Odds-on Pat will be back

PAT Baldwin is one of only two first teamers who will be out-of-contract this summer, but ironically it is odds-on that the dependable centre-half will still be at the Community Stadium next season.

Carl Marston

Odds-on Pat will be back

By Carl Marston

PAT Baldwin is one of only two first teamers who will be out-of-contract this summer, but ironically it is odds-on that the dependable centre-half will still be at the Community Stadium next season.

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Baldwin has been one of the most consistent performers in a troubled season for the U's, a terrific achievement for a player who even feared that his professional career might be over just a year ago.

The ex-Chelsea trainee struggled with knee and shoulder injuries that left him wondering whether his best days were behind him. But the 26-year-old's best days look very much still to come, after marshalling the U's defence to such good effect over the last six months.

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Baldwin will again be in the heart of defence as the U's end their season at Yeovil Town this afternoon. Then he will resume the job of thrashing out a new deal with his employers for next term. Reserve keeper Mark Cousins is also out-of-contract this summer.

“The manager (Paul Lambert) said to me two months ago that he wanted me to stay,” revealed Baldwin.

“I was glad to hear that, and I've been in talks with the club since then. I definitely want to stay, but I want to be on a par with the lads who came to the club more recently, because I have been here for several years (since 2002).

“I think we can go places as a club. We have a very ambitious manager and a very ambitious chairman (Robbie Cowling).

“There will be a lot of changes this summer. That's what the gaffer has already told us.

“And I think that that is needed. The club needs a few new faces, and the gaffer wants to stamp his own sort of authority on the team. Changes need to be made!

“I've been satisfied with my own season. There were times, when I was injured, that I feared I might never get back. I thought that injury might end my career.

“The old manager (Geraint Williams) then wanted to send me out on loan to another club, but I stayed and I haven't looked back since the new manager came in,” added Baldwin.

Baldwin is one of only four survivors from the starting XI that clinched promotion to the Championship on the final day of the 2005-06 season, thanks to a goalless draw at Yeovil.

Keeper Dean Gerken, defender John White and striker Scott Vernon were also in the starting line-up that day, while Kem Izzet appeared as a substitute for the final 15 minutes. Izzet is the only member of the current staff who has been on the U's books for longer. Cousins was an unused substitute.

This will be the U's first return to Huish Park since that great day - certainly one of the best days in the history of the club.

“Of course I have fantastic memories of three years ago, when we celebrated promotion to the Championship on the final day at Yeovil,” continued Baldwin.

“That was a highlight of my career, but that's all in the past now. You have to look forward.

“We will be aiming to take something from this weekend's game to take forward into next season. We need to put in a good performance for ourselves, and for the fans who make the long trip.

“I've been looking at the clubs who are coming down from the Championship (Charlton, Southampton, and either Norwich or Barnsley), and they are all massive clubs with fantastic stadiums.

“So it's going to be a hard division next season, which we have also found this year.

“We have simply not been good enough this season. We shouldn't be down in 13th place, because we wanted to get promotion. Personally, I am very disappointed with how we have done.

“We should have been getting promoted with the players that we have got. We gave the play-offs a push following the change of manager, but we couldn't sustain it,” added Baldwin.

U's boss Paul Lambert only named four substitutes, rather than the permitted five, for last weekend's 1-0 home defeat at the hands of promotion-bound Peterborough United. That was due to a number of absentees because of injury, illness and suspension.

However, Lambert will have a bigger pool of players to choose from today, just two days before he is expected to announce a big clear-out at the Community Stadium.

Skipper Dean Hammond is available again after a two-match suspension, while Alan Maybury and Sunday-Akanni Wasiu have recovered from illness. Scott Vernon also returns after a loan spell at Northampton, and a subsequent thigh injury.


YEOVIL TOWN: Weale, Alcock, Forbes, Brown, Smith, Warne, Murtagh, Schofield, Welsh, Obika, Tomlin, Hutchins, Rodgers, Maguire, Townsend, Wagenaar.

COLCHESTER UNITED: Gerken, Maybury, Coyne, Baldwin, Tierney, Yeates, Hammond, Izzet, Hackney, Platt, Vincent, White Lockwood, Wordsworth, Heath, Vernon, Wasiu, Corcoran, Cousins.

Referee: Mr Fred Graham (Essex)

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