Summertime & the livin` isn`t easy…
Summertime and the living is easy, right? Wrong, actually. Colchester United fans dread to even peep at the sport section, because every other column inch links prize personnel with the exit door.
While manager Geraint Williams is apparently out window-shopping, the rest of the league is ready to begin a shoplifting jaunt in Essex; Dean Gerken to West Ham, (£2.5 million) whisper the sages. Cureton to Leeds, (£750 K), they add knowingly. As of last Friday, striker Chris Iwelumo, out of contract this summer, was linked with a move to Charlton Athletic (free).
If you believe the rumour-mill daylight robbery is obviously on the agenda; the price paid for finishing tenth during a maiden season in the Coca-cola Championship.
You need a hose just for the hype, it seems, because summer`s heat is already simmering on a stove of untameable speculation. Sweating it out is proving tough, even if the idea of Jamie Cureton going to Leeds, now of League One, is laughable.
The story that links striker Chris Iwleumo, 28, with a move to London seems more credible, so is a concern. Scotland`s gentle giant is lying impossibly low in the East Anglian flatlands, at a club where, as midfielder Kevin Watson revealed recently in a local tabloid, there were just half a dozen players preparing for the now expired 2006/7 campaign a year ago.
"For a club this size," said Watson, "with the money available and the players we can attract, that [the season`s placing] is amazing.
He said: "At some of the pre-season sessions, there were six of us training. We did not know where our next player was coming from."
Not rocket science, then, to conclude that the division`s smallest squad hardly needs de-fleecing. Amid the disquieting silence over 18-goal marksman Iwelumo, an eye-popping fact is that United could be shorn of more players before close-season has even properly sprung.
With loanees Chris Barker and Hogan Ephraim returned to Cardiff and West Ham respectively, and young right-back Lawrie Wilson released, as well as the contacts of Richard Garcia and Iwleumo up for renewal, a worst-case scenario is that the mass exodus of five would leave Colchester`s squad 20 per cent smaller than it was just fourteen days ago.
All of which, the sceptics delight in constantly remaking, could mean a Luton-style return to English football`s third tier after just two seasons the in Championship by next May.
Swift promotion. One good season. Then comes the talent-vulture and strips the team of its once-strong spine in exchange for beans, consigning the White 'n` Blues to relegation next year.
Nice generalisation, except that U`s fans would be braced and ready, if unwilling, to face the drop. Yet, comparisons with Luton look insulting at this stage.
Unlike Luton`s manager, Mike Newell, who stripped his squad of talent with a bungs whitewash in return for a cut £9 million, Geraint Williams does not take anything from brokered transfer deals at Colchester.
The suites in London used Luton's money to line their trousers ahead investing it in the club`s future, which is what made thier relegation was painful, and maybe even deserved, if you remember that suspect transfer dealings have now marred even the initial promotion in 2005.
While Newell also admitted recently he made derogatory comments about Luton to attract attention to the club, it is worth pointing out that the Colchester XI are a source of civic pride, not a cash cow.
On compounding the critics, Colchester`s defender Pat Baldwin said: "People will be expecting us to struggle next year and that is fine as we will be able to prove them wrong again."
Granted, the names to continually file out of the Layer Road turnstile over the years via the club`s departure lounge simply roll of the tongue. Namely, they are: Perry Groves (Arsenal), Mark Kinsella (Charlton), Lomana LuaLua (Newcastle), Neil Danns (Birmingham) and Greg Halford (Reading).
After last season`s highest league finish in the club`s history, though, the ones that stayed are the heroes, despite being unsung.
Even if relegation happens, let the records show Colchester`s performances since 2005 have built a legacy worth more than any medal on football`s podium. The perennial underdogs are still, even now, able to bask freely in the warm glow of achievement.
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