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AFC Sudbury ticket arrangements
at 15:22 25 Oct 2021

U's have been allocated the mandatory FA Cup allocation of 15% of AFC Sudbury's 2,500 capacity, which is 375 tickets. The first 375 seasonal permit holders for this season have been offered first refusal, which will pass to no. 376 and beyond if not taken up after 3 days.


Seems fair enough.
When Saturday Comes #11
at 09:44 24 Oct 2021

This blog is a little earlier than usual, to give me and Alfie time to load up the car and sally forth for our first awayday of the season together, on the road to Vale Park – “He who would valiant be, 'gainst all disaster, let him in constancy follow the Master”. Not quite sure who the master is in that analogy, but let’s hope it’s Hayden Mullins on Saturday. All being well, I’m looking forward to catching up with fellow U’sual boarders (Noah, Durham maybe?, anyone else) when I get there. I won’t be meeting up with Clampin (Covid) or Judge (calf injury) who will miss out on making the trip, nor of course Tchamadeu (see below).
When Saturday Comes #11
at 09:44 23 Oct 2021

This blog is a little earlier than usual, to give me and Alfie time to load up the car and sally forth for our first awayday of the season together, on the road to Vale Park – “He who would valiant be, 'gainst all disaster, let him in constancy follow the Master”. Not quite sure who the master is in that analogy, but let’s hope it’s Hayden Mullins on Saturday. All being well, I’m looking forward to catching up with fellow U’sual boarders (Noah, Durham maybe?, anyone else) when I get there. I won’t be meeting up with Clampin (Covid) or Judge (calf injury) who will miss out on making the trip, nor of course Tchamadeu (see below).

It seems a fairly quiet week out there in the big wide world – Her Madge has spent a night in hospital following a check-up, apparently because it was then too late at night to be driven home. The remains of Brian Laundrie, believed to be responsible for the death of fiancé Gabby Petito, have been found. Most assume his death was by his own hand, but for Ms Petito’s family, being cheated out of justice for their daughter can only heap further heartache on a family who surely have suffered enough.

Bubbles or no bubbles, Covid-19 infection rates continue to rise, in the last month going from just over 26k new cases daily to nearly 44k. That exceeds the huge spike back in July and is fast approaching what was virtually an all-time high of 54k new cases in a day back in January. The good thing, if that’s the right expression, is that the level of vaccinations in the UK is keeping the death count from these infections very low, with barely 100 people a day dying at the moment – that’s still a lot of people though.

The other good news on the coronavirus front is the announcement that the 3rd jab booster may be rolled out just five months after 2nd jabs, not six as originally stated. This would mean all over-70s are eligible now, and most over-65s by early November. A clinical study published yesterday demonstrated that a third booster dose of Pfizer was 95.6% more effective than just two jabs at preventing infection.

Closer to home
Fixtures are coming thick and fast at the moment, with the rearranged game at home to Sutton next Tuesday, home again to Scunnie the following Saturday, then of course AFC Sudbury on the telebob for Bonfire Night, Portman Road the following Tuesday in the EFL Trophy, and finally capped off by what should be my third trip of the season, Forest Green at the New Lawn on Saturday 13th November. By the end of that I wonder whether we’ll be out of two cups and embroiled in a relegation dogfight or wondering what on earth we were all worrying about – we shall see.

Still, with so many fixtures coming up it really wasn’t a good time to lose promising right-back Junior Tchamadeu to a needless red card and automatic 3-match suspension (at least I hope it’s still three, and our appeal hasn’t added another game on to the tally). The good news, thanks to Sutton United playing the system to their advantage, is that Junior should be available again in time for the AFC Sudbury game in front of the cameras, which the young lad and his family definitely deserve.

I said at the time that Junior should have just gone down and not given the hapless referee Graham Scott another chance to show why he’s not fit to referee League 2, never mind the Premier League. But Junior didn’t, and in the argy-bargy handbags that followed, Mr Scott took the easy route and sent both victim and aggressor off – and let’s face it, how often will an FA appeals committee overturn the decision of a Premier League referee.

Stat attack
Not much really to say about our record against Port Vale, it’s about as average as you can get – played 62 times in the league, won 24, drawn 16, lost 22. We’ve played just once in the FA Cup too, a 1st Round 3-1 victory at Layer Road back in 1951. There’s nothing really of any note in terms of sequences either – we haven’t won any of the last four games, but then again if you look back to April 2015 onward we’ve won 4, drawn 4, lost 3.

Probably the only sequence of any significance, in relation to our relative fortunes, was the 14 year spell from 1986 to 2000 when we lost touch with each other completely. It probably won’t come as any surprise this coincided with Port Vale’s more recent sustained period of success in the 3rd and 2nd tiers of English football, whilst we trolled round in the basement and non-league.

Often touted as one of the few English football clubs not named after their geographical location, Port Vale’s origin is somewhat shrouded in mystery. The official story (and on the club website) is that the team were formed in 1876 following a meeting at a building called Port Vale House, from which they took their name. Club historian Jeff Kent isn’t so sure, and through his research believes the club were actually formed in 1879 and took their name from a nearby canal wharf called Port Vale.

It gets murkier, because after become founder members of the Football League Second Division in 1892, then playing as Burslem Port Vale, the club were then relegated back to the Midland League in 1896. Returning two seasons later in 1898, they struggled on but by 1907 were forced to resign from the league, and indeed were subsequently liquidated. Not deterred, local ambitious non-league side Cobridge Town took on the name and eventually, replacing Leeds City who were disbanded because of financial irregularities, returned to the Second Division at the end of the Great War – technically therefore, surely that isn’t the same club?

Since then, Port Vale have been ever-present in the Football League, never achieving the top flight, and never dropping down into non-league. In all fairness, they’ve never really come close to doing so either, apart from maybe 2017/18 when they finished in 20th place and just one point and plus one goal difference better than relegated Barnet.

Anyone who has visited Vale Park will appreciate that, like Notts County for instance, Port Vale play in a vast stadium, far greater than demand has been for many years. In the 1950s post-war supporters boom they did peak at crowds of about 20k, but it was short-lived, and apart from their sustained spell in the second tier in the 90s, when averages approached 10k, they’ve since consistently bimbled along at about the 5k mark. I know, we’d give our eye-teeth for averages of 5k these days, but then again, the JobServe is half the size of Vale Park.

Match of the Day
Scunthorpe United v Colchester United
Sunday 4th May 2008
Coca-Cola Championship (Tier 2)
Attendance 5,554

Match of the Day for WSC11 remembers happier days (sort of) following the U’s, only maybe not that much happier because we find ourselves comfortably bottom of the Championship, relegation assured several weeks earlier, and having just played our last ever game at Layer Road. Still, who lets minor inconveniences like form, league position, quality etc. get in the way when there’s an awayday to be had following the U’s, and particularly for the last game of the season. I couldn’t be there for the last match at Layer Road, I sure as hell wasn’t going to miss out on our last day in the Championship.

Or that was the plan anyway but shifting the final day of the Championship to a Sunday didn’t help with train travel arrangements. Nor indeed did dicking about with the kick-off time to bring it forward to 2pm – although finishing by 4pm did actually make it easier (in fact, possible) to get home again. However, we were living in Warminster at the time, so the seemingly insurmountable obstacle was there were simply no trains on the Sunday morning to get me there in time for a 2pm kick-off.

I can’t remember whether that was down to engineering works or simply delays with connections, that was the reality and creative thinking was needed. After endless permutations and combinations were tried using the National Rail journey planner, I realised there was a very slim chance, but it relied on my long-suffering wife conveying me by car 20 miles north to Chippenham train station for a local train to Swindon, from there to join the Bristol to Paddington service, tube across to Kings Cross for the Doncaster train, and then finally another local train across to Scunthorpe.

No doubt glad to have me out of her hair for the day, Emma was more than happy to ferry me at stupid o’clock in the morning up to Chippenham in time for the Swindon train, and thus safely ensconced in my seat I could relax, listen to some music and enjoy a pre-yard arm ale in preparation for the long journey ahead. Happy in my own world, headphones blaring, it took a while before I became dimly aware we hadn’t arrived in Swindon, in fact didn’t appear to be moving at all. Slight tinges of panic started to surface, as what should have been a comfortable connection window started to get smaller and smaller.

Tinges became alarm bells, and alarm bells became those damn sirens that Hitler put on the Stukas, as still we sat waiting. The guard over the tannoy assured us we would be moving shortly, and that there was some sort of signals problem up ahead that was holding us outside Swindon station. Eventually, inexorably we started rolling again, and finally pulled into Swindon station once the London train I was to connect with had done the decent thing by getting out of the way – yep, on its merry way off to London without me.

So now I was in a bit of a quandary – short of some sort of miracle, it was no longer possible to get to Scunthorpe in time for kick-off. There were remote possibilities, mainly centred on a connection further down the line being delayed long enough to join it and get (kind of) back on track, but what was the alternative. Mope home, give up on the day out, give up on the Championship, give up on the U’s? Nah, f’ck it, somehow I’d find a way…and anyway, I really couldn’t face calling Emma and asking her to turn back around to Chippenham station to come get me.

And so I soldiered on, always one step behind my preferred connections, never quite catching up, but still nevertheless a both uneventful but also curiously relaxing journey. As I pulled into Doncaster it was gone 1pm, and less than an hour to kick-off. This was me supping at the last chance saloon – would there be some sort of delayed local train to get me to Scunnie – not on your nelly – or even a local bus service – no chance.

Desperate times required desperate measures, so in a pique of both moral indignation and throwing myself at his mercy I went to see the station master. I explained my predicament, about the delay outside Swindon, about all the missed connections, about our last game of the season in the Championship, basically laid my soul bare. He listened calmly, and having called Swindon to verify the problems with my first connection, reached for his book of dockets, scribbled out a taxi travel voucher, and showed me out to the taxi rank with his best wishes that I made the kick-off in time. The taxi driver was superb, breaking all manner of highway code regulations on the way, and managed to drop me off at Glanford Park literally a minute before kick-off.

Thanks in no small part to Graeson’s excellent coludata website, I know the U’s lined up:
1….Dean Gerken
18..Phil Ifil (Medy Elito 56’)
21..Béla Balogh
16..Matt Heath
3….John White
7….Karl Duguid
10..Kem Izzet
4….Johnnie Jackson
14..Kevin McLeod
20..Kevin Lisbie
24..Scott Vernon (Clive Platt 71’)

Finding my place amongst what must have been nearly 400 of the U’s faithful literally as the ref started the game, there was no time to get a programme, and I no longer have a ticket stub (not even sure I had one to start with), so my only memorabilia archive record of this trip is a simple note on the calendar that year “U’s @ Scunnie”. As a result, you’ll forgive me if my memory of the actual match is hazy at best.

Although we were beyond any hope of even getting off the bottom of the table, Scunthorpe United were equally doomed to relegation, one place and 8pts above the U’s. Technically, with just pride to play for, I was half expecting it to be one of those end-of-season meaningless fixtures, played out at a gentle pre-season friendly sort of pace. I couldn’t have been more wrong. The U’s took the game to Scunnie right from the outset, and after just ten minutes Kevin McLeod expertly headed in Kevin Lisbie's exquisite cross to send our travelling support into raptures.

