Friday, 23 July 2010

Leon Knight - he's alright

Something quite bizarre happened earlier this week.

The much maligned former Seagulls striker Leon Knight decided the best way to redeem himself to the Albion faithful (see also: promote new book) was to register on popular Brighton forum North Stand Chat and hold an impromptu question and answer session.

"Move along people," you would have been forgiven for thinking. "Nothing to see here (apart from maybe a chip laden shoulder or two).

However, in among the predictable abuse from some Seagulls supporters and the equally easily anticipated arse licking from others, Little Leon dished out some interesting snippets on his time at the Withdean.

The 27-year-old has just left his 13th club - despite starting out life as the heir apparent to Gianfranco Zola's Chelsea crown.

In that time his most successful spell was undoubtedly with the Seagulls, where he notched 27 goals during one glorious promotion season. And just three others in the remainder of his time in Sussex.

So what nuggets did Leon serve up?

Well, the little tinker claimed that he was pushed out of the club and never wanted to leave. He also laid a lot of the blame at the feet of former manager Mark McGhee, who it is fair to say he did not see eye to eye with - and not just because at 5ft 4in tall he rarely sees eye to eye with anyone.

He claimed to have grown up since the days of regular field-leaving-flouncery and said he regretted a host of inflammatory comments he made shortly after leaving Sussex for Swansea.

A recurring theme was his perceived arrogance, with Knight admitting he was a confident player (which was no surprise considering he once said he was just as good as Jermain Defoe in a press interview). He also admitted he was too often guilty of rocking the boat. "Speaking my mind is all I'm guilty of," he told the hundreds of rapidly gathering web users. "I should not do 'cos I know it is a no, no in football."

Knight has been notoriously difficult to manage throughout his career. In fact, the only boss who seems to have got the best out of him was Steve Coppell during his Brighton stint. Leon agreed: "Coppell had man to man skills. He knows players. He told me I was going to be great for this club and boosted my confidence so much I thought i was gonna score every game.

"I remember before the Rushden away game in the black kit before I went out he pulled me and said the net is your enemy hit it as hard as you can and I did. Just little things like that helped a lot, plus he managed one of my heroes Ian Wright so I had and still have so much time for him. He is a real top manager."

With fans from many of his other dozen clubs logging on, there was a fairly strong debate as to whether this was the real Leon Knight, or an impostor. In the end, the currently unattached striker gave out his Skype address and it was quickly confirmed.

Even more randomly he was apparently sitting with Rohan Ricketts. In Moldova.

Anyhow, Knight stopped short of clearing up whether he did, as was rumoured, dish out a slap to Swansea star Lee Trundle. But he did admit to having a bout of old fashioned fisticuffs with Brighton hardman Charlie Oatway.

"Yes I had a punch up with Charlie one training session - but I love Charlie. We were both heated and we squared up and he through the first punch / slap and then I threw and few punches back. It got broke up and we kissed and made up."

The diminutive former Seagull also spoke about the night he tossed a black armband to the ground - an armband the team had decided to wear in memory of defender Adam Virgo's dad who had recently died.

"The Adam Virgo thing was not meant in any way. I spoke to him after he didn't have a problem with it. I do not think sometimes when I get frustrated."

And, in a slightly more light-hearted note he revealed his two dogs were not in fact called Dolce and Gabbana - but Shady Mmya Snoop and Dre. You can take the boy of London...

As someone who loves a controversial, arrogant striker, I was always firmly in the 'Leon Knight - he's alright camp' and his appearance on North Stand Chat certainly seemed to win over a few floating fans.

But liked or not, his is a wasted talent. With maverick skill like his, Leon should have carved out a career in the top two divisions. As it is he is weighing up a few offers from further down the pyramid after his release from Queen of the South where he failed to find the net in six games.

A player with outrageous ability, often mis-managed. But one who needs to take a long hard look at himself. It can't have ALWAYS been someone else's fault.

* Leon Knight is not the first player to register on North Stand Chat. Fans' favourites Gary Hart and Guy Butters have also made appearance to answer questions. The forum also has a brilliant 'Ask the Club' section on which fans can leave suggestions or questions for club officials, who then get back with answers. Well worth a look for all Seagulls' fans. Have a look on my list of links on the right of this very page.

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