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Knees-up Mother Brown #21
at 14:08 17 Feb 2024

Today represents a rare opportunity for the U’s, a chance to register our first (and possibly only) double of the season, against Accrington Stanley. There are precious few more chances to come, just Salford, Tranmere, Grimsby and of course Notts County, and whilst Grimsby and Salford would be most welcome, the other two look like longshots at the moment. Still, we can only beat who we’re up against, so one game at a time right now. The Manager of the Month curse seems to have been set with a long fuse, after Harrogate dodged a bullet and snatched all three points against the U’s last Saturday. But it completely blew up in their face midweek as Mansfield battered them 9-2 – a record league win for the Scabs. And that there is the story, take your chances and you’ll be okay, don’t and you usually won’t be.


The world outside U’s World
Opposition leader and outspoken critic of Vladimir Putin and his authoritarian regime, Alexei Navalny, has died in a Siberian gulag, serving time on various trumped up charges brought by the Russian judiciary system, and obviously at the behest of Putin. Whilst this probably doesn’t come as much of a surprise to anyone, it does underline in a perverse way just how tenuous Putin’s grip on power must be, that he feels the need to murder an imprisoned opponent. Russia has a long history of ‘disappearing’ leaders when the mood takes them, and Putin’s disastrous war in Ukraine probably doesn’t help him sleep easy in his bed. The Russian state’s repeated attempts to keep Navalny silent and deny him his political voice are numerous and transparent, including poisoning him with Novichok in 2020, so it looks like they’ve finally succeeded.

Across the pond, Donald Trump’s legal and financial woes just keep mounting. Trump and his two sons had already been found guilty of massive and systematic fraud, vastly inflating his wealth in financial statements to get preferential loans, whilst significantly under-inflating the figures when it came to property tax etc. The big question was what would be the fine that Judge Arthur Engoron handed down in the case brought by New York Attorney General Letitia James? On Friday we found out - $350 million, which with interest accrued is now already $464 million. Add to that the two fines imposed in the E Jean Carroll cases, and Trump is in the hole for a whopping $551 million – and none of it he can dismiss if he were to become president.

Engoron also ruled that Trump cannot conduct business in New York State for three years, and two years for sons Eric and Don Jr. Trump has already appealed the first E Jean Carroll decision and handed the $5 million dollar fine as collateral. If he wants to appeal the other two, he has to do the same, so some way or another he’s going to have to find a small fortune that most commentators don’t think he actually has – at least not without liquidating assets. And he’s sitting on a ticking time bomb too – every week that goes by, the interest accrued (and that he’s therefore liable for) clicks up by another $1 million.

Something that our gallic U’sualites might appreciate, the residents of Seine-Port village in France have voted to restrict the use of smartphones in public. People are no longer allowed to scroll through their devices in the street, in shops, restaurants or parks, even at school gates collecting their children. However, there’s no actually penalty for doing so, it’s more of a public health service announcement really. The mayor commented that phone addiction was a “public health problem…we have to help them”. Anyone reading this blog on their device – shame on you 😊!

…and finally, in a fitting tribute from a classy football club to a classy man, Liverpool FC have announced that Sven-Göran Eriksson will form part of the management team for a “Legends” game to be played at Anfield on 23rd March. Former England manager Eriksson sadly has terminal cancer, and Liverpool’s announcement follows an interview with Eriksson in which he stated that he had always wanted the opportunity to manage Liverpool. God-willing, Eriksson will be in the dugout on 23rd March to realise his dying wish.

Bravo Liverpool, Bravo!

U’s World
Further questions have been raised throughout social media about the quality (or lack of) of the JobServe playing surface, following the late postponement of the Grimsby game on Tuesday night. Never a particularly well-draining part of town up there, and with the incessant rain that the area has been receiving in recent weeks, the ground was literally saturated and simply couldn’t cope with yet one more downpour on matchday.

From the pictures I’ve seen, it clearly was the right call, but very hard on supporters already on their way to or even at the ground – particularly the Grimsby Town supporters. It remains to be seen what, if anything, will be done about the drainage issues during the close-season, and whether after the departure of long-term groundsman Dave Blacknall, the club will now invest in a full-time replacement.

In a move designed to get him some sustained game-time, talented attacking midfielder Chay Cooper has gone out on a short-term loan deal to National League side Hartlepool. Despite strong competition in midfield, Chay has still made 15 appearances and scored three goals for the U’s this season, even though most of these were from the bench. It’s probably no coincide that he goes to the side where he scored an absolute belter for his first ever professional goal back in 2022.

Always worth watching again.

The EFL and official match ball sponsors PUMA are marking LGBTQ+ History Month by releasing the very first Rainbow match ball, which will be in use today at the JobServe. Putting their money where their mouth is, for every goal that is scored across all three EFL divisions using the Rainbow ball, PUMA will make a donation to an LGBTQ+ Fans for Diversity fund. Whilst numerous wags have commented to the effect of “hope it floats”, it has of course prompted a small minority of gammons, seemingly threatened by colours on a ball and what they represent, to get their knickers in a right old twist…


Match of the Day
Bristol Rovers v Colchester United
27th February 2010
Coca-Cola Football League One (Tier 3)
Attendance 6,023

No programme, just the usual calendar entry

Match of the Day for KMB21, and the random memorabilia match selector has gone back almost exactly fourteen years, and the U’s visit to Bristol Rovers’ Memorial Stadium when we were both plying our trade in League 1. Em was working a double shift at Odstock on the day, so an opportunity for Dad and Alfie to have an awayday on the train. Fortunately, living in Warminster at the time, this was always going to be one of our easier trips that season. By coincidence, our previous match against Brentford had also been postponed, also a Tuesday night home game, also called off at short notice, and also for a waterlogged pitch – and this was at the billiard-table surface that was Layer Road. Mind you, Magnus Okuonghae wasn’t complaining, as it gave him a few more days to recover from a shoulder injury picked up in training.

Following a tumultuous start to the season (i.e. Norwich, Lambert, Dunne etc.), Aidy Boothroyd had been appointed as the new U’s manager on 2nd September. Since then he’d kept the U’s right in the promotion mix, and we went into this game in 3rd place, on a five game unbeaten run, and very much considered favourites against a Bristol Rovers side managed by Paul Trollope who still had strong promotion ambitions of their own.

With Magnus regaining sufficient fitness to make it to the bench, Aidy’s U’s lined up:

1….Ben Williams
21..Danny Batth (20. Kevin Lisbie 89’)
23..Marc Tierney
25..John White
28..Matt Heath
31..Phil Ifil (7. Ashley Vincent 71’)
8….John-Joe O'Toole
22..Anthony Wordsworth
26..David Prutton
9….Clive Platt (captain)
18..Steven Gillespie (15. Kayode Odejayi 71’)

In the opening exchanges the U’s were living up to their billing as favourites, with neat passing moves mostly originating from Marc Tierney at the back causing the Gas problems, and a decent following from Essex expecting great things. Rovers keeper Mikkel Andersen did well to palm away Gillespie’s header, and injury-prone Gillespie should have buried a cross from Ifil, only to fire it into the side-netting.

Still, the signs were good, so it came as a bit of surprise when Bristol Rovers opened the scoring on 16 minutes. Heffernan laid the ball off to Dominic Blizzard, who let fly from all of 30 yards. I thought Ben Williams should have done better, but he failed to get a hand to the long-range effort, and it flew into the net to give the Gas an ill-deserved 1-0 lead.

