Coker’s dream debut should inspire non-league players

FORMER Bury Town player Ben Coker’s dream debut for Colchester United should provide inspiration to all young players in the non-league game.

It was truly Roy of the Rovers stuff for the 21-year-old left-back last Friday night.

Two days before the visit of League One high-fliers Bournemouth to The Weston Homes Community Stadium, Coker was the U’s third choice left-back.

He’d signed from Suffolk non-leaguers Bury Town in the summer, spent the first half of the season injured and then went on loan to Essex non-leaguers Chelmsford City prior to Christmas.

However, last Thursday the U’s sold Marc Tierney to Norwich City and on the eve of the game John White injured his back in training.

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As a result manager John Ward was forced into throwing Coker in at the deep end – informing him that he’d be starting just an hour and a half before kick-off.

With a global audience watching on through the medium of Sky television you could have forgiven the youngster of nerves.

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He certainly showed none though, putting in a display that was arguably worthy of the man-of-the-match honours, blocking a shot on the line in the first half, powering up and down the line throughout and having a hand in both goals as the U’s turned a 1-0 deficit into a 2-1 triumph.

“I was on such a massive high after the game and it’s taken me a little while to come back down,” said Coker.

“My mum had recorded the game and I watched it back the following day – it was bit weird seeing myself on the telly!

“My phone went crazy after the game with people asking me why I hadn’t told them I was playing. I had to tell them I didn’t know myself!”

It completes a remarkable turnaround in fortunes for the left-sided specialist who this time last year admits he was beginning to wonder whether his ambitions of being a professional were ever going to come to fruition.

“If you’d have told me about this a year ago I probably wouldn’t have believed you,” said Coker, who was rejected by Histon and Northampton as a teenager before he joined former U’s player Richard Wilkins at Bury.

“I never gave up, but there was a time when I started to question whether it would happen.”

Budding young non-league players in the east region should take note – hard work, the faith of just one manager and a big break proves it can be done.

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