HAYDEN Mullins may yet one day be carried shoulder-high along Colchester's streets, celebrating all the tickertape footballing freedom of Britain's oldest town.

For now, since United must first start winning some precious league points at home, he's likely hiding in a bolthole somewhere, very much masterminding the club's overdue return to form.

We fans would like to think so, anyway. Professional martyrdom and the myth of no-gain-without-pain suffering in sport really sells.

It's still cachet to say you're doing the hard yards, putting in extra sessions and really running yourselves into the ground searching for every answer.

Luck talk has no role and rest is off limits: the faithful few thousand attending last fortnight's sodden loss to Salford City expect nothing less.

Cue imaged endless 'murderball' next-goal-wins scenarios, inspired by Marcelo Bielsa at Leeds United.

As the days foreshorten towards late autumn, temptation is to discuss warm weather training camps and daydream that the U's could fare better in sunnier climes.

Less lactic acid legs, or rock-hard joint busting pitches, more hothouse healing hydrotherapy sessions, plus a miracle-working masseur.

It's now time to earn a pay cheque. No wins, nor goals, in our last four league outings is a sorry stat that tells of few fireworks since an amazing Barrow comeback.

These fallow times for points will test how robust that calm training ground sanctuary boss Mullins has been striving for really is.

Heads must be kept, albeit skipper Tommy Smith recently acknowledged it's fine for supporters to voice our occasionally volcanic in-game frustrations.


You forget that Mullins twice served as caretaker fixer for Watford under a trigger-happy Pozzo family, so he'll be used to practising grace under pressure.

He could do worse than print an away-only league standings table for the locker room, akin to Wayne Rooney pinning one without a points-deduction up at Derby County.

To motivate all squad members, Wimbledon have renamed substitutes 'finishers,' which banishes a negative word implied by the original term.

We'll be itching to hear similar stories at Colchester United as Hayden looks to reinvigorate us, after a decidedly flat spell.

It's quite the conundrum. Mullins needs to consider forcing playmaker Sylvester Jasper into the starting XI after another creative cameo burst from the bench at Tranmere, decide if defenders Luke Chambers and Tom Eastman are competing for identical space when both start and, obviously, work out how we can actually score.

Not to mention trying to find some energetic assists from lacking width at full-back. The picture is compelling.

Gareth Southgate revealed with England when he first arrived that he was met with a silent room when asking players: What will we do if we concede early, go one-down?

Defeat, or even embracing the eventuality, is a dirty saying. Addressing that issue has since paid dividends for his flourishing side.

Hayden Mullins should do the same. Slay the beast, ask those imponderables. It's only through meticulous questioning and trying something different that you suspect we'll find that winning formula everybody craves.

We'll need a front-foot, fast start this weekend against visiting high-flyers Harrogate Town to arrest an alarming slide.

Mullins' honeymoon period melds to a more urgent, must-win mentality; spotlight falls firmly on the dugout.

From almost zero home yield to hero worshipping individuals is one of football's favourite narrative journeys, so here's hoping it starts now. Over to you, Hayden.