Coach Steve sees it from all angles

STEVE Foley is rare in East Anglian football inasmuch as he has connections not just with Ipswich and Colchester but also Norwich City.But he is such a nice bloke you can't hold that against him.

By Derek Davis

STEVE Foley is rare in East Anglian football inasmuch as he has connections not just with Ipswich and Colchester but also Norwich City.

But he is such a nice bloke you can't hold that against him.

Any bitterness Foley has at being made a scapegoat by Nigel Worthington is kept to himself and, should the City boss be sacked, many would see it as inevitable.

Rather than dwell on the down sides of football, Foley prefers to look on the bright side and is clearly enjoying his role as coach at Portman road.

He said: “It is brilliant here. From day one they have made me very welcome. I had other offers on the table but when Bryan (Klug) got in touch there was no hesitation on my part. It is a marvellous club with outstanding facilities and genuine, warm people.”

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Foley also looks back at his early days in football with pride and joy after spending all his playing career at Colchester United.

Essex boy Foley joined the U's as a 14-year-old before making his debut at 18 but had to retire early 10 years later after 314 games and 56 goals.

Foley said: “I had great times there. Obviously there were dark times too, when I needed operations, but on the whole I look at the positives.”

His favourite memory was making his debut as an 18-year-old against Exeter on November 16, 1971, scoring twice in a 3-0 win.

Foley recalls: “Charlie Woods also made his Colchester debut that day. I went on and scored two goals and had the chance to complete my hat tick when we were awarded a penalty.

“They handed me the ball but I said 'no, let the regular kicker (Brian Lewis) take it' but he ended up missing.”

Lewis made up for it by netting the third in open play.

But injuries forced Foley to quit in 1982 and he became a coach after being invited in by Mike Walker.

The 53-year-old has enjoyed a long career on the training side without ever stepping into the managerial hot seat on a permanent basis - despite being a popular choice by players and supporters in the past.

Foley said: “I was caretaker-manager five times at Colchester when they seemed to be sacking managers left, right and centre but at the time it was not right for me to be manager.

“I didn't feel I had enough contacts in the game. I finished playing at 28 and went into coaching so I was very young.

“I have no regrets about that. I have loved being a coach and feel very fortunate.”

Ironically the managers are getting the top jobs younger and younger these days, as today's bosses Jim Magilton and Geraint Williams demonstrate.

Foley said: “George and Jim are learning their trade and it seems the fashion to employ younger managers.

“Results will determine if the chairmen are right but all I know is that I'm a better coach now at 53 than I was at 29 and nothing beats experience.”

Even with his unique insight into both clubs, Foley admits it is tough to call a winner and said: “It is a tight game on a pitch. They will be right on top of us and they will make it hard for us. We have a relatively young team so it will be a learning curve for them to.”

Tonight's game is a sell-out, with all 6,334 tickets sold and many more supporters would have liked to have been at Layer Road in person, even though the game is live on Sky TV.

Foley believes that now the U's have reached the second tier of English football for the first time the sooner they move into the new stadium the better - although he points out that the current ground can be a plus.

He said: “It has taken a long time to be playing in the same division as Ipswich but it is well-deserved for them. They have worked very hard to get there.

“They need the new ground as soon as possible and you would like to think they would be able to fill it. That said, I was surprised that they didn't get a full house for the Derby game recently.

“The ground has not changed since the year dot, except to reduce the capacity for safety reasons.

“In a way they can use the ground to their advantage and a new ground can work against you, as Arsenal have found to an extent.”

No doubt, even wearing the blue of Ipswich tonight, Foley will be afforded a warm welcome by the Layer Road faithful - a rare thing in East Anglian football.

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