August acid test for Williams
August acid test for Williams as he works to forge new band of brothers
Welcome to a two-way street. Look left and future prospects at Colchester United have never seemed so rosy - disposable transfer budget, young manager, supportive Chairman. Glance right to see that the U`s have lost the equivalent of a whole team since May, including their captain, and run on a skeleton staff expected to challenge for the League One title come August.
Geriant Williams, former number two and club manager since 2006, has the unenviable task of negotiating Col U`s cross-road conundrum where he`s probably finding that, like inflation rates, expectation in sport only ever seems to go in one direction.
That direction definitely is not down. In the time since Williams succeeded Phil Parkinson as boss, Colchester have beaten the Championship`s better sides, housed a Golden Boot winner, and built a new stadium, announcing record gates and huge profits in the process.
Not that it has been one long back-slapping ceremony under the Welsh wonder fans once called a God. United`s form last season caused the team`s confidence to implode, with some shocking displays calling to mind John McEnroe`s tennis-court catchphrase: "You cannot be serious!"
Two years into the job that Williams first described as a "pleasure" and Colchester`s young buck at the helm has already admitted he thought about walking away at times during that awful second term. The dugout turned from deck-chair to electric chair for the manager whose most notorious feature is his interview technique, not dissimilar to an MP`s.
Williams` refusal to embrace the possibility of a Premier League promotion in season 2006/7 won plaudits for diplomacy, but the way he avoided answering key questions post-match during 2007/8 was seen as insulting to penny-paying punters. Good when things are running smoothly, they said, but not the ticket at times of unacceptable defeat.
But before the media`s bullet-holes shred his short CV, it`s probably worth pointing out that attempts to simply call him either a good or a bad manager are still premature. A jackpot first year against the shocking second puts Williams on par with Sven-Goran Eriksson, whose self-invented line "first-half good, second-half not so good" became the Swede`s abiding England epitaph.
Is Williams similar? With conservative quiet men in charge, the underlying assumption that greets each success is that they`ve no need to think their thoughts aloud. What the grumbling now questions ahead of pre-season which starts today is whether Williams did well once only because he pilfered Phil Parkinson`s methods, and kept his unchanged team.
Frankly, what Williams needs to prove is that he did more than inherit a well-ticking clock with which there was no tinkering to do while ten consecutive wins were racked up in 2006/7.
The process of renewal and reinvestment in the squad has already begun with a clear out of the last of the old regime`s henchmen, Karl Duguid, Kevin Watson and Aidan Davison (retired).
Those remaining from previously, the likes of Kem Izzet, Dean Gerken and Johnnie Jackson, are the fresh axis from which a willing band of Williams` own brothers, such as latest signings Matt Lockwood and Matt Heath, must swing.
When the competitive kick-off comes next season, the boss`s Mark-Three version of a Colchester United side will constantly be under the microscope. Williams may still be green in managerial terms but, as Shakespeare would have said, his salad days are almost certainly over.
Duguid So Good?
They said it wouldn`t hurt a bit, but Karl Duguid decision to quit Colchester after fourteen years still stings almost a week on.
Sad, sure, but an inevitable question of how good a player the 30-year-old really was also refuses to die down, because his loyalty brought a buffer against criticism.
The forced slicing of an umbilical bond forged between fan and player since Duguid`s boyhood days as a YTS trainee at least now allows for some objective analysis.
His U`s legacy his safe, but sporting enthusiasts will always look for the next endgame. Now is an intriguing chance to dispense with the rose-tinted glasses. Yes, Duguid has left Mount Olympus.
Does Sport Ace Lisbie Do History?
Kevin Lisbie says he won`t leave Colchester United of his own accord, despite a 17-goal haul for the U`s last season, and some attention from Ipswich. The 29-year-old maintains he would only go if the club accepted an offer from a Southern club.
Despite the top-scorer tag of last term sealing a sporting A*, Lisbie`s school report reads 'could do better`, because we`ve been here before.
Jamie Cureton said exactly the same last summer and all the while was playing the PR game, yet the former Golden Boot winner moaned when fans reacted to the player`s change of heart by booing his U`s return.
Let`s hope Lisbie is as good at history as he is his football.