Patience a virtue for Dean

PATIENCE is a virtue - just ask Colchester United's highly-rated young keeper, Dean Gerken!The U's 21-year-old custodian has hardly put a foot wrong whenever he has played for the first team, and yet he is still very much the No.

PATIENCE is a virtue - just ask Colchester United's highly-rated young keeper, Dean Gerken!

The U's 21-year-old custodian has hardly put a foot wrong whenever he has played for the first team, and yet he is still very much the No. 2 at Layer Road.

Aidan Davison might be 38, but he shows no signs of slowing down. Gerken, who is coached by Davison, knows that he will have to bide his time. But he's continuing to learn off the master.

One week it's the teacher capturing the headlines, the next it's the student. Well, not quite, but whereas Davison starred in the 1-1 draw at Luton Town, it was his young prodigy who stepped into the fray for last weekend's 2-1 home win over QPR.

Naturally, Southend-born Gerken did not dream that he would be playing last Saturday, hot on the heels of a 10-out-of-10 display from Davison.

But the U's No. 1 picked up a tight groin after his heroics at Kenilworth Road, and it was an injury that he failed to shake off in time. Gerken, therefore, was given a surprise first-team call-up.

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Ironically, visiting QPR were in the same boat last weekend. Their experienced keeper, former Wolves and Southampton 29-year-old Paul Jones, was taken ill in his hotel room the day before, and so was ruled out. His understudy, Jake Cole, was handed only his second league start, and it was a day that he would probably want to forget.

Although both keepers are 21, Gerken looked by far the most experienced - which of course he is, because last Saturday was his 33rd outing for the senior side.

Cole was exposed by a disorganised defence, and was well-beaten by first-half strikes from Chris Iwelumo and Richard Garcia. He was on edge all afternoon.

Gerken, by contrast, was well protected by his back four, although he dealt impressively with crosses and made a couple of smart save during the later stages.

Manager Geraint Williams insisted: “We could have played Aidan (Davison) at a push, but there was no point because we have every confidence in Dean.

“Aidan's groin was still a little tight, and it could have gone at any time during the game. There was no rush, and no point in risking Aidan.

“Dean is a confident young keeper. He came in for the last three games of last season, when the pressure was on, and he did superbly,” added Williams.

Whereas Gerken can count himself unlucky not to be playing more regularly for the first team, he is relishing the opportunity to play in the second tier of the League.

“It was great to make my Championship debut. It's one of the biggest leagues in the world, outside the Premiership, in terms of attendance figures,” explained Gerken.

“I know that I have to be patient. That seems to be the story of my life at the moment!

“Aidan (Davison) is playing well, but at 38 he takes a little longer to shake off injuries than a younger keeper. I would love to get a run in the team, to sharpen up my fitness over two or three weeks.

“But it was incredible to watch Aidan's performance at Luton. It was one of the best goalkeeping displays that I have ever seen, and that includes the ones I've seen on TV,” added Gerken.

In the past, Gerken has been well-prepared to play in games (he is usually selected for the League Cup and LDV Vans Trophy fixtures), although other times he has been called up at the 11th hour.

That was the case when, as a third year scholar, he had just a few hours to prepare himself for his debut at Brentford (April 12, 2004). He was the No. 3 at the time, behind Simon Brown and Richard McKinney, but Irishman McKinney was injured and Brown fell ill on the morning of the match. The U's lost 3-2, but Gerken could not be blamed for any of the goals.

That was Gerken's only appearance of the 2003-04 campaign. Since then, he has had short runs in the team, and very long stints on the substitutes' bench!

There was an eight-game sequence in the autumn if 2004, when Davison was on the sidelines. However, Phil Parkinson's men struggled during that period, failing to win any of those eight matches - four draws and four defeats.

There was better news in 2005. He started the first four matches of that year, tasting his first ever victory in the 3-0 victory at Swindon Town on New Years's Day. He also starred in the U's 2-0 win at Hull City in an FA Cup third round tie. Four more appearances followed in February, making 16 in all for the season.

It was a similar story last term. Davison was sent off during the 1-1 draw at MK Dons in mid-August, giving Gerken a run of three matches at the end of that month.

Otherwise, Davison and the U's defence were on their way to masterminding promotion - just 40 goals were conceded in 46 league games.

Gerken played in all of the LDV Vans Trophy games (the U's lost the southern area final to Swansea), and also the FA Cup triumph over Derby.

But the pressure was really on when Davison was hospitalised by a serious bout of food poisoning in late April. Gerken had to play in the last three games, with the U's hanging onto second spot.

He responded by making some key saves in the 2-1 win at Bournemouth, and then keeping clean-sheets in the home win over Rotherham and the 0-0 draw at Yeovil, to wrap up promotion.

“My aim is now to play 20 or 30 games in the Championship. That would be great for my CV. But I know that I'll have to be patient,” concluded Gerken.

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