The big interview: Colchester United manager Kevin Keen
Colchester United could well be officially relegated today, regardless of their result at home to promotion-chasing Burton Albion.
And manager Kevin Keen, even though he only took over half-way through the season, has accepted “responsibility” for the club’s current plight, on the brink of League Two.
When Keen took over the managerial reins, four days before Christmas, the U’s were already in the middle of a terrible run, which eventually developed into a club record 19 league matches without a win.
The U’s were bottom of the table, when Keen took charge, although they were only two points adrift of safety, having taken 20 points from 22 games.
Since then, they have only managed a further 19 points from 21 games, with Keen at the helm.
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Asked whether the damage had been done, before he even arrived, Keen refused to accept that point of view.
“I wouldn’t say the damage was done, that’s not the way I would put it,” insisted Keen..
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“I wouldn’t put it like that, because when I came into the club there was still half the season to go.
“The poor run and the mentality made it a tough ask, when I first took over, but seriously if we had broken that run earlier, then I think we would have been OK.
“I’ve been the manager of the club since Christmas, and I’m disappointed that we weren’t able to turn it around and get ourselves out of the mire.
“I take responsibility myself for that.
“The squad had the potential to get out of it, definitely, the quality was there. The word ‘frustrating’ is the one I have used a lot, when people ask me about how my job is going,
“In fact, ‘frustrating’ doesn’t even get close to how I feel.
“And ‘nearly’ has been another a word that I’ve used so many times.
“We ‘nearly’ got a point, ‘nearly’ won the game, ‘nearly’ scored, but at the end of the day your squad finishes where it finishes, after 46 games. So we have got deficiencies within the squad. Over the summer, we have to deal with personnel, tactics, mentality – we need to make sure we get these things right,” said Keen
The U’s are currently eight points adrift of safety, with just three games left, after conceding an injury-time equaliser in Tuesday’s disappointing 1-1 draw at already-relegated Crewe.
If they fail to win against Burton this afternoon, therefore, they will definitely be relegated, but even a win is unlikely to save them from the inevitable, especially as a poor goal difference is further hampering them.
And the cracks were beginning to appear in training on Thursday, as Keen intimated.
“It’s been a mixed atmosphere, after Tuesday, and it’s been tough today in training,” revealed Keen, after Thursday’s training session.
“A couple of things happened in training, in and around the training ground.
“It’s been a tough day for me, to be honest. It was a test of some of my managerial skills and things like that.
“But I’m sure that, come Saturday, whatever squad I use, they will be up for the game. The fans deserve that.”
Keen recognises that the U’s will be in League Two next term.
He added: “I’ve accepted that relegation is 99.9% certain. There is a mathematical .1% chance, but there has to be realism within it. There’s still a tiny microcosm of hope, but I think we have to be realistic about it.”