DUGUID, BAD & UGLY!
Colchester legend Karl on his love of Layer Road and Lomana LuaLua
TECHNICALLY, Karl Duguid isn’t quite a one-club man. But after 17 years and 467 games over two spells at Colchester United, he’s not far off.
When he signed for George Burley as a 16-year-old in 1994, the midfielder didn’t even know who Colchester were and had certainly never heard of Layer Road.
Yet it was to become Duguid’s second home and the scene of his greatest triumph as he skippered Phil Parkinson’s men to a place in the Championship in 2006.
Now 36, Duguid – who also spent three years at Plymouth – hung up his boots last year and, after leaving a coaching role with the U’s in October, has most recently plied his trade for Conference part-timers Welling.
This gives him plenty of time to recall the highs and lows of a career that saw him play with a backflipping star of the future, get skinned by an Argentine international and enjoy a practical joke or two with a classic crazy keeper.
I did my apprenticeship at Colchester. I played for my county in a triangular tournament against Norwich and Colchester and afterwards somebody asked me for my address and number.
To be honest, I didn’t even know who Colchester United were – I’m from Hertfordshire so I only knew Watford, Luton and the big teams on TV.
But they called me, asked me if I wanted to play a couple of games and before long I was signed up full-time. I made my debut at 17 against Hereford and 14 years later I was still there!
Geraint Williams. That might surprise a few people because everyone remembers Phil Parkinson leading us into the Championship and we all know what a good manager he is.
But when Geraint took over from Parky in 2006, he made us a better footballing team that was so enjoyable to play in.
The team he had around him – people like Mick Harford – created a great atmosphere and Geraint was also one of the nicest people you will ever meet in football. He eventually left us to join Orient and is now the U21 manager for Wales. He’s a very good coach as well – he loved getting out on the grass and developing young players.
For sheer talent, it has to be Lomana LuaLua at Colchester. He had everything – the talent, the skill, the pace and the power.
He played in the Premier League with Newcastle and Portsmouth, but I think he was good enough to have made a bigger name for himself. He just lacked that bit of grit and consistency.
It’s a similar story with Sanchez Watt, the ex-Arsenal lad who is at Colchester now. He’s the quickest player I’ve ever seen. Technically, he’s unbelievable. His balance and touch are first class – he’s got everything you need to be a top, top player at the highest level.
He just needs to learn the ugly side of the game. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying he should be smashing people and flying into tackles. That’s not his game. But if he can toughen up, then I don’t see why he couldn’t get back to the Premier League.
To League One with Colchester in 1998.We’d missed out on automatic promotion by a point and lost 1-0 away to Barnet in the first leg. At that stage, I think everyone was fearing the worst.
But we turned them over 3-1 at our place, then went to the old Wembley and beat Torquay 1-0 thanks to a penalty from David Gregory.
It wasn’t the best game and it wasn’t the best crowd, either. England played on the Saturday and Glenn Hoddle had refused to move the game so we had to play on a Friday night, meaning hardly anyone made it from Torquay.
But it was especially sweet for a lot of us because we’d played at Wembley the year before and lost to Carlisle in the Autoglass Trophy – they had blokes like Matty Jansen and Rory Delap.
We went back to the Grosvenor Hotel afterwards – just as we had the year before – and you can imagine the contrast in atmosphere.
Graham Stack, the goalkeeper. I was only with him at Plymouth for about four months but he’s a fantastic guy to have in the changing room. I think Mick McCarthy signed him for Wolves just because he was so good for morale.
He’d do something new every day, whether it was winding up the gaffer or dumping a load of sawdust in somebody’s car.
I roomed with him for a bit, which was pretty perilous. But I like a laugh as well and I remember our first trip away with Plymouth we were going round chopping up clothes and filling boots with shaving foam. We’d only been there a week!
While I was at Colchester, we played Bournemouth in a league game and two of our lads – Lee Gregory and Warren Aspinall – had a furious row about something on the pitch.
Next thing you know, Lee’s run to intercept the ball and Warren just turned around and booted him up in the air!
The referee gave a free-kick to Bournemouth and booked Warren. Even he was laughing – it was just comical.
Then two minutes after he got booked, one of their players has smashed the ball from point-blank range and hit Warren straight in the midriff. He was down on the floor with every fan and every player laughing their head off.
Captaining Colchester to the Championship in 2006 and then finishing in the highest position in the club’s history – 10th – the following season. I’d been there more than ten years by that point so it meant a great deal.
Retiring. Until you’re not playing anymore, you can’t imagine how much it gets to you. To be honest, I probably left the professional game too early.
I had an opportunity to become a coach at Colchester and, at the age of 35-36, you have to seize that. But, looking back, I think I could have played at League One or Two for at least another couple of years.
It wasn’t until I left the club for good in October that it really hit me. As a coach, I’d still been around things every day. Once I packed up my stuff and said goodbye, that’s when you realise your life of the last 21 years is over.
TOUGHEST PLACE TO GO
For some reason, I never won a game at Notts County. It wasn’t the facilities. It wasn’t the crowd. I played there in the summer when the pitch was great. I played there in the winter when it was terrible. I can’t blame anything in particular - it was just a real bogey ground.
Jonas Gutierrez, of Newcastle. When I was at Plymouth we played them four times – twice in the Championship and twice in the FA Cup.
But the game that gives me nightmares was the FA Cup replay on a Tuesday night.We lost 3-0 and Peter Lovenkrands scored a hat-trick.
I was playing right-back and the gaffer said ‘Whatever you do, don’t let Gutierrez come inside, he loves to shoot’.
So after about five minutes I showed him to the byline and he whipped a cross in for the first goal. Then he skinned me, cut inside and made the second.
He was quick, he was strong, he was good in the air. He could go inside or outside, left foot or right. He had it all and it’s no surprise he played in the World Cup for Argentina the following year. I’ve played against Arsenal, Chelsea, all the big teams at one time or another. But that night was the best performance I’ve ever seen. I couldn’t get near him.
FAVOURITE PLACE TO GO
I’ve got to say Layer Road, Colchester’s old ground.The stands were wooden, one was almost falling down. But the atmosphere was brilliant and the pitch was fantastic.
I remember playing Sunderland the year they won the Championship and Roy Keane was so complimentary. We’d won 3-0 and he said ‘No excuses – that’s the best surface we’ve played on all season’.
It’s a sentimental choice but, for me, nothing beat a Friday night in front of a full house at the old Layer Road.
I’ve got my own coaching school in Colchester and I’ve just finished playing for Welling. Maybe one day I’d like to be a manager but, for now, I suppose I just want to be the best coach I can be – wherever that may be.
Biggest achievement: Colchester promotion Toughest place to go: Meadow Lane
SPECIAL K: Captain Karl Duguid celebrates a Colchester goal against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in the FA Cup Favourite place to go: Layer Road Best manager: Geraint Williams Toughest Opponent: Jonas Gutierrez