Fortunately though, it didn’t stay that way for long, and after five more minutes we were level again. From a Marc Tierney throw-in, Phil Ifil’s speculative effort certainly looked to be going wide, but for ‘headband hero’ JJ O’Toole, who managed to get his aforementioned headbanded head to the shot, glance it past a helpless Andersen and into the net. This was JJ’s first goal for the U’s since he converted his loan spell into a permanent move in January, and didn’t we celebrate it.

The remainder of the first half was much more even encounter, with Rovers growing into the game. Decent chances for both sides could have been converted, with Heffernan shooting wide when well-placed, and Gillespie guilty again when he failed to convert a good pass from Prutton, so we had to be content with 1-1 to go with our pasty and Bovril half-time. Plenty to play for though second half.

Again the U’s started strongly, with Rovers very much reliant on breakaways as their main threat for the opening 20 minutes or so, but that threat was always there, and the U’s had to be alert to it. Sadly, one momentary lapse in concentration on 67 minutes wiped out all of our concentration up to that point. Stuart Campbell had already fired a warning shot, shooting narrowly wide, and a minute or so later Heffernan flicked the ball into the area, the U’s defence were caught napping, and in came Jo Kuffour to finish past Williams from close range.

As intensely frustrating as it was, still the U’s came back, showing they had the ability to get something from the game, and Andersen did exceptionally well to prevent Clive Platt from immediately bringing the score level again. Throwing caution to the wind, Boothroyd bought on strikers Kayode Odejayi and Ashley Vincent to try and rescue something from the game, sacrificing Ifil and Gillespie in the process.

It looked like it might work too, with the U’s throwing the kitchen sink at Bristol Rovers – but wouldn’t you know it, for all of our dominance, it was the Pirates who would deliver the hammer blow. With barely ten minutes to go Kuffour managed to hook the ball back into the area when it seemed destined to be a U’s goal kick, and with the defence napping again, there was Chris Lines to finish from close range to give Rovers a seemingly unassailable 3-1 lead.

Still the U’s came back though, and after Andersen did well to keep out another Platt effort, Odejayi was unlucky to see his follow-up effort hit the post. So close, but in the final minute we went closer, with Odejayi finally blasting home from a Platt lay-off. Roared on by the travelling faithful, and with Kevin Lisbie coming on for the final seconds, we laid siege to the Rovers goal in added time, but just couldn’t find the equaliser that our performance deserved.

Bristol Rovers 3 (Blizzard 16’; Kuffour 67’; Lines 79’) Colchester United 2 (O’Toole 21’; Odejayi 89’)

In his post-match interview, Aidy Boothroyd’s disappointment was palpable, quite rightly highlighting our lack of concentration in defence and failure to take chances in attack the cause of our downfall. Aidy said “I can’t remember being as annoyed as I am since I’ve been here. People talk about football in great detail but it’s what you do in the two boxes that really counts”.

What he didn’t know at the time, none of us did, was the Memorial Stadium defeat would herald a terrible drop in form for the U’s. We would win just two more games all season, and whilst on paper an 8th place finish might not have looked too bad, in reality it was a disaster. As a result, and although this would turn out to be our best league finish since relegation from the Championship, no one (I certainly wasn’t) was too bothered when Boothroyd moved on to Coventry in the summer.

Since this encounter, whilst the U’s would be relegated to League 2 just the once six years later, Bristol Rovers would slip all the way down into non-league, back up to League 1, back down to League 2 and last season back up to League 1 again. Who said following a lower league football club could be boring…

Up the U’s!
The Cowley's five games in
at 19:59 12 Feb 2024

So here's my not very scientific view on the first five games, measured against some pretty basic criteria.

No doubt some will disagree with my highly subjective assessments on a match by match basis, and I have no doubt the Cowley's are all over this anyway (this isn't meant as a criticism btw). However, only once have we dominated the first half, we're generally much better in the second half. Three times out of five it could be argued we've taken at least some of our chances, and likewise shut the opposition out in the final few minutes. Worryingly, for four out of the five we've had to come from behind, albeit in three of those games we did at least rescue a point.

The Cowley's will be demanding five out of five, will we see that tomorrow night?
Knees-up Mother Brown #20
at 14:09 11 Feb 2024

Bill Shankly once said that form is temporary, class is permanent. He was of course correct, but let’s hope never more so than today’s visit to Wetherby Road to take on the form side of League 2, Harrogate Town. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to say the Sulfurites have defied the expectations of most pundits, many tipping them to be in another relegation scrap this season. But, long-standing manager (and former player) Simon Weaver has turned things around, and they currently sit just two places and two points outside the play-offs. Weaver was rightly awarded the Sky Bet League 2 Manager of the Month for January – hope he looks after it, because it’ll be Danny’s soon.
Knees-up Mother Brown #20
at 14:08 10 Feb 2024

Bill Shankly once said that form is temporary, class is permanent. He was of course correct, but let’s hope never more so than today’s visit to Wetherby Road to take on the form side of League 2, Harrogate Town. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to say the Sulfurites have defied the expectations of most pundits, many tipping them to be in another relegation scrap this season. But, long-standing manager (and former player) Simon Weaver has turned things around, and they currently sit just two places and two points outside the play-offs. Weaver was rightly awarded the Sky Bet League 2 Manager of the Month for January – hope he looks after it, because it’ll be Danny’s soon.

”Oh Mr Weaver…don’t forget your complimentary curse as well…”

The world outside U’s World
I recall mentioning this several years ago in a previous blog, but it is worth highlighting that a power-sharing devolved government has finally returned to Northern Ireland after nearly two years of impasse. The DUP has finally ended their long-standing boycott in protest at the British Government’s Brexit agreement, ratifying the “Windsor Framework” and thus signing in Sinn Féin's Michelle O'Neill as the first Irish nationalist First Minister – a move that would have been unthinkable for the DUP until recently. The move unlocks a much needed £3.3 billion in UK government funding and allows the region to benefit from its unique position with direct access to both the UK and EU markets.

The net closes in on Donald Trump, with a federal appeals court in the DC circuit denying his claim for absolute presidential immunity from 91 indictments he’s currently facing. They didn’t just deny it either, they categorically and systematically tore apart all his ludicrous grounds for immunity in a ruling that won’t be easy reading for Trump and his legal team. In a unanimous verdict, the three-judge panel (two democrat, one republican) wrote “We cannot accept former President Trump’s claim that a President has unbounded authority to commit crimes that would neutralize the most fundamental check on executive power…We cannot accept that the office of the Presidency places its former occupants above the law for all time thereafter”. Trump has until Monday to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court, but if you’ll pardon the pun, the jury is out on whether they’ll even take the case, given they’ve already declined the opportunity once already.

With the Six Nations in full swing, a report by academics that claim children’s rugby could be considered a form of child abuse is no doubt going to get many hot under the collar, and certainly divide opinion. The Times reports that the experts conclude that given the high risk of concussive injuries to developing children, the game should effectively be banned among under-18s. Eric Anderson, a professor of sport at Winchester University went as far as to state “cultural perception is that striking a child outside sport is abuse…striking a child in sport is somehow socially acceptable”. There have already been many who are denouncing the report, not least former England international Will Greenwood. In a Telegraph article, Greenwood admitted that in the past young players were not protected as much as they should have been, but those days were “long gone”, and choosing a somewhat unfortunate metaphor, “so there’s no need to throw the baby out with the bath water”.

U’s World
It was good to see during the week a couple of our younger players going out on one month loans – Frankie Terry goes to South Essex side Aveley FC, whilst Ronnie Nelson travels a little further, all the way down to the English Riviera at Torquay United. Both Aveley and Torquay sit just outside the National League South play-offs, and whilst I bear Aveley no ill will whatsoever, it would be nice to see Torquay (along with table-topping Yeovil Town) at least get back to the National League level.

