Date:Tuesday February 6 2007
Former Colchester prodigy should thrive in Reading`s revolution
A week after Colchester United`s Greg Halford spread his £2.5 million wings by flying up the Football League with a move to Reading, the 22-year old utility-man leaves both a trail of stardust, and sadness, in the flatlands of East Anglia.
Musing at even the oldest of football`s philosophical debates - such as: "does a out-going transfer still happen those in Britain`s oldest recorded town choose to ignore it?" - will not cut it this time.
Only joking, of course, since the proper adage involves trees, although the depth of media coverage surrounding Greg might easily have left a sizable carbon footprint in the Amazon. A new take on that old wartime cry could conceivably read: "Careless talk costs trees!"
Except, in this case, the transfer chatter was ground in truth; United`s former youth-team captain, completing a protected move to the Premiership following an August transfer request, will now earn his stripes in England`s top-flight.
A hanky movement for United supporters, this, because 'Super Greg` has been maturing down at Layer Drome`s Essex auditorium for the past six seasons, although you can`t pretend that his big-money move wasn`t in the script all along.
Facing facts isn`t fun, especially in the world of football`s fantasy, and Greg`s departure was like watching the heartbreaking, yet inevitable, episode of your eldest leaving home.
Facing finances, and the frown of a potentially lop-sided balance sheet, had been on the cards anyway, as the England Under-20 international was out of contract in the summer.
Some much-needed comic relief on the now resolved saga can be found in the hacks-haven of Square Football.Com, where one journalist responded to the Halford speculation thus: "Greg Halford? Sounds like an Indiana high school point guard rather than a prospective Premiership defender…"
Hindsight, they say, is a wonderful thing, but that does not disguise the fact that nine Premier League clubs had already declared an interest in the lanky 6-foot 4` full-back by this point.
Steve Coppell, the manager who eventually signed Halford, said: "He`s our type of player, a certain age, not been there and done that, so he`s got to prove himself." Unlike many other young players in the Championship, Greg did not come from a top-flight youth academy.
"It`s a massive amount of money, for him, but that`s a reflection of the times," he said.
Greg became Reading`s record signing seven days ago, apparently smashing Colchester`s highest-ever received transfer fee in the process. "I said that he was getting more expensive every day! Every time I phoned he was an extra few bob!" added Coppell.
Granted, it is a large amount, although Colchester might have expected more, given that club`s other most famous son, Lommana LuaLua, fetched the same amount of money when he moved to Newcastle in 2000.
He was certainty worth much less than the Daily Mail`s reported £7 million price-tag, despite his versatility - he can play right across defence and midfield, and has also had a spell up front, playing there under Peter Taylor for his county, and many times for the U`s, too.
Greg famously scored a hat-trick while prowling as a striker against Rushden & Diamonds, during the 2004 / 2005 season. His talent will be a big loss to Colchester, since he also strikes a mean free-kick, and has an aptitude for the long throw.
Not that he will be the last bright prospect to thrive in this corner of Essex. Dean Gerken, John White and Gary Richards are among other current first-team players from the homegrown category. And the good news is, new owner Robbie Cowling has pledged to pump twice as much cash into developing youngsters over the next few seasons.
The dust has only just settled on the whole Halford affair, though, and in the words of the player himself, who returned to watch the U`s draw 1-1 with Birmingham, at Layer Road last Saturday: "It`s been an unbelievable week for me. I didn`t really get a chance to sat goodbye, so that`s what I`ve done."
From Colchester - the land responsible of those famous lyrics to the 'Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star` nursery rhyme - to the alternative galaxy of Reading, our one-time prodigy deservedly gets a new stage on which to shine.
Date:Tuesday February 6 2007
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