Where Are They Now?: Paul Konchesky

If Liverpool fans were given an option to erase six months of their recent history, it would probably be the latter half of 2010 when Roy Hodgson was in the dugout. The current Crystal Palace manager pitched up at Anfield that summer after a hugely successful stint at Fulham, whom he led to a highest-ever Premier League finish of seventh and an unlikely appearance in the Europa League final, where they succumbed to Atletico Madrid after extra time. Hodgson’s time at Anfield was an unmitigated disaster, with home defeats against the likes of Northampton, Blackpool and Wolves, and he was only given half a season with Liverpool before the owners’ patience ran out.

Hodgson was also guilty of making some of the most horrendous signings in Liverpool history, and perhaps no player summed up the manager’s time at the club better than Paul Konchesky, who also made the move from Fulham. After John Arne Riise left Anfield in 2008, there had been a possible opening for a left-back to nail down the position for a prolonged period, but the twice-capped England international was certainly not that man.

Konchesky’s first professional club was Charlton, becoming a first-team regular in 2000/01 when the Addicks embarked on the first of seven consecutive Premier League seasons. He impressed sufficiently at left-back to be given an England call-up for the infamous friendly defeat to Australia in 2003, making his international debut on the same night as Wayne Rooney. A few months later, with Charlton genuine contenders for a place in Europe, he submitted a transfer request due to his unhappiness at not being picked in his favourite position. He went on loan to Tottenham for half a season before returning to The Valley and then added another London club to his CV in 2005 when signing for West Ham, whom he supported as a boy.

Konchesky enjoyed a fine first season at the Boleyn Ground, impressing in a Hammers side that finished ninth immediately after being promoted back to the top flight and helping them to reach the FA Cup final, in which he scored a stunning long-range goal against Liverpool to put West Ham 3-2 up before they eventually lost on penalties. However, after Alan Pardew left during the 2006/07 season to be replaced by Alan Curbishley, who gave the defender his break at Charlton, Konchesky was often left out of the first team in favour of George McCartney and his troubled season was mirrored by that of the club, who needed a final day win to remain in the Premier League.

His tour of the capital continued in July 2007 when he moved to Fulham, where he would enjoy the best years of his career. Despite occasional errors, such as a shocker to gift Hull victory in their first ever Premier League match, Konchesky was a popular figure at Craven Cottage and had a tendency to come up with the odd screamer, such as his howitzer against West Ham in January 2009. Fulham were riding the crest of a wave with Hodgson at the helm and Konchesky was a pivotal figure in their 2009/10 Europa League adventure, when they were a tad unlucky to lose that final to Atletico.

Liverpool, by contrast, were on the wane as the Rafael Benitez era ended. The Reds had finished the 2009/10 season in seventh, the same as Fulham did a year previously, and the arrival of Konchesky did not enthuse fans who felt that he, and other Hodgson signings, had a distinct whiff of mid-table about them. So it proved, with the left-back barely outlasting his manager at Anfield. He often looked like a fish out of water in a red shirt and was utterly taken apart by Aaron Lennon in a 2-1 defeat to Tottenham, when the winger pounced on a Konchesky mistake to score the winning goal. When Liverpool fell to a calamitous Anfield defeat against Wolves at the tail end of 2010, Konchesky’s display was so inept that many in the ground cheered ironically when he was substituted. That degrading type of gallows humour is a rarity at Anfield, so it said quite a lot about the defender’s haplessness that he was subjected to it.

Once Hodgson had been sacked and Kenny Dalglish brought in as his replacement, Konchesky was shipped out on loan to Nottingham Forest for the rest of the season and then joined Leicester, where he stayed for a four-year spell during which the Foxes returned to the Premier League in 2014. He was a regular in the team under Nigel Pearson but was told by Claudio Ranieri from day one that he wasn’t in the manager’s plans. While his parent club were embarking on the unlikeliest of Premier League triumphs, Konchesky was labouring at QPR in the Championship.

Upon his release from Leicester in 2016, he dropped down to League One to sign for Gillingham, where he stayed for seven months before signing for ambitious Isthmian League club Billericay Town, where he now plays other Premier League alumni in Jermaine Pennant and Jamie O’Hara. When not lining out for the semi-professional club, he spends his time managing his own cafe in the East End of London, where his mother is among the staff.

On reflection, Paul Konchesky has not had a bad career at all. He played in the Premier League for more than 10 seasons, was capped for England, played in a European final and lined out for clubs of the stature of Liverpool and Tottenham. Unfortunately, his brief time at Anfield was so error-strewn that he is a figure of derision amongst Kopites, as emphatically demonstrated on that miserable night in December 2010 when Wolves went home with a famous win.

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