Of Mice and Men

Leroy Rosenior’s 10-minute tenure of the manager’s hot-seat at Torquay United has passed into football legend as one of the game’s more baffling short-term hiring and firings. Cambridge United’s attempt to secure the loan of a young Premier League goalkeeper last Friday had a similar outcome.

19-year-old Finnish international Jesse Joronen is on Fulham’s books. Tipped for big things ahead by both his goalkeeping coach at Craven Cottage and former Finnish international Antti Niemi, the 6’ 4” shot-stopper has a single international appearance for his country – against Thailand in January, to his name and turned out for Blue Square Bet South outfit Maidenhead United earlier in the season.

After it was announced on the eve of last Saturday’s Blue Square Bet Premier game against Hereford at the Abbey Stadium that the Finn had joined United on a month-long loan from the Cottage, U’s fans fully expected to see him feature against the Bulls. When the team sheet was released prior to kick-off, however, Craig Ross was restored between the sticks, with the out of favour and out of luck Jonathan Hedge on the bench.

Even by the often unpredictable standards set by Cambridge United over the years, to sign an international goalkeeper on loan for just a month, even a relatively inexperienced one, only for him to not even be named as a substitute, seemed bizarre to say the least.

Only after the 3-1 defeat, Cambridge’s fourth in succession, did Head Coach Richard Money clarify what had happened for the gathered media and, eventually, the baffled United faithful.

Money had wanted Joronen to watch the game from the bench to get a feel of what Conference football was all about, but the Finn said he had been assured by Fulham that he would be playing and refused to accept the coach’s decision. Money revealed that, in the face of such an impasse, Joronen had already returned to his parent club on the day his arrival at Cambridge was announced.

“We had an agreement with Fulham which I don’t think was correctly portrayed to the player,” Money explained. “I’m not going to have a gun held to my head and be told that he has got to play.”

United fans were bemused by the decision to bring in another keeper when almost every other position in a threadbare and injury-hit squad would appear to be a higher priority, but Money went on to reveal that Hedge had, in all probability, played his last game for United.

The England C international arrived at the Abbey from Tamworth in the summer, having received rave reviews there, but in truth he has never looked comfortable behind United’s backline and, after a howler that saw his side crash out of the FA Trophy against Gateshead in December, it is Hedge’s confidence as well as his ability has continued to be questioned.

“No-one is suggesting he isn’t a decent keeper,” Money said, explaining that Joronen’s arrival was intended to provide Hedge with a route out of the Abbey, only for Joronen’s flounce to foil United’s best-laid plans. “He has a good pedigree at Tamworth, but it just hasn’t worked here. We thought we could do it straight away, but now we can’t and he realises he needs to stay here until we can, so we’re looking for another keeper and we’ll try to help Jonathan find a new club because that’s the type of club we are.”