Colchester United’s French connection, from Thomas Pinault to Mikael Mandron

PUBLISHED: 08:30 03 August 2017

Frenchman Mikael Mandron, right, grappling for possession with Gillingham's Billy Bingham during the U's last pre-season friendly of the summer. Picture: STEVE WALLER

Frenchman Mikael Mandron, right, grappling for possession with Gillingham's Billy Bingham during the U's last pre-season friendly of the summer. Picture: STEVE WALLER

© Copyright Stephen Waller

Colchester United writer CARL MARSTON recalls a few Frenchmen to have played for the U’s over the years, some hits and some misses.

Mikael Mandron, hoping to become a regular in the U's starting line-up this season. Picture: PAGEPIXMikael Mandron, hoping to become a regular in the U's starting line-up this season. Picture: PAGEPIX

In many ways, Mikael Mandron is the most intriguing of Colchester United’s summer signings.

Ryan Jackson looks a good bet to impress at right wing-back this coming season, following his arrival from Gillingham, and player-coach Rene Gilmartin should complement regular No. 1 Sam Walker and 20-year-old Dillon Barnes in the goalkeeping department.

But Mandron is more unproven, an exciting prospect and a potential match-winner, but as yet having not settled at any one particular club (with the exception of a long loan at Eastleigh in the Conference last season).

Signed from Wigan Athletic last month, ex-Sunderland apprentice Mandron is one of a handful of Frenchmen to have been on Colchester’s books over the years.

Thomas Pinault, a French midfielder who played 133 league games for the U's between 1999 and 2004.Thomas Pinault, a French midfielder who played 133 league games for the U's between 1999 and 2004.

I recall four of the Frenchmen to have played for the U’s, during my past 25 years as a football correspondent for this paper.

I regard two of them as hits, and two of them as misses, in terms of their impact at the U’s old home of Layer Road.

Will Mandron, aged 22, be a hit, or a miss?

The signs are that the 6ft 3ins target man can unsettle defences in League Two, perhaps alongside Denny Johnstone, over the coming weeks.

But he is not guaranteed a start, with Kurtis Guthrie hoping to return from injury, and Drey Wright also a contender to inject some pace to the front-line.

Here are the Frenchmen that he has followed in their footsteps.

HITS

THOMAS PINAULT

The best of the French imports, midfielder Pinault graduated from being a raw teenager to become a regular in the U’s engine room for several seasons.

Pinault rattled up 130 league games, between 1999 and 2004, and more than 150 first-team appearances in all, under managers Mick Wadsworth, Steve Whitton and Phil Parkinson.

Pinault went on to play for Grimsby, Brentford and Crawley Town, before returning to his native France to play for Grasse.

His U’s debut was in a 3-0 home defeat by Notts County in August, 1999, while in his final season with the U’s, in 2003-04, he played an impressive total of 54 games.

His midfield partners over the years included David Gregory, Chris Keeble, Kem Izzet, Jason Dozzell and Bobby Bowry.

STEPHANE POUNEWATCHY

This veteran Frenchman only spent a few months with the U’s, at the back end of the 1998-99 season (from February, 1999), but his commanding presence was enough for the Essex club to avoid relegation back to the fourth tier.

He made 15 league appearances, on a short-term deal, having previously played for the likes of Carlisle and Port Vale, and earlier in his native France with FC Martigues and Gueugnon,

Pounwatchy signed off for the U’s by scoring at Blackpool on the final day of the 1998-99 season, in a 2-1 defeat.

He had formed a good partnership with David Greene in the heart of defence, two powerful, no-nonsense centre-halves.

MISSES

STEVE GERMAIN

This Cannes-born striker, recruited by Mick Wadsworth, never made the grade.

He initially arrived on loan from his local club, AS Cannes, in April, 1999, as a rookie 17-year-old. He went on to make six appearances (only one start) during this loan stint, appearing as a substitute for Jason Dozzell against Preston on his debut.

He later joined on a permanent basis, but never managed to progress or even threaten to hold down a regular place in the starting line-up.

Germain made a further three appearances, with just one of these a start, ironically in his last ever outing – a 3-0 defeat at Burnley in September, 1999.

He was replaced by Lomana Lua Lua after 52 minutes, a player who, by contrast, went on to hit the big-time at the likes of Newcastle and Portsmouth.

FABRICE RICHARD

Defender Richard, another to be given his chance under manager Wadsworth, played more games than striker Germain, but he also failed to really settle into a groove in the English game.

He was far more experienced, arriving in the Spring of 1998 as a 25-year-old, and went on to play 24 league games (23 starts), most of them at right-back.

Richard, who was far from fluent in English, often seemed to struggle to communicate with his fellow defenders, both under Wadsworth and the his successor Steve Whitton. His last game was a 3-1 home defeat to Bury, in February, 2000, when he was replaced by striker Jamie Moralee.

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