End of a dramatic week at Colchester
THERE has not been a dull moment at the Weston Homes Community Stadium over the last week.
THERE has not been a dull moment at the Weston Homes Community Stadium over the last week. Blink, and you would have missed something.
I cannot recall a more amazing sequence of events during the course of a week in the U's history, not just because a manager has left - several others have departed in equally controversial circumstances, like Ron Meades (after just four days in 1953), Dick Graham (1972), Mike Walker (1975), George Burley (1994) and Phil Parkinson (2006) - but because of all the other trappings that have surrounded Paul Lambert's exit.
The U's have not just lost a manager, while sitting proudly on top of the league, but they have also lost a skipper, an assistant manager, one midfielder and now quite possibly two.
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And to ensure that there has been no time to even pause for breath, the U's have also squeezed a couple of games into this hectic period.
United lost top spot, and their 100% league record, when losing 2-1 at MK Dons on Saturday. Perhaps the events of the last few days have finally caught up with the U's squad, which must feel a bit battered and bruised by all the headline news.
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Johnnie Jackson's move to Notts County at the start of the week was no surprise. The U's player-of-the-season from 2007-08 had already demanded a transfer and had mapped out his future elsewhere.
But the loss of Lambert was a bombshell, beginning with Norwich chairman Alan Bowkett's phone call out-of-the-blue to Robbie Cowling (U's owner and chairman), requesting permission to appoint Lambert as the Canaries manager within half-an-hour of the U's 2-1 home win over Yeovil last Saturday.
The pace of events then took over. Lambert could not resist the temptation of moving to a rival League One club with a “big fan-base” and a “promotion favourites” tag, especially one that his U's team had tonked 7-1 away on the opening day of the season.
United were desperately unhappy with the way Norwich went about their approach for Lambert, and are in the process of seeking substantial compensation, but they could not stand in the Scotsman's way. His mind was made up, as was that of assistant Ian Culverhouse and football operations manager Gary Karsa.
The U's had a home game against Gillingham on Tuesday evening, but new caretaker boss Joe Dunne had another headache before kick-off. Skipper Dean Hammond was on the verge of signing for Southampton, and so had effectively played his last game for the club.
Against the odds, United chalked up a third league win on the trot, coming from a goal down to beat Gillingham 2-1 and so stay ahead of Charlton and Leeds in top spot.
It was hoped that all would be calm, until the appointment of a new manager within the next fortnight, but then came a double blow on Saturday.
First, the U's suffered a 2-1 defeat in Milton Keynes, not a complete surprise - Paul Ince's men are unbeaten in the league and will be one of the promotion contenders this season.
But, in his post-match interview, Dunne produced another shock by announc
ing that midfielder David Perkins had requested a transfer the previous evening. Perkins came on as a second-half substitute against the Dons, but is adamant that he wants to leave.
Fellow midfielder Kem Izzet reflected after Saturday's match: “It's setback after setback at the moment. Things are just going against us.
“Perhaps it's a personal thing with Perks (David Perkins). He's a northern lad and he might want to return north, but that's up to him. I don't know. It's his decision.”
The shell-shocked U's will hope for a more sedate week ahead, but that might be wishful thinking.
Perkins could well move elsewhere, there will be more speculation concerning who will be appointed as Lambert's long-term successor, and there's also the small matter of a home game against Leeds on Saturday!
Watch this space!