Geraint earns the respect

BUILT like a pit pony from his native Rhondda Valley and with a razor-sharp footballing brain, Geraint Williams, or George as he is universally known, has earned respect of his fellow professionals.

By Derek Davis

BUILT like a pit pony from his native Rhondda Valley and with a razor-sharp footballing brain, Geraint Williams, or George as he is universally known, has earned respect of his fellow professionals.

As a midfielder with Bristol Rovers, Derby County and Ipswich Town before winding up his playing days at Colchester United, Williams was known as an uncompromising ball-winner who could pass a bit.

He also forged a reputation as an honest, loyal and dedicated professional who went on to play more than 800 games.

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And while he has quickly learnt the art of manager-speak, blaming the first goal against them on Saturday on the thickness of the turf, and the flatness of the first half on the air, or rather the lack of it, he is not going to go in for unrealistic rhetoric when it comes to assessing his chances of still being a Championship manager this time last year.

Virtually everyone has tipped the U's to be relegated but of course no one at Layer Road is going to just lay down and accept that - especially not Williams. But he knows survival would be a tremendous feat.

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Williams said: “Success for us is to still be playing in this division again next year. I make no bones about it. That could mean us challenging for a top-six place and going for the play-offs. We want to finish as high as we can in this league but staying in the Championship would be success.”

To do that Williams knows he needs help of the sort that he gave predecessor Phil Parkinson to win promotion so getting the right No. 2 is vital and a priority. It could happen today and the assistant manager he wants is someone with great organisational skills and experience and contacts in the league.

Unfortunately that discounts Joe Dunne, who has done an excellent job helping him through this latest caretaker stage and has been so successful on the development and coaching front, producing top-quality young players.

Williams said: “As with the process of appointing a manager it is something that needs to be right and may take time.

“Hopefully it will be before next Saturday but we won't be rushed into it. It needs to be the right person - someone with experience.

“In fairness to Joe my inexperience as a manager will hamper him. We stepped up together and he has been a big help and will be a candidate for my job in the future.

“But at the moment I need someone with experience. We need to be able to work together as a team.

“Phil and I dovetailed well together. I learnt a lot from him. Phil is very methodical and I know my strengths are on the coaching side so I perhaps need someone to help me with the organisational side of things. It is not just an assistant but I'm looking to extend out our scouting and bring in a sports nutritionist.”

One person who could be brought in on the sport science front is Peter Cawley, the ever-popular former U's captain, who had a similar role at Wycombe Wanderers.

Now Wiliams' appointment has been made it is expected new players will follow quickly, with Tottenham's bright young striking prospect Lee Barnard being mentioned among others.

Keeping players will also be another headache for Williams with West Ham the latest club reportedly keen on taking Greg Halford.

Williams said: “The directors and chairman have been very honest with me and there is money to bring in players. We have a list of players who we feel we would like. They have to be of the right ability and character because we already have a great bunch of players here at Colchester United.”

He has the backing of the staff and players at Layer Road, and from the fans if the reaction from the 1,500 or so, at Layer Road on Saturday is anything to go by, and Williams was grateful for the help he has had so far and believes his appointment will mean disruption is kept to a minimum.

Nor was he worried about having to wait so long to be appointed as speculation about other candidates, that included Bobby Williamson, raged.

He said: “I just went about my job, assisted by Joe Dunne, who was fantastic, as were the players and all the other staff around the club who stepped up and took on extra duties as we were short of people during the summer. My main concern was getting everything ready for the first game of the season and we have done that and I delighted with the outcome.

“I was up at 7am on Saturday morning after watching a game on Friday night, talking to other managers about players. I was so keen to get started.

“It is a big advantage having been at the club eight years. I know what constrictions we work within, but at the same time I'm looking to push boundaries and try to move the club forward. I'm sure I will get the support from the chairman and the board but we can't bankrupt the club trying to get things we can't afford.”

The game he watched was Ipswich's 2-0 defeat by Lazio, where the antics of another new man in charge intrigued him.

“I was watching Jim Magilton on the touchline kicking every ball and jumping up and down. I can see what is in store for me because we share the same passion, although we are different characters.”

The good luck messages from fellow managers, including Parkinson, have flooded in since it is appointment and many feel, and hope, he soon gains the same respect as a boss as he did a player from throughout the game.

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