David Cameron Walker

Archive for the ‘Colchester United’ Category

You’ll Never Win With Kids?

Sunday, March 24th, 2013

So where did we get to? Since my last appearance on WAGU, Colchester United have installed an invisible rollercoaster at the Weston Homes Community Stadium. No, not literally – but it’s the best metaphor I can get out of Joe Dunne’s reign in Colchester.

Following from a reasonably positive start to life after John Ward (who is now working some sort of wonders in Bristol), dangerously the press and fans of the club started to tout the team as play-off contenders. There was obviously only one way this was going to end. And so it did.

This positive start was followed by nine consecutive defeats – yes, nine – and “play-off contenders” quickly became “relegation certainties”. The run appeared to stem from a defeat to local rivals Chelmsford City (though in terms of league position, not rivals at all) in the FA Cup. Not a particularly pleasant way to kick off your bad run.

What was the reason for the slump? Probably it was the team showing what it really was again – the new manager ‘bounce’ had moved away from the real issue, that the team was lacking drive and personnel compared to some other clubs in the division.

Usually when relegation threatens, the way to deal with this is delve into the loan and free-agent market and sign as many experienced, wise heads as possible. But this is Colchester. So things were done differently. Yep, instead a wealth of under-21 players were brought in, either on loan or permanently.

In the short-term, this solved nothing. Although goal-machine (or as close to a goal-machine as Colchester have got) Jabo Ibehre signed a permanent deal from MK Dons, the goals were going in one end and not the other.

Since January performances have now perked up a bit. Freddie Sears (remember him?) has finally started booting in goals along with Ibehre, and a few other signings appear to have made the grade – Drey Wright was brought in from Crystal Palace to shore up the defence, while local-boy Mark Cousins has been replaced in goal by Sam Walker.

The Young Ones have also started to create a bit more and gel the team together. Gavin Massey has also come into form at the right time. Consequently, as of now, the club sits five points above the relegation zone. Safety?

Not yet. This is a club that has a bit of a habit of throwing away leads, none more so than a two goal cushion against financially stricken Coventry being thrown away two weeks ago. So I’m taking nothing for granted and my money is staying in my pocket. So reluctantly… fingers crossed?

If this relatively young team can stave off relegation this season, there is a potential for a good springboard for next season if some of the loan signings can be kept on. But I’m not going to say ‘play-off contenders’ because I know what will happen…

Away from the field of play, a small tribute to previous manager Dick Graham. Graham was at the helm of Colchester United for perhaps one of the greatest cup shocks of all time – a victory for the then non-league team against the mighty Leeds United of Don Revie in the FA Cup in 1971. It was a result that put Colchester on the map, and not just for its Roman history. He was one of the most renowned managers of the club and will never be forgotten, particularly after being inducted into the club’s hall of fame.

Written by Tom Smee, We Are Going Up’s Colchester United Blogger

Tom tweets at @OmNomTom

More Of The Same… And Not

Thursday, October 4th, 2012

A year after my last entry here, I again welcome you to Colchester United. And to be honest, you’ve not missed much in the last year…

The 2011-12 season was largely forgetful, filled with lots of promises of “passing, attacking football” that never materialised, falling attendances and a solid Top 10 placing. Having got through the season with only two senior strikers, this would be seen as an achievement.

However there were a few caveats to the above. The first being and end of season run of one win in about fourteen games, and those two senior strikers being sold at the end of the season. Reassuringly, two strikers were brought in to replace them – namely Freddie Sears and Clinton Morrison – and more reassuringly Magnus Okounghae signed on again after finding no one further up the football pyramid who would take him in. Another solid signing was in the form of Marcus Bean, who has thankfully not taken on his namesake.

Signings, and re-signings, such as these increased optimism among fans for even a promotion push. But realistically another Top 10 finish would have been lovely.

But…

The season got off to a solid-ish start, with an away draw against Preston North End. And from there on? Well the team never really got out of second gear. Actually, make that first gear.

A succession of early draws, which the official website laughably termed an ‘unbeaten start’, merely papered over the cracks. Clearly this paper was something akin to tracing paper, because the draws turned to defeats which, again, the club laughably repeatedly called “unlucky”. Nine games, no wins, but ‘officially’ the only badly played bit was the 45-minute-four-goal-conceding fest against Tranmere.

Why was this? Going back to the previous season, it was a run of one win in 23 games. Bad form? Bad tactics? Who knows. All I knew was our top scorer was centre-back Magnus, who normally scores as many as the goalkeeper, and the strikers weren’t firing. Sears is still (even now) yet to get off the mark, while Morrison has only nabbed a couple. In fact, Morrison’s most telling contribution this year was to defend himself and the club on Talksport.