Slightly higher up the first team pecking order, now that Al-Amin Kazeem has recovered from injury, he too has gone out on loan for the rest of the season, playing for League of Ireland Premier Division side Galway United. Their league kicks off next week, and I expect Al-Amin will go straight into the starting XI. Good luck to all our loanees, I’m sure you’ll do us proud.

Two managerial appointments to also mention, Lorenzo Dolcetti joins as First Team Analyst, reuniting with Danny and Nicky following time together when they were all at Pompey, and Simon King taking over as the Head Coach for the rampant Colchester United Women’s team. As has been mentioned elsewhere already, Lorenzo is son to Aldo, now Assistant Manager at Juventus and a former Serie A footballer. Speculation that this might be a useful connection for the club has been inevitable – I could cope with the idea of Colchester United being a nursery for Juventus if I’m honest.

The U’s Women’s game at Stones Ladies was postponed last Sunday as the opposition couldn’t field a team, and with second place Sudbury Sports Women only drawing their game in hand at Barking Women Reserves, the U’s are now seven points clear at the top. Simon King’s first game in charge tomorrow will be a bit of a baptism of fire, at third place Premier League side Romford Ladies in the League Cup. Still, with the ladies seemingly unstoppable in their bid for immediate promotion, it will be a useful measure to see how they compare against one of the top women’s sides in the county.

…and finally, and deservedly, Arthur Read’s sublime free-kick at Morecambe has not only won the Colchester United Goal of the Month, but it also made the shortlist for the Sky Bet League 2 Goal of the Month competition too. Ready has already won the November award, for his superb solo effort goal against Sutton United, and whilst he’s facing some tough opposition this time around, no reason why he couldn’t pick up another trophy for his cabinet. Voting closes at 5pm on Monday 12th, and the link is below if you haven’t yet voted.

Always worth another watch, a goal that even Platini would be proud of

Match of the Day
Peterborough United v Colchester United
25th March 2005
Coca-Cola Football League One (Tier 3)
Attendance 4,084

Match of the Day for KMB20, and the random memorabilia match selector has selected another of my collection of U’sual fanzines, this one for March 2005. As a result, I’ve just chosen a U’s game from that month, and what better than our Good Friday visit to London Road to face auld enemy Peterborough United. The fanzine, as ever, is an entertaining read, Blackpool and Blackburn (the “Aidan divot” incident) awayday recollections from Geoffrey Squire, an update on the Cuckoo Farm stadium campaign, and a Q&A with Pat ‘Rio’ Baldwin. Daniel was even gracious enough to include my own “MK No Way” piece – a take on the recent formation of MK Dons, and the demise of Wimbledon Football Club as a result.

I’m pretty certain I wasn’t at London Road for this game, or if I was, I certainly can’t remember it, so today’s Match of the Day will have to rely entirely on what I can glean from t’internet. I don’t know exactly when the U’sual #10 was published, but given it highlights our upcoming U18 game against Ipswich in the FA Youth Cup, it must have been before 16th of March, so there’s nothing in there I can rely on for the Posh match. Incidentally, another factoid about the game was that it was refereed by Uriah Rennie, a regular Premier League referee, and the first black referee to officiate a Premier league game.

This was Phil Parkinson’s first full season in charge of the U’s, and after a thorough clear out in the summer, a much-changed U’s had started the season strongly. By mid-October we were still in the play-offs, but a dip in form from there saw the U’s slip alarmingly down the table. Never quite so much that there were genuine concerns about relegation, but certainly getting a little too close for comfort when you start to look for the point that you’re mathematically safe. However, a draw at Port Vale, win at Stockport and draw at home to Sheff Wed leading up to this game had calmed a few nerves, with Parky naming the following line-up for the London Road visit.

1….Aidan Davison
2….Greg Halford
4….Gavin Johnson (23. John White 45’)
5….Wayne Brown (captain)
6….Kevin Watson
9….Marino Keith
26..Neil Danns (8. Gareth Williams 85’)
12..Pat Baldwin
18..Liam Chilvers
20..Marc Goodfellow (14. Stephen Hunt 80’)
25..Sam Stockley

Peterborough United, with Barry Fry as manager, were having a terrible season, coming into this game with just two wins in the last four months, and already looking a dead certainty for relegation. Parky’s U’s would have been cautiously optimistic, but as we all know, London Road is never an easy place to visit. Plus, and whilst good news financially, the sale of leading goal-scorer Craig Fagan at the end of February was also a massive disappointment, with great expectations placed on the shoulders of incoming Marino Keith to fill the goal-scoring gap.

Considering Peterborough’s perilous position, most of the first half was a cagey tense affair, with neither side gaining complete control, and precious little to get a fairly poor attendance of just over 4,000 excited about. That is until just before half-time, when Sam Stockley caught a perfect volley that Mark Tyler did will to fingertip it over his bar. Kevin Watson whipped in one of his trademark corner kicks which was only partially cleared, and there was loanee Marc Goodfellow on the edge of the box to drill home through a forest of legs to give the U’s a 1-0 lead, and his first goal in a U’s shirt.

Peterborough had posed little threat going forward for most of the first half, so Barry Fry was forced to change things around for the second half, bringing on Wayne Purser and Mark Coulson for Ryan Semple and Craig Ireland. Parky also chose to make a change, withdrawing Gavin Johnson for the ever-dependable John White, to put a bit more steel into the defence. Golden rule, if you’re going to struggle to score, just make sure you don’t concede first.

With a 1-0 lead and still little if any threat from Posh, the second half started reasonably comfortably for the U’s. The Posh defence weren’t having a good day, and on 70 minutes another poor clearance went straight to Sam Stockley. This time Sam had the vision to slip the ball through to Neil Danns, who made no mistake from close range to give the U’s a comfortable two goal cushion. The U’s control continued, and Goodfellow was unlucky not to get second a few minutes later, with an effort that went just wide with Tyler beaten.

Throwing caution to the wind, Barry Fry brought on towering Nigerian striker Fola Onibuje with just under 15 minutes to go. 6’ 5” in his socks, but in truth he rarely threatened Aidan’s goal. With ten minutes to go Goodfellow had run his race and was replaced by Stephen Hunt to batten down the hatches and make sure we left London Road with the points we deserved.

We needn’t have worried though, as three minutes later Uriah Rennie pointed to the spot for the U’s. I can’t find who fouled who, or what caused the incident, but what I do know is that Marino Keith made no mistake from the spot, and the U’s easily saw out the remaining minutes for a surprisingly comfortable 3-0 win at Peterborough United.

Peterborough United 0 Colchester United 3 (Goodfellow 45’; Danns 70’; Keith 83’p)

The win, and a fourth game unbeaten, effectively ensured we were mathematically safe from relegation. In fact, going unbeaten from there through to the end of the season, a run of 11 consecutive games, saw the U’s finish in 15th place. Plenty therefore to be optimistic about for the upcoming 2005/06 season.

Peterborough were indeed relegated, alongside Torquay, Wrexham and Stockport County. When you consider the other three all ended up in non-league, I suppose Posh can consider themselves fortunate they didn’t suffer the same fate?

Marc Goodfellow rejoined his parent club Bristol City at the end of the season, his goal at London Road his only one whilst with us.

