WHEN Hayden Mullins was seen deep in conversation with Robbie Cowling in the main stand at Gander Green Lane late on Tuesday night, perhaps the writing was on the wall.

Mullins had just finished his usual media duties after suffering the bitter disappointment of seeing his Colchester United side concede a stoppage-time goal to lose 3-2 at Sutton United when he made his way over to chat with the club's owner and chairman.

A discussion between Mullins and Cowling after a game was not unusual; in fact, it happened after pretty much every home game and most of the away fixtures that the U's surpemo attends.

Indeed, there was no indication that his chat was one of anything other than consolation on behalf of Cowling, following that bitter defeat.

But something seemed to be in the air following that gut-wrenching defeat, the U's fifth successive loss in League Two and one that did nothing whatsoever to improve their survival chances.

Only a few minutes prior to that chat, Mullins had come out fighting and made it clear to the assembled media that he would not shirk the challenge of trying to turn around Colchester's flagging fortunes.

“Football is a tough sport, mentally and physically," said Mullins.


“There’s no easy way; there’s no method that’s the right way.

“It’s the ones who can mentally deal with the pressure and keep striding forward who will do well in it, I think.

“If you crumble and you die and you lay in a corner and you’re fearful of everything, that’s when you struggle.

“You can’t sit in the corner and shirk it - I’ve never done that before in my career.

“I’ve had ups and downs and tough times and (the Sutton game) is no different.

“It was the same last year when we were in this position – we had a similar situation in terms of a group of players and you have to galvanize them.

“Football is a tough sport, mentally and physically and it’ll never change.

“It’s just how you react to it.

“Until I’m told otherwise, I’ll keep fighting for the football club – that’s all I can do."


It is a real pity that things did not work out for Mullins, as Colchester head coach.

He only seems five minutes since he took over and was presented in front of the media, a broad grin fixed on his face as he spoke about his hopes for the new season.

Mullins had earned his opportunity to lead the U's, especially having helped steer them to League Two safety in interim charge alongside Paul Tisdale, the previous season.

He inherited a rather fragmented squad, with plenty of comings and goings throughout that summer and a host of experienced players being added.

It was a solid, if unspectaular start for Mullins and his assistant manager Alex Dyer, with good away results earned at Oldham Athletic and Carlisle United but a first home win proving elusive.

The exciting 3-2 triumph at Barrow in September offered encouragement but the U's failed to kick on from there and are still searching for their next league away win.


The reality for any manager is that a winless run - or worse, a sequence of successive defeats - almost inevitably always means one only thing and Mullins has ultimately paid the price for the U's poor results.

The popular Mullins was always hard-working, knowledgeable, professional and enthusiastic as Colchester's boss but the results his team recorded sadly did not reflect those qualities.

Of the 32 matches he presided over as permanent head coach in all competitions this season, Mullins secured eight wins, eight draws and 16 defeats.

The stark truth is that this Colchester squad has under-performed this season given the quality they have within the ranks and Mullins has paid the price with his job.

Cowling has acted in order to try and steer Colchester away from relegation peril while he still can and interim boss Wayne Brown - who worked alongside Mullins as caretaker boss, last season, has been entrusted with the task of getting them back on track.

The U's head to Salford City hoping to halt a winless league run that stretches back to November 23.

Now the decision has been made and a new interim team is in charge, Colchester now need results fast.