Settled City side can be key to success

JONATHAN REDHEAD When Colchester United visit Carrow Road for a league game on Tuesday, the match may represent a bit of a watershed for U's fans. There's a chance that however many of them travel up the A12 and A140 from Essex, they might for once be talking about manager Geraint Williams' team selection.


When Colchester United visit Carrow Road for a league game on Tuesday, the match may represent a bit of a watershed for U's fans.

There's a chance that however many of them travel up the A12 and A140 from Essex, they might for once be talking about manager Geraint Williams' team selection.

Of course, fans have talked and moaned about their manager and his selections since time immemorial, and that's unlikely to change. But for Colchester, Williams' consistency in his team selections is a cause for praise indeed.

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So far, the Us have surprised a few people and found themselves in mid-table in their first season in the Coca Cola Championship; currently one of the most successful in their history.

And possibly the key to their relative success lies in an almost staggering statistic which may also go some lengths towards the understanding of Norwich City's stuttering season to date.

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Until a suspension for Richard Garcia for their home clash against Southampton at Layer Road today, Colchester had fielded the same 10 outfield players for an amazing nine games in a row. Their keeper only changed once during that time too.

In those nine games they won five, drew two and lost two, beating the likes of Burnley, Derby and Queen's Park Rangers, three sides that Norwich have failed to secure maximum points against this campaign.

Meanwhile, you have to go back to the heat of the summer, to see when City have been unable to field the same ten outfield players since the match at Derby back in August, when a 0-0 draw secured their seventh point out of nine and cemented an early place in the top five of the fledgling league table.

In fact that was the fourth game in a row with the same side and back then the future looked bright for Nigel Worthington and his side.

Since then and arguably in his desperation to see things right, there have been chops and changes, mostly forced through injury, but things went from bad to worse.

Now as an anti-rotation man and a believer in a consistent settled side I was delighted to see Peter Grant pick the same ten outfield players for his first two games in charge against Birmingham and Cardiff. We all know the scores in those games.

There were changes against Port Vale, some he had no choice with, but we all know the result there.

And that's what I think is the key to a successful run for City and a shot at automatic promotion or the play-offs at the least.

Grant has not got a massive squad, but in some ways that may not be the worst thing going.

That means barring injuries and a spectacular run of bad form, he may almost be forced to run with his best 11 week in, week out, wherever possible without much switching or rotation of a relatively small squad.

Those eleven men who play together regularly are the ones who will help City back to the top flight.

You only have to look at the Premiership to see how important a settled first eleven is even if you have a massive pool of players from which to choose.

Despite their millions and huge squad, Jose Mourinho really did not make many changes to his starting eleven during last season's walk to the title.

The regulars, the John Terry's Frank Lampards, Petr Cechs and Claude Makeleles of this world were there every week.

Compare that with Liverpool. Since February 12, 2005, the Reds have not had the same ten outfield players start successive matches.

That is a staggering 98 games and counting. Sure, Liverpool have won the Champions' League and the FA Cup on penalties on both occasions, but ask any Liverpool fan what they really want, and it's the title.

But Rafael Benitez's side have not come close in spite of their fearsome looking squad while the likes of Everton and Bolton have had their own successes in the league in recent years with smaller squads and unchanged sides.

Many people will want Peter Grant to spend, spend, spend, come January but that's not necessarily a route to success unless he can buy players who will go straight into the first team.

Squad players, as Worthington's signings in previous seasons have shown, will not help the cause.

Grant needs to decide his best eleven, if he has not done so already, and stick with it as much as possible, even if there is the odd hiccup along the way.

Of course players get tired, but it's amazing how much less tired they are as part of a winning settled side, than not knowing if they're playing from one week to the next. It's a system which has served City pretty well in the past.

I'm not advocating favourites, although I think Grant has already proved there will be none of those, but unless someone plays really poorly for a few games, they should be backed and given a chance.

Class is permanent and form is temporary, so even if someone who Grant believes in is not going great guns, he'll come good.

Wayne Rooney is not sparkling at the moment, but I don't see Sir Alex Ferguson or Steve McClaren dropping him.

While there is no Rooney to choose, Grant has talent at his disposal.

And come the New Year, having settled into the job and seen the players understand him, he could lead a consistent, settled and regular City side back to the Premiership.


New manager Dennis Wise has vowed to make Leeds the team everyone loves to hate in a bid to resurrect their fortunes.

He's the sort of man who thrives on rubbing people up the wrong way.

You only have to look at his playing career and his success with another oft-disliked club Millwall. Alongside Ken Bates, the pair could easily make Leeds disliked again and bring them success.

However, being hated would be an improvement on things for the whites at the moment.

If they become despised, it will probably mean they are doing well again.

And I'm sure anything will be better than being laughed at and made an example of how not to do things, like they are at the moment.


England boss Steve McClaren has been to see some of his northern-based England stars to boost their morale after a poor performance against Macedonia and defeat to Croatia.

How ridiculous. It just goes to show how little the modern footballer cares for playing for his country.

Putting on an England shirt should be the biggest boost to any England player.

He should be delighted to be picked and not complacent about his place.

It should be a proud moment. There should be no bigger thrill. It should push the player to give his all all of the time.

But McClaren's cosy little chats and fancy restaurant meals just go to show how child-like and pampered some of England's international's really are.

They never seem to have any problems with their morale turning out for the big clubs who pay their massive, inflated wages do they?

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