However, Scunthorpe gave as good as they got, and just five minutes later we had the misfortune to witness Jonathan Forte equalise with a soft goal to concede, and to rub it home, right in front of us. 75 minutes to go, and we knew we had a game on. Seemingly unburdened by expectation, both sides continued to play free-flowing passing football for the remainder of the first half, but with neither side carving out many (any?) clear cut chances to break the deadlock.

All that was to change in the second half, and with barely a minute on the clock, Vernon blasted home to put the U’s back into the lead. With the faithful still celebrating, McLeod with his second doubled our advantage a minute later with an exquisite chip to make it 3-1, and the away end went ballistic. The game then settled for a while, and approaching the hour mark manager Geraint Williams subbed Phil Ifil for Medy Elito, presumably to keep control of the game?

Perhaps the change unsettled the U’s, who knows, but barely ten minutes later Paul Hayes cut the deficit to make it 3-2. Now it really did become a back to the wall game for the U’s, and for the next 15 minutes or so, during which George replaced goal scorer Vernon with big unit Clive Platt in more of a holding role than anything else, it genuinely did look like we might make it. Sadly not though, and less than a minute after Irons manager Nigel Adkins replaced Winn with Ian Morris, and with eight minutes to go, the scores were level. Paul Hayes (again) took full advantage of a mistake by Matt Heath to stroll past Dean Gerken and tap into an empty net. What was most galling as we had scored three fantastic goals and conceded three very soft ones – very much a metaphor for that second season in the Championship unfortunately.

In the closing ten minutes or so, despite the momentum of Scunthorpe United, it was the U’s who battled hardest to regain the lead, but all to no avail. Adkins removed youngster Jack Cork for the battle-hardened experience of Grant McCann in midfield, and the Iron held out for the point they wanted, and the match finished honours even, one point a piece, three goals each, and relegation for both of us. In truth, it didn’t really matter, we’d travelled to celebrate the U’s finally bowing out of the Championship in style, and they’d done us proud!

Scunthorpe United 3 (Jonathan Forte 15’; Paul Hayes 67’, 82’) Colchester United 3 (Kevin McLeod 11’, 48’; Scott Vernon 48’)

Post-match, George reflected "I think the players applied themselves well but that goes for the whole season. We haven't finished where we are because of a lack of effort - it's because we haven't been good enough. The effort and the application has been there right until the very last moment". He wasn’t wrong either.

After a poor start the following season new owner Robbie Cowling replaced him with Paul Lambert, a move I still believe was premature…and we all know how Lambert’s tenure finished. However, Geraint Williams still deserves recognition for taking Colchester United to the highest finish in our history during those Championship years.
When Saturday Comes #10
at 14:32 17 Oct 2021

So here we are again, still looking for that elusive first home league win of the season, only this time against high-flying (and recently non-league) Harrogate Town. That isn’t meant to be in any way disrespectful for Harrogate Town, they should be applauded for what they have achieved so far, but it is nevertheless a measure of how far our stock has fallen in recent years that we find ourselves in this situation. I have no doubt that today will be a difficult game, but it’ll be even more so if Hayden Mullins doesn’t take anything from recent performances and realise that what he’s trying just doesn’t seem to be working – he simply has to change things around. Whether he will or not remains to be seen – maybe he will, maybe won’t and the old guard will finally come good? I guess we’ll know one way or another by 5pm.
When Saturday Comes #10
at 14:17 16 Oct 2021

So here we are again, still looking for that elusive first home league win of the season, only this time against high-flying (and recently non-league) Harrogate Town. That isn’t meant to be in any way disrespectful for Harrogate Town, they should be applauded for what they have achieved so far, but it is nevertheless a measure of how far our stock has fallen in recent years that we find ourselves in this situation. I have no doubt that today will be a difficult game, but it’ll be even more so if Hayden Mullins doesn’t take anything from recent performances and realise that what he’s trying just doesn’t seem to be working – he simply has to change things around. Whether he will or not remains to be seen – maybe he will, maybe won’t and the old guard will finally come good? I guess we’ll know one way or another by 5pm.

Anything else going on in the world almost pails into insignificance following the brutal murder of Sir David Amess MP during his regular Southend West constituency surgery yesterday morning. We don’t know whatever motivated the man who is being held responsible for this heinous crime, but in a world increasingly divided by intolerance and hatred, I can’t help speculating that this, like the murder of Jo Fox MP five years ago, is just another tragic example of such intolerance. I won’t pretend I was a big supporter of Amess’ political view on a whole raft of issues, maybe apart from his unwavering support for animal welfare issues, but that doesn’t matter – our democracy allows for all of us to have differing views and opinions without fear of reprisal because of them. He leaves a wife and five children.

Sir David Anthony Andrew Amess
26 March 1952 – 15 October 2021
Rest in Peace

…will play no. 12, Colchester United
With the FA Cup 4th Qualifying Round matches taking place today, and the 1st Round draw live on TV tomorrow afternoon, Closer to home and Stat attack will be combined today, to take a look from a Colchester United perspective. The 1st round matches will be played over the long weekend between Friday 5th and Monday 8th November, with winning clubs receiving £22,629 from the competition prize fund.

First off, regardless of who we are playing, the game in November will be the U’s 197th in the competition, so with a modest cup run (maybe including a replay along the way), we have a half-decent chance of reaching our 200th FA Cup game milestone this season. Yeah right, who am I kidding, but we can but hope I suppose.

Our very first FA Cup game was on 12th November 1938, with a 4th Qualifying Round 4-1 victory over Ilford at Layer Road. We’ve appeared in the 4th Qualifying Round seven times including that match, and our only defeats (and therefore the only seasons where we haven’t made the 1st round proper) against Wisbech in 1945 and Wealdstone in 1949. Like our dear neighbours Southend today, the only recent appearance in the 4th Qualifying Round was back in 1991 during our second season in the Conference, a hurdle we negotiated comfortably thrashing Burton Albion 5-0 at Layer Road.

Our most frequent opponents in the FA Cup are Gillingham and Bournemouth, who we have both played seven times. However, those Bournemouth stats do include three matches in the 1977/78 FA Cup 1st Round, finally overcoming them 4-1 in a second replay at neutral Vicarage Road. Other common opponents include usual suspects Reading, Torquay and Brentford (all six times), though Sheffield United is an interesting addition at no. 6 in the list.

Before we get into some of the pitfalls and banana skins we’ve come a cropper on over the years, it’s worth bearing in mind that despite what seems to be a never-ending catalogue of failure in the FA Cup in recent years, our worst run of 1st Round exits is (only) five seasons in a row, something we’ve only suffered from 1953-57, 1998-2002 and 2016-2020. Both of the first two came to an end with impressive cup runs (losing to Arsenal in a 4th Round replay and Sheffield United in the 5th Round respectively), so fingers-crossed the patter continues this season.

Non-league giant-killers in our past include Wisbech (1957), Leatherhead and Dover Athletic in rapid succession (1974 and 1975), Wycombe Wanderers and the real start of the rivalry (1985), Sutton United (1993), Gravesend & Northfleet (1995), Hereford United (1997) and of course Bedlington Terriers (1998). Yep, the 90s in particular was not a good decade for the U’s in the FA Cup. In more recent years there has of course been Chelmsford City in 2012, Oxford City in 2017 and most recently AFC Marine last November.

From a U’s perspective, there are some interesting names in today’s 4th Qualifying Round that might be in the bag tomorrow. Marine v Wrexham (Ball 49) has already been highlighted by mfc_cufc, pitching Parky and big money Wrexham against our victor’s last season. York City (Ball 55) knocked the U’s out in a 1st Round replay back in 2001, a game that several of us were in attendance for. Kettering Town (Ball 56) would make for a lively match bringing back memories of some memorable battles on and off the pitch during our Conference years, as would amalgamated club Hayes & Yeading United (Ball 65).

For the prospect of a local derby match, there is Ebbsfleet United (Ball 63), Chelmsford City (Ball 70), Dagenham and Redbridge (Ball 71), AFC Sudbury (Ball 72), Barnet or Boreham Wood (Ball 74), Bowers & Pitsea (Ball 77), and dear old Southend United (Ball 80), provided of course they can overcome Chertsey Town – no guarantee there given their present form. Mind you, if we’d rather avoid another non-league defeat, there is of course auld rivals Wycombe Wanderers (Ball 48), though I fear that draw would probably bring any hopes of a cup run crashing to the floor. But, if we’re to go about this the hard way, what better way to kick it off with several thousand of the faithful at Portman Road to knock out Ipswich Town (Ball 22)?

Match of the Day
Colchester United v Charlton Athletic
Saturday 9th January 2016
FA Cup (3rd Round)
Attendance 5,742

Remembering a time when the FA Cup wasn’t a barren source of entertainment for the long-suffering U’s support, When Saturday Comes this week goes back to our last decent run in the competition in 2015/16. In the league things weren’t going well at all, with a run of nine consecutive defeats finally brought to an end with a battling point away at Oldham the previous weekend. However, the FA Cup offered a glimmer of hope through this dreadful run, starting with an emphatic 6-2 victory at Wealdstone (yes, with four for Macca Bonne Gerry and Durham 😊).

The second round was a considerably less emphatic affair, narrowly squeezing 3-2 past non-league Altrincham, reliant on a 94th minute winner from Harriott. Still, nobody wins a knock-out competition on goal difference, it’s all about the victory, and on to a modestly decent third round draw at home to Championship Charlton Athletic. Not the big name draw we’d all hoped for, but a relatively local well-supported opponent offering the possibility of a decent attendance to swell the coffers (and who knows, maybe even a win bonus as well?).

I was living in Warminster at the time, so it was a fairly straightforward train journey over for me and Alfie, helped of course by the shuttle buses which were still in operation back then (easy Noah 😊). I admit I was expecting to bump into more Charlton fans on our way through London (including a quick drink at Hamilton Hall), given they’d sold nearly 2,000 tickets, but the relative few I did meet were friendly enough and happy to chat. I didn’t get a programme for this game, but do still have Alfie’s print at home e-ticket for the game.

The U’s lined up:
32..Jake Kean
24..Richard Brindley
3….Matthew Briggs
5….Alex Wynter
18..Tom Eastman
8….Alex Gilbey
2….Owen Garvan (Joe Edwards 73’)
11..Gavin Massey
10..George Moncur (Kane Vincent-Young 87’)
9….Chris Porter (captain)
45..Marvin Sordell (Macauley Bonne 82’)

That dreadful run of league form had led to the removal of Tony Humes as manager late in November, after which it had been a virtual cast of thousands temporarily taking over, starting with Richard Hall and John McGreal as an interim appointment, then Wayne Brown as caretaker, and finally Kevin Keen from 21st December. Although subsequent home defeats to Southend and away at Gillingham over Christmas hadn’t exactly been a good start, Keen had finally arrested the calamitous run of defeats with that draw at Oldham. On balance, given Charlton were having an equally poor season in the Championship, and with perhaps the green shots of hope sprouting under new manager Kevin Keen, I was hopeful we could get through this match and hopefully get the big name draw we all wanted in the 4th Round.

Incidentally, no relation, but one of Kevin Keen’s first signings was Jake Kean on loan from Norwich City, and who started today in goal for his debut. Taking up our seats right at the back of the South Stand, and with the floodlights already gleaming through the approaching gloom, it was a lovely chilly autumnal day for a game of football. Charlton had nearly filled the North Stand, and the S1 choir to our right were also in good voice.

