Gillespie out to prove himself

WHEN Steven Gillespie bagged a hat-trick in Colchester United's pre-season friendly at Tiptree United, almost exactly a year ago to the day, he was looking forward to a rip-roaring season at his new club.

Carl Marston

WHEN Steven Gillespie bagged a hat-trick in Colchester United's pre-season friendly at Tiptree United, almost exactly a year ago to the day, he was looking forward to a rip-roaring season at his new club.

So, for that matter, were the U's management team and the supporters. Gillespie, a club record signing from Cheltenham Town, looked a good bet for a 20-goal campaign.

However, despite a free-scoring pre-season, and a late brace of goals in the opening day 4-2 defeat at Hartlepool, last season disintegrated into a year of injury anguish.

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But now it's time to start all over again, with a clean slate, and a super-fit Gillespie is desperate to make up for lost time.

The U's kick off their pre-season programme at Tiptree's Chapel Road this afternoon (3pm), the same venue where Gillespie so caught the eye last summer.

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A half-time substitute that evening, he scored his three goals in his first 45 minutes for his new club, in a 4-0 win. Triallist Akanni-Sunday Wasiu scored the other, and went on to earn himself a contract, although he was released this summer.

“Pre-season went quite well for me last year. I got a few goals and was all set up,” recalled Gillespie.

“But it didn't work out for me. I struggled with injuries. Hopefully, that's all behind me now.

“I've been training with the lads for the last couple of weeks, and we've put in some hard work. I'm looking forward to the first game, and then we're off to Germany on Sunday for another hard week of training.

“I feel good and strong. The gaffer (Paul Lambert) has brought in four or five new faces. They're all really committed, competitive players, with a bit of aggression, which is something that we have needed and the gaffer has addressed.

“We've got some good tests in pre-season, especially against Aston Villa and away at Ipswich. That should stand us in good stead,” added Gillespie.

Former Liverpool trainee Gillespie only played one full game last season, ironically that opening day reverse at Hartlepool. Otherwise, he was in-and-out of the squad, spending more time on the treatment table than on the pitch.

But the livewire striker, a �400,000 purchase from Cheltenham, always looked likely to grab a goal during his brief cameo appearances, a fact that was not lost on manager Lambert.

The 25-year-old was certainly missed by the U's, because in the end it was winger Mark Yeates who ended up as the leading marksman with 12 goals to his name.

Yeates has since moved on to Middlesbrough, for a �500,000 fee (rising to �750,000 subject to appearances), so the onus is on Gillespie and the other U's strikers to plunder the goals.

Fellow front-runners Clive Platt, Scott Vernon and Jamie Guy are still at the club, and Lambert is also keen to bring in another striker this month.

“Mark (Yeates) was a top, top player, there's no doubt about that, and we will miss him,” confirmed Gillespie.

“He scored a lot of goals for us, but now it's time for the rest of us to take over.

“I think it's going to be even tougher to get out of the league this season, than last, simply because of the big clubs that have come down (Norwich, Charlton and Southampton).

“You've also got strong teams like Wycombe who have come up, and clubs such as MK Dons and Millwall who did well last season and should go well again,” added Gillespie.

Essex edition in brief

Endurance running: A team of Colchester Harriers took on the Three Peaks Challenge to conquer the trio of Snowdon, Ben Nevis, and Scarfell with 24 hours. Ten of the 11 Harriers completed the task in good conditions and high visibility. Chris Sellens and Allen Smalls were running this for the second time in a week, and they also took the hardest accents and descents as possible.

Running times for the peaks were: Allen Smalls 7hrs, Chris Sellens 8.24, Bob Clarke 7.05, Gary Abbott 7.00, Les Dunham 13.09, Jack Fryer 7.04, Debbie Cattermole 6.59, John Carter 8.40, Mark Beards 11.34 and Nick MacIntyre 8.02.

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