U's can take heart from Burley's start

COLCHESTER United have not lost six games on the trot at the start of a season since the beginning of George Burley's era.And current U's boss Geraint Williams will be eager to avoid equalling that dismal record when his old club Derby County visit Layer Road this afternoon.

By Carl Marston

COLCHESTER United have not lost six games on the trot at the start of a season since the beginning of George Burley's era.

And current U's boss Geraint Williams will be eager to avoid equalling that dismal record when his old club Derby County visit Layer Road this afternoon.

Burley came down from Scotland to become the new Colchester manager during the summer of 1994. The former Ipswich full-back found life difficult during his early days as his side slumped to six defeats on the bounce, four in Endsleigh League Division Three and two in the League Cup.


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There are similarities between the problems encountered by Burley and Williams during their first few weeks on the hot-seat, not least the struggle to find new players. Burley even resorted to picking himself for a handful of games because young recruits like Jean Dalli and Gary Culling failed to make an impact.

But Williams, and U's supporters, can take heart from the Burley experience. By the end of the year, Colchester had risen into the play-offs and Burley had been poached by East Anglian rivals Ipswich.

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The gloom lifted for Burley, who of course went on to manage today's opponents Derby, when midfielder Tony Dennis bundled home the winner in a 1-0 victory at Scarborough, so ending his six-game losing streak.

Back to the present, and the U's are desperate for some reward against the Rams. A record-equalling six-game losing streak (at the start of a season) would be avoided, as would the unwanted record of being the first Colchester side to lose their first five league games of a season since they joined the Football League in 1950.

There is also some added spice this afternoon. Williams was a former favourite as a player at Derby, making more than 300 senior appearances, while the Rams are gunning for revenge after crashing to a 3-1 defeat at Layer Road in an FA Cup fourth-round tie last January. The U's went on to enjoy a fifth-round trip to Premier League champions Chelsea!

Williams is eager for his team to regain their confidence in front of goal. League defeats by Birmingham, Plymouth, Barnsley and West Brom were followed by a 1-0 reverse at MK Dons in the Carling Cup on Tuesday night. The U's missed a hatful of chances at the National Hockey Stadium.

“It's my job to take the pressure off the players,” insisted Williams.

“We are getting in some good scoring positions, but we are missing the target and not working the opposing keeper enough. That's down to anxiety.

“The players are so desperate to do well on the pitch that they are snatching at things. I am happy with the way that we are knocking the ball about but I admit that the results are down to me. We need to go cold in front of goal.”

Johnnie Jackson will remain on the sidelines after missing the last two games with a groin problem, so Kevin Watson and Kem Izzet look set to continue their partnership in the middle of the park.

But recent signing Chris Barker is available again. Barker missed the Carling Cup defeat at MK Dons on Tuesday night, because Cardiff City did not want him to become cup-tied.

The experienced Barker, who has signed on loan from Cardiff until January, could return at left-back, even though John White acquitted himself well in that position at Milton Keynes.

Other changes should see Aidan Davison return in goal and Jamie Cureton regain his place up front alongside Chris Iwelumo. Both Cureton and Iwelumo are still looking to open their accounts for the season.

Today will also be the first time that Greg Halford plays in front of the Layer Road faithful since he lodged his transfer request in midweek. Clubs have until August 31 to make a successful bid for Halford before the transfer window closes. Crystal Palace manager Peter Taylor has been the latest to express an interest in the highly-rated 21-year-old.

Taylor has worked with Halford in the England Under-20/21 set-up.

Taylor said: “Greg is a player that I know very well. He's a very good player and I would be interested in him.”

Adrian Webster, who has been developing youth team players at Colchester United for the past 13 years, has left the club to join forces with ex-U's youth team manager Micky Cook at the Colne Community College in Brightlingsea. Webster was the Centre of Excellence manager at Layer Road.

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