NOW that the dust has settled a little on Colchester United's campaign, Hayden Mullins has had a bit of time to reflect on an eventful season.

The 42-year-old arrived at the U's last September, after leaving Watford to take over as assistant manager to head coach Steve Ball.

He finished the campaign in charge of the team, leading them to League Two survival in impressive style alongside advisor, Paul Tisdale.

Mullins had finished the 2019-20 season managing in the Premier League, taking caretaker charge of Watford against Manchester City and Arsenal.

A few months later, he found himself managing at the other end of the pyramid but after taking charge of Colchester for eight games - leading them to three wins, three draws and two defeats in that time, the former West Ham and Crystal Palace midfielder says his time at the JobServe Community Stadium has been a real learning curve.

“One of the reasons I left Watford to come and work at Colchester was to gain experience and this season has certainly given me a lot of that," said Mullins.

“I’ve come and worked in League Two and gained experience.

“It could have been easy to stay at Watford but I wanted to come and work at Colchester and gain some experience and I’ve certainly done that, this season.

“Football is never simple; I’ve only had a couple of seasons in football where it’s just gone according to plan.

“At West Ham, we finished in mid-table and it was very nice and we were never really in any kind of situation.

“But at Crystal Palace where I started it was rollercoaster up and down and fighting relegation and even last year at Watford, it was the same with three managers.

“Football is never that straight forward; it’s always got a story which is why I think so many people love it."


Colchester's season started in solid fashion; they were unbeaten in their opening five League Two matches and were in and around the play-off places, in the opening months of the season.

But as 2020 came to a close, the U's form deteriorated and what followed was an alarming decline and a descent down the table, one which left them battling for their Football League status until the penultimate weekend of the campaign.

“It seems like a long season," said Mullins.

“The way we started the season was very good, because we were up in and around the play-offs for long periods and then we had the tail off, which everyone is aware of and we find ourselves where we are.

“It seems like it’s been a really, really long season.

“We’ve been through a lot and to be safe is a good feeling.

“There have been times where you wake up in the morning and the first thing that you think about is the team shape or formation.

“And there have been times where you go to bed and the first thing you think about is what’s coming up and who you’re facing.

“There have been times like that, I’m not going to lie, where you go to bed thinking certain things and waking up thinking about others.

“Driving in, team selection is the first thought that you have.

“It’s been tough but it’s been enjoyable, at the same time.

“It’s been good to see the lads come through the tough period, front it up, get the results we’ve wanted and how we’ve got them and who it’s been against – it’s been really good to see that."


Colchester's home form ultimately sealed their League Two status, in the final weeks of the season.

Mullins led the U's to three wins and a draw in the four games he was in charge of at the Community Stadium, including back-to-back wins against relegation rivals.

He said: “When I look back, the home results against Walsall and Southend United were a real pivotal moment for me.

“I think we did OK against Bolton and it was a good performance.

“The Barrow game was a bit deflating, having been winning the game and then conceding a last-minute equaliser and had we won that, it would have confirmed our safety.

“The Walsall game was a big game for me, going behind in it.

“The way we started the game was really good, on the front foot and we wanted to go and attack them.

“We went a goal down and I thought we might have a bit of a period where we have that lull and the confidence gets sucked out of the team.

"But we didn’t and we kicked on and back into the same flow and momentum and being on the front foot.

“We played well and I think we got our rewards with the two goals, just before half-time which was really pleasing.

“I feel the boys have carried that on and we’ve built on it."

Colchester were struggling at both ends of the pitch when Mullins teamed up with Tisdale to take interim charge at Colchester.

But they managed to shore things up at the back in the final eight matches of the season and it was no coincidence that the U's finished the season with back-to-back clean sheets, conceding only one goal in their final four games.


“There’s been a number of games where we’ve reduced the opposition to really small numbers of chances on our goal," said Mullins.

“I think Walsall was four and Southend was two and I think against Salford it was only two, as well.

“We’ve been really good at that of late and we’ve been quite tight defensively.

“We’ve come off the back off two clean sheets and that’s where we’ve built it from.

“I’m really proud of that and with the clean sheets and the few number of chances we’ve conceded, it starts from the front two.

“Big Frank (Nouble) and Michael (Folivi) worked their absolute socks off at the front and they set it for us, putting a lot of pressure on the back guys for the opposition, which stopped the forward balls and then it allows us to get up on the pitch.

“It starts from the front and filters all the way through.

“It can go unnoticed but we always let them know how well they’ve done and how much appreciation we show them."

Mullins' future at Colchester is still unclear but many U's fans have made it clear they would like to see the ex-Watford coach placed in permanent charge, as the club aim to improve next season.

He added: “I’ve taken the role on and it’s been a tough period initially.

“It hasn’t been easy but no role is going to be that.

“It’s a role I want to do in the future and I would definitely be interested if something was put to me."