Pat has mixed emotions over return to the club he loves
PAT Baldwin is hoping to stay well clear of the Essex derby on Monday.
The long-serving Colchester defender and former club captain joined Southend on loan earlier this month after being controversially informed by U’s boss Aidy Boothroyd that he was surplus to requirements.
Striker Scott Vernon has also temporarily swapped Colchester for Roots Hall and, under the terms of their season-long loan moves, neither will be eligible to play against their parent club at the Weston Homes Community Stadium on Monday night.
That suits Baldwin just fine though as he is still hurting over the surprise change in direction his career has taken in recent months.
“If the manager (Steve Tilson) asks me to go to the game I will, but I don’t particularly want to go,” said the 27-year-old, who is now in his eighth season with Colchester.
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“It would not be nice to go back because I’ve spent so many years there and I absolutely love the club. If am given the choice I’ll probably just stay at home and watch it on TV.”
Baldwin started Boothroyd’s first game in charge last September as captain, but was stretchered off in that game at Southampton after suffering a leg and ankle injury.
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Following six weeks out, Baldwin was loaned out to League One rivals Bristol Rovers under the premise that it was a simple exercise in regaining match sharpness.
However, upon his return to Colchester at the start of the New Year, Boothroyd declared that Baldwin had fallen down to fifth in the central defensive pecking order and indicated that it might be the right time for him to move on.
An offer from Bristol Rovers was eventually accepted following lengthy negotiations but twice Baldwin rejected a permanent switch to the Pirates, instead signalling his intentions to fight ‘tooth and nail’ to regain his place in the U’s team.
But the defender, having been used a second half substitute in the 5-0 defeat to Norwich, was forced to reconsider his stance after being left completely out of the squad for the trip to Gillingham a week later.
“I’ve been told I haven’t really got a future at Colchester,” said Baldwin. “That’s fair enough, it’s the manager’s opinion and he’s entitled to that opinion.
“I admit it’s a bit weird being in a Southend shirt but they have given me a chance to play first team football and I want to repay them for that.”
Baldwin, whose parents live just two minutes away from the Southend training ground, went some way to winning over the Shrimpers support when he headed in a late equaliser in a dream debut against Swindon. He had previously scored just one goal in over 200 appearances for the U’s
“I’m sure the Southend fans find it a bit strange that Scott and I are now playing for them. We did get a bit of a mixed reaction last weekend,” said Baldwin.
“I just hope that they will see that I am 100% committed to this club while I’m here.
“I’m really disappointed with how things have been dealt throughout all of this, but I’m big enough and ugly enough to deal with it.”
For full Colchester v Southend preview, see Monday’s EADT