Injuries and unpreparedness: Is Colchester’s season going to be a bust?
Before Colchester United’s 2017-18 League Two campaign kicked off, I was asked to write a season preview to discuss The U’s chances for the season: the ins and outs of the squad and what the fans expect to see in the next 9 or so months.
Well, I confidently said that as long as the club holds onto the majority of the players and they stay injury free, the team should do rather nicely finishing in and around the play offs – not dissimilar to last term. Sadly, rather quickly, I got quite a lot of egg on my face as Colchester began a mass exodus of players literally days after my season preview made it onto the D3D4 Football website.
Players flew the Col U nest like fledglings flying off to new and better horizons…or Barnet. United fans would have been shocked to see departures of such key players as: George Elokobi (dropped a league to newly relegated Leyton Orient along with striker Macauley Bonne), wing-back Richard Brindley (to Barnet for some reason), 16 goal striker Chris Porter (back to his Northern homeland to Crewe), midfielder stalwart Owen Garvan (left the club by mutual consent last April due to personal reasons) and defender Alex Wynter (to Maidstone weirdly enough). As well as them, up and down defender Matt Briggs was released despite having had a fairly strong season, danger-man Tarique Fosu (went back to parent club Reading and then hastily signed for Charlton Athletic) and finally, and most recently, striker Denny Johnstone, after completing the entire pre-season with Colchester, suddenly realised that he was homesick and raced back up to Scotland to a season long loan with his namesake: St Johnstone. So far, you can understand my embarrassment which quickly turned into frustration and now a little bit of worry after the start Colchester has had. Mind you, without those players, the squad would still look pretty good.
However, Colchester United almost has as many players injured as they have offloaded. The club’s injury woes were a constant theme last season and no doubt fans were hoping it wouldn’t be the same again but no such luck. Stars, winger Brennan Dickenson and striker Kurtis Guthrie, will both be on the sidelines until February (it’s reckoned) and who knows if they’ll come back the same players after such serious injuries. In addition to them: experienced defender Luke Prosser is out for a while after having had an in and out campaign last year, midfielder Craig Slater has struggled with injury since he came to the club and is still expected to spend more time on the sideline and classy looking Kyel Reid is struggling with hip problems and with the lack of depth in the squad, he won’t have a lot of time to recover. Finally, and again, most recently, Inniss, the defender on loan from Crystal Palace, came to Col U already nursing an injury and will be out for a couple of weeks.
In addition to the injury list, Colchester’s squad comprises a list of injury-prone players many of whom rarely see out a whole season. Attackers, and currently Col U’s most dangerous men, Drey Wright and Sammie Szmodics are – historically – both often sidelined. And again, with the lack of depth in the squad, the players can’t afford to push themselves too hard or the team will be even shorter of players.
All of these problems have made the whole of pre-season and the start of the campaign a bit of a farce culminating in the hurried and panicked swooping of five players on deadline day. John McGreal managed to grab; striker Nicke Kabamba. A bit of a Portsmouth reject, the unlucky striker was signed for the south-coast side after looking incredibly impressive in non-league and found limited opportunities. Hopefully he’ll fair better in the South-East. Striker Odelusi signed a permanent deal until the end of the season and another striker, Hanlan from Charlton, has signed until January. QPR midfielder Comley has signed until the new year too. Finally, aforementioned defender Inniss will be with The U’s (once he’s back from injury) until the end of the season.
Now, as with most lower league fans, I have to take what happens to my club with a jovial pinch of salt. There are a lot of things, like signing a player that is already injured on loan, that you just have to shrug off with a chuckle and simply look forward to the next match. I mean, yes, we mightn’t get into the play-offs this season but according to the club’s owner, Robbie Cowling, that’s fine. Financially speaking, we should be finishing mid-table anyway, so, to finish anything above that will simply be a blessing. So, I say, let’s just sit back and enjoy the ride.
Yeah right. Okay, I know we’re only 5 games in and there’s a long season to go but, Colchester are 20th in the table and are already falling behind. It seems like the club won’t even hit it’s financially-measured league position this season. I hope I’m proved wrong but after losing 45 goals from the squad and four key defenders, it doesn’t look like those new players and the few left from last term, have what it takes to get Colchester into, or even close to, the play-offs this season.
Words by Piers Palmer D3D4 Colchester United Correspondent
Twitter: @Piers_Palmer Email: email@example.com