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Knees-up Mother Brown #13
Written by wessex_exile on Sunday, 26th Nov 2023 10:48

[i]KMB13[/i], and this weekend I’m sure we will all, in our own way, pause to remember the fallen. With war again raging in Europe, and the Middle East aflame, I’m sadly reminded of the lyrics of Eric Bogle.

“[i]Well the sorrow, the suffering, the glory, the pain
The killing and dying, were all done in vain
For young Willie McBride, it all happened again
And again, and again, and again, and again[/i]”

The U’s, with our proud and strong military associations, will of course provide a fitting and poignant start to proceedings this afternoon, but then it’s down to business, with the prospect of four league victories on the bounce up for grabs. In Matty we trust!

[b]George William “Billy” Wooller
HMS Dorsetshire, 5th April 1942
“[i]Lest we forget[/i]”[/b]

[b]The world outside U’s World[/b]
Not so much current news, quite old really, but this popped up on my Xitter feed during the week, and it made me chuckle, so here goes.

Back in the 1970s, and with their country’s economy starting to emerge into the global market, North Korea began importing equipment from Western industrialised nations. Their aim was to expand their access to foreign capital, and of course advance their own path to modern industrialisation.

One country that saw the opportunity to get on board early with the North Koreans was Sweden, and in a deal worth (then) $73 million exported a wide variety of mostly mining equipment, along with 1,000 Volvo 144 sedan cars. The North Koreans were promising to pay creditors either through future production or mining products, but very quickly it became apparent they had little intention of honouring their debts. As a result, for poor Volvo, their repeated demands for payment were ignored, and invoices unpaid.

For the Swedish government, this was always going to be a bit of a gamble, but for the most part they may well have felt the gamble kind of paid off. They were the first, and for two decades, only foreign state to open an embassy in North Korea. Even to this day, in a society where they view most outsiders with deep mistrust and suspicion, North Koreans look on the Swedes as trusted brokers to settle disputes on their behalf without being seen to lose face.

The Swedish government did of course reimburse Volvo and took on the debt themselves. Twice a year they send North Korea a new invoice for the cars, with of course cumulative interest and late payment charges applied, and twice a year North Korea politely ignores it. The process almost has an odd formality about it, as if it is required etiquette.

[b]This one has half a million km on the clock…[/b]

Boxy Volvo 144 sedans are rugged beasts that are built to last, and many of the original 1,000 are still running today. The current bill stands at an estimated $322 million, and it remains to this day the single largest car theft of all time.

[b]U’s World[/b]
Breaking news yesterday, which is great for the players concerned, maybe less so for the U’s, is that not only has Owen Goodman been called up as a standby for the England U20 squad, but Joe Taylor has been called up for the Wales U21 squad. If he’s needed, Owen may well play a role in the home game against Italy next Thursday, and/or the trip to Germany the following Monday.

Joe has already made two appearances for the Welsh U21 side, making his debut in September 2022 (when he was still on the books at Peterborough) in a 2-0 defeat against Austria. On Thursday Wales are facing Iceland, current leaders of the qualification group, and the following Monday Denmark – both games being played at Rodney Parade.

Both will miss next Saturday’s trip to Edgeley Park to face Stockport County, and quite probably our EFL Trophy match the following Tuesday at home to Peterborough United. As EFL rules stipulate a minimum of three international call-ups before a postponement is permitted, neither game will be affected. Good luck Owen and Joe!

On Wednesday morning it was announced that former U’s player and coach Adrian “Ade” Webster had passed away, following a brave battle with Motor Neurone disease. I’ll be honest, Colchester-born Ade was not someone I had any particular knowledge of (in either role) during his time with the U’s but judging by the outpouring of tributes from former and current club employees and players (including Sammie Szmodics, Alex Gilbey, Craig Fagan and Anthony Wordsworth), and supporters, he is clearly someone who is remembered with considerable affection.

[b]Rest in Peace[/b]

[b]Match of the Day
[i]Colchester United v Hartlepool
20th August 1971
Fourth Division (Tier 4)
Attendance 5,634[/i][/b]

[b]Again, I am indebted to ColUData for the programme cover image[/b]

[i]Match of the Day[/i] for KMB13, and this one is sort of a special, in that it was definitely a game I was at, but sadly I have no items of memorabilia to mark the occasion. This was my very first U’s match, on the occasion of my 9th birthday. I’ve chosen this one after looking into the football career stats of Ade Webster. I couldn’t find any records that Ade actually played for the first team during his three year spell on the books with the U’s as an apprentice. However, he left the U’s in the summer of 1971 for Hillingdon Borough, and this game against Hartlepool was the very next home league fixture after his departure. A tenuous connection I grant you, but it’s all I’ve got.

