Walker - Layer Road was an advantage

FORMER Colchester United goalkeeper and manager, Mike Walker, believes that his old club will lose a great advantage when they leave Layer Road for good this summer.

Carl Marston

FORMER Colchester United goalkeeper and manager, Mike Walker, believes that his old club will lose a great advantage when they leave Layer Road for good this summer.

Walker remains second amongst the U's all-time league appearance makers, behind Micky Cook, after playing 451 games for the Essex club during the 1970s and 1980s.

He then had a short but successful spell as manager, in 1986-87, before his eventual switch to Norwich City, so he knows more than most the effect that Layer Road's humble surroundings had on many visiting clubs.

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“Most of the teams, the down-to-earth teams, would go there and just play the same, but you get one or two teams who think they are better than they are,” explained Walker, who is now aged 62.

“You go to a little ground like that (Layer Road) and it makes it very difficult - and if the team is half-decent, it is worth maybe a point.”

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Layer Road has hosted some big upsets since Colchester United joined the Football League in 1950. The famous FA Cup win over mighty Leeds United from 1971 was one of the shocks of all time.

While Layer Road is destined to make way for a new property development, after 101 years of competitive football in various guises, the U's will be settling into their new Community Stadium at Cuckoo Farm next season,

Walker is happy that his old club are moving to a new home, with all the improved facilities that comes with a 10,000 all-seater stadium, despite the loss of the Layer Road advantage.

When the U's won promotion to the Championship in 2005-06, and then finished a superb 10th in their first season at that level, the U's players nicknamed Layer Road as the “Layerdrome,” because of their terrific home record.

However, it was the home form that deserted them in their final season at Layer Road - just four home wins all campaign left them bottom of the Championship and relegated.

Walker spends most of his time abroad these days, but he still keeps a close eye on his beloved U's.

“Colchester did tremendously well to get up with Phil Parkinson, and Geraint Williams then took them on,” he said.

“It was a tremendous achievement to be in the top half of that league, and it is just disappointing they are moving into the new ground when they have gone and got relegated.

“But I think it was just one of those things. They were never going to be strong enough from the gates (average crowds of less than 6,000) to be able to buy players to sustain that success.

“It will be nice for the club to move to a new ground. I had to endure the old Layer Road ground as a player and a coach, but there are a lot of happy memories from that as well.”

Walker's association with the U's began in 1973, when he moved from Watford. His total of 451 league appearances included an unbroken run of 310 games between February, 1977, and January, 1983.

He was appointed assistant manager in 1983, after retiring as a player, and three years later he succeeded Cyril Lea as manager.

However, Walker was mysteriously sacked when the U's were vying for promotion at the top of the Fourth Division and, even after his dismissal, was voted Manager of the Month for October

Walker went on to considerable success as manager of Norwich City from 1992. He guided the Canaries to third place in the inaugural Premier League, and then on to a glorious UEFA Cup campaign which saw them beat Bayern Munich before losing to Inter Milan.

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