Considering both sides were struggling at the wrong ends of their leagues, the match was a pretty decent fast-paced game of football. The U’s started particularly brightly, playing a very fast almost counter-attacking game which time and time again seemed to catch the Addicks defence flat-footed. Rampaging forward, Moncur, Sordell, Massey, Gilbey and Porter were combining well with some neat moves, with both Porter and Sordell going close in the first 20 minutes. Periodically, Charlton did have to remind us that despite current form, they were still a Championship side, but without seriously testing Kean in goal.

Just before the half hour mark the U’s got the break-through their play deserved, albeit thanks to a fortuitous deflection which put the ball perfectly in the path of Marvellous Marvin, who laid a slide-rule pass through to Moncur, who made no mistake cutting inside to curl a beauty past Naby Sarr in the Charlton goal. It really was no more than the U’s deserved, but I must admit I was surprised that Moncur wasn’t booked for his somewhat antagonistic celebrations right in front of the travelling Charlton fans. Charlton’s hopes weren’t helped ten minutes later with captain Jordan Cousins going off injured.

Charlton still posed a threat mind you, and after a weak punch from Kean, only a lucky deflection off the inside of Brindley’s foot onto the post prevented Ceballos from equalising. With less than five minutes to half-time they would regret not taking that chance too. Moncur picked up the ball deep in our own half and marauding forward against a Charlton defence seemingly content just to back off and allow it, he placed a beautiful pass through to Sordell, who made no mistake with his one-on-one against Sarr. As an ex-Addick, it would appear Sordell was equally keen to remind Charlton supporters how happy he was.

Although we should have been home and hosed for a 2-0 lead at half-time, following a veritable game of ping-pong in the U’s penalty area, it took a double save from Kean to prevent Charlton snatching a consolation before the break – though if I’m honest, Kean was in part responsible for us being in that predicament in the first place.

Half-time, and time for Alfie to discover the delights of pie!

The second half didn’t quite live up to what was probably the best half of football the U’s had played all season, with the U’s for the most part seemingly happier to just keep a below par Charlton attack at bay. With just over 20 minutes of the half gone, Porter charged down a weak clearance allowing Moncur to steal in on the rebound, only to be denied by the outstretched leg of Nick Pope. With the clock running down, Keen made a series of tactical substitutions, bring on Joe Edwards, Macca Bonne and finally KVY, and it was Bonne who really should have put the U’s 3-0 up, only to skew his chipped effort well wide of goal.

Deep into injury-time, and with those disgruntled Charlton fans who hadn’t already left gathering at the exit points, finally they saw their consolation goal. A nice cross in from the U’s left found the exotically named Reza Ghoochannejhad betwixt and between Tom Eastman and Alex Wynter, and he made no mistake with a powerful header past Kean. Fortunately, it was just a consolation, and the U’s comfortably held out for a morale-boosting victory, and into the hat for the 4th Round draw.

Colchester United 2 (George Moncur 28’; Marvin Sordell 41’) v Charlton Athletic 1 (Reza Ghoochannejhad 90+2’))

Finally, the FA Cup draw was kind to the U’s, pitching us against Premier League giants Tottenham Hotspur in the 4th Round. A full house saw Spurs ease comfortably through 4-1, but our cause really wasn’t helped by losing both centre-backs Tom Eastman and Alex Wynter when they collided with each other – ouch!

Spurs would eventually go out in the 5th Round, with the FA Cup won by Manchester United after extra-time against Crystal Palace – by a curious coincidence, the very same three Premier League opponents in our 2019 League Cup run. In the league, neither Colchester United nor Charlton Athletic could escape the inevitable, both relegated at the end of the season, with our manager Keen not even waiting until the end of the season, departing as soon as our relegation was mathematically confirmed.

The highlights of this one are still on YouTube, so for any of you that have forgotten what seeing the U’s score and win at home looks like…

Racist abuse against Shamal George
at 18:35 14 Oct 2021

Various media outlets (e.g. https://www.gazette-news.co.uk/news/19646755.colchester-united-keeper-shamal-geo ) are reporting today that the matter has been investigated, with one supporter questioned under caution, but no further criminal action can be taken.

Barrow Chief Executive Levi Gill commented "This should not, however, be taken as a sign that the Club condones this kind of behaviour or that we don’t believe that the abuse occurred. There has been debate among the fan base about whether the report was a result of players misunderstanding a fan song.

I can assure everybody that, having heard the complaint and read some of the witness information, this is not what has happened. I’m convinced that the abuse occurred and, with the backing of the Club’s owners, will take the strongest possible action against anybody proven to be responsible either for this incident or any similar future cases.

It would appear that multiple witnesses confirmed the abuse occurred, but though CCTV footage could identify a small section of the terrace from which it originated, it wasn't possible to confidently identify the specific culprit.

Very sad for Shamal, who sadly predicted this might be the outcome, but I can't fault Barrow AFC, Cumbrian police and decent Barrow supporters coming forward with evidence for their diligence in trying to identify the scum responsible.

When Saturday Comes #9
at 16:58 9 Oct 2021

After the complete horror-show that was U’s v Salford last Saturday, we find ourselves desperately clinging on to our away form like a drowning man to a lifebuoy…and I have no doubt Tranmere will be seriously stamping on our fingers in that regard. As a Friday night kick-off, I can look forward to the live match stream, which I was fortunately spared for the Salford game (it sounded bad enough). Swings and roundabouts though, if this hadn’t been rearranged to a Friday night, I may well have joined my Tranmere mate Chris and his family for the weekend – Prenton Park is always a good visit for an awayday, so safe travelling and good luck to Durham and the rest of the U’s faithful who make the trip.
When Saturday Comes #9
at 13:53 8 Oct 2021

After the complete horror-show that was U’s v Salford last Saturday, we find ourselves desperately clinging on to our away form like a drowning man to a lifebuoy…and I have no doubt Tranmere will be seriously stamping on our fingers in that regard. As a Friday night kick-off, I can look forward to the live match stream, which I was fortunately spared for the Salford game (it sounded bad enough). Swings and roundabouts though, if this hadn’t been rearranged to a Friday night, I may well have joined my Tranmere mate Chris and his family for the weekend – Prenton Park is always a good visit for an awayday, so safe travelling and good luck to Durham and the rest of the U’s faithful who make the trip.

One week on, and the country seems to be limping out of the fuel crisis, with most garage forecourts now with pumps getting back to being fully operational – mainly it would seem because everyone now has a full tank of fuel and can’t squeeze any more in. Covid possibly played a part in the shortage of HGV and fuel tanker drivers, and Brexit certainly did, but never underestimate the impact of a government saying “there’s no need to panic” for a perfect storm. It’s times like this you realise quite what a visionary Douglas Adams was – “Let us think the unthinkable, let us do the undoable, let us prepare to grapple with the ineffable itself, and see if we may not eff it after all”.

What I didn’t realise, however, was quite how precarious most industry systems are. Ever since the 1940s, when developed by car manufacturers Toyota, pretty much most industries in the UK, including petrol stations, have operated under the principle of JIT systems – Just In Time. The closer companies take delivery of raw materials, stocks etc. to point of sale, the less storage cost they incur, the greater profit margin they make, and ultimately the cheaper it makes goods and services for the consumer. But clearly it’s a fine and fragile line they walk, and it only takes a few dominoes to topple, delays to occur and panic to set in. With the impact from Brexit not getting any better, I suspect this won’t be the first ‘panic-buying’ problem we see in the coming months.

The whole-life sentencing of former Met Policeman Wayne Couzens for the kidnap, rape and murder of Sarah Everard has shone a much-needed light on not only the massive problem of male sexual violence towards women, but more alarmingly on a police force which either missed, or chose to ignore, too many red flag behaviours exhibited by not only Couzens, but others within the Met. Much has been said around this case, from the Met, Boris, other ministers etc. about cracking down on perpetrators of sexual violence against women. This is sadly not backed up by action, with only a pitifully low estimated 5.7% of reported rape cases ending in conviction. Something is seriously wrong there.

Closer to home
Enough about the woes of following Colchester United – last Saturday was dreadful, and more than enough has been said about quite how dreadful too – time to look forward to putting it right as soon as possible. Lots too about reasons why it was so poor too, whether perceived problems with Robbie and the management team, Hayden’s (in)ability, the ‘philosophy’, the lack of Tisdale as support, poor matchday experience, lack of va-va-voom on the pitch, crap catering off the pitch, shite weather, apathetic locals etc etc etc. For me, I’m kind of with Durham on this one – a two-fold problem that combines (a) lack of a genuine no. 9 centre forward, and (b) Mullins playing square pegs in round holes to try and keep the bigger personalities in his squad happy.

Ironically, I actually don’t think Tranmere away is the match to try and fix those problems – Friday night at Prenton Park is going to be hard enough as it is, and certainly not the time to play a revolutionary new line-up/ system of fancy-dans full of vim, vigour, youth and energy – Tranmere would tear us a second one, and we’d be no better off. No, tomorrow night is all about grinding something out using gnarly and grim experienced pros, guts, grit, even cynical gamesmanship if we need to…then use the eight days we have to really focus on the problems and how to fix them.

The fact is though that unless we wait until January the elusive centre forward that everyone can see we need is going to have to be a free agent, and let’s face it, if they are it’s probably for a good reason. Folivi might have been the solution, but personally I’m not getting my hopes up he’ll even be match fit by January. If you’re reading this Frank, don’t take it the wrong way – I still see you as an essential starter for most matchdays, just out on the left, not centre forward. Longer-term, I’d stick Sears in the middle, have Frank out left, and somehow find a place for both Dobra and Jasper. Eastman and Smith have to start, Hannant needs some serious bench-time, as will Coxe if he doesn’t improve. Tchamadeu should probably be a regular starter, with Tovide ready as an impact sub, or to take over if Sears or Frank don’t start scoring for fun.

Stat attack
Tranmere Rovers are one of those sides that generally more often or not we find ourselves pitted against, but also one of those sides who seem to go missing for prolonged periods. Traditionally a consistent Tier 3 side, those years going missing have mainly been down to the U’s being in a lower league, though notably our paths never crossed throughout the 90s whilst Tranmere enjoyed their most prolonged period of success in the Championship.

Like the U’s, they too know the perils of falling into non-league, doing so in 2015 and taking three seasons to clamber their way out again (take note Southend). Since then, and unlike the U’s, they have carried on that trajectory and achieved promotion to League 1 in 2019/20, only to fall immediately back to League 2 in the covid-curtailed 2020/21 season. I guess they could count themselves unlucky, being relegated on the points per game metric, when chairman Mark Palios argued that they had every chance of winning enough points to avoid the drop if the season had continued…but, those were the rules, just a tough break really.

Over the years since our first ever meeting on 27th September 1958, the U’s have played the Superwhites 61 times in all competitions, winning 17, drawing 21 and losing 23. I say all competitions, but we’ve only ever played Tranmere once in a cup game – 3rd Round of the League Cup in 1981 at Prenton Park, and we lost 1-0. Overall then, a fairly indifferent slight-leaning-towards-Tranmere kind of record, and not too bad, but it kind of looks worse when we consider just visits to Prenton Park, where we’ve played 31 times and won just six of them. However, it really does depend quite how you slice that pie, look at it another way, and since September 1985 we’ve played 17 times at Prenton Park and lost just three times!

