It was made abundantly clear before the start of the season that certain players were surplus to the requirements of Paul Lambert at Aston Villa. Many of these players could have been considered the ‘deadwood’ at the club; and most were big earners who had struggled to replicate anything quite like early form at the club.
One such player was England international full-back Stephen Warnock. Lambert forced the 31-year-old out of the club by making him train with the development squad and brought in Joe Bennett as a replacement from Middlesbrough. Eventually he was allowed to go out on loan to Championship side Bolton Wanderers; a stint that garnered mixed results.
In January; with his contract at Villa Park approaching its impasse he was allowed to discuss a free transfer in January with any potential suitors and despite interest from Premier League side West Ham he decided that a move to Leeds United was in his better interests.
Since he arrived at Elland Road things have taken a dramatic turn for the better. Disregard the 4-0 thrashing dealt out by a Yaya Toure inspired Manchester City in the FA Cup and Leeds are unbeaten in the four Championship games he has played since his debut against Wolves on the 9th February.
The last three Championship fixtures have been particulary impressive for Warnock and the rest of the Leeds defensive line as they have kept three consecutive clean sheets in 1-0 victories against Millwall and Middlesbrough and a goalless stalemate with Blackpool.
In the last game Warnock also showed some bottle to step up and take the penalty against Millwall; which he duly dispatched with ease. After the Leeds faithful had witnessed Ross McCormack miss from 12 yards earlier in the game it was a welcome moment to see the net ripple behind David Forde.
Leeds United’s skipper Lee Peltier recently had a glowing assessment of the qualities Warnock has brought to the club:
“It’s our job to stop them going in and for the past few games, we’ve done that. We’re absolutely buzzing about that. All the lads at the back have done well, but a lot of the credit has to go to Stephen Warnock, pictured right. He’s played in the Premier League for the past 10 years and he’s been to World Cups, so he brings a lot of experience. He’s helping us all out and we’re happy to have him in the team.”
Such recent performances have seen Leeds climb back into play-off contention ahead of their game with Leicester City at the King Power Stadium on Tuesday night; where Warnock and co will once again be asked to keep the ball away from Paddy Kenny’s goal.
What have you made of Stephen Warnock’s performances this season? Should Aston Villa have kept him on?
image: © Chris Robertshaw