Contenders come face-to-face

TWO contenders for the manager-of-the-year, for different reasons, will come face-to-face at Layer Road in a sell-out clash on Saturday.Roy Keane has transformed fallen giants Sunderland from laughing stock relegation fodder, to champions elect, over the last eight months.

By Carl Marston

TWO contenders for the manager-of-the-year, for different reasons, will come face-to-face at Layer Road in a sell-out clash on Saturday.

Roy Keane has transformed fallen giants Sunderland from laughing stock relegation fodder, to champions elect, over the last eight months.

Keane is the name on everybody's lips, singled out as the most exciting new manager on the block. The former Eire and Manchester United midfielder looks certain to guide the Black Cats back into the top flight, at the first attempt, and it's no surprise that he is already a favourite to eventually succeed Sir Alex Ferguson at Old Trafford.


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But Geraint Williams, in his own quiet and methodical way, has been even more of a revelation as the manager of “underdogs” Colchester United this season.

While Keane was appointed to the Stadium of Light hot seat a fortnight into the new season, Williams was given the job at Layer Road a week before the campaign started.

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The U's, red hot favourites for relegation even before a ball was kicked - let alone after losing their first four league games of the season - have done more than just survive in the Championship.

Remarkably, United are still within a shout of reaching the play-offs. They are four points adrift of the top six with three games remaining.

They don't come any more difficult than a meeting with league leaders Sunderland, especially as the Wearsiders could even win promotion if they beat the U's, and third-placed Derby suffer a shock home defeat at the hands of basement club Luton.

But Keane and his troops will have to watch out. Promotion rivals Derby County, Wolves, Preston, Southampton and Stoke have all been soundly beaten at Layer Road this term.

“We are out to win every game between now and the end of the season,” insisted U's boss Williams.

“I came across Roy (Keane) quite a few times as a player. We played against each other on a number of occasions, including internationally, but this weekend is not about me and Roy. It's about the players on the pitch.

“It's a big game, with Sunderland coming to town. I'm not surprised that they are up there at the top, because they are a big club. Roy has done a fantastic job,” added Welshman Williams.

Sunderland are currently on an unbeaten streak spanning 17 games, but the U's have only lost three of their 21 home fixtures. Realistically, United need to win to keep alive their faint play-off hopes.

Saturday's match was sold out by the start of this week. The U's last two fixtures are away at Stoke and at home to Crystal Palace.

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