Pat’s preparing for life after football

COLCHESTER United defender Pat Baldwin may only be 27 but a rollercoaster year has motivated him to start preparing for life beyond his playing career.

The long-serving U’s centre-back could have been forgiven for feeling a tad comfortable with life at the start of last season. He had just signed a new three year deal which would take him to through to a decade’s service for the club and was quickly named captain once Aidy Boothroyd took over as manager in September.

As Baldwin found out to his detriment though, things can change very quickly in football. The very next game he injured his ankle badly in a 0-0 draw at Southampton and, following two months in rehabilitation, he returned to fitness only to find himself frozen out of the first team picture.

A loan move to Bristol Rovers followed and, after rejecting the chance to join the Pirates on a permanent basis, Baldwin spent the rest of the campaign on loan at Essex rivals Southend.

The departure of Boothroyd to Coventry City this summer means the former Chelsea trainee has very much returned to the first team fold under new boss John Ward.

The bitter experience, however, means he is no longer taking the future for granted.

“As last season proved, anything can happen,” said Baldwin. “So I decided to start my coaching badges this summer.

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“I know I’m not getting any younger and, having seen quite a few ex-team mates leave it right until the end of their careers before starting to prepare for the future, I didn’t want to be in that position.

“I’d love to go into management or coaching one day and ideally I’d like to stay in football. However, I’m keeping my options open by doing some A-Levels too.”

Baldwin, who was in Chelsea’s youth system from the age of 11 until 19 before signing for Colchester, continued: “My mum always stressed the importance of getting an education, but having already been offered YTS terms at Chelsea I possibly didn’t work as hard as I should have done at college and ending up not getting any qualifications beyond my GCSEs.

“I’m studying geography and English Literature through distance learning at the moment. I’m trying to get some education behind me because I got married in the summer and hopefully I’ll have a family to think about soon.”

Having replaced the injured Paul Reid late on in the 2-1 win at Rochdale at the end of August for what was only his second U’s appearance of the calendar year, Baldwin proceeded to start the next five consecutive matches.

However, injury once again struck – coincidentally another ankle problem in a goalless draw at Southampton – to put him back on the sidelines.

“It was a direct blow,” explained Baldwin. “I tried to come back after a week’s rest but a scan showed that a bone had been disrupted. It therefore took a little bit longer to heal up than I hoped.”

He finally made his comeback in the Essex Senior Cup on Tuesday night, playing the full 120 minutes as the U’s lost 3-2 at Dagenham & Redbridge after extra-time.

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