|Letters from Wiltshire #19|
Written by wessex_exile on Tuesday, 1st Dec 2020 11:19
Within the football world, we’re all painfully aware that football clubs are at considerable risk because of the financial pressure resulting from the coronavirus pandemic. Worryingly, outside the football bubble, it is clear that retailers too are now feeling the pinch, with Debenhams looking likely to close with the lose of 12,000 jobs, and Arcadia (owner of Topshop, Burton and Dorothy Perkins) going into administration with debts of apparently £30m, putting another 13,000 jobs at risk. Needless to say, the world of social media has stepped in, reminding those that care that Sir Philip Green, owner of Arcadia, was seen earlier this week relaxing on his £100m superyacht – make of that what you will.
[b]Colchester United v Southampton
I’m not certain, but I think this might be one of the first of my blogs to actually feature a home match from our Championship days, as Letters from Wiltshire #19 goes back to October 2006, and a home game against Southampton. As I write this blog, I’ve just finished another marathon day at work, and I’m afraid as with most mid-week games over the coming months (particularly given the 7pm kick-offs), this will have to be a somewhat abridged account. Many of you will know I’m an archaeologist by trade, but to put stuff into context, my company has been awarded the A303 Stonehenge Tunnel contract, which as you can imagine is keeping me rather busy at the moment.
[b]”[i]Oh when the Saints…[/i]”[/b]
This was one such occasion, as myself and a Saints-supporting colleague (technically, kind of my indirect boss at the time) decided we’d head over to see the U’s take on Southampton at Layer Rd. This wasn’t the U’s first league match against the Saints, you have to go all the way back to the Division 3 South days in 1953 for that, but it was certainly the most recent in a very long time – 46 years to be precise (not including various League Cup matches over the years, including our 1-0 victory at the Dell to set up the Quarter-final against Villa).
As archaeologists, we’re not averse to a pint or two, so decided to let the train take the strain and enjoy a few relaxing beers on the journey. We even had time to grab a pint at Hamilton Hall on the way through, which not surprisingly was well-populated by Saints supporters making the same journey. We were of course both in colours, which might have looked odd to onlookers, but it was all rather good-natured in the pub and on the train to be honest, no problems at all.
I can’t be absolutely certain, but I’m pretty sure we didn’t bother with the Drury for this match, given we probably would have had to split between the two bars, but I do know we had to separate for the actual match. Tickets for both home and away were selling fast, and as neither of us wanted to be constrained if ‘celebrations’ were needed, my mate managed to get his ticket through Southampton FC in the away end, with myself on the barside. We were both fine with this, and it’s something I’ve had to do often in the past. It’s something of a shame that the culture of football doesn’t allow more open mixing of opposing supporters, but then again the ‘tribal’ aspect of football is equally compelling to many who attend, and part and parcel of the positive experience they gain from attending. I think I’m more in the latter group if I’m honest, as was my mate, so we shook hands and entered Layer Rd (him for the first time ever) through different turnstiles.
[b]It’s parky out…[/b]
George’s U’s lined up that day:
Where do you start with the Saints line-up, managed that day by none other than our dear-departed George Burley – “[i]we know a song about him don’t we kids, shall we sing it?[/i]”. How about left-back Gareth Bale for starters, at his first club since turning professional, or Jermaine Wright, or Claus Lundekvam, or Kenwyne Jones, Grzegorz Rasiak or even Bradley Wright-Phillips on the bench. The Saints were in the hunt for the play-offs, and even with home advantage this was clearly going to be a very tough contest.
[b]Who are ya’[/b]
Half-time, and with the U’s still in control, time to share a few texts back and forth with my mate, though given we actually weren’t that far apart, and could clearly see each other, we could have done it with semaphore flags easy enough (if either of us actually knew semaphore that is).
If Burley had failed to prepare his team for what to expect before kick-off, he certainly put that right for the second half, and the game took on a completely different complexion. Saints, finally seemingly managing to shake off the concerns about their surroundings, actually starting to play like the team they clearly were at the time. The U’s were pegged back for much of the game, and to me it seemed only a matter of time that our defence would be breached…and I was kind of already mentally preparing myself for an ‘honours-even’ journey back to the south-west with my mate. I actually though that moment had arrived when a clumsy challenge by Halford on Kenwyne Jones looked a certain penalty. Certain to most apart from referee Dean Whitestone, much to the infuriation of Burley on the bench (chortle).
And so we approached the final few seconds, desperately clinging on to our slender lead, defending like Trojans, with both sets of supporters roaring from the terraces. And then it happened, springing from defence in injury-time, the U’s raced up the pitch catching Saints napping and finishing a beautiful sweeping move, little Jamie Cureton slotted home to give us an unassailable 2-0 lead. The ground erupted, the barside going mental, tumbling all over each other in celebration.
And that’s how it finished.
[b]Colchester United 2 (Kevin McLeod 3’; Jamie Cureton 90’) Southampton 0[/b]
[b]Gently does it[/b]
Oh yeah, and thanks to Matt Hudson, guess who made Page 41 of the programme 😊
Up the U’s
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Letters from Wiltshire #27 by wessex_exile
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Letters from Wiltshire #26 by wessex_exile
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Letters from Wiltshire #25 by wessex_exile
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Letters from Wiltshire #24 by wessex_exile
Welcome to our last match before Christmas. With South Essex going into Tier 3, by the time we take to the pitch at Roots Hall, it’ll be another behind-closed-doors match. With the Tier 3 boundary creeping inexorably closer, one wonders how long the JobServe will hold out and still be able to allow fans to attend. Robbie is doing all he can to make it possible for supporters to attend, and I confess I’m seriously considering our January 2nd match against Tranmere. In other news, I’m relieved to read that the FA will not take disciplinary action against Colchester United after a shameful minority chose to boo players and officials taking the knee, in the words of the EFL “[i]as they highlight the inequality and injustice experienced by the Black Community[/i]”. I noticed a tiny minority chose to boo at our mid-week match at the Abbey Stadium, but I was pleased to hear they were immediately drowned out by the remainder of the 2,000 cheering and applauding. I admit I’m a little anxious about today…
Letters from Wiltshire #23 by wessex_exile
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