Phil wins manager honour at last!
IT WAS a case of third-time lucky for Phil Parkinson when he was yesterday named the Coca-Cola League One manager of the month for January.After very near misses in November and December, Parkinson has finally been honoured for masterminding Colchester United's terrific run of results since last autumn.
By Carl Marston
IT WAS a case of third-time lucky for Phil Parkinson when he was yesterday named the Coca-Cola League One manager of the month for January.
After very near misses in November and December, Parkinson has finally been honoured for masterminding Colchester United's terrific run of results since last autumn.
The U's have twice equalled their club record of eight straight victories, incorporated within a fantastic sequence of 18 wins from 20 matches
They have lost just once during that period, which stretches back to the middle of October, when they conceded an injury-time goal to Rory Fallon in Swindon's 1-0 win over the visiting U's on Boxing Day.
Neil Danns missed an 85th-minute penalty at Swansea, during a 1-1 draw at the Liberty Stadium on December 10. Otherwise, United have been in unstoppable form.
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Parkinson was desperately unlucky not to win the manager of the month award for November, when he was pipped at the post by Doncaster's Dave Penney.
The U's won all five of their fixtures during that month including three league games, and yet Penney appeared to get the nod because of Rovers' victory over Aston Villa in the Carling Cup.
Former Reading player-coach Parkinson was again nominated for the League One accolade in December, only for Oldham Athletic's Ronnie Moore to top the poll. The Latics actually did have a marginally better league record than the U's that month.
But there was never any doubt that Parkinson would be crowned the manager of the month for January, simply because no other team came close to his own side's series of seven straight victories.
Three of those arrived in cup competitions, but the other four helped to establish Colchester in the top two of League One. Parkinson presided over home league successes against Nottingham Forest, Bristol City and Port Vale, in addition to a 2-0 away win at Walsall.
The U's would probably still be the league leaders, except for their continued interest in cup competitions. While the Layer Road club were making further progress in the FA Cup (fourth round 3-1 victory over Derby County) and LDV Vans Trophy (1-0 win at Cheltenham in the southern area semi-finals), Essex rivals Southend were able to leapfrog above them in the table - the Shrimpers are two points clear, but have played two more games.
It was in fact Southend, with Steve Tilson at the helm, who boasted the next- best record to Colchester during the month of January.
The Roots Hall outfit were unbeaten, with three league wins over Oldham, Brentford and Swindon, although they could only draw at both Blackpool and Tranmere.
“Of course it's nice to be named the manager of the month, though it's only the manager's award in name, because really it's down to the players and the whole club,” said Parkinson last night.
“It's an achievement for the club to be nominated for three months in a row, but we're not talking about awards or club record runs. We are just focusing on this Saturday's visit of Bradford.”
This is the third time that Parkinson has won such an accolade, since he left Reading to take up the first managerial appointment of his career at Colchester, towards the end of February, 2003.
The 38-year-old former Bury and Reading midfielder won the award after his first full month in charge, in March, 2003, and won the manager of the month crown again later that year in September.
Parkinson is set to name an unchanged squad for tomorrow's visit of Bradford. The experienced quartet of Aidan Davison, Wayne Brown, Liam Chilvers and Kevin Watson all missed last Saturday's terrific 3-1 win over Derby County in the fourth round of the FA Cup.
All four will sit out this weekend's fixture as well. Keeper Davison is recovering from a strained hamstring, midfielder Watson is nursing medial knee ligament damage and defenders Chilvers and Brown both underwent operations earlier this week.
That means another outing for 20-year-old keeper Dean Gerken, midfielder Kem Izzet, and the defensive duo of Pat Baldwin and Garry Richards.
In fact, it might be difficult to dislodge them from the team when the more experienced players do finally return to full fitness.
Parkinson revealed: “The injured players are all making good progress. Aidan (Davison) is the closest to a return, while Liam (Chilvers) should be back in training on Monday, which is great news when considered that he only had his hernia operation just over a week ago.
“Wayne (Brown) should also be back in training next week and Kevin (Watson) is doing well with his knee. The scan he had this week was only a precautionary one.
“We drew 1-1 at Bradford earlier in the season (September 27), but we considered that to be two points dropped. We should have won that night but got caught out by a late corner.
“We want to continue our excellent home form. The lads that have come in have all done a fantastic job.
“They all have fresh legs and it's a great chance for them. Kem (Izzet) has been excellent in the last couple of games, as has Garry (Richards),” added Parkinson.
Meanwhile, the Football League have agreed to move back the first leg of the LDV Vans Trophy southern area final. The U's were originally due to visit Swansea for the first leg on Tuesday, February 21 but this date has now been pushed back to Tuesday, February 28.
That will be a big relief to Parkinson. The U's will be involved in one of the biggest games in the club's history on Sunday, February 19, with an FA Cup fifth-round tie at either Chelsea or Everton to be screened live on Sky television (kick-off 4pm).
That would have given the U's just a couple of days to recover before their important LDV Vans Trophy fixture, which would have been far from ideal.
In fact, that would have brought back unhappy memories of the U's frustrating experience in these same two competitions, two years ago, when Parkinson's men were forced to play the second leg of their LDV Vans Trophy southern area final at Southend just two days after losing 1-0 at Sheffield United in an FA Cup fifth-round tie.
It was a very unsatisfactory state of affairs, made worse by the outcome - a leg-weary Colchester side could only draw 1-1 at Roots Hall to lose 4-3 on aggregate, and so missed out on a first- ever trip to the Millennium Stadium.