful for him taking a chance on the chubby ‘keeper playing for Bradford Park Avenue.
"I don’t think either of us thought at the time we would later get to the Premier League, twice. Thank you for everything,” writes Kenny.
Warnock, in penning the foreword for the book, is also glowing in his praise for Kenny.
"The nicest thing I can say about Paddy – apart from what a quality goalkeeper he was – is that, when I saw him, he always made me smile.
"And my days always passed quicker when he was around. He is a colossus of a man, but just a big soft kid underneath.”
Kenny is less than complimentary, though, about other managers in the book.
He says Neil Redfearn isn’t ‘top of his Christmas card list’ following their time together at Leeds United, recalls a feisty half-time bust-up with Lee Johnson during a loan spell with Oldham Athletic at the end of his playing days and how a dressing room spat with Ireland manager Steve Staunton helped to bring an abrupt end to his international career.
Oh, and former Blades boss Kevin Blackwell is also the subject of some candid honesty from Kenny!
A combative character, as the book title suggests, the former goalie provides a brilliantly, honest account of his life’s ups and downs in The gloves are off . . .
“Not bad, I guess, for a fat b*****d from Halifax,” as Kenny says in the final line of what is a compelling read written by one of football’s most colourful characters of the modern era.
- The Gloves Are Off, by Paddy Kenny with Danny Hall, is published by Vertical Editions.
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