Date:Wednesday July 25 2007
Colchester United`s Message Is An Ambitious One For Those Of Little Faith
Nowhere in the average football dictionary do wordy names like Mickey Adams, Teddy Sheringham or Kevin Lisbie translate as a 'lack of ambition`. So now, as the promise of a new campaign melts away summer`s close-season shackles, Colchester United fans everywhere are entitled to laugh at whoever it was that first spelt out the insult, one we can safely say will never gain statistical support.
Sheringham, Adams (assistant manager) and probably Lisbie, who scored during his trial game against Heybridge Swifts on Saturday, currently hold the gold, silver and bronze positions on the podium of most audacious transfer additions. Not impressed yet? Read, then, that a total of seven new recruits since May are walking proof of the club`s most aggressive enrolment policy in their 70-year history.
You`d forgive the faithful for not recognising their own set of players when Colchester are due to play against Sheffield United for the Championship 2007-8 curtain-raiser seventeen days from now. With season-ticket renewal figures up by almost a third on a year ago, however, and a recent public declaration by the Council that Cuckoo Farm Stadium ought to be ready inside 365 days, serial pessimism is definitely off the menu.
"Raising the bar, both on and off the pitch," is the order of the day, according to chief executive Marie Partner. Essex optimism is once more a tangible force, not least because the summer signing spree that began with one 'Super Ted` is likely to end with two more players of an international calibre.
Boosting the ranks still further should be striker Lisbie, who has represented Jamaica and can claim to be the man who scored a Premiership hat-trick against Liverpool, and Hungarian centre-back, Bela Balogh.
In the face of that evidence, combined with forthcoming showcase ties against a Liverpool XI and Bolton before the competitive calendar kicks in, mythical accusations that United lack ambition, as claimed by several fleeing tenants this summer, look increasingly inaccurate. "I`m furiously ambitious," retorted multi-millionaire owner and chairman Robbie Cowling, pioneer of Jobserve`s online empire.
It`s no overstatement, in this period where so many who`ve donned the club`s stripes struggle when defining what exactly makes a club competitive, to say that the U`s have never been progressing at a faster rate.
Fine, so simple maths argues that losing Richard Garcia (Hull), Chris Iwelumo (Charlton) and Jamie Cureton (Norwich) equals minus fifty goals in all based on last season`s return, but the cash registers are already chiming with delight due to Sheringham`s Premiership parachute-drop.
It`s even tempting to compare his Layer Road landing with David Beckham`s move to LA Galaxy; Teddy, of course, being the more miniature magnet. Cue Cardiff fans catching a similar commercial bug, since Robbie 'God` Fowler has converted to City colours. Ex-England internationals are in fashion for England`s second division, the world`s fourth-best attended league.
Juxtapose those facts, and an obvious development during the close season, with a name-and-shame job on Wayne Brown, Cureton and Iwelumo, (all of whom slammed the U`s on their way out, notably for far larger contracts) and it`s not hard to spot the transient nature of their accusations against what's really happening.
The explanation given by manager Geraint Williams as a way of rationalising the rush for the exit, some months ago, was: "Nobody is indispensable." It looks like a good call now, gaffer, even if, when the squad was the smallest in the league and shrinking, fans treated it as a weak response to the nightmare.
This column`s suspicion about the hollow nature of the attacks on the club`s supposed deficit of guile and desire, however, were in fact illuminated as fake from the moment Sheringham strutted into Britain`s oldest town to defy the odds and become a Colchester player.
His flashbulb welcoming ceremony brought to light an idea that the men behind Colchester United`s best-ever placing had been crippled by huge surges of self-doubt as soon as they absorbed the magnitude of their achievements when the season was over. They were, after all, two wins away from securing a Premiership play-off place at the first time of asking.
Just how many in last year's squad were driven to assume that the term just gone was a one-off fluke? Well, about half a dozen, if you scan the departures list. Upon reflection during time off, it seems that some gave in to an simple temptation by imagining life could be easier elsewhere.
If not self-scepticism, then what else caused the exodus? It can`t really have been about money, or improved paycheques, can it? Not if you calculate that, cumulatively, the wage bill for this season`s replacement staff would at least be equal, if not higher, than it was last term.
Since United continually informed fans of their attempts to keep Cureton et al, and are reportedly shelling ₤6,000 p/w for a one-man brand in Sheringham, the overriding conclusion is that, when push came to shove, the commitment of many from within Colchester`s defecting side just sadly dried up. The present comfort is to admit that Geraint Williams was right: nobody, thankfully, is indispensable.
Date:Wednesday July 25 2007
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