So, all in all, we’ll probably lose…or win…or maybe draw – I’m not certain, but I bet it’s one of them.

Tranmere enjoy quite a clutch of famous supporters, certainly makes our solitary Steve Lamacq pail into insignificance a bit (not that we don’t love you Steve). These include (apparently) Elvis Costello, referee Mike Dean, Ray Stubbs (and played for them as well), the Dimbleby brothers and Craig ‘Lister’ Charles. However, and of particular relevance to Whalebelly and anyone else who enjoys the fusion of football and music, Half Man Half Biscuit are passionate supporters, apparently once turning down an opportunity to appear on The Tube because Tranmere were playing that night.

Match of the Day
Yeovil Town v Colchester United
30th October 1991
Vauxhall Conference (Tier 5)
Attendance 2,385

If you’re a big believer in fate, I’m not quite sure quite what you’d make of the random match selector for WSC09 (or to be more precise this week Thank f’ck it’s Friday), which goes all the way back to almost exactly 30 years ago today, and a mid-week difficult trip to Yeovil Town for the U’s, at the time struggling to get out of the Conference for the second time of asking. Those of you whose glass is half-full will undoubtedly point to the victory in the face of adversity analogy, whereas the half-empty sorts will probably go pfft – Conference, how poetic, because that’s just where we’re heading now.

Although there’s not too much specific detail I can remember from that match, it is still one of those that I recall for a number of reasons very well indeed. First off, after a working holiday touring Ireland for about two months with my then partner, I’d returned to Wiltshire in the summer, and for this match had been posted down to the South West working on the new Ilchester to Odcombe Reservoir pipeline, staying overnight in a tidy little holiday let between Ilchester and Tintinhull, and just a few miles from Huish Park. This would be my first of many visits to Huish Park, built just a year earlier, and whilst I haven’t always enjoyed the result, I have always enjoyed the occasion.

The U’s under new player-manager Roy McDonough had made a pretty decent start to the second season in the Conference, and with the only blemish in the opening dozen matches being a surprise 2-3 home defeat against then leaders Farnborough Town, were third in the league going into the Yeovil game, behind guess who and Farnborough at the top. Yeovil were having a harder time of it, third from bottom and perilously close to relegation to the Southern League. However, any team underestimated Yeovil Town at their peril, and the Glovers had just got through the qualifiers to an FA Cup 1st Round match against Walsall, so certainly couldn’t be taken lightly.

The U’s lined up:
1….Scott Barrett
2….Warren Donald
3….Paul Roberts (programme lists Ian Phillips)
4….Mark Kinsella
5….Tony English
6….Shaun Elliott
7….Eamonn Collins
8….Gary Bennett (James Goodwin 30’)
9….Roy McDonough
10..Steve McGavin
11..Nicky Smith

I’ll be honest, even googling one or two names, there’s no one from the Yeovil line-up who rings any bells with me – even the player-manager Steve Rutter was a complete unknown, and still is now (though I have learned he had the honour of being the final player to touch the ball on the infamously sloping pitch of Huish Athletic Ground a year earlier). Mind you, James Goodwin on the U’s bench completely threw me as well, which is pretty poor when I discovered of the five U’s matches he’d taken part in (three from the bench) I was at two of them (he would start in our FA Cup replay at Exeter a month later, subbed in the second half).

I drove the short distance to this one, so decided to forego the opportunity for a quick pre-match pint and joined a pretty decent gathering on the away end open terrace. There must have been somewhere about 100-150 that had made the long trip that day, pretty much all of whom wouldn’t be home until well into Halloween. All the more impressive when I learned on the terrace that three of the U’s faithful had missed the CUSA coach departure from Layer Road. Undeterred, a quick call to a local taxi firm agreed a round-trip fee of £150 and they were on their way – they even paid for a match ticket for the taxi driver. Even at the time, I had to marvel at actually how cost-effective that was – okay, they’d already paid for a coach seat, but still – £50 each for a door-to-door round trip to Somerset from Essex was even then way cheaper than trying to do it by train, not that in the time allowed the journey would have been possible by train anyway.

It was a desperately cold night too, a crisp cloudless late October evening, with the scent of a heavy frost in the air for the morning. Not necessarily ideal for supporters on an open terrace, but perfect for a flowing passing game of football on a firm pitch. The U’s didn’t disappoint either, taking the game to Yeovil from the kick-off, though to be fair on occasion Yeovil gave as good as they got and refused to roll over in front of their high-flying opponents. It was a robust game, as you’d expect in non-league, but never really dirty. Even when Gary Bennett was taken off injured on the half-hour mark, to be replaced by the aforementioned Goodwin, it was really nothing more than a heavy physical challenge.

The change seemed to unsettle the U’s game for a period, and the remainder of the first half was a much more even contest, Yeovil on occasions going close themselves, but without ever really testing Scott Barrett. 0-0 at half-time, and the news of the Taxi Three had filtered through to the stadium announcer, who was more than happy to broadcast their efforts to the crowd, drawing a generous round of applause from all sides of the ground.

It’s also worth noting that for a freezing cold October evening, on an open terrace, the vocal support for the U’s was both unrelenting and magnificent. We didn’t let up into the second half either, and as the game wore on, and with the U’s playing towards their support, if anything it increased in volume. Eventually, inevitably, some brave hardy souls decided that was the night to go shirts off, and whilst there wasn’t a cat in hells chance of me doing likewise, you had to marvel at their passion on what was a bitterly cold night.

But, despite all of the magnificent support, despite wave after wave of U’s attacks, we just couldn’t break down a resilient Yeovil Town, and whilst on balance it wouldn’t necessarily have been a bad point to earn, just a point nevertheless was looking to be our meagre return for the effort…

…and then in the dying seconds, from a cross out on the right, up rose diminutive Steve McGavin, salmon-like, to head past the despairing dive of Glovers ‘keeper David Fry and into the back of the net. The away terrace erupted, fans were on the pitch, the players very virtually on the terrace, complete and utter bedlam ensued – and it was nothing more than we all, including the Taxi Three and driver, deserved!

Yeovil Town 0 Colchester United 1 (Steve McGavin 90’)

Tellingly, given how the season would eventually pan out, that result, which was our game in hand on Wycombe, moved the U’s level on points with the Chairboys and into second place on goal difference. Ten days later, avenging our earlier home defeat with a 2-0 victory at Farnborough (in front of huge numbers of U’s fans) the U’s moved to the top of the table where we stayed for the remainder of the season.

People often point to Scott Barrett’s remarkable last-minute goal at Adams Park as the crucial moment in our promotion campaign, and I’d be hard-pressed to disagree, but it would have counted for nothing without McGavin’s oh so late winner at a freezing Huish Park that night.

Up the U’s
When Saturday Comes #8
at 12:51 3 Oct 2021

I’ve gone back through my archive, and the last football match I attended before last Saturday at the County Ground was U’s at Cheltenham on 29th February 2020 (and covered in LfW11) – In other words a 574 day wait. Others have mentioned about finding other things to do, losing their love for live football, things like that, and certainly my bank balance has appreciated the break from costly awaydays for the best (worst) part of 18 months. If I’m honest, I was slightly worried that I would go the same way, that the attraction would fade after so long, but I needn’t have been. As a result, it’ll be a slightly different format to this When Saturday Comes blog.
When Saturday Comes #8
at 12:51 2 Oct 2021

I’ve gone back through my archive, and the last football match I attended before last Saturday at the County Ground was U’s at Cheltenham on 29th February 2020 (and covered in LfW11) – In other words a 574 day wait. Others have mentioned about finding other things to do, losing their love for live football, things like that, and certainly my bank balance has appreciated the break from costly awaydays for the best (worst) part of 18 months. If I’m honest, I was slightly worried that I would go the same way, that the attraction would fade after so long, but I needn’t have been. As a result, it’ll be a slightly different format to this When Saturday Comes blog.

A Grand Day Out

And so I found myself last Saturday morning on the no. 55 bus into Chippenham to catch the train to Swindon. Already on the train was my mate Craig from Salisbury, and a full day of football beckoned. Normally I bemoan our terrible rail network for delays, but this time it was the bus service, which eventually crawled up to the train station literally as my train was pulling into the platform. With seconds to spare I managed to dive into the first carriage available, no time to seek out wherever Craig was sat on what was a pretty packed-out train. Still, no matter, it was only a short journey before we were reunited à la Brief Encounter on the platform (obviously Craig is Celia Johnson in that analogy), to be met somewhat appropriately by the Clun Castle.

Match of the Day #1
Chelsea v Manchester City
Saturday 25th September 2021
Premier League (Tier 1)
Attendance 40,036

With no time to waste, we taxied over to the ever welcoming and very busy Merlin pub and found ourselves a seat tucked in a corner next to a couple of other U's fans to catch up whilst watching the first match of the day, Chelsea v Man City in the lunchtime kick-off. The Beeb described Man City’s performance as “an impressive performance” – we clearly were watching a different game, because I thought it was a dreary game of football at best – but it didn’t really matter, it was just good to be out in a pub with mates on a matchday. For those that care, Man City won with a goal fairly early in the second half from Gabriel Jesus.

Match of the Day #2
Swindon Town v Colchester United
Saturday 25th September 2021
Sky Bet Football League Two (Tier 4)
Attendance 8,436

As the final whistle blew at Stamford Bridge, we were ready for the main event and headed over to the County Ground, pausing briefly for a swift half in Bar 71. Though the swift half itself was dreadful eurofizz lager, it was worth the stop just for the opportunity to have a chat with the barman, who turned out to be a Grimbarian, giving my Spireite mate and him a chance for a bit of light-hearted non-league bantz – particularly as Grimsby had the chance to go top if they beat Maidenhead in the 3pm kick-off. All bantered out, we found ourselves a spot towards the back of the well-populated away section, next to the segregation netting, and behind both the shouty lads and a really annoying pillar, and just in time for the teams coming out.

As for the match, well I’ve seen better. The U’s started well enough, controlling possession pretty well, but without really threatening the Swindon goal (sounds familiar). After 15-20 minutes we started to run out of puff a bit, and Swindon managed to establish a bit more control of the midfield, though they too were struggling to create any decent chances of their own, much to the credit of the U’s defence. Even when they did manage to get through the defence, there was Shamal George, who was having a very good game, to mop up everything else.

Into the second half, and the U’s faithful thought we’d had an early breakthrough as Sears dinked one over the ‘keeper for a 1-0 lead, only to be ruled out by the referee, and much to the amusement of the Swindon Town fans to our right. We couldn’t see why the goal had been disallowed at the time, it certainly wasn’t offside or a foul, but it turned out to be for Sears controlling the ball with his hand – the muted protest from the players suggests it was probably the right call.

For most of the second half the U’s were defending in depth and relying on rare opportunities to break out and get up the pitch, but never really looking like scoring. Swindon was almost as ineffective up front, generally relying on long range efforts that either sailed over or George dealt with comfortably. Things did get a bit more frantic in the last ten minutes, Craig reckoning we’d eventually concede before the final whistle, but we didn’t, and the U’s held on for a hard-fought unglamorous but well-deserved point to keep the away form going.