Not that there hadn’t been plenty of action leading up to this Friday night at Layer Road. Under legendary manager Dick Graham, through July and early August the U’s had of course competed in, and won, the Watney Cup, beating West Bromwich Albion in a penalty shoot-out final at the Hawthorns. Our league campaign kicked off the preceding Saturday with a 2-0 defeat at Lincoln, and then on the Tuesday night, in front of 6,125, we overcame Brentford 3-1 in the first round of the League Cup. That’s a pretty gruelling start to the season, six first team games in less than three weeks, at a time when there was no such thing as ‘resting’ players and only one sub to call upon – kids today eh!

Why was I there? Growing up on Greenstead, one of my closest friends at the time was Colin McKenzie, who was (I think) a year or two older than me. A Scottish family, his Dad was (again, I think) ex-forces who stayed in Colchester after leaving the army, and I got to know all of them well as I grew up on the estate. It was my birthday and following the general buzz around the town following both the Watney Cup triumph and our previous FA Cup run, and with my mum’s permission, Colin’s dad decided to take us both up to Layer Road to see the game.

Looking back today, Dick Graham’s U’s line-up is a veritable who’s who of Col U legends, not that I really knew that at the time – I think the only name I knew then was of course Ray Crawford, and he’d left in the summer along with Ade Webster:
1….Graham Smith
2….Eric Burgess
3….John Gilchrist
4….Ken Jones (12. Bobby Cram 70’)
5….Brian Garvey
6….John Kurila
7….Mick Mahon
8….Brian Gibbs
9….Brian Hall
10..Brian Owen
11..Brian Lewis

Hartlepool at the time was managed by Len Ashurst in a player-manager capacity. Ashurst was a Roker Park legend, making over 400 league appearances for Sunderland as part of their formidable backline of the 60s. After a testimonial against Newcastle United, Sunderland gave Len a free transfer to Hartlepool in the summer of 1970. The other name of note in the Hartlepool line-up that evening was none other than winger Neil “Colin” Warnock, who had joined from Rotherham in the summer. I’m not sure if Warnock was as much of a loudmouth back then as he became in his managerial days, but I suspect so.

Obviously, I have no firm recollection of the actual match itself at all, but that doesn’t mean I don’t remember the occasion vividly. Colin’s dad drove up to the game, parking somewhere around the back of the Drury. It was a 7.30 kick-off, so still light when we took our place in a fairly packed-out Layer Road. We were on the right side of the Layer Road terrace, towards the corner flag, and being only nine at the time, squeezed down near but not quite at the wall.

Even then, my view of the game was patchy at best, snatches of football caught peering around elbows for the most part. But I was still in a wholly new and magical world. It was a world of swaying movement that you had no control over, the heady scent of woodbines and wintergreen assailing your nostrils – and the language! What strange new world was this where men old enough to be my great grandfather cursed with such eloquence, and seemingly for the most innocuous of reasons. And all around me the rise and fall of the football roar – I was in heaven.

The stats tell me that at half-time the score was 0-0, I wouldn’t have known, I think I was intoxicated, particularly as nightfall fell and the floodlights came on. Into the second half, and about halfway through suddenly the ground erupted. The football roar, even at a crescendo, was one thing, but this was on a completely different level. And in the midst of this, I turned to Colin’s dad and asked, “Did we score?”. We had indeed scored, courtesy of an own-goal from player-manager Len Ashurst of all people.

[b]Colchester United 1 (Ashurst 74’og) Hartlepool 0[/b]

We walked back to the car with the glow of the floodlights high above us, well, they walked I think I floated – best birthday ever! I could still see the floodlights in the distance as I was dropped back home. I was too young to start going to matches on my own, the McKenzie’s interest in the U’s was only fleeting, and Mum had no way (or means) to take me to Layer Road herself. It would be a couple of seasons before, with paper round money burning a hole in my pocket and my eldest sister dating a U’s supporter, I could start getting to matches regularly again – and the rest is history.

Despite the victory, the U’s had a patchy start to the 1971/72 league campaign, but eventually Dick Graham would lead the U’s to a mid-table finish. By the time I re-found the U’s, Dick had resigned following stinging criticism from a supporter at the shareholders AGM in September 1972 (who only had shares because he’d won them in a raffle), and the U’s were being player-managed by Bald Eagle Jim Smith

Len Ashurst died on 25th September 2021, and as with Ade Webster, was remembered fondly by many of those who had the pleasure to work with him, including all the clubs he played for and managed through his long and distinguished career. He returned to Roker Park as manager in 1984, and is widely recognised for laying the foundations for black footballers to break into the game. In an interview for Bill Hern and David Gleave’s book [i]Football’s Black Pioneers[/i] Len recalled “[i]racism and bigotry was prevalent in the game…I was determined it would not rear its ugly head during my time on Wearside[/i]”.

[b]Up the U’s![/b]

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Knees-up Mother Brown #18 by wessex_exile
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