Sheffield United: Kenworthy puts himself on the spot

Tony Kenworthy (right) was a master of the penalty art
Tony Kenworthy (right) was a master of the penalty art
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Former Sheffield United defender Tony Kenworthy has revealed his secrets for taking the perfect penalty.

Kenworthy, who converted over 90 per cent of the spot-kicks he took during an 11 year career at Bramall Lane, insisted a combination of technique and near total self-belief enabled him to master one of football’s most demanding arts.

Tony Kenworthy during his days as a Sheffield United player

Tony Kenworthy during his days as a Sheffield United player

“They aren’t nice to take and, no matter how good at them you are, there’s always a moment just after a penalty has been awarded and you know you are taking it, that you wish it was up to someone else,” Kenworthy admitted. “But that soon disappears and then your confidence kicks-in.

“What you have to do is back yourself at all times. Because, as much as they are tough things to do, the potential prize outweighs anything else you might be going through for a split second or two.”

Kenworthy, who made over 450 league appearances for United before joining Mansfield Town in 1987, was speaking after Jose Baxter explained the demands of taking a penalty ahead of tonight’s visit to Bury. Baxter, who is expected to feature in the squad which travels to Gigg Lane, told The Star he “enjoys” being placed in high-pressure situations.

Echoing that sentiment, Kenworthy said: “I don’t think anyone can actually enjoy taking them but I do know exactly what Jose means. It’s almost like having a bit of a masochistic streak because they aren’t just a battle with the ‘keeper, they are also a battle with yourself.”

Kenworthy, who took the spot-kick which propelled Mansfield to FL Trophy success nearly three decades ago, said: “I always used to envisage a player one yard in from the post and take a penalty if I was making a firm pass to him. I always used to like to go across the ‘keeper so the ball was curling away low and so, even if I was taking a liberty, he wouldn’t get it.

“Keith Waugh was in goal for City that day at Wembley and he’d been at United before so he knew how I liked to take them. I remember trying to look him in the eye beforehand because I wanted him to go through the same thing that I was but he wouldn’t make contact with me. He wouldn’t look.”

“There’s so much going on, you get comments from the ‘keeper and the lads behind, all trying to put you off your stride. But you’ve got to block that out and focus because method, making yourself comfortable, is important too. I always used to like the same number of strides and also have the writing on the ball facing the ‘keeper. If it wasn’t or the referee re-spotted the ball, I’d stop and do it again myself.

“I bet you Jose has got a method that stays the same himself. No matter where he wants to put the ball, I’m sure his body shape, right until the last moment, will be the same.

“That’s what worked for me, though, taking a penalty as if I was making a pass. Because I’d always back myself to make a pass from 12 yards away so why not a penalty kick? One yard in from the post, that’s trick I always used.”