Date:Wednesday June 25 2008
So this is what Duguidgate feels like. After umpteen summer sensations and as many winter whisperings, Karl Duguid`s actual departure, from Colchester to Plymouth, happened with everyone looking the other way. A bloodless revolution unfolds in the town where Boudicca first made conflict fashionable.
Manager Geraint Williams is obviously mobilising his men for a fresh fight in League One after relegation, but the bigger strategy is negated here temporarily because each United fan has an internal battle to brave.
Turn off the tennis, forget Formula One and evade the European Championships for a mere moment. Select instead from the mind`s memory-bank the most special memories provided by Duguid, a magnificent number Seven. The man was an generational icon for so many fans over fourteen years and more than four-hundred games.
Revisionism always wields its corrosive axe, so there will already be those among U`s followers who are doing cartwheels now that Duguid has finally moved on, but facts cannot be glossed over. History says the now former Colchester skipper lead his beloved club to their highest level ever, and had a ball doing it. He memorably found the net against rivals Ipswich Town (twice) during 2006/7, faced the charge of Chelsea in the FA Cup, and defied long odds to overcome a potentially debilitating injury.
Karl also holds the dubious honour of reportedly rejecting overtures from Hull, Charlton, and a host of Premier League teams, within the past two years. All while watching his nearest and dearest club comrades, with whom he shared grass blades, changing-rooms and medals, filing for the exit.
Now that Duguid has chosen to go, only a severe strain of sporting amnesia could allow critics to deny his mammoth contribution to Colchester`s assent of upward mobility in the Football League.
It`s perhaps more symbolic than that, though. Duguid`s sale takes the same ball and chain that demolished Layer Road right through a mythology arguing the right-winger was forever on the Prodigal Son pedestal.
Minus the character-stuffed stadium and seminal skipper, Colchester United`s wholesale changes usher in a new era.
Over-eager spivs were selling the mantra of change for the better this time last season though, too, as Wayne Brown, Jamie Cureton and Chris Iwelumo all shed their stripes in return for Championship regression. The club seemed glued to the bottom of the division due to Second Season Syndrome.
What Duguid`s sale does now is raise the stakes for next season because Williams has let a player who apparently bled blue go without much media pomp and no suggestion of his replacement.
While we`re plying the tables, it`s worth noting that Duguid`s departure, whether you thought of him as a media-darling or match-day menace, could be a gamble to define Geraint Williams` tenure at the club.
Unless the U`s play their way to the League One summit this side of Christmas, the smart money says supporters will hark back to Karl the way England fans did David Beckham during the dross under Steve McClaren`s England.
Maintain the only position in the standings that matters, as near to the top as possible, and the Duguid days will dissolve a little quicker. No matter that the affectionately-known Doogie has run his best years into the ground for Colchester`s cause: this titanic transfer is a tipping point, no question.
The hope is that fans might recall how Duguid`s stock had fallen in the past year because of some mediocre displays, and logic invites us to reason that selling a 30-year-old past his prime might actually represent shrewd business. Others could claim that, by cashing in the chips on his Colchester legacy now, Karl has also prevented those who held him as an idol in Essex from seeing the demise of his physical attributes.
There can be nothing more dispiriting than watching the hands of time strip away a player`s strength, skill and stealth when age attacks.
The romantics among us already point to Karl`s U`s legacy as a something suspended for the time being, not completely ended; they harbour a desire to see him back at some point as a boss.
But put gazing at the future on hold, because Duguid was an authentic star in North Essex, the like of which are seen once in a blue and white moon. Hack away a personal preference debate over the player`s character, and resulting love-hate hype. Respectfully overlook his at times surprisingly suspect centre of gravity, too, in favour of what he actually achieved for the club.
Then, a majority of Colchester United fans will always be able to think of him as a U`s regular who now just so happens to turn out for Plymouth Argyle.
Date:Wednesday June 25 2008
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