Pat's my boy to skipper U's

PAT Baldwin was the obvious choice as Colchester United skipper, in the eyes of caretaker boss Joe Dunne, following Dean Hammond's departure for Southampton this week.

Carl Marston

PAT Baldwin was the obvious choice as Colchester United skipper, in the eyes of caretaker boss Joe Dunne, following Dean Hammond's departure for Southampton this week.

And the U's stalwart wore the arm-band with pride on Tuesday night, leading the Essex club to a heart-warming 2-1 home win over Gillingham.

Baldwin will again lead out the team today, at unbeaten MK Dons, as the U's bid to stay on top of League One.

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At the same time, former manager Paul Lambert will officially take charge of his first match as Norwich City boss, at home to his old club Wycombe.

"As always, I was proud to be asked to be the skipper," enthused Baldwin.

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"However, I know that it's only temporary, until a new manager comes in. But I'm always happy to be the skipper.

"I'm still only 26, though I suppose I am one of the longest serving players, along with Kemi Izzet.

"It was Steve Whitton who signed me in the first place, and it wasn't long after that before he lost his job (early 2003), and Phil Parkinson came in.

"Of course losing a manager can be unsettling. But you try your best not to let it affect your performance.

"I thought that showed on Tuesday night. We started poorly and looked a bit nervy, but then our good form began to shine through and we won the game.

"It showed what a terrific spirit we have got here, and whoever the new manager is, he will be a very lucky to have such a good core of a squad.

"In a way,it was unusual with the circumstances of the manager going, just before the game. But nothing in football surprises me anymore,"

added Baldwin, who is set make his 189th league appearance for the U's this afternoon.

Former Chelsea trainee Baldwin signed for the U's on a free transfer in the summer of 2002. Over the last six years, he has played under four managers - Whitton, Parkinson, Geraint Williams and Lambert - and several caretaker managers.

Dunne had no hesitation in turning to Baldwin as the new skipper, when taking temporary charge following Lambert's shock resignation, and then former captain Hammond's switch to the Saints for a fee believed to be approaching �400,000.

And similarly, London-born defender Baldwin is happy that Dunne, another club stalwart, is taking care of things during this unsettling period.

He continued: "Joe hasn't been in charge that long to stamp his style on things, but of course I'm known him for years from his playing days, and then coaching the youth team.

"He is very professional, and his passion for the game really comes through. He wears his heart on his sleeve."

The electric atmosphere at the Weston Homes Community Stadium, following Lambert's shock exit, played a big part in the U's backs-to-the-wall win over Gillingham.

The noisy support from their home fans, especially behind the goal at the South Stand, where Kevin Lisbie scored his winner, was not lost on Baldwin.

"Funny enough, I was speaking to my parents after the match and we were saying the same thing. That it was like a Layer Road crowd,"

revealed Baldwin.

"It was the first time that I felt we were properly playing at home, since the days at Layer Road.

"The atmosphere was great and the crowd really got behind us. The fact that we are playing well, added to the situation (loss of manager), really helped. "We want that to continue," added Baldwin.

The U's switched from Layer Road to the Community Stadium at the start of last season, a year after today's hosts MK Dons moved to their new stadium.


MK DONS: Gueret, Howell, McCracken, Woodards, Davis, Chadwick, Carrington, Gleeson, Johnson, Puncheon, Easter, Bridges, Ibehre, Gobern, Partridge, Chicksen, Searle, Flanaghan.

COLCHESTER UNITED: Williams, Beevers, Okuonghae, Baldwin, Tierney, Vincent, Izzet, Fox, Hackney, Lisbie, Vernon, Maybury, Perkins, Wordsworth, Thomas, Holt, Malton, Corcoran, Cousins.

Referee: Mr Keith Stroud (Hampshire)

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