Match of the Day #3
Chesterfield v Torquay United
Saturday 25th September 2021
Vanarama National League (Tier 5)
Attendance 5,127

So, two matches done, only one goal between them, and on to the final fixture of the day, Chesterfield v Torquay United on BT Sport – if we could only find a pub somewhere to put in on instead of Brentford v Liverpool on $ky. We’d already drawn the conclusion that was a very unlikely proposition at the Merlin, so headed into town in the hope of finding some quiet back-street boozer that might. And as luck would have it, we did – the Queen’s Tap right opposite the railway station – who were more than happy to switch channels for roughly half of the big screens, so we could settle down with more pints and watch the game. I’ve always had an affinity with railway station pubs, I love that unique subculture mix of (usually) gnarly locals – railway station pubs are never home to the glitterati – and travellers passing through, and the Queen’s Tap didn’t disappoint in the slightest.

On the pitch, Chesterfield were having a good game, though like the U’s struggling to carve out many decent chances. I was particularly impressed with their striker Kabongo Tshimanga, who Craig was telling me wasn’t even their first choice forward. I had no idea at the time that the U’s had been interested in him – on the performance I was watching, I wish we’d closed that deal. The Chesterfield game kicked off ten minutes earlier than Brentford v Liverpool, which in the context of what was to happen, was significant, and whilst our game was 0-0 at half-time, most of the remainder of the pub were raucously enjoying what was to be an entertaining goal-fest at the new Brentford Community Stadium.

Throughout the first half and into the second, we were joined by various other groups, mostly to talk about football (I was in a U’s training top that day). We had some very entertaining chats with a bunch of Swindon Town fans who’d been at the game, particularly when we collectively remembered Razor Ruddock and his shorts – some of them had forgotten he scored his only league goal for them in that match, much to my dismay. One of them, who’d had more than enough already (yet still had a four-pack in what looked like a large dog poo bag to go) was vaguely scary in a wild-eyed slightly unfocused sort of way – early on wanting to know where our mob was so he could have a go – but he calmed down, and all in all it was all very pleasant. Overall, we all agreed that a draw was probably just about the right result, though drunk scary man would often mutter angrily “we should have won that one”.

Not long after they’d departed in walked a bunch of smart casual young lads, no colours or anything, who spotted my club badge and came over straight away to join us. Spidey-senses sensing danger, I needn’t have worried, as they explained (in a thick hard to understand Welsh brogue) that they were over from Cardiff for the day to watch their mate Cameron Coxe play. We talked about the game, and about Coxe’s performance (he didn’t have too much to do to be fair, and what he did was solid). They weren’t very complementary about big Frank, but on that performance it was probably fair enough (don’t worry Frank, I did tell them you were better played out on the left).

On about the hour mark at Saltergate, and at around the time that the young Welsh lads headed off (presumably to meet up with Cameron?), handshakes all round and one departing with his own Welsh interpretation of “Up the U’s”, Tshimanga put Chesterfield 1-0 up. Their places were taken up by a group of Bath rugger-buggers, on their way home from watching Bath lose 13-20 to Newcastle Falcons at the Rec. Still, not to let different shaped balls get in the way, we all nevertheless had a very pleasant time, sharing drinks and talking about the trials and tribulations of following any sporting side. For anyone not familiar with the South West in general, it is almost impossible to go anywhere without bumping into people sporting Bath Rugby merchandise – Bath Clones as I call them. These gentlemen were particularly vexed about the problems with the Rec stadium. Too small for demand, hemmed in and too constrained for expansion, loved by local bars and businesses, loathed by the local residents, and any suggestion of moving to an out-of-town purpose-built facility despised by supporters. I won’t pretend I care that much, but they really are in an impossible situation right now.

By the time the rugby sorts had headed off home to their nearest and dearest, Tshimanga had put the Spireites 2-0 up, and looked to be coasting to a regulation victory and top of the table (Grimsby had blown their chance, drawing 1-1 at Maidenhead). On the other screens Brentford were putting up a decent fight too, with Janelt cancelling out Salah’s goal to make it 2-2, causing considerable commotion in the Queen’s Tap. As the second half wore on at Saltergate, Chesterfield started to sit back, clearly happy enough to defend their two goal lead, though much to the clear annoyance of manager James Rowe. On the other screen Jones had restored Liverpool’s lead, to be followed not too long after by what looked to be Torquay’s consolation goal at Chesterfield, with barely a minute to go – squeaky bum time now.

Into injury-time and what was a completely surreal moment. Amidst all of our various conversations whilst sat in the pub, I hadn’t really paid too much attention to substitutions or such like at Saltergate. In an almost carbon copy of his conversation with me at the County Ground I remember saying to Craig deep into injury-time that if they weren’t careful Chesterfield were going to concede a second. And then commotion in the pub – looking across I could see why, with less than ten minutes to go Wissa had scored for Brentford to level the scores at 3-3. Looking back to our screen, all I could see was Tom Lapslie – large as life – charging across the Saltergate pitch in celebration.

Slightly befuddled, all I could say was “huh, but…but that’s Tom Lapslie?” and looked bemused at Craig – who was just staring in disbelief at the screen…and then the penny dropped. Of course it was Tom Lapslie, Tom Lapslie had been signed by Torquay after the U’s released him, Tom Lapslie had been bought on as a sub after about an hour, it’s just I hadn’t even noticed, and of course Tom Lapslie was celebrating, Tom Lapslie had just stabbed home a corner in the 5th minute of injury-time to snatch a point for Torquay. I was a proper conflict of emotions, delighted for Tom, but crestfallen for my mate Craig.

And that’s how both games finished, an away draw for the U’s and a home draw for Chesterfield. In what might be construed as an insensitive moment, I did remark on the short train ride back to Chippenham that of the two the U’s was clearly the better point. However, I did also point out that at the end of the day it was still just a point. If Chesterfield had been losing 2-0 and snatched a point, Craig would have been elated, rather than feeling like someone had punched him in the guts – but that’s what football is all about. Nevertheless, we’d had a great day out, watched three games of football (four if you count the Brentford Liverpool side-show), met lots of weird and wonderful people, and I wouldn’t have changed any of it for a moment…apart from maybe not disallowing Freddie’s dink.

Chelsea 0 Manchester City 1 (Gabriel Jesus 53’)

Swindon Town 0 Colchester United 0

Chesterfield 2 (Kabongo Tshimanga 58’, 73’) Torquay United 2 (Armani Little 88’; Tom Lapslie 90’+5)

Papa John's U's v Wham U21
at 19:12 28 Sep 2021

...and a new face - Chay Cooper starts for his U's debut (no. 37)

1 Dean Gerken GK
22 Junior Tchamadeu DF
3 Ryan Clampin DF
18 Tom Eastman DF
4 Luke Chambers (C) DF
6 Brendan Sarpong-Wiredu MF
34 Samson Tovide MF
14 Noah Chilvers MF
37 MF
19 Armando Dobra MF
9 Frank Nouble FW
When Saturday Comes #7
at 17:57 25 Sep 2021

Well that didn’t go as planned at all – after a stirring battling performance full of grit, character and togetherness with the small band of travelling supporters at Barrow, the U’s then finally returned back to the JobServe and completely failed to turn up against bogey side Crawley. They weren’t the only ones either, Hayden Mullins was absent as well, and we have since learned he has Covid-19 and will also miss tomorrow’s game at Swindon too – I know we all wish Hayden a speedy recovery. Fortunately, I won’t be missing the match, with tickets arriving last weekend – first live game for best part of 18 months, and I can’t bloody wait!
Prediction Logged by at 19:30:57
Swindon Town v Colchester United prediction logged
When Saturday Comes #7
at 17:57 24 Sep 2021

Well that didn’t go as planned at all – after a stirring battling performance full of grit, character and togetherness with the small band of travelling supporters at Barrow, the U’s then finally returned back to the JobServe and completely failed to turn up against bogey side Crawley. They weren’t the only ones either, Hayden Mullins was absent as well, and we have since learned he has Covid-19 and will also miss tomorrow’s game at Swindon too – I know we all wish Hayden a speedy recovery. Fortunately, I won’t be missing the match, with tickets arriving last weekend – first live game for best part of 18 months, and I can’t bloody wait!

TWTWTW and closer to home
There has been quite a bit of social media activity and speculation around Richard Kone over the last week or so, particularly as he has now scored 17 goals in just ten games for Athletic Newham. Obviously a rare talent, albeit he’s operating at the 9th tier of the Football League, this is the sort of form that makes people sit up and take notice. I strongly suspect he’d be nowhere near as prolific up against solid, professional, fit, highly technically skilled League 2 defenders, but his current form is nevertheless impressive. However, for this blog it therefore made sense to me in combining the wider world view and closer to home in one section.

As I’ve mentioned on other threads, I got the impression (I think from something I read on Twitter, Facebook or the OMB) that the stumbling block to us or anyone else signing Richard Kone on a professional contract was down to Home Office work permits – so I’ve looked into this a bit more. Now, I don’t present this fact, because I’m not involved, have no knowledge of conversations that may have or be happening between Kone, his agents, football league clubs and/or the Home Office. Nor do I even know whether we still have any interest in trying to sign him either, I’m just presenting what I can glean as the current situation regarding non-EU footballers.

Until Brexit, the UK was within the area covered by the “Schengen Agreement”, allowing free movement for EU citizens between all countries within the area. This meant that professional footballers (therefore considered ‘workers’) could move freely between member states without the need for work permits or visas. Young players in particular were also covered by the Bosman Decision, again allowing them to sign for any club within the EU if they were no longer under contract. Previously the issue was clubs retaining the registration for players they no longer had under contract, the Bosman Decision fixed this, whilst also deeming quota systems dictating how many footballers from other member states could play for a club unlawful. It is my understanding that Bosman still stands despite Brexit, but non-UK footballers do now need a work permit/ visa to play in the Football League – but I don’t think there are specific criteria making this a daunting prospect.

On the other hand, every non-EU footballer like Richard Kone who wants to play in professional football in England must have a Governing Body Endorsement (GBE) from the FA before the Home Office will consider issuing a work permit to do so. There are sound ethical reasons why as well – the Premier League will generally shop within the EU for their young talent and can afford to do so given the prices usually demanded. Outside the EU, in areas which might be considered more ‘third world’, non-PL clubs can (and indeed were) hoovering up young footballers at a fraction of the cost, creaming off those with clear potential, and throwing the rest on the scrap heap.

As a result, barely half of those brought in from non-EU countries and given work permits made it as professional footballers. To tighten up procedures, eligibility for a GBE was amended in 2015, and the criteria is now a sliding scale based on the official FIFA ranking of their home nations, and the proportion of international matches they have taken part in, as follows:

© https://www.inbrief.co.uk/football-law/footballer-work-permits/

For players under 21 the qualification period reduces to just the past year, but still the system is clearly weighted to recognise established talent. The criteria also recognises that the higher the FIFA ranking, the harder it might be for non-EU players to gain sufficient international caps. This is the problem that Mike Masters and the U’s came up against back in 1992 when gaining promotion back to the Football League – he just hadn’t played enough international matches (zero at the time) to qualify for a Home Office work permit. Ironically, whilst still technically under contract to the U’s, Masters gained his one and only cap playing for the United States, coming on as a 59th minute sub against Ukraine on June 27th, to become our first full international. Kone is from the Ivory Coast, who last time I checked had a FIFA ranking of 54, so given he is only 19, he will have had to have played in 75% of Ivory Coast’s internationals over the last year. I’m pretty certain he hasn’t played in any.