Up the U’s!
Prediction Logged by at 10:11:50
Harrogate Town v Colchester United prediction logged
Knees-up Mother Brown #19
at 14:18 4 Feb 2024

February, and the U’s enter the most pivotal month of the season. Six games in just four weeks, with four of them against sides also in the bottom six. By March we should be either well clear of danger, or even deeper in the sh*t. With Danny Cowley’s U’s still unbeaten, and looking stronger game on game, I’m sure it’ll be the former, but first we have to do our bit to consign Steve ‘Sour Grapes’ Cotterill’s FGR back to non-league. After our shambolic 5-0 defeat at New Lawn, nothing would give me greater pleasure, even if it meant losing one of my closest awaydays in the process. What’s the excuse going to be today Steve – shocking pitch, faking head injuries, Mexican banditry or some other bit of sour-grapery bullsh*t?
Knees-up Mother Brown #19
at 14:17 3 Feb 2024

February, and the U’s enter the most pivotal month of the season. Six games in just four weeks, with four of them against sides also in the bottom six. By March we should be either well clear of danger, or even deeper in the sh*t. With Danny Cowley’s U’s still unbeaten, and looking stronger game on game, I’m sure it’ll be the former, but first we have to do our bit to consign Steve ‘Sour Grapes’ Cotterill’s FGR back to non-league. After our shambolic 5-0 defeat at New Lawn, nothing would give me greater pleasure, even if it meant losing one of my closest awaydays in the process. What’s the excuse going to be today Steve – shocking pitch, faking head injuries, Mexican banditry or some other bit of sour-grapery bullsh*t?

The world outside U’s World
In Gaza there is renewed hope for a ceasefire and hostage exchange, with Majed al-Ansari, Qatar’s foreign ministry spokesperson confirming “both sides have agreed to the substance that could guide the coming humanitarian ceasefire and we hope it will be concluded within weeks”. The deal on the table is reported to comprise the return of all remaining hostages in exchange for a 40-day ceasefire. Although Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu has always maintained the war cannot end without Hamas removed from power, he is coming under increasing pressure, particularly from the US, to reconsider his tactics to bring the war (and appalling civilian casualties) to an end.

The MAGA republican party is never too far from institutional misogyny, so when the news broke that music juggernaut Taylor Swift’s endorsement was being courted by the Biden campaign, you can imagine the meltdown it caused. They are understandably fearful of the tremendous influence she has with an estimated 272 million followers, given when she encouraged her fans to register to vote back in September, 35,000 new registrations appeared literally overnight. Their conspiracy theories have been off the charts as a result, including that Taylor Swift is a Pentagon psy-op “asset”, put there to first rig the Super Bowl (her boyfriend Travis Kelce plays for Super Bowl finalists Kansas City Chiefs), before then endorsing Biden to “steal” the presidential election.

Rishi Sunak is facing a plot from within his inner sanctum to remove him ahead of the next General Election, with a poll allegedly financed by anonymous Tory donors, indicating it will be a labour landslide as things stand. Although Business Secretary Kemi Badenoch, widely tipped as a likely successor to Sunak, urged colleagues to “stop messing around” and back the PM, it was later reported that she herself was a member of a WhatsApp group called “Evil Plotters”. However, John Rentoul in the Independent reported “if it was a serious attempt to dislodge the PM, it was an unusually cackhanded one”. Their cunning plan was a poll that asked respondents if they'd prefer Labour's Keir Starmer or an "imaginary" new Tory PM who'd cut taxes, get NHS waiting lists down, and tackle the small boats crisis. Not a lot of wriggle room in that for alternative options…

U’s World
Although they knew they were already out of the Premier League Cup competition, the U21s put on a fantastic performance yesterday evening to win 2-0 at Kenilworth Road. Both goals came in the first half, a sensational strike from Chay Cooper on 28 minutes, followed by an injury time second from Hakeem Sandah showing excellent ball control to drill a half-volley through the hands of Hatters goalkeeper and Welsh U19 international Oliver Camis. Annoyingly, I only discovered the match was broadcast live on the Luton Town YouTube channel this morning – shame, I probably would have watched that.

The transfer window closed yesterday, with everyone breathing a huge sigh of relief that there were no more departures, apart of course for Ross Embleton. Much has already been said here and elsewhere about the unexpected announcement that he will leave the U’s later this month “taking up an opportunity that he wants to do”. U’s Sporting Director Dmitri Halajko was quick to express his disappointment about the decision (not in Ross), setting out just how much more than just Head of Recruitment Ross has contributed to the U’s in his time at the club. That included of course his spell as caretaker Head Coach during the transition from Matt Bloomfield to Ben Garner. Dmitri also confirmed the club were already looking for “a quality replacement…as soon as possible”.

Thanks and best wishes for the future Ross

Colchester United Women’s dominance in the Essex County Women’s Division 2 continues, following a thumping 10-1 home win over 5th place Hedingham United Ladies last Sunday. The U’s have won all ten of their league games and are currently 8pts clear at the top with a +73 goal difference. Tomorrow, they travel to 4th place Stones Ladies, who are based in Ingatestone, which will be their first match of the second half of the season. It will come as little surprise that four of the five top goal scorers are U’s, with Ruby Greenleaf top of the group with 18 goals from just seven appearances.

It was great to see the club include U’s Women midfielder Jamie Newstead, along with Conor Hall, in an interview with Mid & North East Essex Mind CEO Ginny Idehen last week. In combination with the club and Workhorse Generation, this is part of a new campaign to encourage Colchester United supporters to start a conversation about mental health. Expect to see plenty of activities around this taking place at the JobServe this afternoon, as well as food and clothes bank collection points as part of a combined Colchester United and Forest Green Rovers contribution towards Green Football Weekend. All donations will be split 50:50 between the two clubs, and then redistributed to those most in need via local food banks.

Match of the Day
Wycombe Wanderers v Colchester United
5th May 2001
Nationwide Football League Second Division (Tier 3)
Attendance 7,516

I only have a calendar entry for this one, so am indebted to ColUData for the programme cover

Match of the Day for KMB19, and the random memorabilia match selector goes back to the final day of the 2000/01 season and an always anticipated visit to Adams Park to face Wycombe Wanderers. Certainly one of the odder rivalries in English Football (100 miles or so apart by road), and I was reminded by a couple of Swindon fans of another one in the recent visit to the County Ground, the curious tale of the Swindon Town and Gillingham rivalry (131 miles apart by road).

The origin of that rivalry goes way back to 1979, and a fractious encounter at the Priestfield Stadium in March of that year. Swindon captain Ray McHale had been instrumental in winding up the Gillingham players and supporters alike all game. His persistent fouling eventually invoked a torrent of abuse from Gills’ Danny Westwood, who was astonished to promptly receive a red card from David Hutchinson for dissent. Tempers continued to flare on and off the pitch, which finished a fractious 2-2, including the referee being confronted on the pitch by a home supporter.

Danny Westwood’s red card

The return fixture, exactly 22 years before this Match of the Day, on 5th May 1979 was even more heated. Keen to see some retribution, McHale was the target for some ‘agricultural’ challenges all game, eventually resulting in a second yellow and red card for Gillingham player Terry Nichols. Gills boss Gerry Summers thought McHale had made a meal of an innocuous challenge, but then I suppose he would. Swindon won 3-1, but things really boiled over in the tunnel at the end of the game. Gills pair Ken Price and Dean White were arrested and charged with assault following the free-for-all and given conditional discharges in court. Things haven’t been right between the two sides since.

I was living in Salisbury at the time of the Wycombe game, so travelled up on the train for this one, to join an estimated 7-800 hundred to add to what would be Wycombe’s record attendance that season. Although any hope of the play-offs had perished several months earlier, and threat of relegation finally vanquished during April, we did have the target of our highest Second Division placing since promotion to aim for. Not that the vociferous U’s support needed any encouragement, this was after all, Wycombe Wanderers.

