Mixed emotions for Keith
FORMER Colchester United winger Joe Keith has mixed emotions about his old team winning promotion to the Championship.Left-sided specialist Keith, who played 246 games for the U's, is delighted that his former team-mates have enjoyed such tremendous success this season.
By Carl Marston
FORMER Colchester United winger Joe Keith has mixed emotions about his old team winning promotion to the Championship.
Left-sided specialist Keith, who played 246 games for the U's, is delighted that his former team-mates have enjoyed such tremendous success this season. However, it is tinged with the sad realisation that he won't be returning to Layer Road for a league fixture next term.
The 27-year-old was involved in a promotion party of his own, after helping his current club Leyton Orient to clinch promotion to League One last weekend.
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The O's secured the third automatic promotion slot, at the expense of Grimsby Town, by winning 3-2 at Oxford United, in the process condemning the hosts to relegation from the Football League.
“I think it's marvellous that Colchester have been promoted. All season I was telling my team-mates at Leyton Orient that they shouldn't be surprised if my old team won promotion, because of the good players in the squad,” revealed Keith.
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“They have a great manager (Phil Parkinson) and a good assistant (Geraint Williams), and I still have a lot of good friends at Layer Road.
“For instance, I've known Kem Izzet since I was 10 years old. I still play golf with him most weeks - I tend to beat him quite comfortably!
“However, I have mixed emotions about Colchester winning promotion, because I was so looking forward to playing a League One match at Layer Road next season!” added Keith.
The U's secured a top-two finish by registering a goal-less draw at Yeovil last Saturday. They celebrated with a parade through the town in an open-top bus on Monday evening, culminating in a civic reception at the Town Hall.
Former West Ham trainee Keith left the U's at the end of the 2004-05 campaign, after six years at Layer Road, to join League Two outfit Leyton Orient. A year later and he will be returning to the third tier of the Football League.
“I knew that this club was destined to go places, from the moment I arrived,” continued Keith. “It had changed so much since I had been there as a schoolboy. We should really have clinched promotion a month ago, but we kept slipping up.
“If we had missed out on the final day, then we would have felt really low going into the play-offs. I guess Colchester would have been just as devastated if they had missed out. It would have been a downer.
“The pressure wasn't that bad. It was weird really, because we felt very comfortable during the game. They (Oxford) scored, but we equalised almost straight away. After that, their keeper was unbelievable.
“When we scored the second goal, we thought that was it and that we were up. We had missed several chances, and I was then substituted later on (77 minutes). It was much worse having to watch from the bench, rather than playing.
“I was getting very nervous, and then suddenly our supporters were going bananas! They had just heard that Northampton had scored a late equaliser at Grimsby (1-1 draw).
“We all left the bench to celebrate, and almost at once we scored the winner. The celebrations continued after that,” added Keith.
O's striker Lee Steele scored the winner, against his old club, in the fifth minute of injury-time, although a draw would have been enough for the East Londoners.
Leyton Orient, with Barry Hearn as chairman and former player Martin Ling as their manager, therefore joined Northampton and Carlisle as the teams promoted from League Two outright. Grimsby will have to take their chances in the play-offs.
Hearn had promised his side a holiday in Las Vegas if they won promotion and he will keep his word. Keith and the rest of the O's squad will enjoy a break in America towards the end of June.
Keith said: “I'm confident that we can now take it to another level and do well in League One, even though teams like Nottingham Forest and Bristol City finished very strongly this season, and will be a force next year.
“I played virtually every game. I played all but four of the league games, and for three of those I was on the bench. It's been a good season, both for me and the team, although I wasn't always that consistent.
“I'd just like to pass on my congratulations to all the lads at Colchester, and all the fans. It's been a terrific season for them, and us,” concluded Keith.