However, he has appeared for an Ivory Coast national side, in the most recent Homeless World Cup in Cardiff two years ago – I presume the 2020 (and maybe 2021?) competitions were cancelled because of Covid. The Homeless World Cup is a 4-aside international tournament (two tournaments actually, with men’s and women’s competitions played alongside each other) in which national sides compete, with eligibility to play being:
1) Over 16;
2) Not played in a HWC tournament before; and
3) One of either (1) homeless at some point in their life, (2) making a living as a streetpaper vendor, (3) be an asylum seeker, or (4) currently in drug or alcohol rehabilitation.

Seventeen at the time, Kone was very open about his sexuality, and discussed it during an interview at the competition ( https://homelessworldcup.org/i-dont-think-of-much-else-but-football-at-the-momen Whilst homosexuality is not illegal in the Ivory Coast, homosexuals are still the subject of stigmatisation, beatings, imprisonment, abuse and extortion – by friends, family, even the police. At the time Kone had been disowned by his parents (he has since reconciled with his mother) and was living on the streets. Whilst on the streets he was introduced to the president of the Ivory Coast street soccer Don’t Forget Them Association who persuaded him to train hard, win a place in their Homeless World Cup squad, and before he knew it was on the plane to Cardiff.

I’m not certain how many of the 14-minute long games Richard played in, or how many goals he scored, but I do know Ivory Coast won their first game scoring 16 goals. Both the men’s and women’s tournaments were won by Mexico, which shouldn’t come as much of a surprise – since 2012 Mexico’s men and women between them have won 11 of the 16 tournaments. In the year that Richard Kone took part, Ivory Coast came 27th out of 44 participating teams – their best performance in the competition. England came 30th, and I’ve found a very grainy screenshot of the match between Ivory Coast and England from that competition.

If you can’t read it, Ivory Coast 6-0 up with less than 4 minutes to play

So, what does this all mean? Well, first off like I said this is just my supposition and what I can glean from the internet, I’m not presenting it as fact and don’t claim any sort of secret squirrel insider knowledge. But, it would appear that the stumbling block to us or anyone else signing Richard Kone on a professional contract is that he doesn’t qualify for a GBE from the FA, and can’t therefore get a work permit to play professional football. Of course he can get a work permit (and presumably has) to work generally in the UK on a day-job and then turn out as an amateur for Athletic Newham (or any other non-professional amateur side), but until he starts picking up international caps for Ivory Coast, it looks like the Football League will have to wait to see what he can do at the highest level.

Stat attack
I’ve mentioned previously that we have a very long history of facing Swindon Town, behind Gillingham on 101 matches, they are our joint second opponent along with Exeter City and Peterborough on 85 matches in all competitions. Honours are fairly even overall, the U’s winning 34, drawing 19 and losing 32. We first faced each other back in Division Three (South) on 23rd August 1950 at the County Ground, drawing 1-1 under manager Jimmy Allen.

It would take until January 1953 to finally record our first victory in Wiltshire but thereafter it was not usually a place to visit with high expectations. In fact, from 1953 right the way through to 2005 we only won four more matches at the County Ground, with three of those under Bobby Roberts in the mid- to late-70s. However, in 2005 something changed – don’t quite know what, but since then in 12 visits to the County Ground the U’s have won 6, drawn 3 and only lost 3.

Obviously I’ve been to most of them too, and there are so many favorites to remember – collecting stadium petition signatures in the County Ground Hotel back in 2005 followed by that very first modern era 3-0 victory. Alfie’s first ever football match (with Sam as well) for the 3-1 victory in 2008, the gripping 3-2 comeback just before Christmas in 2017 – and who can forget the utterly dejected ballboy lashed to the mast in the face of a Force 10 during our spirited 0-0 in 2014.

Digging through my archives, I have found a short video from the end of Tony Humes’ 2-1 victory in 2015, including if I’m not mistaken the dulcet tones of our very own Noah for your delectation and delight 😊.


Match of the Day
Stevenage v Colchester United
31st December 2016
Sky Bet League Two (Tier 4)
Attendance 3,076

For WSC07 I return to the random match selector, which goes back to New Years’ Eve 2016, and a visit to Stevenage, for which I don’t have a programme but do still have Alfie’s ticket stub. This was the first season that the Football League had been rebranded the English Football League, and our first season back in the basement after relegation. After a decent start to the campaign, which kept the U’s in and around the play-offs, the wheels well and truly came off in mid-September, without a single victory from then right through to late November which left the U’s in the relegation zone for a return to non-league football.

John McGreal, in his first full season in charge, managed to turn things around, and with four victories and a draw from our next five games, propelled the U’s right back up the table to the very edge of the play-offs again. Expectations were therefore high as I drove over to Stevenage with Alfie, meeting up with my mate Jon at the railway station before taking our places amongst what must have been at least 500 U’s supporters, still full of festive cheer and no doubt looking forward to a bit of a knees up on the tiles that night.

The U’s lined up:
1….Sam Walker
6….Frankie Kent
18..Tom Eastman
15..George Elokobi
2….Richard Brindley (Lloyd Doyley 93’)
11..Brennan Dickenson
7….Drey Wright (Tariqe Fosu-Henry 74’)
4….Tom Lapslie (captain)
22..Owen Garvan
28..Kurtis Guthrie
17..Denny Johnstone (Chris Porter 46’)

Everyone’s bete noire (though he wasn’t at the time) Kurtis Guthrie started up front alongside Denny Johnstone in what transpired to be more of a 3-5-2 than the 4-4-1-1 that was predicted by many. We didn’t have to wait long to see how effective it was going to be either, with Dickenson stooping to glance home Garvan’s corner on 15 minutes. It had been a fairly even context up to that point, with both sides (particularly Elokobi) having chances.

The U’s didn’t sit back either, and just four minutes later Guthrie made and then converted a penalty to make it 2-0. Watching live at the ground, from the far end, it just looked clumsy, but the replay shows it was simply terrible defending, with goalkeeper Jones eventually being identified as the responsible party, though his ineffectual defender certainly didn’t help. Albeit it’s from the opposite end, here’s my video of the conversion.


We were on a roll and roared on by the supporters the U’s went looking for more. Guthrie nearly grabbed one just two minutes later, latching on to a weak headed backpass, but Jones pulled off a double save from Guthrie and Brindley on the rebound to keep Stevenage in it. Stevenage were beginning to carve out their own chances; with ten minutes to halftime Godden flashed a 25 yard shot just over the bar, and a few minutes later Kent made up for his own mistake to deny the same player in the penalty area. On 41 minutes the pressure finally told, with Schumacher’s excellent free-kick being met powerfully by the head of Kennedy, giving Walker no chance and halving the deficit.

We managed to hang on to the 2-1 lead through to halftime, when all the chat was do we park the bus or try and kill the game with a third. Neither as it turned out, and although Chris Porter was bought on to replace an injured Denny Johnstone, barely six minutes into the second half Godden shrugged off Kent’s ineffectual challenge to lash home past Walker and level the scores. As dispiriting as it was, the second half turned into a thrilling game of football, proper end to end stuff with both teams looking for the winner.

With just under ten minutes to go we got the reward we deserved, when Fosu’s shot was blocked on the edge of the box, Brindley scuffed a follow up which I’m sure was going wide, but out snaked the long leg of Chris Porter to turn it into the net and send the faithful into raptures! And we weren’t done either, in the first minute of extra-time, with Stevenage chasing another equaliser, the U’s broke and Fosu tore into the penalty area, turning his defender inside out before blasting home a peach of a left-footer inside Jones’ near post – and that was that – New Years’ Eve bedlam began in scenes reminiscent of Barrow.

Stevenage 2 (Ben Kennedy 40’; Matt Godden 51’) Colchester United 4 (Brennan Dickenson 15’; Kurtis Guthrie 19’p; Chris Porter 81’; Tariqe Fosu-Henry 90+1’)

The U’s would go on to win the next two as well, including a Guthrie hat-trick at home to Carlisle, John McGreal was rightly awarded the December Manager of the Month award, and by mid January we were firmly back in the play-offs. But this was going to be one of those irritating blowing hot and cold seasons, and from then through to early April we lost far too many matches to maintain a firm challenge for the play-offs.

Not giving up, McGreal rallied the U’s for a late push and six matches at the end of the season nearly did it, leaving the U’s agonisingly one point and one place outside the play-offs. It’s easy to point to a single moment and say “that’s when the damage was done” when in reality the damage is done throughout a 46-game season, but dropping two points at Morecambe to a soft penalty equaliser in the 88th minute of our fourth from last game – and scored by Michael Rose of all people, really did hurt.

For those who weren’t there, enjoy the Stevenage highlights.

Up the U’s
[Post edited 24 Sep 18:08]
When Saturday Comes #6
at 13:48 19 Sep 2021

After over a month of absence, the U’s finally make a welcome return to the JobServe for a home league fixture. Sutton seem to have quickly got over their Covid-19/ injury crisis/ international call-up woes, fielding a team the following Tuesday that was strong enough to push Cardiff City hard in a narrow 3-2 defeat to the Championship side. But enough of that, I haven’t seen the outcome of the EFL investigation, but I don’t doubt the decision has either already been or will be rubber-stamped. Gamesmanship – maybe, but I hope at least the EFL are now a bit more alert to the fact that some might think they can treat them like chumps when it suits their purpose? Still – it’s great to be back home isn’t it!
When Saturday Comes #6
at 13:48 18 Sep 2021

After over a month of absence, the U’s finally make a welcome return to the JobServe for a home league fixture. Sutton seem to have quickly got over their Covid-19/ injury crisis/ international call-up woes, fielding a team the following Tuesday that was strong enough to push Cardiff City hard in a narrow 3-2 defeat to the Championship side. But enough of that, I haven’t seen the outcome of the EFL investigation, but I don’t doubt the decision has either already been or will be rubber-stamped. Gamesmanship – maybe, but I hope at least the EFL are now a bit more alert to the fact that some might think they can treat them like chumps when it suits their purpose? Still – it’s great to be back home isn’t it!

On this day in 1961 UN Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld died in a plane crash under somewhat mysterious circumstances. “Who?” I hear you say. Swede Hammarskjöld was elected to the role of Secretary-General in 1953 and re-elected unanimously in 1957. In 1960 the newly independent Congo asked for UN help to defuse the Congo Crisis, and Hammarskjöld subsequently made four visits to the Congo between 1960 and September 1961 in his efforts to find a diplomatic solution, efforts that were treated with distain by the Soviet Government.

Meanwhile, on the ground, UN forces launched Operation Morthor, a military offensive against mercenary forces serving the State of Katanga, which had seceded from Congo at the start of the Congo crisis. Into the midst of this operation were thrust “A” Company of the Irish army 35th Battalion, 155 men under the command of Commandant Pat Quinlan. “A” Company were ordered to hold Jadotville, a small mining town comprising a few scattered properties, no defensive perimeter, bisected by a public road, and of no obvious strategic value.

