Date: 24th September 2008 at 11:53am
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After Keegan, Parky Should Know Size Of U`s Gamble

Vital Colchester regular Matt Calmus returns with his verdict on Geraint Williams` departure and asks whether popular possible replacement Phil Parkinson would be ready to gamble on his status as a town hero by taking up a second spell with the troubled Essex club.

Former Colchester United manager Geraint Williams scribbled his own epitaph long before headline writers at the East Anglian Daily Times seized the gift yesterday. He once called his team a victim of their own success. On Monday, Williams paid the ultimate price for that self-mutilating remark with his job.

Those in Colchester are saying the same thing about their ex-Welsh wonder that fans of Manchester City, or indeed England, used to tender about Sven-Göran Eriksson; lucky manager, they said, past tense. Williams’ two terms in charge saw the side fall from best-ever, enjoying the all-time high of a 10th-place finish in the Championship, to worst. In 2007/8, they plundered just 38 points, the least seen at the side’s now-demolished ground.

For the record, after 111 games played (five as caretaker), the Welshman won 32 games, losing 47. The stat gives a neutral, sit-on-the-fence, toss-a-coin kind of picture of the man`s winning ability.
That`s roughly the perceived reflection of his character from fans who have heard his teatime interviewers most Saturdays since July 2006. Unfair?

Williams thought so, speaking last summer: “As always, the buck stops with me the manager. For some people who don`t know me and think my calm demeanour means I have no passion, it may have been a little insight into my true personality and the hurt I have felt having lost so many games.” What Williams could never escape was the accusation of being merely a PiG in a WiG.

Parkinson is God, they used to scream at the top of their lungs from somewhere within Layer Road`s crumbling interior as Williams` predecessor Phil Parkinson took a middling team of off-cuts, rejects and keen youngsters, transforming them into a bunch of League One world-beaters with an unthinkable promotion. Williams, like Steve McClaren, was forever hindered by his steadfast ways and links to an old regime, a brighter past.

The Parky era was one of glitz. It went as far as Chelsea`s Stamford Bridge before he got all bug-eyed and saw the pound-signs being doled-out by Chairmen elsewhere. When Williams took up the winning baton, he too was ordained as a darling of the terraces. Promotion euphoria acted as the springboard and performance-booster that lasted almost two campaigns. The victory mentality, and all that, was a myth come true; Colchester`s XI became like Popeye on spinach in a parade destined very-nearly for the Premier League.

The harshest assessors say Williams destroyed a winning team. In reality, the finest flock of players in Colchester United history were birds flown, not released. They chose to quit the sometimes claustrophobic environment at United`s old stadium for life`s finer things; bigger salaries and a little more unconditional love, although seldom have these players excelled elsewhere. Williams, more importantly, was been left to pick up the toll.

Owner Robbie Cowling was obviously not prepared to gamble on the fact that his team manager might be able to recover from a dreadful start to the season and so delay his sacking at least until the first days of winter. What cannot be ignored is that the manager appeared had little tactical nous beyond a simple 4-4-2 formation during all his games; it involves the English standard of lumping balls towards a huge centre-forward. Blitzkrieg with a ball is fine, when it works.

Phil Parkinson is still held in such high regard that the local media and scripting him back in as the next Colchester boss already today. At times like these, it remains hard to tell if the papers just print, or actually manufacture, the news but he was spotted recently at the club`s brand-new stadium for a reserve clash featuring Ipswich Town.

A Bring Back Parky campaign is all very well for selling the papers, but actually hiring him could be a retrograde step, because it would symbolise United`s desperation to recreate a closed chapter in their history. If Parkinson does re-arrive, he`ll have to win promotion, or face the mob, which isn`t quite how it happened last time.

Arguably, because of the way he walked out after sensationally bungee-jumping League One in 2005/6, he has some unfinished business to attend to with the U`s. He`ll walk in enrobed on a rich red carpet, sure, but could leave with blood on his face.

Is the Messiah willing to gamble on the remainder of his legacy as the tracksuited hero for a shot at repeating his greatest feats in Colchester`s pressure-cooker environment? Only he knows, but there is a long fall from Mount Olympus. Just ask Kevin Keegan.


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