U’s old boy David Rainford relishes ‘underdogs’ tag

CHELMSFORD City stalwart David Rainford has warned his old club to be on their guard, for tomorrow’s mouth-watering FA Cup first round tie at Melbourne Park.

Midfield maestro Rainford never quite made the grade at Colchester United, during Steve Wignall’s successful era, despite making his League debut for the U’s, at York City, in 1998.

Instead, the 33-year-old has carved out a very rewarding career for himself, as a part-time footballer and full-time teacher.

Rainford has been plying his trade at Chelmsford City for the last five seasons, but he will finally get a chance to pit his wits against his boyhood team, in tomorrow’s big Essex derby.

He knows full well that the U’s, with new boss Joe Dunne pulling the strings, will be the red-hot favourites, but the Clarets are going great guns themselves in the Blue Square South.

In short, this will be no stroll in the park for the U’s.

“We usually go into games expecting to win, but now we are the underdogs,” explained Rainford.

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“We are not used to that. But we have nothing to lose. We are well placed in the league (second spot), and we will give it our best shot.

“Colchester have the better players, but if they under-perform, then we will be ready to capitalise,” added Rainford.

A long 13 years have passed since Rainford’s attempts to break into the Colchester first team came to an end – he was behind the likes of Paul Buckle, Steve Forbes, Aaron Skelton, David Gregory and Richard Wilkins in the midfield pecking order.

But he found a niche for himself in non-league circles, playing for the likes of Grays, Heybridge Swifts, Slough and Bishop’s Stortford, between 2000 and ‘06, while settling into life as a PE teacher in Barking.

A surprise return to the Football League came the way of Dagenham & Redbridge, before he began his long association with Chelmsford.

“Colchester was a good life experience, but I was only a kid at the time,” recalled Rainford, who was one year below the long-serving Karl Duguid in the U’s youth team set-up.

“When I dropped out of the League, as a 21 or 22 year-old, my Mum was a big influence on me to go out and get some qualifications.

“So I went and did a teaching degree, at Stratford in East London, so that by the age of 24 I was a qualified PE teacher.

“I was playing as a part-time pro for local clubs, but I really hit some form at Bishop’s Stortford, in the same league that Chelmsford are in now, and that caught the attention of Dagenham & Redbridge boss John Still.

“He bought me for �20,000 (in 2006), and we went on to win the Conference (2007). I then had my two years in the Football League, although I continued with my teaching, for which John (Still) was very understanding.

“When the time was right, I began concentrating on my teaching again, by moving to Chelmsford,” added Rainford, who has since rattled up nearly 200 games for the Clarets.

Rainford was also appointed the assistant to manager Glenn Pennyfather at the start of this season. Promotion remains the priority, although this weekend is a huge event, for both Essex clubs.

“It’s a massive tie for the region,” confirmed Rainford.

“It’s been a long time since I was at Colchester. In fact, I thought I would never play against them!”

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