'We must enjoy ourselves' - White
COLCHESTER United teenager John White has to pinch himself to realise that this season has not just been a figment of his imagination.Defender White, a product of the Layer Road youth system, has been transformed from an occasional stop-gap player to a first-team stalwart in just a few whirlwind months.
By Carl Marston
COLCHESTER United teenager John White has to pinch himself to realise that this season has not just been a figment of his imagination.
Defender White, a product of the Layer Road youth system, has been transformed from an occasional stop-gap player to a first-team stalwart in just a few whirlwind months.
The 19-year-old, who was born a few miles further down the A12 at Great Totham, was more likely to be playing for the reserves than the senior side last season.
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Now, however, he is preparing for the biggest day of his life - an appearance in the fifth round of the FA Cup, at Premiership champions and runaway leaders Chelsea.
“It's been some dream for me!” admitted White, who has started every league game since the beginning of September.
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“I have wanted to be a professional footballer all my life, having supported Colchester as a youngster.
“I couldn't ask for more than what's happened to me this season. And it's all happened so early in my career, which makes it a dream come true.
“I never expected to play so many league games this season,” added White.
Last campaign, White was more likely to be employed as a deputy for an injured player, than be selected first choice for a position.
He made his senior debut as a substitute in the Carling Cup against Cheltenham on August 24, 2004, and was in and out of the team for the rest of the season, mostly in central midfield.
Now, though, he is the regular left-back, and on Sunday he will be part of a defence that will have to contend with a choice of dangerous attackers, such as Didier Drogba, Hernan Crespo, Eider Gudjohnsen, Arjen Robben and Shaun Wright-Phillips.
“Whatever happens, I will always have my memory of Sunday's game, whether we win, lose or draw,” insisted White.
“I have tried not to think too much about the individual players that we will be up against. I can't expect too much. I will be playing against world-class players, and I'll just have to do my best.
“I'm sure that I will be a bit nervous on the day. It will be a great game to play in, and we must go out and enjoy ourselves,” added White.
White is just one of several former youth team regulars who will be in this weekend's squad, bound for Chelsea. Skipper Karl Duguid, centre-half Garry Richards, right-midfielder Greg Halford and reserve keeper Dean Gerken have all come up through the youth ranks at Layer Road.
U's boss Phil Parkinson will select from the same 16-man squad named for Tuesday night's goalless home draw against Walsall. Richards is also added, having missed the Saddlers game due to a one-match suspension, while teenagers such as George Elokobi and Robbie King should also make the trip.
White added: “The manager has been a big help to me. He's been very good to us youngsters.
“He likes to bring the young players through, which is reassuring for players like me and Garry (Richards). We've shown that we can do it at this level.
“Three or four of us have signed new contracts in recent weeks. I think it's also benefited us to be playing in a winning team.”