Joy for winner

MARK Kinsella was overjoyed to learn that EADT readers had voted him as their No. 1 choice in a poll of Colchester United's Top 100 Players.The EADT telephoned the 34-year-old former U's midfielder on his way to Bury's Gigg Lane for a League Two fixture on Tuesday night for what turned out to be his penultimate game as player/coach at Walsall.

By Carl Marston

MARK Kinsella was overjoyed to learn that EADT readers had voted him as their No. 1 choice in a poll of Colchester United's Top 100 Players.

The EADT telephoned the 34-year-old former U's midfielder on his way to Bury's Gigg Lane for a League Two fixture on Tuesday night for what turned out to be his penultimate game as player/coach at Walsall. The Dubliner is set to rejoin his former club Charlton Athletic as a coach from Monday, it was revealed yesterday.

Kinsella pipped Lomana Lua Lua to top spot, with club record appearance maker Micky Cook in third, and current skipper Karl Duguid in fourth.


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“It's obviously a great privilege to finish top in your poll, ahead of some really big names. I feel very honoured,” said Kinsella.

“I know that Lomana (Lua Lua) thrilled the crowds at Layer Road. He's a great player, and I've come up against him in my career while he was playing for both Newcastle and Portsmouth.

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“And of course Micky Cook was a legend, long before I arrived at Layer Road. He was actually a PFA community officer during my time as a player, and was then involved in running the youth team,” explained Kinsella.

Central midfielder Kinsella moved from the Dublin-based Home Farm club to Layer Road during the summer of 1989. He went on to play 180 league games for the U's, after the Essex club had regained their Football League status in 1992.

In addition, he played more than 50 games during the club's two years in the Conference. A pivotal player during the reigns of Roy McDonough, George Burley and Steve Wignall, creative midfielder Kinsella went on to mastermind the U's push for promotion in 1995-96.

He scored in both legs of the old Division Three play-off semi-final, against Plymouth, although his two stupendous long-range strikes were not enough to beat the Pilgrims, who scraped through 3-2 on aggregate.

Kinsella recalled those early years: “The fact that I spent seven years at Colchester probably helped me in this poll. It was a very special time for me. I arrived from Dublin as a 16-year-old, and played in a handful of games during the season that we were relegated to the Conference (1989-90).

“Ian Atkins only played me a few times during the first season in the Conference, as Jock Wallace had done the previous year, and in the end I was indebted to Roy McDonough for taking me under his wing. It was a big deal to suddenly become a regular in the first team, while still a teenager, even though we were playing in non-league. We managed to bounce back and win promotion, and a lot of that credit must go to Roy. I'm glad that he's also high up in the list (eighth),” added Kinsella.

There was never any doubt that Kinsella would one day grace the top flight. He eventually moved to Charlton Athletic, for a then club record fee of £150,000 (down payment) in September, 1996.

After six years at the Valley, and more than 200 league appearances, Kinsella signed for fellow Premiership club Aston Villa in a £750,000 deal. He then moved to West Brom and Walsall.

Since his departure from Layer Road, the U's have clinched two promotions, in 1998 and this year. And he is not surprised by all the success that Geraint Williams' men have enjoyed in the Championship.

“Layer Road has always been a fortress, and I'm sure that the home form will keep Colchester in the Championship this season,” insisted Kinsella. “I'm not really surprised with how well they've been doing. Everyone moans about Layer Road, but it's a big advantage for Colchester. No team likes to come and play there. I know that from my experience of going there with Walsall! (5-0 defeat in January 2005).

“There's still a long way to go this season, but I'm convinced that Colchester will stay up. They've beaten some big teams already, and I wouldn't be surprised to see them pushing the likes of Ipswich and Norwich for the local honours.

“The changing rooms haven't altered from my day, and I guess they won't now, with the new stadium on the horizon. But I must admit that the pitch has always been magnificent, and still is! I come down to watch whenever they have a midweek game, and Walsall are not in action,” added Kinsella.

Kinsella, who played 48 times for the Republic of Ireland, has enjoyed his time playing and coaching at the Bescot Stadium and could bow out if he is selected against Swindon on Saturday, before returning to The Valley to assist head coach Les Reed and No. 2 Mark Robson.

Kinsella was delighted to learn that two of his other old Colchester team-mates, Duguid and Tony Adcock, had finished fourth and fifth respectively in Top 100.

“Karl (Duguid) was only just starting out on his career, when I left. But he's done fantastically well and it's a real honour for him to be the skipper,” insisted Kinsella.

“I remember him scoring his first goal, as a substitute in a 3-2 win at Torquay on New Year's Day (1996). I scored after just a few seconds that day, and Simon Betts ended up getting a late winner.

“Then of course there was Tony Adcock. He was at his second spell with the club, and he was just coming to the end of a great career.

“Tony was a top-class finisher. He was a superb professional.”

He may be a little older, and wiser, but Kinsella is still turning on the style on the pitch - a few hours after this interview, he went on to play the full 90 minutes in Walsall's 2-1 victory at Bury, leaving the Saddlers nine points clear at the top of League Two.

He is planning to come down to Layer Road to receive his trophy in the New Year.

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