Date:Tuesday July 8 2008
A new Iron Man will smash up times past
You`ve heard the one about cooks and a broth, but at Colchester United this summer it`s a case of too many skippers spoiling a myth.
With the squad`s ex-captain quota of four, and the magic armband free for redistribution, pity the fool talking of a spineless side. All eyes hit the chalkboard: who will be the U`s new Iron Man?
The abdication of King Karl Duguid from his right-wing responsibilities means the ship is without a skipper for the first time since 2004. This leaves the door ajar, first, for candidates with previous experience from other outfits: Dean Hammond (Brighton), Chris Coyne (Luton), Matt Lockwood (Layton Orient) and Paul Reid (Barnsley).
Asking someone to follow Duguid`s lead, though, is like taking to the wicket after a great batsman or entering an open-mike night with an audience already rolling in the isles; like showing the watchmaker a good digital clock and like impressing the conjurer with the flourish of a magic-trick. Damn near impossible.
It is all those things, and more, because Duguid`s legacy as Mr. Colchester supreme is almost bullet proof, his shadow infinite. He is the man with an indelible name. Yet, the Duguid days are locked in the mind`s vault now - chained to disused Layer Road turnstiles.
Changing faces and trading places. Topping transfer records. This July Colchester United are not simply letting history retire with a slow waltz so much as smashing it up with a bat. Those who wanted wholesale changes following the club`s first relegation for almost twenty years are getting their wish.
The purists will tell you that values are being swept under the plastic turf as Colchester goes corporate. Paying agent fees, spending money, selling more merchandise, developing a brand with less taste than the average half-time pie. These things made life-long fan Bob Russell turn his back on the club, all the more surprising since he is an MP. Maybe Duguid felt that wind of change, too, after fourteen years and it literally blew him away.
Russell might be wholly right, half right, or maybe just a quarter right when he says United are carving out a piece of their soul to satisfy a cold, hard, business world. When the new stadium at Cuckoo Farm is re-named The Weston Homes Community Stadium, you really do wonder. RIP any idea of democracy marrying with heritage to call the site Boudicca Bowl.
However, in order to survive as a market-place commodity, which the club agreed to become right from the moment they asked the council to finance their £14-million new ground, they were inviting Russell`s charge.
Since owner and chairman Robbie Cowling does not fall into the oligarch category, it is a safe bet that his party politics won`t interfere with the most intriguing race for a captain`s armband since David Beckham relinquished his England role.
A general feeling is that the most experienced player should assume responsibility, because captaincy could become a burden if given to the wrong man.
On scores of age, pedigree and soccer wisdom, Chris Coyne could claim this task as another scalp for his impressive CV. The former Luton centre-back and Australian international has a natural aura that breeds fear into the opposition and commands respect from his peers.
Likewise, with youngster, Dean Hammond. He is a tireless midfield worker where the nuts-and-bolts of a game are unscrewed, with an eye for goal and a robust nature. It balances against his smile, a kind usually confined to a glossy magazine`s pages.
Would it be breaking a code, though, to give the captaincy duty to relative outsiders like Hammond and Coyne, who both joined just six months ago? Some think so, leaving only an inner-section of names to fill the void - Pat Baldwin, Kem Izzet and Johnnie Jackson are the trio that spring forward.
In a magic circle of one also sits Dean Gerken, although youth and his sometimes hothead temperament count against him here. Gerken is the only current regular since Duguid to have risen through the club`s youth ranks and into the first-team.
Whoever is eventually selected to command the troops will need to be a dead certain starter on a Saturday, and a Wednesday, when the wounds pile up and the pains, like the games, come thick and fast.
So it`s an eight-horse race, at least. Yet, through football`s wilderness, nobody ever heard of a quiet captain. You can bet Colchester`s newest leader will be screaming Blue 'n` White murder before too long.
Hull of a Plan
If Crystal Place sign Mark Yeates and Kevin Lisbie this week, we might as well award them the Championship trophy now and have done with it.
Last time two Colchester men swapped shirts together, when Richard Garcia and Wayne Brown went to Hull City twelve months ago, their new club won promotion.
Okay, it is not a pattern. Yet.
U`s Ball of Contention
Stop Press: Colchester`s move to a new stadium will not be without a hint of historic old times, after all. How so, you cry?
Well, after the town`s borough council expressed concern that stray footballs might fly out onto the A12 motorway at Cuckoo Farm, this corespondent finds that the club lost £700 pounds-worth of far-booted balls in 1987.
Some things never change.
Date:Tuesday July 8 2008
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