Lambert`s U`s Leap Convincingly from the Chalkboard
Two words seldom used to describe former Colchester United manager, Geraint Williams were, in no particular order, ‘genius` and ‘tactical`. When combined in the clichéd phrase ‘tactical genius`, however, they begin to offer a frame of reference through which the club`s demolition of an abject Carlisle side could be seen.
Not that the U`s United`s new boss Paul Lambert is by default an alchemist of the chalkboard or training ground. But Monday morning`s less than brain-busting conclusion after the U`s first win in their shinny new Weston Homes Community stadium is that Williams was to blame all along.
Watching the side stroll to their biggest league win in nearly three years on Saturday showed a team with spirit unchained, temporality anyway, from the epidemic shackles of failure which hitherto dogged their current campaign. The ‘feel-bad` factor that attends negative scores was an unwelcome legacy, an incurable hangover, from last season`s demotion.
Expected promotion-charge in a blaze of glory signed-posted by a new neon-lights era with state of the art facilities instead became everyone`s next pipe dream. Cue the doubters, who claimed Colchester United were stuck in a black hole of terminal decline. The Williams era had become stale, and almost masochistic. Loss, followed by draw followed by loss, and so on; autumn`s inconstant results were ultimately what cost Williams his job.
Blaming Williams is easy to do now, of course, and especially after the weekend`s display, filled with passion, pizzazz and panache. Hindsight is the haze that clouds anyone`s judgement of this scoreline in the context of what has gone before, perhaps, but three months of anxious waiting for a first win in the new £14 home had built-up like a pressure-cooker of self-doubt.
An inability to win became like having fabled 12th man. Except, in this case, we mean like giving an extra player to the opposition, or gifting them a debilitating school-playground style head start by adding a few extra goals onto their tally before kick-off. Yes folks. Confidence really is that important in sport.
Since the squad`s morale had plummeted parallel to falling international stock-market values before Lambert`s arrival only serves to highlight the errors behind Williams` eventual miss-management of his team. It`s miss-management because Lambert has so far taken exactly the same group of players and turned them in to chart-topping world-beaters inside three games. Ok, so predictions like this are notoriously dangerous after just one emphatic display. But on Saturday United walked the walk, and hit the net for fun.
Another factor betraying a lack of coaching from Williams, which is the harsh phrasing we must employ to describe Williams` failure to experiment beyond his 2-D delight in the English house-style of 442 formations is Lambert`s comparative creativity with personnel.
Johnnie Jackson`s return to left-back, perhaps until January at the earliest, and the interchanging of both wingers, Yeates and Perkins, from side to side highlighted how one lot of individuals can be taught to go from passive robots to active automatons in a short space of time. The now less static patrols of those central midfielders, Kem Izzet and Dean Hammond, who incidentally by scoring here completed his quartet`s perfect record on the scoresheet this week, is further case in point.
Izzet himself actually called it a positive influence: “He’s put his stamp on things and I think you can see the tempo is a lot higher and we’re getting in people’s faces,” he said, talking recently about the new manager. “That’s how we should be playing, we need to be hard to beat. He doesn’t want any negativity, he wants to be positive and I think that’s very encouraging around the ground”. Most fans would just sub that juicy speech for a single word: passion.
The sad part in all this, expect to remind United`s jubilant fans to stay calm, is that Geraint Williams` legacy will now been to be seen as both a negative symptom and also a positive cause of the club`s most successful-ever blue period.
An honest assessment of his tenure would be that his tactical naivety, and predilection for pin-ball attacks at the expense of keeping the net out at the other end, caused the aura that he had constructed in the good times to become badly frayed when the chips were down.
But that`s yesterday`s news. If Williams` stewardship was a trial of good to bad extremes, then Lambert`s after two wins – one of them frighteningly emphatic – shows no signs of putting an end to the unpredictability, not least when the XI can seemingly provide fancy but fine-crafted football at will, rather than on demand. At times during this game they seemed to be toying with their opposition, and choosing if, rather than when, they should strike in order to deliver the decisive blows.
Colchester United have been true to the most alluring and basic of counter-attacking urges since those early days of glory in the ’00s, when Phil Parkinson imparted on-pitch values of swagger and playing with pride as actions instead of mere words. ‘Going for the win` has not been an empty set of syllables in these parts since the day he first graced the Essex coast.
It`s different this time, even accepting the intervening Williams years, because on this evidence at least Lambert is now teaching those with an eye for goal to channel their football; even a concentrated, attractive high-tempo game plan must be executed with some economy of effort.
Colchester United`s operative ‘C` words are calculated, controlled and clinical; simply because they were all three at once against the other, visiting, CU-FC during the game.
Paul Lambert, a tactical genius?
That`s for him to know, and for us to find out.
Beware of the Clowns
Kem Izzet and David Perkins, like all good clowns, had those in the away end scratching their heads but laughing during Saturday`s comprehensive win for the U`s.
The small midfield duo, both measuring around 5″ 8 inches, formed a pointless wall in comedic protest against one free-kick awarded to Carlisle during the second half.
They were reminiscent of Jerzy Dudek`s spaghetti-leg homage of the 2005 European Cup Final as they attempted to distract the opposition by jumping up and down prior to delivery of the set-piece that would normally just have literally gone right over their heads.
It had supporters in both sides of the stadium smiling, which presumably means that the visitors had forgotten the pain of Perkins` earlier goal, and possibly even overlooked Kem Izzet`s earlier strike on Tuesday, although clowns are not the same thing as your average pantomime villains.
The amusing pair at least left their tomfoolery until after that proper and altogether more sinister business of finding the net had already happened.
Forget full-time’s media circus: there was something infinitely amusing about two pint-size players converging classy football with some good ol` slapstick comedy.
Lambert`s U`s Leap Convincingly from Chalkboard
Lambert`s U`s Leap Convincingly from the Chalkboard