THE MIDLANDER: Warnock, phoenix from the Anfield flames, is just Fab
Strength of character: Stephen Warnock The list of players who have carved out successful careers for themselves after quitting one of the top clubs isn't great. It takes strength of character and determination to come back from such a knock. After being told that you are the dog's wotsits for years as a kid, coming to terms with rejection - or the fact that you cannot break into the first-team - means that those few who quit Anfield, Old Trafford, the Emirates or Stamford Bridge are the exception rather than the norm. And usuallly they are never able to reach those heights again. However, Aston Villa's Stephen Warnock is one who has broken that mould. It's my belief that anyone who has shown the mental capacity to leave Anfield and still carve out a career for themselves at a top club, despite being 28 years old now, should be able to take international recognition in their stride. Warnock first crossed the Midlander's path when Gary McAllister persuaded Gerard Houllier to let him out on loan to Coventry City in the 2003 season. The left-back was a near ever-present in a Sky Blues outfit that was struggling to cope under the weight of a £60m debt. It was an horrendous season. And not a lot of it was McAllister's fault. More from Neil Moxley... THE MIDLANDER: Fans should be given sympathy after Notts County saga but Football League have lessons to learn18/02/10 THE MIDLANDER: Birmingham's owners must do everything in their power to make sure brilliant boss Alex McLeish signs a new contract03/02/10 THE MIDLANDER: All the best Clem, a top bloke in an era of gatekeepers and closed shops06/01/10 THE MIDLANDER: The good, the bad and the ugly: 2009 Midlands' awards23/12/09 THE MIDLANDER: Punishing McCarthy over selection is taking the Mick17/12/09 THE MIDLANDER: England boss Fabio Capello could do a lot worse than Birmingham's Roger Johnson in central defence08/12/09 THE MIDLANDER: Why Wolves would drop a howler by kicking out Mick McCarthy now03/12/09 THE MIDLANDER: It's only November but Wolves' derby date is a six-pointer19/11/09 VIEW FULL ARCHIVEEric Black took over but Warnock's level of performance remained consistent before the Scot was disgracefully axed to make way for Peter Reid - for reasons that have never been adequately explained to this day. Although this added to Warnock's bank of experience - and although he returned to Anfield to make over 60 appearances for the Merseysiders - he still wasn't regarded as first-choice in his own right. To leave for Blackburn Rovers, in the hope that he could establish himself in his favoured position, was a brave move. He could have stayed. Everyone knows that turning your back on a gargantuan entity like Liverpool FC is not one any player in their right mind would take lightly. But Warnock backed his own ability. He backed himself to make a success at Ewood Park to such an extent that Martin O'Neill signed him at the start of this season. Ironically, I believe it was the player's performance against Rovers in late October 2008 that sealed his move to Villa. Again, somewhat ironically, Warnock played in midfield and scored a lovely opening goal. It was an eye-catching performance. It was about this time that O'Neill was struggling because of an injury to Wilfred Bouma. It has since been established that Villa's boss tried first to sign Warnock during the January transfer window in 2009. He finally got his man. Stumble and fall: But Warnock (left) has resurrected his career after leaving Liverpool and is now being tipped for a World Cup spot with England But my point is this: Wayne Bridge might well have pulled out of international football but Warnock is part of a defence that is currently the meanest in the Barclays Premier League. Villa's man has shown enough guts and mental strength to be considered as a worthwhile challenger to Ashley Cole in his own right. If Stephen Warnock gets called up by Fabio Capello this weekend, do not for a second think that he is in any way a lesser player than Bridge. He's earned the right not to be considered an understudy any longer.
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