This was Steve Whitton’s first full season in charge, and for the final time that season lined the U’s up as follows:

29..Andy Woodman
19..Alan White
4….Gavin Johnson
5….Ross Johnson
2….Joe Dunne
20..Micky Stockwell (27. Dean Morgan 47’)
14..Chris Keeble (3. Joe Keith 80’)
15..Thomas Pinault
10..Steve McGavin (7. Karl Duguid 84’)
9….Scott McGleish
6….Simon Clark

The Chairboys were managed by Lawrie Sanchez back then, and like the U’s were playing out the season safe from either relegation or promotion. Their line-up included many of the names we’ve grown to know and hate – Steve Brown, Keith Ryan, Dannie Bulman, even Ceefax-man Roy Essandoh. Remarkable to think that Danny Bulman would still be playing and score Crawley’s consolation League Cup goal so recently.

For a game with nothing too much to play for, clearly nobody told the U’s, who started like a train and constantly battered Wycombe all game. Youngsters Pinault with his aggressive tenacious play and deft touches and Keeble’s probing runs, were both putting in fantastic performances, and McGavin and McGleish weren’t doing too bad either, for old lads. Andy Woodman was a virtual spectator all game, the only issue being that we were creating chance after chance, but just didn’t seem able to put one away. In just the first half, Mick Stockwell, McGavin (twice), McGleish and Keeble all went close, but despite the dominance it was somehow still 0-0 at half-time.

Sometimes my memory of what happened during which particular trip to Adams Park gets hazy, probably not surprising given I’ve been there so many times, and alcohol is often involved. However, it was either this visit or the year after when an enterprising lad decided to exercise his initiative and use the ladies loo rather than wait in the long queue for the men’s. The tongue-lashing he received when he emerged from one of our better known female supporters was hilarious – well, to everyone else at least.

Following an injury to ever-present Micky Stockwell, Deam Morgan came on just two minutes into the second half, which was the catalyst for finally breaking the deadlock. Four minutes later, with Steve McGavin’s initial free-kick cleared, Dean Morgan picked up the loose ball and pinged it straight back into the penalty area. Who else but spring-heeled McGleish would rise highest to drill a powerful header into the top corner of the net and send the away stand into raptures.

The U’s were rampant on and off the pitch, and how we didn’t extend our lead is beyond me. Not forgetting also, this was against the same Wycombe Wanderers side who had given Liverpool such a tough game in the FA Cup semi-final just a few weeks earlier. Perhaps they were already on the beach, or maybe the U’s were even better than Liverpool that afternoon?

But, you fail to take your chances at your peril, and wouldn’t you know it, in a rare foray up field Wycombe veteran Keith Ryan managed to get his toe to a loose ball in the box and poke home an ill-deserved equaliser for the Chairboys. Did that change the course of the game? Did it heck as like – the U’s resumed their dominance, and in the 79th minute looked certain to regain their lead.

With a defence splitting pass, McGleish put Keeble through on goal with only keeper Martin Taylor to beat. We were already celebrating our second when Keeble crumpled in a heap with no one near him, and a grateful Taylor gathered up the loose ball. Post-match Keeble reported that he’d experienced a stabbing sensation in his calf and was certain he’d been kicked from behind for a certain penalty; “I was so certain I had been fouled I even asked the referee who kicked me”.

Despite all of their dominance, in a match we should have won by three or four goals, it was Wycombe who went closest to breaking the deadlock in the final few minutes. A decent Chris Vinnicombe free-kick was deflected just wide for a corner, a Ross Johnson last ditch tackle denied Essandoh, and it took a fantastic diving save from Woody in injury-time to keep out a Michael Simpson effort.

Wycombe Wanderers 1 (Ryan 70’) Colchester United 1 (McGleish 51’)

Post-match the U’s supporters were kept back in the ground for ten minutes or so, which led to some fractious exchanges with police and stewards, and quite a bit of damage from what I could see to the exit gates. The U’s had finished in 17th place, two points behind Wycombe. Although it was frustrating to learn that with all three points the U’s would have finished in 12th place, this was still our best finish in the league since promotion.

This would be Steve McGavin’s last game in a U’s shirt, but he would continue his playing career for another five years in non-league at Dagenham & Redbridge, Harwich & Parkeston (including a brief spell as player-manager), Stanway Rovers, Clacton Town and Bury Town. Following retirement, he returned to the U’s for a while both in the commercial department and coaching at youth level, followed by spells at Ipswich, Norwich and Aston Villa as Head of Academy Recruitment. Steve’s son Brett currently plays for Torquay United.

Up the U’s!
Prediction Logged by at 08:49:01
Colchester United v Forest Green Rovers prediction logged
Sutton away 24th Feb
at 19:01 30 Jan 2024

Mindful that Sutton play their last game in hand tonight at home to Harrogate (Come on the Betty's!), just a heads-up that the line to West Sutton station right next to their ground appears to be closed on 24th Feb, presumably for engineering works? You can still get to the main Sutton station though, which is only just over a mile from the ground.
Knees-up Mother Brown #18
at 14:17 28 Jan 2024

It’s the last Saturday of January, and thanks to a succession of games either not on a Saturday, postponed because of the weather, or me actually being there, this is only the second blog of the New Year. The upside of all that is that Danny and Nicky Cowley have had a full two weeks to continue to work on both the physical and mental agility/ resilience of the U’s squad. It will be interesting to see how they get on against a Morecambe side unbeaten in the league so far this year, their only defeat a 2-0 loss in the FA Cup against Championship side Swansea City. With a game in hand over most above them, and only six points below 7th place, the Shrimps will probably think they still have an outside chance of making the play-offs. I sincerely doubt it, but we’d willingly swap places if we had the chance.
Prediction Logged by at 14:35:31
Morecambe v Colchester United prediction logged
Knees-up Mother Brown #18
at 14:17 27 Jan 2024

It’s the last Saturday of January, and thanks to a succession of games either not on a Saturday, postponed because of the weather, or me actually being there, this is only the second blog of the New Year. The upside of all that is that Danny and Nicky Cowley have had a full two weeks to continue to work on both the physical and mental agility/ resilience of the U’s squad. It will be interesting to see how they get on against a Morecambe side unbeaten in the league so far this year, their only defeat a 2-0 loss in the FA Cup against Championship side Swansea City. With a game in hand over most above them, and only six points below 7th place, the Shrimps will probably think they still have an outside chance of making the play-offs. I sincerely doubt it, but we’d willingly swap places if we had the chance.

The world outside U’s World
Well, what can I say. In the second E Jean Carroll defamation case (albeit, this one was always referred to as E Jean Carroll #1), a jury of his peers has found Donald J Trump liable for again defaming the woman he raped, and has been handed down a whopping fine of $83.3m. This comprises $11m for a reputational repair program, $7.3m in other compensatory damages, and $65m as punitive damages (that’s the “shut the f’ck up” bit). Ms Carroll was suing for $10m. But let’s look at the bigger picture here – the frontrunner and almost certain Republican nominee for the presidential election in November, supported/ endorsed in lockstep by the vast majority of Republican representatives, is a convicted rapist.

Just let that sink in…

Equally disturbing on this side of the pond, the British Post Office Scandal continues to uncover more deeply concerning revelations. Back in 1995 social security minister Peter Lilley announced at the Conservative Party conference that a new computerised system would be installed, primarily to reduce benefit fraud by £150m per year. The PFI contract was awarded to ICL Pathway (a company owned by Fujitsu), and following multiple delays and soaring costs, the Post Office finally began rolling out the Horizon IT software system in 1999.

Some may be unaware, but subpostmasters who run branch post offices are self-employed and are contracted to the Post Office to fulfil that role. Within weeks of the roll-out, subpostmasters were reporting balancing errors in the software to the Horizon helpline. The Post Office, however, convinced their shiny new software system was perfect in every degree, thought differently, insisting that subpostmasters make up any shortfall themselves, and even charging some with fraud. Between 1999 and 2015 about 900 subpostmasters were charged, with 700 or so actually convicted.