Finally the pressure broke Mr Ward the manager, and as with the last managerial appointment the assistant manager was promoted. So who is this new assistant-manager-turned-manager?

Joe Dunne is his name. Over 160 appearances as a player for the club, ten years coaching… and still only 39 years old. Fits the bill? Young and ambitious, maybe Joe is the man to get the gates ticking past 4,000 again. It might make the Weston Homes Community Stadium a bit warmer if nothing else. Mark Kinsella, another ex-player, has also been brought in as new assistant. So no doubt, in about three years’ time, I will be writing here that Kinsella is the new manager.

Two games into the new regime, it can’t have gone better. Two wins, including a frankly amazing away victory at Di Canio Towers, mean the club is up from 23rd to a dizzying 17th. The foundations are there, it’s just a case of whether they can be the base of a grand design.

The only issue I see is that there are promises of fast, attacking football…

Written by Tom Smee, We Are Going Up’s Colchester United Blogger

Tom tweets at @OmNomTom

A striker, a striker, my kingdom for a striker

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2011

From the oldest recorded town in Britain, I present you Colchester United. Another season means another bunch of Roman Colchester-based clichés to deal with, based on fortresses, Boadicea and the age of the team’s boss.

Anyway, onto football matters. Last season the team managed a mildly respectable tenth place finish which, though many fans had a good old grumble about, wasn’t all that bad all things considered.

For a start, a tenth-place finish in a division as competitive as League One isn’t something to be ignored. It was also notable that this ranking places the 2010-11 season in the Top 5 finishes in the club’s history – with one of the ‘better’ finishing being the Relegation-From-The-Championship debacle back in 2008.

Furthermore, the lack of spending given to John Ward, the manager, was notable compared to his predecessors in the hotseat. All three previous managers, Geraint Williams, Paul Lambert and Aidy Boothroyd were all provided with Robbie Cowling branded warchests to spend on players to ignite a return to the promised land that is the Championship. And the ‘Promised Land’ is has proven to be. Ward however was given a substantially reduced bag of money, but in fact returned a higher finish than any of those three had provided.

Rightly, therefore, Mr Ward has been given another crack of the whip for the 2011-12 season, despite many fans calling for a younger manager to be appointed. This is also the second season in which the club is sponsored by ROL Cruise for home and away fixtures. This means the trademark blue and white stripes can be seen in matches all over the country, even if some of the opposition believe it has an uncanny likeness with a certain supermarket cheap brand.

One issue outstanding for most Colchester fans as the new season lurches over the hill is: where are the goals coming from?

Last season’s top scorer, Dave Mooney, did not sign after his loan spell ended, and with no one else signed this leaves only two senior strikers at the club.

One of these is the club’s record signing for £400,000 under Geraint Williams, Steven Gillespie. Whilst his goal-poaching abilities are not questioned, his injury history makes Ledley King look immortal. If fit, you’re looking at a goal every other game. Since his capture three seasons ago, however, we’ve not had the time to see the credentials that made his name under John Ward again at Cheltenham.

The other, Kayode Odejayi, blows very much hot and cold. On fire during his loan spell under Boothroyd, his permanent capture has coincided with a sudden lack of goals.

Although having no strikers may strangely have the reverse expected effect, like it did at Everton a couple of seasons back, most clubs will end up down the U-bend if such a situation arises. Many strikers have been linked, including old favourites (in more ways than one) Kevin Lisbie and Jamie Cureton, but all have snubbed Colchester. Is this because of a perceived lack of ambition at a club described by Aidy Boothroyd only two years ago as “progressive”?

This lack of firepower up front is all the more surprising given Ward’s playing career as a striker. It certainly wouldn’t go unnoticed by him that his old skills were missing from his own team!

If a striker isn’t to be found, then it is possibly the youth that needs to be turned to. Though the club has a number of promising youngsters, including strikers Craig Arnott and Freddie Ladapo, Ward seemingly has had a relunctance to play them in senior games. It was certainly a surprise that one or two were not tried out at the end of last season, as the play-off “dream” finally spluttered and died. And who can forget about Tom Bender, the 17-year old who is playing in the Wales youth ranks and seems to be able to play well anywhere on the field? I would have thought the world was crying out for a left back who often plays as a centre forward.

It’s a nervous wait to the start of the season, and could be a nervous season in general if Captain Ward doesn’t steer the Good Ship Colchester to another striker soon. Maybe the 59-year old Ward might have to lace up his own boots again.

Written by Tom Smee, We Are Going Up’s Colchester United Blogger

Tom tweets at @FakeFifthDriver