Greg is good! - Blackwell

FROM the youth team at Colchester United to the brink of the Premiership, again! Such is the stuff of dreams.

Carl Marston

FROM the youth team at Colchester United to the brink of the Premiership, again! Such is the stuff of dreams.

Greg Halford, a one-time gangly member of the U's youth team, has experienced his share of highs and lows since bursting onto the first-team scene at Layer Road.

The lows had outweighed the highs, since his much-hyped �2m move to Reading at the start of 2007, but on Monday night he became the toast of one corner of south Yorkshire.

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Halford headed home a glorious second-half winner to move Sheffield United to within one step of the Premiership. His bullet header from Kyle Walker's cross clinched a 1-0 win for the Blades on the night, and a 2-1 victory on aggregate, in a highly-charged Championship play-off semi-final against Preston.

Unfortunately, the Chelmsford-born 24-year-old might not be fit for the final, after limping off with an Achilles tendon injury.

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But Blades boss Kevin Blackwell is convinced that Halford will eventually become an established player in the top flight, following two indifferent experiences with Reading and then Sunderland, who remain his parent club.

“Greg doesn't realise how good he can be,” insisted Blackwell.

“Sometimes you get misunderstood, both as a player and a manager. He was really hyped as a youngster and you can see why, but if you rest on your laurels then your career can start to ebb away.

”Greg has got to keep on striving to improve and, in fairness, he wants to do that.”

Commenting on Halford's injury at the end of the evening, Blackwell added wryly: “He broke his leg, got sore ribs and a smack in the mouth. He had that many problems I didn't know what was going on!”

Halford shot to fame at Colchester during Phil Parkinson's successful era, showing his versatility by operating as a right-back, midfielder, winger and striker. He also played for England Under-20s.

A glamorous �2m move to Reading followed, but after just three appearances and a five-month stay at the Madejski Stadium, he moved onto Sunderland for a �2.5m fee and a four-year deal. He played eight games in the Premiership under then-manager Roy Keane, but was soon out-of-favour.

Halford spent the second half of last season on loan at Charlton, and has been on loan with Sheffield United for the whole of this season, featuring in 43 of the Blades' 46 league games during the regular campaign.

Of course Halford is not the only former Colchester United player of recent seasons to grace the Premiership. Craig Fagan and Richard Garcia have been regulars in the Hull City side this term, while George Elokobi and Chris Iwelumo are looking forward to playing in the top flight with newly-promoted Wolves next term.

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