This was despite Computer Weekly breaking the news in May 2009 about problems with the Horizon software, and in September 2009 subpostmaster Alan Bates set up the Justice for Subpostmasters Alliance (JFSA). With pressure mounting, in 2012 the Post Office reluctantly appointed a forensic accounting team from Second Sight to investigate the Horizon software. Second Sight issued an Interim Report in July 2013, a Part 1 Briefing Report in July 2014, a Part 2 Briefing Report in August 2014, and an updated Part 2 Briefing Report in April 2015.

All of these reports concluded that there were indeed faults in the Horizon system that could result in accounting discrepancies. The Post Office suppressed the reports, insisted there were no problems with the system, and continued their prosecutions. The latest revelation, which came out just last week, is that the Post Office secretly decided to sack Second Sight in April 2014 (several months before their first Briefing Report was finished) because of their findings, a decision codenamed “Project Sparrow”, and a decision that government ministers were allegedly briefed on.

In 2017 a group of 555 subpostmasters, led by Bates, brought a High Court group action against the Post Office. The trial took two years to complete, with the judge eventually ruling that the subpostmasters’ Post Office contracts were unfair and the Horizon software did contain bugs, errors and defects. Details of Project Sparrow were withheld from the claimants during the trial. The case was settled out of court for £58m, which after legal costs left the subpostmasters with on average about £20k each. The government later agreed to ‘top up’ these damages by an unspecified amount, and in February 2020 announced it would set up an (ongoing) independent inquiry.

Courts began to quash convictions from December 2020 onwards, but as of this month most of those wrongly convicted are still waiting to have their convictions overturned. The human cost is appalling – this tragic tale of incompetence and cover-up, rightly described by some as the biggest miscarriage of justice in UK history, has left at least four suicides, countless families torn apart and lives ruined, spiralling depression, self-harm, alcoholism and bankruptcies in it’s wake.

U’s World
Given it’s been two weeks now, there’s been quite a bit of activity going on down at the JobServe, much of which has been mentioned in Durham’s excellent matchday preview. First in the door is talented centre half Riley Harbottle, signed on loan to the end of the season from SPL side Hibs. This follows a hugely successful loan speal at Mansfield last season, making 32 appearances and scoring six goals (one against the U’s) as the Stags narrowly missed out on promotion. Riley probably could have had his pick of loan options in League 2 and possibly even League 1, so I have no doubt the Cowley factor was a big influence on his decision.

Riley’s arrival was followed by midfielder Alastair Smith, another loan to the end of the season, this time from League 1 Lincoln City (as has been suggested, maybe by way of an apology for their part in ‘poaching’ Joe Taylor?). In what is becoming a well-established pattern, Ally is another player that the Cowley’s have seen a lot of, during their time at Lincoln when Ally was playing for Mansfield, and Danny spoke very positively about his arrival in a mid-week interview.

It was sad, but not a surprise, to see Nico Lawrence’s loan cut short and return to Southampton. Clearly a very talented centre half, who undoubtedly has a bright future ahead of him, but an injury-wracked first half of the season saw only five appearances from Nico before his ankle injury in the 3-0 win at Gillingham.

On the positive side, just yesterday we signed highly-rated winger Harry Anderson on loan from League 1 Stevenage – another player the Cowley’s know well, having managed him at both Braintree and Lincoln City. Harry has seen promotions with both Lincoln City (twice) and Bristol Rovers during his football career, and has a tendency to weigh in with a fair few goals each season as well, so let’s hope for more of the same at Col U.

Good luck Riley, Ally and Harry, and best wishes Nico!

Match of the Day
Brentford v Colchester United
29th September 2001
Nationwide Football League Second Division (Tier 3)
Attendance 5,179

The rain-sodden state of the programme tells you all you need to know…

Match of the Day for KMB18 returns to the memorabilia random match generator, which has gone back to late September 2001 under Steve Whitton, and a trip to one of my favourite awaydays, Griffin Park. We’d had a pretty good start to the season under Steve Whitton, only dropping out of the play-offs the Tuesday night before this game, losing 3-0 at Stoke City. Brentford weren’t doing too badly either, level on points with the U’s and two places higher on goal difference, so I expected a decent even match.

How wrong was I…

I was living in Salisbury at the time, so it was an easy trip up to Waterloo on the train for this one, to meet up with my mate Jon at The Brook for our customary lap of the ground. It was a cold damp day, but whilst we slowly worked our way around the New Inn, Princess Royal and Griffin the rain was more or less holding off. Fingers were well and truly crossed it would remain that way too, given we were then on the customary away open terrace at the Ealing Road end of the ground.

Steve Whitton was into his third season as manager of the U’s and was establishing the team as a free-flowing passing side, easy on the eye going forward, but with an alarming tendency on occasions to ship goals at the back. Conceding 15 goals in the previous six matches in all competitions tells its own story. Steve Whitton’s U’s lined up that afternoon as follows:

29..Andy Woodman
4….Gavin Johnson
6….Simon Clark
19..Alan White
8….David Gregory
20..Micky Stockwell
10..Kem Izzet
15..Thomas Pinault
7….Karl Duguid
9….Scott McGleish
21..Kevin Rapley (16. Dean Morgan 79’)

Unfortunately, the rain that had been threatening did finally arrive not long before we took our place amongst another 6-700 U’s supporters on the Ealing Road terrace. My memory tells me the rain didn’t then let up all match – I’m sure it must have done once or twice, but if so I don’t remember it. But, once you go past a certain point, you really can’t get any wetter, so there we stood for the entire game, drenched literally to the skin.

It might have been easier if we’d had anything to cheer about but going 1-0 down after less than five minutes is not a good way to start. Under pressure in defence, Alan White brought down Republic of Ireland U21 player Ben Burgess and referee Bill Jordan had no hesitation awarding an easy but soft penalty to the Bees…and Paul Evans had no hesitation converting the chance. It should have be 2-0 shortly after that too, but we dodged a bullet when Lloyd Owusu shot straight at Andy Woodman when put clean through from a Thomas Pinault mistake on the halfway line.

It was one-way traffic, and like the rain, it was straight into our faces, so imagine our surprise (and celebrations) when out of nowhere Super Scott McGleish drew the U’s level. A superb defence-splitting pass from the previous villain Pinault put McGleish through, and his low angled drive across the goal beat the advancing Olafur Gottskalksson and nestled in the far corner of the goal. Memory serves there was even a rendition of “Singing in the Rain” from the terrace after that, but it was shortlived.

Just after the half hour mark, Burgess bagged one of his own to restore the Brentford lead, latching onto an Owusu header to drill past a helpless Woodman. Is nothing more than Brentford deserved either. A minute later, former U’s player Paul Gibbs smashed an effort against the base of the post with Woodman beaten, and Woody himself picked up an injury shortly after diving at the feet of Owusu to prevent a third.

The U’s were playing neat passing football, in fact Brentford seemed to content to let us play neat passing football, because we weren’t doing anything with it. All they had to do was wait for the eventual misplaced pass, then pounce. It was literally taking candy from a baby, and Steve Coppell’s Bees clearly had no qualms about it either. Somehow, we made it to half-time without conceding another, to enjoy some brief shelter from the deluge and a warming cup of Bovril, then back to it.

Bruised and battered, Andy Woodman continued in the second half as our last (and probably most effective) line of defence, being offered little cover by our weak defensive line. Twice more that man Owusu threatened to extend the Bees lead, but again was thwarted by Woodman. However, for all his heroics that afternoon, Woodman had to hold his hand up for the third. A regulation 35-yard free kick should have been simple for Woody, but with the dreadful conditions he somehow managed to let it squirm under his body and into the net.

