The perfect loan
- Credit: Archant
SOME players go their whole careers without ever playing at Wembley, or tasting the sweet success of a promotion.
But Colchester United teenager, Alex Gilbey, has already sampled both – not a bad way to get some first team experience on a short-term loan deal!
Midfielder Gilbey, who broke into the U’s first team squad earlier in the season, ended the campaign with a flurry on loan at Newport County.
U’s boss Joe Dunne was hoping that his up-and-coming 18-year-old would at least get a few games under his belt, playing in the Blue Square Premier.
But even he couldn’t have dreamt that Gilbey, the former skipper of the U’s youth team, would end up playing a key role in propelling Newport back into the Football League, after a 25-year absence, following a Wembley triumph over Welsh rivals Wrexham.
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Gilbey said: “That’s been the best day of my life so far.
“It was great to play at Wembley, and fantastic to win promotion. It was the biggest crowd (16,346) I had ever played in front of, and I have loads of unbelievable memories.
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“We got to train at Chelsea on the Saturday, which was a great experience, stayed at a top-notch hotel, and then got to celebrate party-style after the win (2-0).
“I know that I’m so lucky to have experienced all of this, in my first ever loan move.
“The semi-final (against Grimsby) and the final were the biggest games of my career,” said Gilbey.
But having helped to guide Newport into League Two, Gilbey is now focusing on pushing his way into the U’s central midfield for the 2013-14 season.
Signing his first professional contract in February, 2012, just one year into his two-year scholarship, the highly-rated Gilbey made his senior debut later that year, at Northampton in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy, and then made his league debut as a substitute in a 2-0 home defeat by Oldham last October.
Now he will be looking to make giant strides next term, under Dunne, who has plotted the teenager’s impressive progress through the U’s Academy.
“I think anything is possible under Joe Dunne next season. He’s going to be a great manager,” insisted Gilbey.
“I want to take all the experience I gained, from my time at Newport, into League One with Colchester.
“When I first arrived at Newport, I couldn’t even get in the team, but I worked hard in training and got my chance.
“I’m so happy to have helped to get Newport promoted. The fans were great, on and off the pitch. Many players never get to Wembley throughout their careers, but I’ve done it in my first year!
“It was also such a relief for Colchester to avoid relegation. I would not have relished the prospect of playing in League Two, against Newport, next season. That would not have been a nice experience.
“Last year was an uphill battle for Colchester, but I’m sure it will be different next season. We can be as good as we want to be.
“I want to knuckle down in pre-season, establish myself in the Colchester team, and help to get the club promoted into the Championship,” added Gilbey.
Meanwhile, the U’s have so far confirmed two dates for pre-season friendlies.
In addition to a glamorous home match against Premier League side West Ham on Tuesday, July 16 (kick-off 7.45pm), the U’s will be playing at Bishop’s Stortford three days earlier on Saturday, July 13 (3pm).