Baldwin transformed under Lambert

PAT Baldwin has been a player transformed under manager Paul Lambert.Colchester United's long-serving centre-half was poised to go out on loan, before Lambert's appointment last October.

Carl Marston

Colchester soccer main preview (with Baldwin pic)

By Carl Marston

PAT Baldwin has been a player transformed under manager Paul Lambert.

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Colchester United's long-serving centre-half was poised to go out on loan, before Lambert's appointment last October. He had been overlooked by former manager Geraint Williams and caretaker boss Kit Symons.

However, Baldwin remained at the Community Stadium and it did not take him long to establish himself as one of the first names on Lambert's team-sheet every week.

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The 26-year-old Londoner, who will be celebrating seven years with the U's this summer, has only missed one game since starting his first match of the season at Stockport on October 18 - this was Lambert's first game in charge.

“I was asked whether I wanted to go out on loan, by the old manager (Williams) and also by Kit (Symons) when he was in charge,” admitted Baldwin.

“But I felt that I deserved a chance. Football is always changing, and we had been conceding goals left, right and centre. I felt that I could come in and do a good job.

“The new manager (Lambert) showed faith in me. He saw me play in one game for the reserves, and then put me straight into the team.

“He is a very ambitious guy, and this is massively infectious,” added Baldwin.

It had been a rough half-year for Baldwin, before Lambert's arrival last autumn. The ex-Chelsea trainee had been blighted by injury since the beginning of 2008, initially with a knee injury and then a dislocated shoulder, which required an operation last summer.

In fact, there was a gap of more than nine months between his previous full outing (FA Cup defeat to Peterborough on January 5, 2008) and when Lambert named in his first U's team for the 2-1 win at Stockport.

Baldwin continued: “The manager has changed a lot since he's been here, but then this needed to be done.

“We were poor throughout last season, and we carried this poor form into the first part of this season.

“But now he (Lambert) has come in and steadied the ship. I predict some exciting times ahead, with some continuity at the club.

“It's very difficult when new players are coming in all the time. It's asking a lot to expect them to start delivering good displays straight away.”

Baldwin has played alongside six different centre-halves over the last five months - Chris Coyne, Paul Reid, John White, Phil Ifil (briefly against Walsall), Matt Heath and most recently Neal Trotman.

Trotman made his U's debut in the 1-1 draw at Leicester City last weekend, alongside Baldwin, following his loan move from Championship side Preston.

“I have played alongside lots of different centre-halves this season, but I just stick to my own game and try to do my best,” explained Baldwin.

“They are all very different players who all have different attributes. Obviously Neal Trotman showed that he is a player with a big future, following his performance at Leicester.

“That was his first game of the season, after injury, and it was a really good performance. I really enjoyed playing alongside him, even though to be honest I didn't know anything about him until he signed. When I go home after training, I tend to close my door on football.”

Baldwin will make his 31st appearance of the campaign, all chalked up within the last 32 games, at sixth-placed Scunthorpe this afternoon.

The Iron are 10 points clear of the U's, but Baldwin is confident that this gap can be whittled down to seven, not least because the U's have only lost six of their 18 away league games.

“Scunthorpe are up there going for promotion, but then our away form has been very good,” insisted Baldwin.

“I suppose there must be a different mind-set, between us playing at home and away. The home teams tend to come out and attack us, and we play better against those sort of teams. When we are at home, they tend to sit back.

“I suppose that having a settled defence is a key to success, but it's only really at centre-half where all the changes have been made.

“Alan Maybury and Marc Tierney have been the regular full-backs. The only chopping and changing has been the centre-half alongside me.”

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