COLCHESTER’S players gave Michail Antonio a round of applause after his final game with them.
It was a tribute to the form he had shown in a three-month stay with the U’s.
Now a loan star at Hillsborough, the 22-year-old believes that he and Wednesday are reaping the benefits of his spell under manager John Ward at the Weston Homes Community Stadium.
“My time at Colchester definitely helped me to improve as a player,” says Antonio, who faces his former team-mates tomorrow.
“Young players need to play games and John Ward gave me the opportunity to do that.
“After hardly playing last season, when I went to Colchester I just wanted to go out and play some games.
“I played 14 league games and I scored four goals, so I was really pleased with how things went for me there.
“All of the boys gave me a round of applause after my final game and that meant a lot.”
He joined Colchester in August and his final appearance was in a 0-0 draw at Tranmere in November.
Times are good for the winger. He is enjoying life at Hillsborough in a winning Wednesday team to which he has made a substantial contribution. He is looking forward to a reunion at the U’s, and his parent club, Reading, are challenging for promotion to the Premier League.
“It’s good to be playing well when you’re out on loan and I feel like I’m doing okay,” said the man who was shortlisted for the League One Player of the Month award for March.
“Things can change at any time in football but you just have to keep your head down and work hard.
“I have experience of pushing for promotion at Reading but I hadn’t really played.
“It’s nice to have the pressure of fighting it out for promotion.
“Reading had a good result at Brighton and the boys are doing well.
“It’s great that both of my clubs are pushing for automatic promotion.”
Antonio, who played for Colchester in their 2-0 defeat at Hillsborough in October, felt at one stage that the U’s might have a more successful season than how it has turned out.
They are 10th, 12 points off the top six, and have not won for nine games:. They have drawn seven and lost two in that period.
He says: “Colchester had a good start and I thought they could push on.
“Results haven’t gone their way but there are still four games to go and they’ll be looking to win all of them.
“It’ll be a very difficult game for us on Saturday. Colchester are a very good squad and we’ll have to play well to get something from it.
“I’ve not seen the lads since I left and it’ll be great to see them again.”