Northampton Town’s McKenzie Move: Coup or Gamble?

Leon McKenzie, formerly of Norwich City, Coventry City and Charlton Athletic amongst others, has made a somewhat shock move to League Two Northampton Town.

McKenzie has been without a club since his release by Charlton Athletic last season, and his move has been seen as a coup for the Cobblers, but also showing the rise and fall of the striker who has never seemed to recover from an ankle injury sustained at Coventry.

His professional career started fifteen years ago at Crystal Palace, where he scored a paltry seven goals in 85 starts. A brief spell on loan at Peterborough United gave McKenzie his breakthrough, scoring eight goals in 14 games for The Posh. Two more years at Selhurst Park followed until The Posh paid The Eagles £25,000 for the Croydon-born striker. McKenzie scored 46 goals in 90 appearances, which earned him a £325,000 move to then First Division outfit Norwich City in December 2003. It didn’t take long for McKenzie to win over the Canaries faithful, scoring twice on his debut against his new side’s bitter rivals Ipswich Town at Portman Road. McKenzie contributed a further seven goals as he played a pivotal role in in the Canaries’ promotion to the Premier League. McKenzie eventually established a prolific scoring partnership with Dean Ashton, but his seven Premier League goals were not enough as the club were relegated.

The striker’s brief Norwich career turned sour towards the end of the Canaries’ season long stint in the Premier League, with off-field circumstances reportedly resulting in McKenzie having a physical altercation with team-mate Damien Francis over an alleged affair with McKenzie’s wife. The following season saw McKenzie fail to start a single league game, with a handful of substitute appearances after an injury raved season. At the start of the next season he had a transfer request rejected by Canaries manager Nigel Worthington, although on transfer deadline day McKenzie did eventually get his move away from Carrow Road after Coventry City met the Canaries’ valuation for him, for a potential fee of £1m.

McKenzie’s career at the Ricoh Arena got off to a good start, with seven goals in 23 league starts. In his following two seasons with the Sky Blues, McKenzie endured yet more injury setbacks that limited him to just nineteen league starts in two seasons. McKenzie then signed for League One Charlton Athletic on a free transfer in September 2009, but he failed to feature in Phil Parkinsons side at The Valley, scoring just one goal for The Addicks, in a Johnstone’s Paint Trophy defeat at Southampton.

Judging by how little football McKenzie has played in the past few seasons it would be fair to suggest it is something of a gamble by Northampton Town manager Ian Sampson signing the 31-year-old striker. However others will see it as a coup for the Cobblers signing a player proven at all levels of English football. The Cobblers have struggled for goals since talismanic striker Adebayo Akinfenwa left for Gillingham last summer, scoring just once from open play so far this season, and Sampson will be hopeful his new signing can fill the void left by Akinfenwa’s departure. McKenzie has signed a one-year deal at Sixfields Stadium, in what has reportedly been financed by the Cobbler’s league cup run, that sees the side travel to Anfield to face Liverpool in the third round of the Carling Cup.

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