It was harsh, but it had been coming, and now, at 3-1 down with less than 30 minutes to go I wondered if it would be damage limitation and park the bus time for the U’s, but not so. In fact, from our viewpoint it looked like Micky Stockwell had pulled another back for the U’s, but the linesman’s flag ruled it out for offside. Normal service was resumed shortly after, with Evans hitting the post again at the other end, before Owusu finally got the goal his performance deserved, glancing a header in from a Michael Dobson cross to give Brentford an unassailable 4-1 lead.

Not that there wasn’t some last minute controversy though. In a rare U’s attack with less than five minutes to go, the linesman flagged Izzet offside just as he was being brought down in the box by Ijah Anderson. Jordan over-ruled his linesman and awarded the penalty, whilst sending off Anderson for his second yellow card offence. It was the perfect embodiment of the day, as we stood there soaked and shivering, that McGleish blazed the penalty wide – ho hum.

Brentford 4 (Evans 5’p, 62’; Burgess 34’; Owusu 83’) Colchester United 1 (McGleish 17’)

This was the start of our slide down the table towards mid-table mediocrity, though we were never really in any serious danger of relegation. Brentford on the other hand pushed on from this and would finish top of the play-off places, and just one point away from overtaking Reading for automatic promotion. As most know, Brentford and play-offs are not happy bedfellows, and they lost the final 2-0 against Stoke City.

Three of the four pubs at Griffin Park are just about still going. The Brook was closed for a while, but was renovated by new owners in 2019, and has tried to reinvent itself as a facility for local families in the community. The new owner estimated that losing the football crowd, particularly away fans coming by train, cost the pub about £100k a year in takings, and these days they don’t even bother opening on Saturday afternoons.

The New Inn is fairing slightly better, and given it is the closest of the four to the new ground about ten minutes’ walk away, does still get some home supporters coming in out of loyalty, but precious few away fans these days. The Princess Royal closed completely, and at one point looked in danger of demolition, but was renovated by new owners and has now been converted into a centre for the Armenian Church Trust.

The Griffin is probably the only post-move success story of the four, with the pub managing to survive both the closure of Griffin Park and Covid lockdown to emerge still as a popular pre-match watering hole for supporters. The owners have the added bonus of the rugby crowd as well for every alternate weekend, with Brentford ground-sharing with London Irish.

Up the U’s!
Prediction Logged by at 08:58:57
Morecambe v Colchester United prediction logged
Knees-up Mother Brown #16
at 13:57 14 Jan 2024

After another break from blogging, with the U’s getting last Saturday off thanks to our FA Cup first round departure at Shrewsbury, not that there was too much disgrace from that particular performance, KMB15 returns. Heaven knows though, there’s been precious little to smile about in recent weeks, conceding 11 goals in the last three matches alone. Not counting when he was temporarily stood down as interim Head Coach, this is Matty Etherington’s tenth game in charge, and his future as manager is already hanging by a thread. Ironic therefore that today he goes up against his former club Crawley Town, so here’s hoping the WAGMI-owned club fold as easily as their embarrassingly worthless contract clause claim did.
Knees-up Mother Brown #17
at 13:56 13 Jan 2024

Firstly, a belated Happy New Year (and Merry Xmas even) to everyone. My self-imposed rule is to do these blogs matchday on a Saturday morning (frankly, because that’s the only time I have spare to do so), which means it has been a four week gap since our visit to the Racecourse before Christmas. There has of course been one other Saturday afternoon fixture since then, but that was last Saturday at the County Ground, and frankly I wasn’t giving up the opportunity to be there to witness Danny and Nicky’s first game in charge of the U’s – and what an awayday it was, almost perfect in every respect. Fantastic support throughout, a reinvigorated U’s playing a pressing game at every opportunity, a reborn Tom Hopper and Matt Jay, a late dramatic equaliser courtesy of debut boy Conor Wilkinson’s instinctive back-heel and Brad’s innate ability to be in the right place at the right time to unknowingly deflect it into the net. The celebrations were off the chart!

Honestly, will you look at the state of us 😊

The world outside U’s World
I’m not going to try and recap the last four weeks of events around the world, though it is equally depressing and of no surprise that the wars in Ukraine and Gaza continue to rumble on without either looking anywhere near a resolution.

Technically unrelated to the Gaza conflict, Houthi rebels in Yemen have stepped up a drone-based campaign to attack merchant vessels in the Gulf of Aden and Red Sea. I say technically unrelated, but the common denominator is that both Hamas and the Houthi rebels (and Hezbollah) are backed by Iran. In response, US, UK, and other nations including Netherlands, launched a combined offensive two nights ago against nearly 30 key infrastructure targets in Yemen, followed yesterday evening by the US launching Tomahawk missiles at a radar site. Many are concerned that this allied response brings the possibility of another direct conflict with Iran closer, and risks completely destabilising an already pretty unstable Middle East.

In news you really couldn’t make up, eBay has been ordered to pay $3m in compensation after they were found guilty of waging a campaign of threats and harassment against a pair of bloggers who wrote articles critical of the auction website. Top executives were apparently upset by coverage on David and Ina Steiner’s e-Bytes blog, and proceeded to send them, and get this, live spiders and cockroaches in the mail, a funeral wreath, and a self-help book about surviving the loss of a spouse. Quite why those executives aren’t serving jail time baffles me.

Across the pond, Trump is throwing everything into his delay delay delay tactics to try and prevent any of his four separate indictments going to trial ahead of November’s presidential election. His purpose is clear, albeit morally bankrupt, if he can somehow win the election, he will immediately pardon himself of the two indictments he can, and the remaining two would have to be suspended until he’s no longer president. However, other smaller cases continue to chip away at the dwindling wealth his Daddy left him. A frivolous $100m lawsuit he bought against the New York Times and his estranged niece Mary Trump, claiming an insidious campaign to obtain his tax returns, was dismissed out of hand in court, and he has been ordered to pay $400,000 in legal fees to the New York Times.

U’s World
In a move I certainly wasn’t expecting, though the U’sual Nostradamus Durham was bang on the money, Joe Taylor was indeed recalled by Luton Town first thing in January and has now gone out on loan to League 1 Lincoln City. The Imps do still have an outside chance of the play-offs, but losing the last four on the bounce has put a massive dent in that chance. I have no concern at all for their fate, but I do wish Joe all the best for this next step in his development. It would be lovely to see him back in the blue and white one day, but I suspect as a rising star with his talent as a goal-poacher, that might be some way off.

Out with the old and in with the new, and even before the managerial appointment news, in came Conor Wilkinson from SPL side Motherwell, and we paid a fee too! Conor started in the youth set-up at Millwall, before moving to Bolton Wanderers. He picked up a handful of first team appearances for the Trotters, but for most of the four years he was there he was out on a host of loans. In more recent years he’s had decent spells at Dagenham and Redbridge, Leyton Orient and Walsall before Motherwell signed him last summer.

…and then, of course, there was this!

Looking at his profile most saw Conor as more of a replacement for Tom Hopper, but with the benefit of hindsight, that was before the momentous events the following day. It's almost one of those “remember where you were when…” moments, when the news broke on 4th January that Robbie Cowling had appointed Danny Cowley as Manager of Colchester United, with his brother Nicky Cowley joining as Assistant Manager. It’s difficult to write anything about this without slipping into hyperbole, but in my 50+ years of following the U’s it is probably one of the most significant managerial appointments I can remember, with the club’s announcement on X having well over 1.4m views and still counting. That’s insane!

