Leon McKenzie believes Jason Puncheon is playing best football of his career
Leon McKenzie believes Crystal Palace striker Jason Puncheon has matured as a player under manager Tony Pulis.
By Dev Trehan
Last Updated: 25/04/14 2:29pm
McKenzie, who has turned his hand to boxing under the guidance of his father, former British and European champion Clinton, and his uncle, three-time world champion Duke McKenzie, began his football career with Palace.
And the 35-year-old says Puncheon has been one of Palace's stand-out performers this season and is thriving under a manager who has given him the confidence to take his game to the next level.
"Puncheon has really come on leaps and bounds," he told Sky Sports.
"The kid has always had ability but sometimes it's about settling down and working that little bit harder. In in the past he's had ability but perhaps not approached things as seriously as he is now.
"Now you've got a manager who's probably giving him a pat on the back or a cuddle when he needs one and he's performing really well."
When asked if he felt Puncheon was playing the best football of his career, McKenzie said: "Yes. I'd say he's really maturing as a player and proving his Premier League quality.
"Sometimes in football you go through two or three managers before you get that one manager that really believes in you.
"Once you get that manager then you see a massive rise in your confidence and performance because not only are you playing for yourself, but you want to play for that manager and you want to win for that manager."
McKenzie paid tribute to Pulis and believes his Palace side, who entertain Manchester City and Liverpool in their next two games, have a key role to play in the outcome of the title race.
"Palace under Tony Pulis - what a remarkable story that is," he said. "Everyone may not be a fan of his style of football but the man sure knows how to win.
"The players have responded really well to him. He's instilled a lot of belief and the players are believing in themselves and really kicking on.
"It's remarkable what he has achieved particularly when you look at the position Palace were in when he took over.
"You would never have thought they would be in the position that they are in now. They're comfortable and they can build from here and full credit to Tony Pulis he's done a remarkable job.
"Palace are really on form and when you come up against a team that's on form they are dangerous.
"Regardless of who comes to Selhurst Park now, whether it's Man City or Liverpool, they're not going to take Crystal Palace lightly."