On the morning of Wednesday 13th September 1961, whilst most of the Irish troops were at mass, a combined estimated force of 3-5,000 attacked the town, a force comprising mostly Katangese soldiers and local settlers, but supported by many Belgian, French, German and Rhodesian mercenaries, mostly veterans of the Algerian War. The surprise offensive might have worked too, but for the vigilance of Private Billy Ready on sentry duty, who fired a warning shot to alert his comrades.

Five days of battle followed, with wave after wave of attacks from the besieging forces repelled by “A” Company, armed mostly with just personal firearms and a small number of water-cooled Vickers machine guns and 60mm mortars. Unable to break out of the siege, UN forces attempted to get relief to “A” Company on a number of occasions, all to little or no avail. After refusing one invitation to surrender, and with no ammunition or food left and very little drinkable water, Quinlan finally surrendered on Sunday 17th September. Although several Irishmen were wounded (including Private Ready), Quinlan did not lose a single man in the conflict. The Katangese were not so fortunate, with an estimated 300 killed (including 30 mercenaries) and up to 1,000 wounded.

We will hold out until our last bullet is spent. Could do with some whiskey.

The following day Hammarskjöld was en route to Congo to try and negotiate a ceasefire with the Katangese troops under Moise Tshombe when his Douglas DC-6 airliner crashed in Northern Rhodesia. All on board perished, in circumstances that are still unclear. A 1962 Rhodesian investigation concluded it was pilot error, while a subsequent UN investigation could not positively identify what the cause was, though there was compelling evidence to suggest the plane had been shot down. A CIA report was more definitive, claiming the plane had been shot down, and that the KGB were responsible.

“A” Company were held as prisoners-of-war, bargaining chips by the Katangese government in an attempt to extort beneficial terms for a ceasefire from the UN. The men were eventually released about a month after capture. The entire incident had been a huge embarrassment to the United Nations. So much so that the Irish Defence Forces’ leadership did not overtly acknowledge the battle, even perhaps ashamed that Quinlan had been forced to surrender an impossible situation. The derogatory term “Jadotville Jack” was often used as a term of derision about the Irish Defence Forces following the battle.

Quinlan died in 1997, still with an implied black mark against his name. Dubbed the Irish Thermopylae, not one veteran of the Siege of Jadotville were decorated for their courage against overwhelming odds, and it would take until 2004 before an inquiry finally ‘cleared’ Quinlan and “A” Company of soldierly misconduct allegations. A year later a commemorative stone recognising “A” Company was erected at Custume Barracks in Athlone, and in 2017 as one of his last public office actions, former Taoiseach Enda Kenny unveiled a plaque commemorating Pat Quinlan in his native County Kerry.

Closer to home
No news yet regarding the investigation into the disgraceful racial abuse of Shamal George, but if you want to have a wander through a selection of thoroughly unsavoury responses from some of the Barrow supporters, take a look at the 10-page thread currently running on their unofficial forum ( https://www.barrowafc.net/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=29225). I warn you though, you might need to shower after the unpleasant experience. To be fair, and to their credit, there are also many decent Barrow supporters who are equally ashamed of some of the responses, and just as vocal in saying so.

Closer to home for me, my tickets arrived this morning for the U’s trip to the County Ground next Saturday – which remarkably (for me) will be my first football trip of the season – can’t bloody wait. My Spireite mate is coming with me for a beer awayday, and we’re hoping the Merlin will allow us to use just one of their many TVs to watch Chesterfield at home to Torquay at 5.20pm on BT Sport. All of this means if I don’t manage a blog next Saturday, you know why 😊.

Stat attack
Creepy Crawley are in town, normally not something to look forward to given the league record stats between us and them. Formed as Crawley Football Club in 1896, and founder members of the West Sussex League, it would take until 2011 under the dubious privilege of Steve Evans as manager for Crawley Town to finally gain promotion to the football league.

Much of the credit for this success should go to then co-owner Bruce Winfield, who alongside fellow majority shareholder Susan Carter managed to attract significant investment in the club, allowing Evans to build the team to gain promotion. Sadly, Winfield died from cancer in March 2011, just 19 days before Evans clinched promotion to the football league. Three days before his death, and against doctor’s orders, Winfield signed himself out of the hospice to go and watch Crawley play AFC Wimbledon, stating “well, what’s the worst thing that can happen?” – respect Bruce, and Crawley won 3-1.

Our paths would first cross in 2012, drawing 1-1 at the JobServe (Weston Homes as it was then). It would take nine more matches before we’d finally record a victory over the Sussex bogey side, winning 3-1 at home almost exactly four years ago under John McGreal. It seemed the worm had turned, and we’d go on to win the next two encounters as well, including a Szmodics-inspired Boxing Day 2-0 victory at the Broadfield Stadium. But that was it, three league victories in quick succession are the only ones out of 16 attempts.


Match of the Day
Crawley Town v Colchester United
Tuesday 29th October 2019
Carabao Cup (4th Round)
Attendance 5,612

WSC06 is a special for the occasion, dipping into the archive to take a look at without doubt our most significant match against Crawley Town, away in the 4th round of the League Cup back in 2019. It had been an eventful journey to this point too. Next weeks’ opponents Swindon Town were the first to fall, crashing out 3-0 in the first round in a match that if I’m honest, there were the better in for much of, but hey – who’s complaining.

A sterner test awaited in the second round, away at Premier League Crystal Palace, but the U’s rode their luck at times, defended when they needed to, and on more than a few occasions to the match to Palace. Come the penalty shoot-out, up stepped brave young Noah Chilvers to confidently hammer the U’s into the 3rd Round, and a home fixture against Tottenham Hotspur. That match may well feature in a blog one day, so I won’t go into too much detail, suffice to say after another spirited performance, increasingly putting the megastars of Spurs under pressure as the match wore on, it was diminutive Tom Lapslie who would score the penalty shoot-out winner to set up Crawley in the 4th Round.

And so I found myself on the train over to Crawley for the evening fixture. Having already exhausted all possibilities of getting back to North Wiltshire post-match, particularly given the possibility of penalties for a third successive time, I’d booked myself into the local Ramada for the night. Needless to say, tickets for the match were in high demand, with an estimate 1,800 U’s fans making the journey, including six more of my extended family – time for a family gathering and some pre-match beers in the Railway.

The U’s lined up:
1….Dean Gerken
2….Ryan Jackson
3….Cohen Bramall
18..Tom Eastman
5….Luke Prosser (captain)
24..Ben Stevenson
14..Brandon Comley
49..Kwame Poku (Luke Gambin 74’)
7….Courtney Senior (Tom Lapslie 83’)
45..Frank Nouble
9….Luke Norris (Callum Harriott 61’)

The significant connection for this match was of course Maltese Luke, who had played on loan at Crawley Town the previous season, and who I had the misfortune of watching tear us apart on New Year’s Day, scoring both goals in a dreadful 2-0 defeat. This time, fortunately, Luke Gambin was on our side, though he started on the bench. Crawley also fielded Dannie Bulman, still playing at the tender age of 40, and at the time the oldest active player in the EFL. Of the usual U’s regulars that season, Brendan Wiredu and Theo Robinson were cup-tied.

Pre-match refreshments on board, we headed down to join the U’s faithful on the unimaginatively named but packed-out KR-L Terrace. Given generally the U’s support might best be described as small but vocal at away matches, it must be some kind of record that we were partly responsible for both Crawley’s record attendances that season, 2,636 in the league, 5,612 in the League Cup.

The match started brightly, with both teams getting the ball down early and passing it around, with no apparent nerves on show for what was a big occasion for both sides – the opportunity for a rare Quarter-Final draw in the League Cup. In truth, Crawley were probably having the better of it, and nearly took the lead in the 10th minute, Gerken doing well to save a curling 25-yard strike from Tarryn Allarakhia (apparently a former U’s academy player, though I didn’t know that at the time). However, just as we seemed to be getting more into the game, veteran Dannie Bulman threw back the years, surged forward and from outside the box blasted an absolute rocket past Dean into the net. Reminiscent of Halford’s goal against Sheffield Wednesday, I honestly can’t remember a goal struck with such power.

It remained to be seen how the U’s would respond to that set back, but we didn’t have to wait long – straight from kick-off in fact. The ball broke to Big Frank out on the left (take note Hayden), who twisting and turning his marker inside out floated a delightful chip over straight onto the head of Chuck Norris, who made no mistake to immediately wipe out Crawley’s opener. And now ths shoe was on the other foot, and most of the remainder of the first half, roared on by the U’s faithful, the U’s had Crawley on the back foot. Norris nearly made it two, with a deft flick which clipped the bar, and just before half-time Ben Stevenson fired in a 25-yarder which might have troubled goalkeeper Luyambula if it hadn’t been straight at him.

Into the second half, and the U’s picked up just where they’d left off, and now it just seemed to be a matter of not if but when would we take the lead. It didn’t take long, when on 53 minutes Norris was fouled by Dallison just outside the box. Up stepped Cohen Bramall to curl a wicked shot over both the wall and the despairing dive of the Luyambula – only to strike the bar and rebound off the back of the unfortunate goalkeeper and into the net for an own goal of comedic proportions…and the away support erupted!

On the hour mark Luke Norris was taken off injured, replaced by Callum Harriott. This brough big Frank back into a more central role, which somewhat stifled our attacking threat to a degree. Stifled but not eradicated however, and Courtney Senior nearly made it 3-1 fired over from a well-worked move with Poku, when he really should have done better (sounds familiar?).

Gambin was introduced with just over 15 minutes to go, I’m sure in an attempt by McGreal to protect our lead. He went one better, and combining well with Frank up the middle, and following a deft pass from Harriott, swivelled on a sixpence to drill the ball high into the net, sparking delirium amongst the U’s faithful both on and off the pitch. We had further chances as well, from both Lapslie and Comley, but to his credit unlucky goalkeeper Luyambula saved well. It didn’t matter though, the match finished 3-1, we celebrated like mad people and the U’s were in the hat for the League Cup Quarter-Final.

Crawley Town 1 (Dannie Bulman 20’) Colchester United 3 (Luke Norris 22’; Michael Luyambula 53’og; Luke Gambin 79’)

Just under two months later, our reward from the draw was Manchester United at Old Trafford, with over 5,000 U’s packing out the away end. The U’s performed valiantly, holding the Premier League giants 0-0 at half-time, mostly through a doggedly defensive performance. Into the second half, the U’s actually started to take the game to Man U, but three goals in quick succession left the U’s playing for pride – and there was a lot of that that night.

For those who weren’t there, enjoy the Crawley highlights.

Up the U’s
When Saturday Comes #5
at 15:36 12 Sep 2021

Well, I can tell u my son was stood nearer the back of the Holker Street end and although he couldn't see who was responsible, he was disgusted and was very clear in telling me that the 'N' word was used by someone stood directly behind the goal nearer the front. I'm sick of hearing this, no one but the player being abused heard anything so maybe he was mistaken crap. This shite still exists despite everything that the authorities try to do because unfortunately there are still racists in every, city, town, village and hamlet in this country. [SwearFilter] scum of the earth.
A good weekend to be a Colcestrian
at 17:27 11 Sep 2021

Never mind the U's winning 3-2 at Barrow, I see Ipswich's promotion campaign is floundering, spanked 5-2 at home to Bolton and currently sitting in the relegation zone with 3 points from six matches.

