Date:Friday September 7 2007
Dean Gerken freely admits that he was a football obsessive as a youngster. The indomitable 22-year-old would also tell you that his game is based on that of glove great Schmeichel, if you asked him.
One subject to avoid when addressing the Colchester United stopper, however, would be landmarks. The Southend-born man is touchy about them, and perhaps with good reason.
Gerken, this term rewarded for half a decade of progress in U’s stripes with the number one squad shirt, has nothing but bad memories of the few momentous occasions in his career as a professional to date.
“Last season,” says the player who ousted his mentor, Aidan Davison, as first-choice goalkeeper, “we went to Derby in early February and got hammered 5-1. While I didn’t know before the game, it was my fiftieth career game.”
Fast-forward to the present, and, as Gerken recently recounted in United’s matchday magazine, U’s review, and it’s a case of déja vu. The man affectionately known as Deeno was sent off on the anniversary of his fiftieth league appearance in the Championship clash against Barnsley.
“I knew it was going to be an awkward take,” he says of the fighted ball that caused a collision between himself the imposing Kayode Odejayi. “My only thought was to stop him scoring; some refs give a straight red for that kind of thing and some don’t – I can’t really argue.”
But was it a case of a professional foul by an otherwise professional player? The coy answer: “I had to take the one-game suspension on the chin, but it obviously wasn’t the way I wanted to celebrate a milestone!”
That was a minor error of judgement, seemingly, which cost his team in terms of manpower in a game that ended all square at 2-2: “I’m hoping no-one mentions anything about milestone games to me ever again.”
Given his pedigree, that looks out of the question. There will be many more memorable moments, surely – over the sour ones too – for a goalie whose jersey colour currently emphasises his green disposition in terms of senior level experience.
He has already expanded his achievements and c.v. far beyond a series of accomplished showings at the end of the club’s historic 2005/6 promotion year.
Gerken is settled in goal, after much waiting in the wings behind predecessors, won the most recent young player of the year award, and is many people’s idea of a genuine contender for net-minding duty with the England Under-21’s. He even won a new long-term contact in the summer.
The challenges, for Gerken, now come thick and fast – including continuing to vindicate the decision made by his club manager, Geriant Williams, to change his squad number, and thereby status, for this season. “I was over the moon when the gaffer told me I was having the number one shirt.
“I didn’t expect it, to be honest, and thought Aidan would continue with it until he retired. Trouble is, he got a clean sheet at Preston, so I know I have to fight for my place.”
Gerken, after all, is not quite as green as he first sounds.
Date:Friday September 7 2007
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