‘Gillespie’s not the Messiah’ – Ward’s warning to U’s fans

“HE’s not the Messiah, he’s a very injury-prone striker!”

“HE’s not the Messiah, he’s a very injury-prone striker!”

Colchester United manager John Ward didn’t adapt the entire Monty Python quote when talking about fans’ favourite Steven Gillespie yesterday, but he may well have done.

With just 11 games to go and a 10 point gap to make up, the U’s need to start scoring more goals if they are to stand any chance of finishing in the League One play-off places.

And with Ward finding a loan striker of suitable calibre hard to come by, he knows that supporters will be heaping pressure on their slightly mythical talisman to come up with the goods.

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Liverpudlian Gillespie arrived at the U’s with a club-record �400,000 price tag, yet no-one really knows whether his playing ability justifies that outlay due to the fact he has spent the best part of his three seasons in Essex injured.

And yet four goals in a rare spell out of the treatment room recently has been enough for fans to chant his name whenever he has been on the substitutes’ bench.

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“Don’t hold him up there to be the Messiah because it’s not possible for any player to be that,” warned the U’s boss, with more than a hint of a Life of Brian – a film that was released in the 1970s, a time when Ward was banging in the goals for hometown club Lincoln.

“We’ve got to be careful and right with him. It would be wrong for me or the supporters to put too much pressure on Steven and expect him to be the saviour of everything.

“He’s a good footballer but he needs to be managed and I would like people to trust me in that management.

“Everybody appears to want Steven Gillespie to play and be involved but they’re not aware of some of the things Steven and I are aware of.”

With top-scorer David Mooney suspended for the next two games and Icelandic international Matthias Vilhjalmsson having cut short his loan spell in Essex, Ward made sure that Gillespie didn’t play for the reserves on Wednesday night (a 2-0 defeat at Oxford United) to maximise his chances of being fully fit when play-off rivals MK Dons visit tomorrow.

“I think if you look at his previous record of games it’s not magnificent,” said Ward, referring to the fact that Gillespie has made just 22 starts in almost three seasons at the Essex club.

“I want him to play, don’t get me wrong, a very bright and lively Steven Gillespie is a very good player.”

And so the conundrum, has the 25-year-old done enough to earn a new deal when his current one expires this summer?

“This is a major period for his career now and both he and I have got to get right,” said Ward.

“He wants to be here, there’s no question about that, and there’s a good chance I’ll want to keep him. I don’t want a good player like him to drift away from us.

“I get on great with him, I’ve known him for years (Ward signed him for previous club Cheltenham) and he and I trust each other.

“We both know when we sit in the office together that we’ve got to get it right.”

Colchester’s No.9 shirt has been vacant this season and 59-year-old Ward – who scored 91 goals in 240 appearances as a striker for Lincoln during the 70s – joked that he may have to assign it to himself.

“There’s a good chance Gillespie will start on Saturday if I decide he’s right. I don’t know who the fans are going to chant for at half past three though if that is the case.

“It would have to be me I guess, I’ll have to see if I can find a goal!”

– Has Gillespie done enough to get a new contract? E-mail: sport@eadt.co.uk or comment below.

– Full match preview of Colchester v MK Dons in tomorrow’s EADT.

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