U's top team!

COLCHESTER United had such a fantastic 2006 that I anticipated them featuring in the top three or four clubs in the land, for points accumulated during the calendar year.

By Carl Marston

COLCHESTER United had such a fantastic 2006 that I anticipated them featuring in the top three or four clubs in the land, for points accumulated during the calendar year.

I assumed that the mighty Premiership duo of Manchester United and Chelsea would feature highly, which of course they do, and that consistent Preston would be to the fore, but the rampant U's actually finished down in seventh spot out of the 92 League clubs.

That's still an outstanding achievement for the Layer Road club and, on further analysis, this table tells only half the story.

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Sir Alex Ferguson's Manchester United topped the charts with 92 points picked up in just 39 games during the course of last year.

Preston, who lost out in the Championship play-offs under the regime of Billy Davies, and are mounting another promotion challenge this season with Paul Simpson at the helm, were an eye-catching second. Premiership champions Chelsea were fourth.

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The other clubs to finish above Colchester were Lincoln City, Bristol City and Nottingham Forest. Actually, Forest and the U's both accrued 82 points during the year, although the Essex club played two more games.

Manchester United and Chelsea have proved themselves to be a different class in the top flight. They win most weeks. Lincoln, like Preston, lost out in the play-offs (League Two), while Bristol City and Forest both enjoyed superb runs during the second half of the 2005-06 campaign, after a rotten first half.

Colchester, though, can boast another title - they are the highest-placed club to have won promotion last summer, and to still be racking up the points at a terrific rate.

The U's, under Phil Parkinson, began 2006 in fourth spot in League One. They went on to secure automatic promotion, securing 39 points during their final 22 league games of the campaign.

Playing at a higher level, and making history by competing in the second tier of the Football League for the first time ever, the U's were expected to find points far more difficult to come by during the second half of 2006.

But it didn't turn out that way. Geraint Williams lost his first four league games in charge, before United held on for a 4-3 win over Derby County towards the end of August. That kick-started a marvellous last four months of the year.

They actually sat in sixth spot in the Championship, going into 2007, and that is where they remain, despite a 1-0 defeat at QPR on New Year's Day. That's a rise of 22 positions in league placings.

And that is why you can make an argument for Colchester United making more progress than any other club, over the last 12 months.

Carlisle United are not far adrift, having won promotion from League Two and now pushing for a second successive promotion. Like the U's, they have also coped with a change of manager over the summer.

By contrast, the other clubs in the top 10 have all operated in the same division over the last 12 months.

The points totals do, therefore, tell only half the story. The case for Colchester United being the “team of 2006” is a strong one.

I, for one, am convinced!

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