Date:Friday August 8 2008
Joie De Vivre: But Beware Many P-Words As U`s Go For Promotion
"Now there is too much professionalism, we have to revert to urging players to like the game, love it, do it with joy." - Felipe Scolari, Chelsea`s new manager, speaking in 2002.
Let`s get this party started, then, on the eve of Colchester United`s most important season since, frankly, the last one. The club starts the 2008/9 campaign in joint poll position behind Leeds United to gain League One promotion.
Cue a Colchester cakewalk now Scott Vernon, Steven Gillespie and Kem Izzet all confirmed that aim via the dreaded P-word this week, right?
Not quite. History`s path is littered with examples where missions have failed because of people underestimating their opposition, so the U`s must beware of presuming too much ahead of the big kick-off. Still, here, in the word`s of Chelsea`s motivator supreme, Luis Felipe Scolari, is an antidote to the pressure: "We have to revert to urging players to like the game, love it, do it with joy."
He has a point, encouraging teams, in essence, to adore football in a sense that only the fabled amateur sides ever managed. Too much tension and strain these days is in negative evidence through performances everywhere in the game, including at Colchester United.
The long and winding road of their latest 46-game term begins away at Hartlepool tomorrow with United all set to take the division by storm, courtesy of their experienced back four, young manager and brand new stadium.
They seem better equipped to make a Coca-Cola Championship return this time than when they got there by surprise for first in 2006.
"Every new season that we go into we`re always asking big things of ourselves," explained 27-year-old midfielder Kem Izzet, recalling a recent revelation by former skipper Karl Duguid that Phil Parkinson got him targeting automatic promotion during 2005/2006.
"The experience is there a bit more now because we`ve been in the Championship for the last two seasons. We`re looking for another promotion - but we know it won`t be easy," added Izzet.
While Colchester United`s conditions for success have increased, so has a possible price for failure. As those behind the scenes at the club will know better than anyone, the currently booming U`s fan-base is a fragile commodity that will ebb and flow with the results.
Another good point well made after last season`s first relegation in almost 20 years is that a whole younger generation of U`s fans will have inhaled only the sweet smell of relative success along the club`s terraces.
So when manager Geraint Williams described United as victims of their own success in the first Championship season, you can appreciate what he meant; chiefly that expectation expands in an irreversible spiral, with as many good ramifications as bad ones.
Williams` diagnosis tapped into the self-effacing nature of doing well in sport; that it increases the stakes overall, and invites nosy talent-pillaging scouts, and pesky press-packs at a lower level.
But here`s the good part. Colchester`s surprise ascent from League One obscurity to Championship heights created a positive atmosphere around the club for at least 24 months, fostering a winning mentality that saw the club play without fear or inhibition. Players strode like giants on history`s virgin and very fertile ground.
Messrs Jamie Cureton, Chris Iwelumo, Richard Garcia and Kevin Lisbie, for instance, hit 69 goals between them, from 2006 to 2008, before the pressure-cooker of last season`s losing-streak saw it all implode.
The past`s transmission ends there, though, because Saturday`s game should be the club`s equivalent revisiting of the year dot. Acknowledge previous achievements, remember their spirit and look to move forward.
After all, in almost 24-hours, Colchester United must take up the baton and charge for League One`s exit. As they begin the assault, the squad could do worse than take Scolari`s advice and try enjoying their football again, without pressure`s debilitating influence. They should like the game, even love it. Do it with joy.
No Poetry, Even In Slow Motion
ITV4`s Football Funnies: The Best Ever blooper re-run on Wednesday night featured the terrible gaffe by Colchester`s former stopper Aidan Davison, from the 2004-5 season, allowing fans to relive the haunting memory all over again.
The ex-Northern Irish international, since retired to the US, sees the ball whiz by as he kicks air against Premiership club Blackburn, in the F.A. Cup.
Blaming a divot, Davison even offered to purchase Rovers` groundsman a new pitch-roller at full-time. Be advised that it was not poetry in motion. Especially when the reply is in slow motion.
Around now, this column would normally pick a preferred Colchester XI for next season, but after Adam Virgo`s experience from 2007/8, it appears safer not to bother.
"The manager has made it absolutely clear that I`m here to play as a striker," said the defender-cum-attacker last term, post scoring from the bench in his side`s 2-3 loss against Championship team Burnley.
Was Adam 'vertigo` Virgo scared by the experience of scoring? He never featured up front again that season. Go figure.
Salute Sir Bobby
Sir Bobby Robson`s admission this week that he may not be physically able to fight another cancer battle, having defeated the illness many times already, is sad news indeed.
Legend has it that Bobby`s humorous response upon hearing of the logistics behind his first diagnosis ran: "Malignant melanoma? We don`t need him!" Infamously, the 75-year-old apparently mistook the doctor`s identification of his tumour for a German left-back.
His status as an Ipswich Town idol, aka The King of East Anglia, may seem to have little relevance in a space usually reserved for all-things Colchester United, even to geography-conscious readers.
Almost as unimportant as the fact that Bobby nurtured some of the all-time greats of the modern game, like Brazil`s Ronaldo and Romario, Rudd Van Nistelrooy or Luis Figo to the peak of their powers, in fact.
All that pails into insignificance, anyway, when considering how one of football`s most endearing individuals, a Grandfather-like guardian of the English game both here and abroad, offers us a mirror of the most desirable traits of all humanity. Grace. Wisdom. Bravery.
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Date:Friday August 8 2008
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