Five best moments from Aussie Richard Garcia’s dazzling Colchester United career
Richard Garcia is one of the most talented players ever to don a Colchester United shirt, and he graced the hallowed turf at Layer Road at the time of the most successful period in the Essex club’s history.
Garcia played for bigger teams, before and after his three-year spell with the U’s, having started out as a teenager at West Ham, and eventually moving on to Hull City, via the U’s.
Yet some of his fondest memories will be forged during his triumphant stay at Phil Parkinson’s ground-breaking Colchester team. Now aged 35, attack-minded Garcia announced his retirement from the professional game last week.
He ended his career at his home town club of Perth Glory, in Western Australia, having originally left his native Australia to make his name in England while aged only 15, in the Hammers’ famed Academy.
He succeeded, big-time.
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Garcia signed professional forms with West Ham in 1999, and made 16 league appearances for the Upton Park club, but it was at Colchester where his career really blossomed, chiefly in an attacking role down the flank, although also sometimes in a more central role.
He was a member of the historic promotion winning squad of 2005-06, which secured Championship football for the first-ever time, and went on to score seven goals in 36 league games as the U’s finished a terrific 10th in the second tier the following season.
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Garcia was offered a new contract by the U’s but, like so many of his then-team-mates, including Chris Iwelumo, Jamie Cureton and Wayne Brown, he chose to move to pastures new.
Garcia’s name will appear in the best-ever XI’s of many Colchester United supporters, of more recent times, or at least make their 18-man squad.
I reported on virtually every game he played for the U’s – 96 appearances in all – and here is my favourite five:
No.1: January 2, 2006: 3-1 home win v Nottingham Forest.
The promotion-chasing U’s proved there was life after Jamie Cureton – the striker had returned to Swindon at the end of his initial loan deal, after seven goals in nine starts – with Garcia filling the ex-Norwich man’s boots.
Garcia capped a wonderful display against Forest with a stunning third goal, in the third minute of injury-time, after Mark Yeates had put the U’s ahead just two minutes earlier.
Garcia’s goal was a wonder strike. He picked up Kem Izzet’s pass inside his own half and initially seemed to be heading towards the opposing corner-flag.
But the Australian then opted to cut inside and beat keeper Paul Gerrard with a 20-yard beauty.
“I haven’t had many chances this season, so I was keen to take this one,” enthused Garcia.
No. 2: January 21, 2006: 2-0 home win v Port Vale
In less than five months, the U’s transformed themselves from relegation fodder to League One leaders, and it was Garcia who propelled them to top spot with a brace in this win over Port Vale.
Garcia leapt off the substitutes’ bench to score two second-half goals, to secure a remarkable 16th win from the last 18 games.
“Teams have been looking at us for a while now,” admitted Garcia.
No. 3: February 18, 2006: 3-1 away defeat at Chelsea
The fearless U’s shocked mighty Chelsea, Garcia playing a key role in putting the League One minnows ahead at Stamford Bridge, in front of 41,810.
Garcia exchanged a one-two with Greg Halford before delivering a cross into the danger zone, where Chelsea defender Ricardo Carvalho construed to divert the ball into his own net for a 28th minute lead. Of course Chelsea came storming back to win this FA Cup fifth round tie.
“They gave us a proper match,” admitted Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho. “I think the Colchester players can be proud of what they achieved.”
No. 4: August 5, 2006: : 2-1 defeat at Birmingham City
Garcia had the distinction of scoring the U’s first-ever goal in the Championship, on the opening day at St Andrews.
He bagged the equaliser in the 51st minute, from 10 yards out, right in front of the noses of the U’s travelling support, although Geraint Williams’ men were denied a point by Arsenal loanee Nicklas Bendtner’s late winner.
No 5: April 21, 2007: 3-1 home win over Sunderland.
Garcia helped to topple Roy Keane’s promotion-chasing Sunderland, in front of a packed Layer Road crowd, restoring the U’s lead late on with an unstoppable shot, before Cureton added a late third from the penalty spot.