© Colchester United Football Club

Trying to keep my feet on the ground, they face a tremendous challenge just to keep us in the football league this season, and largely with the same set of players that put us in this perilous position in the first place. But those green shoots of recovery were clearly seen by c. 350 of the Faithful, including myself and Noah, at the County Ground last weekend, and if anyone can get us out of this mess it has to be the Cowley’s. It’ll take time, and they only have a few weeks left of the transfer window if they want to freshen up the squad, so right now I’ll be content with finishing 3rd from bottom if needs be, with the Cowley’s pushing on from there next season.

Their first signing (though I suspect they had some influence on Conor’s arrival) is another SPL draft, this time right back Jayden Richardson on a six month loan from Aberdeen. Jayden had spent the first six months of this season on loan to table-toppers Stockport County (he was on the bench for our visit back in November), but it’s been revealed the Cowley’s had been talking to Jayden back when they were in charge at Portsmouth, even though he eventually moved to Aberdeen. On that subject, and to go back to my comment regarding Hopper, on the day of their appointment Danny and Nicky confided that Tom was a player they had also been looking to sign in the past, so perhaps that Wilkinson in Hopper out scenario doesn’t hold water?

Welcome Conor and Jayden, I hope you both have an enjoyable and successful time here with us!

Match of the Day
Colchester United v Bradford City
23rd August 1977
Football League 3rd Division (Tier 3)
Attendance 4,371

Again, I am indebted to Graeson’s ColUData website for the programme cover image

Match of the Day for KMB17, and my instinct was to choose our record 9-1 victory over today’s opponents back in December 1961. However, pwrightsknees beat me too it, as he provided the material for the MoY38 blog, and excellent material it was too. So, keeping with the Bradford City special theme, I’m going for the Tuesday night visit of the Bantams to Layer Road back in August 1977, four years before I moved to Bradford as an undergraduate. I was at this game, though it doesn’t feature in my memorabilia archive collection – if I had a programme, it is long since gone – ironically probably left in Bradford when I moved down to Wiltshire 30+ years ago.

This Tuesday night fixture was less than a week after my fifteenth birthday and followed hot on the heels of an opening day 3-1 thrashing of Gillingham at the Priestfield on the Saturday. We had already played two other games, home and away in the first round legs of the League Cup against Aldershot, qualifying for the second round with ease after beating our 4th Division opponents 4-1 at Layer Road. Cup runs this season were going to be noteworthy in many respects, but more or than that later.

Bobby Roberts was in his third season as U’s manager, and in my opinion one of the more underrated managers for Colchester United. The previous season he had led the U’s to promotion to the 3rd Division. This was on the back of probably what I consider to be one of the best Colchester United squads I have had the please to watch. Just look at this line-up for the Bradford City match and tell me if any of these wouldn’t have a fighting chance of being in today’s matchday XI.

1….Mike Walker
2….Micky Cook
3….Johnny Williams
4….Steve Leslie
5….Mick Packer
6….Steve Dowman
7….Colin Garwood
8….Bobby Gough
9….John Froggatt
10..Ray Bunkell
11..Ian Allinson

It’s poor quality, but managed to find this on t’internet

Ray Bunkell was in for the injured Steve Foley for this game. In the Bradford City line-up were a few names of note, not least Ces Podd in defence, one of the first black players to establish himself in the English football league, the tricksy Don Hutchins ploughing a lone furrow up the wing, rarely straying more than a few yards from the touchline, and of course manager to be Terry Dolan in the heart of their midfield. I had the pleasure of being at Valley Parade for Terry Dolan’s debut as caretaker manager of Bradford City, and what a night it was too, a 5-1 victory dumping high-flying Oldham Athletic out of the FA Cup.

It's also of note that the referee was Ron Challis, who would go on to referee at the highest level during his career. Probably the high point was less than two years after this game, when he would take charge of the 1979 FA Cup final between Arsenal and Manchester United. This match was noted for three goals being scored in the last four minutes. Arsenal were cruising at 2-0 before Man U scored twice in the closing minutes to set up extra-time, before Alan Sunderland snatched a last second winner for the Gunners.

For an August evening, I recall it was quite a chilly night as I took my place at the open end for kick-off (ah, the joys of being able to swap ends at half time). We’d finished the previous season (and gained promotion) with a 2-1 victory over Bradford City, despite which the Bantams were also promoted, so hopes were high that we’d get a similar result this evening. For a Tuesday night game, Bradford City still bought a decent amount of support – three coach loads as I recall, and the atmosphere under the lights at Layer Road was electric as ever.

The U’s started in a confident mood, passing the ball around neatly on the immaculate Layer Road turf, with Bradford City struggling to keep us contained. However, in the 26th minute John Froggatt (I’m sure it was a header) eased us into a 1-0 lead, much to the delight of those of us behind the goal. It didn’t take long for his partner in crime Bobby Gough to get in on the act either, doubling the U’s lead with an instinctive strike on 38 minutes. This did spur Bradford City into action to a degree, but nothing that Walker, Packer et al couldn’t contain.

Half-time and we seemed to be coasting, as supporters from both sides embarked on their pilgrimages to the other ends of the ground, as I made my way to up the back of the Layer Road end, close to the dividing fence.

Into the second half, and the atmosphere in the stand was (literally) bouncing. Bradford City, managed by Bobby Kennedy at the time (no, not that one) had clearly worked on some stuff during the interval, and were proving much more resilient second half. However, resilience in defence wasn’t being translated into dominance in attack, and the U’s seemed comfortable to contain them at 2-0 if that was necessary.

However, mercurial and diminutive Steve Leslie had other plans, and with 13 minutes to go put the cap on a comfortable performance to give the U’s an unassailable 3-0 lead, and that was that. At the final whistle there was a half-hearted attempt by the City support to charge the Layer Road end, which as I recall was thwarted by a single steward telling them to behave and get the f’ck off the pitch – which they did.

Colchester United 3 (Froggatt 26’; Gough 38’; Leslie 77’) Bradford City 0

Not content to have had their pitch invasion curtailed by a lone steward, as we filed out of Layer Road into the night, I managed to catch the eye of a City supporter on one of the coaches and gave him the customary “3-0” finger gesture. That didn’t appear to please him, and he seemed determined to get off the coach and discuss this matter – but it didn’t appear to take that much for one of his fellow travellers to tell him to sit down and shut up.

That victory took the U’s top of the table, and we would stay there or thereabouts through to the end of October before falling away to finish 8th – Bradford City were relegated straight back to the 4th Division. Our drop in league form probably wasn’t helped by two half-decent cup runs. In the League Cup we travelled to Jim Smith’s 2nd Division Blackburn in the second round, drawing 1-1 at Ewood Park and thrashing them 4-1 in the bald eagle’s first return to Layer Road (I was at both of those too), before a third round 4-0 exit at Elland Road against 1st Division Leeds United (and watched by a travelling army of over 1,000 U’s supporters, again including myself).

In the FA Cup, although we only made the second round, it was a bit of a marathon to be honest. In the first round we drew 1-1 at 4th Division AFC Bournemouth, and then drew the replay 0-0 at Layer Road. This required a neutral venue for the second replay, and Vicarage Road was chosen. Me and a couple of mates went to this one as well, and despite the coach getting lost and missing the first ten minutes or so of the game, we beat Bournemouth 4-1. Our second round reward was a trip back to Vicarage Road to face Watford, when we weren’t as fortunate, losing 2-0 to the then 4th Division side.

Up the Danny and Nicky Cowley U’s!
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at 00:13 1 Jan 2024 everyone, members or lurkers - thanks for a wonderful 2023 of company, here's to an infinitely better 2024 for those of a Col U disposition!
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