The old ones are the oldest, and It's a much-used meme, but I've just been sent this, which made me chuckle

Meanwhile, in other news, after a 3-1 drubbing at FC Halifax, the wheels appear to be falling off Southend's "Back to the League" campaign, unless the league in question is the National League South that is...
When Saturday Comes #5
at 15:22 11 Sep 2021

Well, I can tell u my son was stood nearer the back of the Holker Street end and although he couldn't see who was responsible, he was disgusted and was very clear in telling me that the 'N' word was used by someone stood directly behind the goal nearer the front. I'm sick of hearing this, no one but the player being abused heard anything so maybe he was mistaken crap. This shite still exists despite everything that the authorities try to do because unfortunately there are still racists in every, city, town, village and hamlet in this country. [SwearFilter] scum of the earth.

Today of course marks the 20th anniversary of the horrendous coordinated attacks on western democracy, when al-Qaeda terrorists hijacked four commercial flights with the express intent of crashing them into prominent US landmarks. Two planes were crashed into the twin towers of the World Trade Center, and a third into the Pentagon. It is believed the fourth plane’s target was either the White House or the US Capitol, but passengers on the flight fought to regain control of the aircraft, and the plane eventually crashed into a field in Pennsylvania.

The attacks resulted in the death of 2,977 innocent people – I won’t dignify the 19 terrorists by counting them amongst the dead – and an estimate 25,000 people injured. Numbered among the dead were 344 firefighters and 71 law enforcement officers trying to rescue those they could from the North and South towers.

I’m sure many, as I do, remember exactly where they were and what they were doing as news of the attacks spread, played out in horrific detail on internet news feeds worldwide. With colleagues I sat stunned and watched events unfold, almost too numb to even comprehend what I was seeing – one friend even made the grim but accurate comparison that it was almost like watching a Hollywood big-budget blockbuster – it just didn’t seem real.

The impact on the world was seismic, with a wave of hostility against Muslims which still pervades to this day. Under a study overseen by the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs, the post-9/11 wars that the US has participated in have caused the deaths of an estimated 929,000 people, at a cost of $8 trillion dollars. The study concluded that a conservative estimate of 38 million people have been displaced by these conflicts in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, and the Philippines.

There have been no winners in any of the above, and sadly I fear very little learned either – may all victims rest in peace.

Closer to home
For this week, When Saturday Comes we already have the luxury of being able to relax after the U’s battled to victory in a feisty entertaining game ‘oop north at Barrow. Goals aplenty, two red cards, a fistful of yellows (in a game that referee Simon Mather struggled to keep control of at times) and of course the alleged racial abuse against Shamal George in the first half.

The sheer unadulterated joy shared between the players and heroic 120 of the faithful as Beastman bulldozed past Sea to powerfully head home the winner was a joy to watch, reminding me once again just why I am so proud to support the U’s. I’m sure my neighbours were less enthused about my support for Colchester United as I charged around my kitchen screaming like a maniac 😊.

By all means relive the experience, and you’re welcome 😊

Stat attack
Normally I’d be looking at interesting Barrow-related stats, seeking wisdom and insight into how the match might play out – but of course that’s rather moot the morning after our stunning 3-2 victory at Holker Street. Still, let’s give it a go eh?

Incidentally, if you haven’t worked it out, the left shield pane is bee-arrow, taken from the Barrow-in-Furness coat of arms

Barrow AFC were formed in 1901, moved to Holker Street in 1909, and in 1921 joined the football league. Achieving very little of any significance in their early years, they became a founding member of the new Division Four in 1958. They would finally achieve a promotion in 1967, just 66 years after their formation, and the following season achieved their highest ever league position, 8th in Division Three. They were relegated two seasons later and haven’t been back.

Further woe was to follow in 1972, after finding themselves applying for re-election for the second season running. Although finishing third from bottom of the league, after a recount they were voted out in favour of the new post-Newcastle darlings of the media, Hereford United, Ronnie Radford et al. It would take another 48 years for the Bluebirds to return to the football league, capitalising on the Covid-19 curtailed season to be promoted 2019/20 National League champions on points per game.

Our paths first crossed in November ’61, with a 1-1 draw at Layer Road. The 60s weren’t kind to the U’s where Barrow was concerned, losing successive matches at Holker Street 4-0, 3-0 and 5-0 between 1962 and 1967. Dick Graham eventually broke that away form duck in August 1970, winning 2-0, and prior to last night the remaining four visits (including two in the Conference) have all been draws. At home the picture for the U’s is a bit rosier, with four victories, three draws and just one defeat, suggesting neither team particularly fancies the long trip.

Of course, the key match that every U’s fan will remember is the 5-0 demolition of Barrow at Layer Road on 2nd May 1992 (including a hat-trick from Mike Masters), to confirm Colchester United as Conference champions, ahead of dear friends Wycombe Wanderers on goal difference. 7,193 jammed into Layer Road for the match, not surprisingly a record crowd for matches between the two sides, and whilst the U’s celebrated as champions, Barrow were quietly slipping through the trapdoor back to the Northern Premier League.

Match of the Day
Torquay United v Colchester United
Saturday 27th November 2004
Coca-Cola League 1 (Tier 3)
Attendance 2,984

WSC05 returns to the random match selector with another long trip for the U’s, away against Torquay at Plainmoor. Obviously not so much of one for yours truly, with Torquay always a popular trip in the Wessex calendar whenever our paths cross. Sadly, though I didn’t know it at the time, this was going to be for now my last opportunity to see the U’s at Plainmoor. Crazy when you think they’re still our seventh commonest opponent in all competitions.

There is a significant context to this match to consider. Not only was it one of my regular awaydays as an exile, nor indeed a much-anticipated chance to reunite with Martin, Paul and his dad of the Swedish branch, but we were also in the midst of campaigning for the new ground. One of the coordinators Rob Knight (alongside our own Leadbelly, both driving forces in the Colchester Community Stadium Action Group), and being the persuasive bugger that he was, easily roped me in to collecting signatures at the match – which to be honest I was more than happy to do, and repeat on a number of other occasions elsewhere as well (including asking my audience at an archaeological lecture to do so).

And thus I found myself on a bright crisp November morning on the train down to Devon…

The U’s had started the 2004/05 campaign brightly – exceptionally brightly in fact, with a stunning 3-0 victory away at Sheffield Wednesday (LfW#20). However, by October we were slipping away into mid-table, though buoyed by a most recent comfortable 4-1 victory over Mansfield in our FA Cup 1st Round replay at Layer Road on the Tuesday before the trip to Torquay.

The U’s lined up:
1….Aidan Davison
25..Sam Stockley
12..Pat Baldwin
18..Liam Chilvers
23..John White
28..Richard Garcia
17..Bobby Bowry
6….Kevin Watson
4….Gavin Johnson (Joe Keith 34’)
9….Craig Fagan
2….Greg Halford

In the Torquay line-up that day were one or two familiar names, not least long-standing strike partnership Tony Bedeau and Jo Kuffour up front. Mind you, there was no bigger name at Plainmoor than manager Leroy Rosenior, whose distinguished career as a striker took in spells at Fulham (three times), QPR, West Ham, Charlton and Bristol City. Pertinent to the alleged incident at Holker Street last night, Rosenior is also a leading campaigner in the fight against racism in football, an ambassador for the Show Racism the Red Card campaign, and was awarded the MBE in 2018 for his work tackling discrimination.

So, on arrival at Torquay’s Boots and Laces bar and meeting up with Rob, and armed with pen, clipboard and a sheaf of blank petition forms, I set about coercing as many signatures as I could from anyone who had the misfortune to cross my path. I wasn’t the only one either, so don’t be surprised if a forensic audit of the petition signatures revealed some irregularities 😊. Having exhausted the crowd packing out the bar, I resorted to roaming the area around the ground, even getting signatures from some of the stewards – it was surprising how readily people would sign up as soon as you muttered “yeah, we’re trying to persuade the council…”.

Eventually, with multiple sheets completed, I returned to the bar, handed over my catch, and settled back for a couple of well-earned refreshments in the company of the Swedes, Rob and others – and a cracking time it was too. Suitably refreshed, I took my place alongside a couple of hundred others on the Babbacombe End terrace, the stewards politely declining to allow me to take my clipboard in with me.

There’s not too much I can recall in detail from the game, other than the weather was beautiful and it was certainly an entertaining match to watch. This was despite what could seem on face value a dull 0-0 first half. There was plenty of action, more than a few opportunities, and plenty of cause for the faithful to remain in good voice on the shallow covered terrace. However, the really key incident of the first half was what looked like a heavy studs-up impact injury to Gavin Johnson’s left foot just after the half hour mark, and he had to be replaced by Joey Keith.

Half-time came and went, and the second half kicked off in a similar style, both teams keen to get the ball down and play a fast, passing game. It would pay off eventually for the U’s, with Craig Fagan putting the U’s into a deserved 1-0 lead on 67 minutes. We’d barely stopped celebrating when Fagan repeated the feat on 72 minutes – surely the U’s were home and hosed now?

Not so it transpired – the incident behind it escapes me, but two minutes later Torquay had pulled one back from the penalty spot, Martin Gritton getting the better of Aidan Davison. Anticipating that the last quarter of an hour was going to be a Torquay siege of the U’s goal, I really wasn’t expecting Richard Garcia to more or less immediately restore our two-goal advantage, sending the away terrace into raptures! Torquay gave it a decent go, sacrificing Matt Hockley for the more attacking option of Stuart Broadley with ten minutes to go, but the U’s held out for a well-deserved and most welcome three points.

Torquay 1 (Martin Gritton 74’p) Colchester United 3 (Craig Fagan 67’, 72’; Richard Garcia 78’)

This was our first victory on the road since the same scoreline at Bournemouth in early September, and alongside the opening day 3-0 victory at Hillsborough, one of only three at the time – yep, I was at all of them 😊. We’d go on to only get three more league victories on the road for the remainder of the season, at Swindon, Stockport and Peterborough, and Stockport was the only one of those I missed. Normally life as an exile following the U’s is substantially less hit and much more miss, but that season I really filled my boots.

We’d go on to do the double over Torquay in the last match of the season, relegating them to League 2 in the process, to be replaced amongst others by Southend United – promoted via the playoffs, and setting the scene nicely for the upcoming 2005/06 campaign.

The work of CCSAG and their small army of petitioners would go on to gather (I think) 33,000 signatures eventually. The petition was presented as an interim measure to the office of the Minister for Culture, Media and Sport in January 2005, and would ultimately be a significant factor in persuading Colchester Council to back the proposed Cuckoo Farm development in November 2006.

And the rest, as they say, is history…

Up the U’s
U's v Gills - Papa Johns goblet
at 19:24 7 Sep 2021

U's line up:

24 Jake Turner GK
27 Cameron Coxe DF
22 Junior Tchamadeu DF
2 Miles Welch-Hayes DF
18 Tom Eastman DF
21 Gene Kenedy MF
19 Armando Dobra MF
6 Brendan Sarpong-Wiredu MF
14 Noah Chilvers MF
17 Sylvester Jasper MF
9 Frank Nouble (C) FW
29 Shamal George SUB
30 Al-Amin Kazeem SUB
43 Harry Beadle SUB
7 Luke Hannant SUB
10 Alan Judge SUB
11 Freddie Sears SUB
34 Samson Tovide SUB

Gillingham include the unfortunately named Gerald Sithole on the bench - schoolboy humour fix for the night sorted :-)
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