Baldwin looks back with pride on Colchester United’s glory days
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Ex-Colchester United defender, Pat Baldwin, a veteran of the U’s Championship years, talks to U’s writer CARL MARSTON about the past, present and future
Pat Baldwin, part of the most successful period in Colchester United’s history, believes that his old club are under-achieving.
Centre-half Baldwin, who is now retired from football and relishing his new life as a primary school teacher in Devon, was a mainstay of the U’s squad that clinched promotion to the Championship in 2006.
A regular partner of Wayne Brown at the heart of defence, Baldwin played in the famous FA Cup tie at Chelsea (3-1 defeat in 2006), and also helped to secure a clean-sheet and a precious point in a 0-0 draw at Yeovil on the final day of that season, which clinched promotion to the second tier.
Ex-Chelsea trainee Baldwin, who went on to play 64 games in the Championship for the U’s, over the next two seasons, eventually ended his professional career at Exeter City, after a short spell with Southend.
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The 35-year-old has not been back to the U’s since those heady days – he was at the club from 2002 to 2012 – and would love to one day be invited back for a reunion.
Certainly, he believes that the U’s should be finishing higher than their recent 13th-placed finish in League Two for 2017-18.
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And although his memory is often hazy, he recalls those golden days under manager Phil Parkinson with great fondness, and pride.
“My time at Colchester seems a very long time ago,” admitted Baldwin.
“I don’t know whether I have headed too many balls in my career, but I literally can’t remember much about it. It does seem so long ago, and in a different kind of life.
“I am now teaching, so it does seem a long time ago, but the bits I do remember are amazing.
“When you are playing, you don’t really think about it or what is achieved. It’s only when you retire that you get time to look back on your career.
“I was never one to be looking at myself with pride. I never allowed myself that. I was always looking at the next chapter and the next challenge, but I can look back now and I am proud of what we achieved over that period.
“We played at the highest level the club has ever played at, and I was a part of that. It’s something I am really proud of.
“I follow Colchester’s results – of course I do – they are the first result I look out for. I look at the team-list, and there are less-and-less players that I recognise, but it’s good to see that John (McGreal) is still in charge. He is a really decent human being and it’s good to see that he is still doing well.
“But I think Colchester should be doing better as a club, because it’s a great club with a great inter-structure in place there.
“John’s stabilized the club well and had given youth a chance, which is always good.”
London-born Baldwin could not have settled in a more different environment than his current one, down in rural Devon near another of his old clubs, Exeter City.
After his 209 league games for Colchester, he moved to Southend in 2002 before becoming a permanent fixture in Exeter’s back-line, rattling up 72 league games between 2012 and his retirement from the professional game in 2015.
“This is an ideal place for me, bringing up my sons in a beautiful place. I don’t really miss Essex much, that’s for sure,” continued Baldwin.
“It was never my intention to move down here – it was always going to just be for a couple of years, at most.
“I only signed a two-year deal and never in a million years did I think that I would settle here.
“But I did a day trip to where I live now, and I fell in love with it and bought the house the next day, so the rest is history I guess.”
Baldwin’s former Colchester manager, Phil Parkinson, who masterminded the U’s promotion to the Championship, celebrated escaping the clutches of relegation from the Championship with his current club Bolton Wanderers only last weekend.
Bolton were heading for League One at 2-1 down against Nottingham Forest, until two goals in the last three minutes ensured their dramatic survival, at the expense of Barnsley.
Baldwin explained: “Phil (Parkinson) has done really well in his career. He’s hard-working, dedicated and ambitious.
“I probably arguably played the best football of my career under him at Colchester, so it’s great to see he is doing well.
“I still keep in touch with most of that team. We have a group chat with all the players from those days, and it would it be nice to go back there, because I have not been back to Colchester – to the ground – since I left, to celebrate those years. I will wait by my phone, waiting for a call!”