U’s and me: Colchester United’s hit-and-miss European imports

Thomas Pinault

Thomas Pinault - Credit: News

In the wake of Kaspars Gorkss’ arrival at Colchester United, I recall a few other U’s European imports, some hits and some misses!

Joel Thomas

Joel Thomas

Kaspars Gorkss certainly made a favourable impact, on his quickfire Colchester United debut against Peterborough in the FA Cup on Sunday.

The U’s had leaked six goals in their previous fixture, a 6-0 drubbing at MK Dons, but the inclusion of 33-year-old Gorkss helped to shore up the defence.

The Latvian international’s debut coincided with a first clean-sheet in 11 games, booking the U’s a place in the third round of the FA Cup, where Tony Humes’ men face a tough trip to Cardiff City.

Ex-Blackpool, QPR and Reading centre-half Gorkss, despite a lack of match fitness – he had played no club football since last April, although he had featured for Latvia in four European Championship qualifiers – is now set to make his league debut for the Essex club this Saturday, at home to Rochdale.

Franck Queudrue

Franck Queudrue - Credit: andrew partridge


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He has initially signed a short-term contract, until January, although on the basis of last Sunday’s performance, a longer deal could be on the table.

The U’s are in desperate need of some experience in central defence, especially as fellow centre-halves Magnus Okuonghae and Frankie Kent are sidelined long-term.

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Okuonghae is out for the season with a ruptured Achilles, and Kent will not play before February due to a knee problem.

In the light of Gorkss’ arrival, I have recalled a few of the U’s European imports of recent years:

Thomas PINAULT

This French midfielder, one of a few French imports recruited by short-term manager Mick Wadsworth, proved to be a shrewd acquisition.

A class act on the ball, given a little time and space, Pinault went on to play 133 league games for the U’s, between 1999 and 2004.

He initially arrived from French club AS Cannes in the summer of ‘99, and gradually found his feet in the third tier of the English game.

Ultimately, though, he was hampered by a lack of pace. He went on to play for Grimsby, Brentford and Crawley, before returning to his native France in 2010.

Verdict: HIT

Steve GERMAIN

This rather limited striker was another of Wadsworth’s recruits from France in 1999. Like Pinault, he was plucked from AS Cannes.

But unlike Pinault, he failed to make the grade in the English game.

Arriving at the tender age of just 17, with a big reputation at youth level in France, Germain made just nine appearances for the U’s, looking a little of his depth – certainly, he never looked like scoring a goal.

He was soon released by the U’s and quickly returned to France.

Verdict: MISS

Franck QUEUDRUE

Despite having played in the Premier League with Middlesbrough, Fulham and Birmingham, this well-known French left-back never made an impression during a loan stay with the U’s in 2010.

Seen as an exciting new signing, at the time, Queudrue, left, only played three games for Aidy Boothroyd’s U’s. His cause was not helped by injury.

Queudrue returned to his parent club Birmingham, where he was quickly released before returning to France to play for his first club of Lens, and later Red Star. He retired at the end of the 2012-13 campaign, at the age of 34.

Verdict: MISS

Bela BALOGH

This experienced Hungarian international arrived at Layer Road, on a season-long loan in the summer of 2007. Manager Geraint Williams had signed Balogh to bolster his defensive ranks, in the club’s second season in the Championship.

The 22-year-old had been a regular in the Hungarian First Division at MTK Hungaria, and had broken into the national side, but he was never very convincing in the second tier in England.

Balogh was hindered by a few niggling injuries, and only started 10 games for the U’s, with a further seven outings as a substitute.

He returned to Hungary the following summer, having failed to adjust to the pace and power of the English league, although his cause was certainly not helped by playing in a struggling team.

Balogh is still playing in Hungary.

Verdict: MISS

Stephane POUNEWATCHY

Although this powerfully-built, Paris-born centre-half only made 15 appearances for Colchester, he still played a key role in staving off relegation.

Pounewatchy was one of Mick Wadsworth’s masterful signings – the two had been together when Wadsworth was the boss at Carlisle – arriving at Layer Road in February, 1999.

The U’s went on to escape relegation back to the fourth tier, with Pounewatchy a rock at the heart of defence.

His short-term contract expired the following summer and no new deal could be struck.

The 31-year-old had scored on his final U’s appearance, in a 2-1 defeat at Blackpool. That was to prove the final league game of his career. He is now believed to be a football agent.

Verdict: HIT

Fabrice RICHARD

Another of Wadsworth’s French recruits, Richard did chalk up 24 league appearances for the U’s, but he was never very convincing.

Employed as a right-back, Richard displaced club stalwart Joe Dunne – the Irishman moved on to Dover – but his lack of English hampered his progress.

Wadsworth’s successor, Steve Whitton, did play Richard in his team, but his poor positional awareness eventually led to his departure in the Spring of 2000.

Verdict: MISS

Joel THOMAS

A surprise big-money signing from Scottish club Hamilton Academical in 2009, this French front-runner never lived up to his £225,000 price tag.

In fact, Thomas made just four league appearances for the U’s, all of them as a substitute and none of them very memorable, before being loaned back to Hamilton in January, 2010.

His U’s contract was terminated by mutual consent the following summer.

Now aged 27, he plays for Dinamo Bucharest in Romania.

Verdict: MISS

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