Date:Friday August 15 2008
Yeates Can Be A U`s Great
Stand still long enough and you will go backwards, especially in Colchester United`s football world of treadmills, where even hard running can sometimes lead to nothing, nowhere and no reward. Time`s mere passing is enough to corrode any reputation.
So it is for the U`s electric winger, Mark Yeates, whose dim pre-season bulb has only served to highlight previous comparisons between his story in Essex and that of Cristiano Ronaldo in Manchester. Both talismanic figures for their respective clubs last season, Irish sensation Yeates, who scored eight times before injury struck, and Portugal`s Madera marvel Ronaldo, appeared to be heading for the exit.
Cue mitigating circumstances in both cases as minor injuries prevented them from sealing respective moves to Crystal Palace and Real Madrid.
Then read relief between the eyes of their selectors, Geraint Williams and Sir Alex Ferguson, whose shining stars stayed in to recuperate, instead of suffering burnout over sizzling speculation about the future. Even experienced 23-year-olds, as these two superstars both are, need cotton-wool protection against relentless media glare.
Each uttered something standard about being 100 percent behind their club`s cause upon their return, having practically chained themselves to the railings and begged for more democracy, like some woman Suffragettes.
Yeates acted with greater decorum after his failed medical in London, but Ronaldo`s claim that he was "treated like a slave" raised a smile. The on-off move to Madrid descended laughably into attempts to improve the rights of already lavishly treated footballers.
Summer`s hysteria will evaporate the moment the transfer window slams shut at the end of the month, so at least those in Manchester and Colchester will be able to put the sagas to bed, for now.
To those discrediting comparisons between men miles apart in ability, the truth is that Ronaldo`s rainbow of tricks last season had a substantial pot of gold waiting at the end, in the form of Premiership and European Cup titles. Had Yeates stayed injury-free, however, intuition suggests that Colchester could still be a Championship club today.
The more part of this intriguing contrast asks not about parity of the skills-set so much as the situation. Where does being bound to contract off-the-field leave a pair of players who are usually so used to controlling their own destiny on it?
Excusing Yeates` lack of fitness as reason enough for his generally pedestrian pre-season and discounting Ronaldo`s no-show, it puts them back where they started, less than 365 days ago, before both produced the best season of their respective lives. At the bottom of the daily grind`s pile, with tallies reset to zero.
Acknowledging the mental and physical demands a hectic league schedule puts on any player, especially one earmarked with natural potency and influential skill, betrays an answer to why Colchester`s Yeates has carried his summertime slouch into the proper season. He was simply a dead weight in last Saturday`s match away at Hartlepool.
While some fans, somewhat unfairly, say he looks like he cannot be bothered to play in Colchester`s stripes any longer, a psychologist would simply contend that he is just not motivated to begin afresh.
Since most of us find sitting through a repeat TV show annoying, you can understand how Yeates might not be overcome with enthusiasm about Colchester`s title push. He was an essential cog in the team`s well-oiled machine that surprisingly won 2006`s honour, so slogging it out on the same shift this time may not appeal.
Aiming to improve on last season`s personal feats should stop Yeates embracing disillusionment`s dangerous cycle, though, because his discovery of a spring-loaded left boot from free-kicks less than a year ago cemented the midfielder`s status as an enigmatic media-darling.
His performances built on credit already accrued from his initial loan-spell, patterned in mesmerising slalom sways and sachets throughout 2005/6.
Considering that Yeates bent the ball`s flight with his iron will many times last term, until sustaining his series of hurts, he has won the right to excel now at an individual story-line, where he can conjure the script. Poetic license, in sporting form.
Manage consistency, and Colchester United`s logicians are arguing that the club`s number 11 is another full season of brilliance away from gaining an immovable tag of all-time eminence, to go with an already cult following in the stands.
The trick now for the U`s entertainer-in-chief is to reproduce his prolific form of the past. Until then, Yeates walks the same volatile tightrope as Cristiano Ronaldo.
Both are teetering between a compelling conclusion. Long-term immortality, or a painful self-destruction of an entire legacy, awaits.
Love, Not War, A Perfect Score
Fate placing Colchester and Ipswich together in the League Cup second round this week sees the idea that it is a Mickey Mouse competition temporarily suspended in Anglia`s colourful corner.
You can bet those on the eliminated side will revert to type, claiming they can 'concentrate on the league`. Yet, nobody anticipated the county foes to cross swords again so soon after the U`s relegation to English football`s third tier.
Meantime, don`t buy any anti-climax talk, because the fixture puts Kevin Lisbie on course to appear in an unexpected pantomime, caught between his old and new paymasters. You`ll need a hose for the hype over the next few weeks, and probably a bingo-card to count clichés yet-to-come.
Make for love, not war is an offering that appeals. The unexpected derby-day gives fans a chance to let the beautiful game take a long, deep breath, or, alternatively, we may observe a top-quality sporting encounter suffocated by a narrative of unwanted terraced ugliness.
I predict a sell-out.
Hilarity Begins At Home
Hilarity, not charity after all, begins at home. Colchester United`s first meaningful tie at the Community Stadium nearly descended into farce, because inaugural season ticket passes only just hit doormats in time.
The joke, after the club`s league defeat last weekend on the opening day, was that the U`s had forgotten when the campaign actually started.
That uniquely British coping-mechanism of self-deprecation, fans laughing at themselves as poor unfortunates, became an adopted soundtrack.
Colchester United failing in its duty of care to the thousands who have paid for the year`s tickets, however, was no laughing matter.
Adam Virgo has scored three goals in a week, with another match to come for Brighton at the weekend before we reach the new season`s seven-day mark, while Kevin Lisbie will face Colchester before August is out.
So much for this column`s presumed status as a sporting oracle. Just hours before former U`s player Virgo hit the string for goal number one I wrote how his scoring record for Colchester was questionable and deserving of some scrutiny.
My caption on the issue read Adam 'Vertigo`, typed with the implication that a now-resurgent Virgo was scared of entering the opposition`s half to the extent that he stopped looking for the back of the net.
Add that stark conclusion to an earlier claim that Kevin Lisbie`s goal-scoring prowess could not sting Colchester from Championship distance this season, now that the League Cup draw has paired the club with Ipswich, and you get two bullet-holed theories.
"Fate is life`s way of laughing at people who think they can play God," writes Ed Smith, in his brilliant volume on how competitive games reflect reality.
Smith was referring chiefly here to contestants, athletes. However, for all the truthfulness in that one-liner, he might as well have directed the message at presumptuous spaces of opinionated football chatter. Yes, like this one.
The boomerang of chance makes it a bad idea to voice throwaway remarks that always insist on intellectualising all aspects of sport.
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Date:Friday August 15 2008
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