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Letters from Wiltshire #05
at 13:46 26 Sep 2020

Matchday #3, and Robbie’s not happy. I know opinion is divided, but I have considerable sympathy with the Chairman on this one. I don’t want this to be necessarily a political comment, but many are looking on with bemusement as the government seem to lurch from one knee-jerk reaction to another during this crisis, and I would be saying this of any government, regardless of their political persuasion. The nub of Robbie’s comments is quite simple, what’s the point in having a panel of experts working closely with responsible club owners to plan supporter’s safe return to essentially open air stadia, investing in alterations, changes to layout, developing detailed procedures etc. to then have the rug pulled out from under their feet? I know why, a second wave seems to be coming, and frankly it looks like people simply can’t be trusted to follow the rules – but why then are pubs still open, or does the virus only come out after 10pm?
Blog
Letters from Wiltshire #04
at 16:14 18 Sep 2020

After last weeks’ solid point away against Bradford City, tipped by many to be strong promotion contenders, we now face another stern test against fallen giants Bolton Wanderers. Okay, giants may be stretching it a tad, but these guys have won the FA Cup four times, the League Cup twice, and the Charity Shield and Football League (Sherpa Van) Trophy once apiece. Christ, they were in the Premier League just eight years ago. But, they are where they are for a reason, and Saturday is all about 11 v 11, literally on a level playing field…
Blog
Letters from Wiltshire #03
at 12:47 12 Sep 2020

So here we are, the drôle de guerre is over, the real battle is about to begin. Can we take any positives from the opening exchanges so far? I think so, the style is good, albeit Noah is right that the work in the final third needs considerable improvement if we are going to capitalise on our tippy-tappy triangles in midfield. But we’ve played some decent sides, far better sides than we should expect to face in League 2, and we haven’t been beaten out of sight yet, so let’s see what today brings against a side I think will be there or thereabouts come May next year.
Blog
Letters from Wiltshire #02
at 13:27 8 Sep 2020

Three days on from our early Carabao Cup exit at the Madjeski, we prepare to start the next cup competition at Fratton Park – at least we can’t be out of this one by full-time – well, not tonight anyway. For those that gain perverse pleasure from such things, had we prevailed against Reading, only Luton Town would have stood between us and another match against Manchester United! Of course, we wouldn’t have done, because we’d be in a completely different strand of reality, and thus a completely different cup draw, but no harm in a bit of Whatiffery.
Blog
Letters from Wiltshire #01
at 14:41 5 Sep 2020

Here we are then, at the start of a new season, curiously this time already well into September. I plan to continue (time permitting) writing blogs for each matchday, but with the season already considerably compressed, and matches as a result coming thick and fast, my apologies in advance if I don’t make it for every single game.
Blog
Matches of Yesteryear - Cardiff v U's 11/4/98
at 13:51 21 Jun 2020

Here we are then, after a reasonably solid but distinctly dull semi-final first leg lit up by a moment of sheer brilliance by Bramall, just one match away from a socially distanced Wembley play-off final. We may have a slight advantage, but there is of course still much to do, and I can’t imagine for a moment that Exeter will be that shot-shy again at t’other St James’ Park. It’s all about the result though, performance is irrelevant, so I’ll take an even duller 0-0 every day of the week and twice on Sundays. I hope you’re all keeping safe and well, and for those of you blessed with progeny – Happy Father’s Day!
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Matches of Yesteryear - Reading v U's 11/11/2000
at 10:49 18 Jun 2020

So, after months of uncertainty, here we finally are at the start of a well-deserved play-off campaign. I say well-deserved, though in truth the play-offs ought to have been our minimum aspiration back in August. But sometimes life throws you a curve ball – no one could have predicted back then what the world was going to become, that hundreds of thousands would perish, and that most clubs today are probably fighting for their very existence. In fact, as already mentioned by MFB and Durham, no one could have predicted that were it not for a stirring 3-0 victory at Carlisle in our last match back in March, we wouldn’t have even been in the play-offs. During lockdown, I have been reassured by the honest and stateman-like announcements from our Chairman keeping us all updated, and never more grateful that we have him looking after the club.
Blog
Matches of Yesteryear - Millwall v U's 14/4/99
at 14:25 25 Apr 2020

And so here we are, at what would have been the last match of the domestic season, at home to FGR, and almost certainly still in with a shout of making the play-offs – maybe even already guaranteed by now. As I look out this morning, it’s a beautiful sunny day, and I would almost certainly already be on the first leg of a train journey to be amongst the faithful at the Jobserve Community Stadium. Given the location of our opponents, I’d probably be sharing the journey with a few hundred FGR supporters too, but they’ve always been a friendly bunch whenever I’ve met them, so I wouldn’t have been too concerned about that. Instead, we sit and wait to see how and when the season may (or may not) finish – strange times indeed…
Blog
Matches of Yesteryear - U's v Accrington Stanley 13/1/04
at 13:33 18 Apr 2020

Happy Saturday everyone…well, less of the happy actually, with rain falling freely since yesterday afternoon. Still, good weather to be in lockdown for, takes away that feeling that you might be missing out on some quality time outside. In an open letter yesterday to all supporters of EFL clubs, chairman Rick Parry stated “…with or without spectators, delivering a successful conclusion to the 2019/20 season remains our goal to ensure the integrity of our competitions”. If that can be achieved, it appears almost certain these will be matches behind closed doors, streamed live to all supporters – which inevitably will break the long-held Saturday 3pm blackout for televised matches. We all know why that blackout was in place, but this is a difficult time, and it requires an innovative solution.
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Matches of Yesteryear - Swansea v U's 7/3/06
at 15:00 13 Apr 2020

Good afternoon everyone, I sincerely hope you’re all doing well, and hopefully not going too cabin-feverish! Today would have been a home match against Oldham Athletic, and after our surely guaranteed epic 3-2 victory at Sixfields on Good Friday, it would be just one more victory needed to guarantee a play-off place…think I might have been out in the sun a bit too much over the last few days 😊
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Matches of Yesteryear - Yeovil v U's 30/9/17
at 13:53 10 Apr 2020

Good afternoon everyone, and first and foremost I must take the opportunity to wish you all a happy, healthy and most of all chocolicious Bank Holiday Easter weekend. This morning I should have been waking up in Langenhoe with all the kids, probably slightly muzzy-headed after my cousin’s wedding yesterday, and preparing for the journey home via Sixfields to watch the U’s bolster their promotion hopes. Needless to say, first the EFL, and then the wedding had to be postponed, so here I am still in North Wilts, though what a beautiful day it is!
Blog
Matches of Yesteryear - U's v Swans 3/4/01
at 13:14 4 Apr 2020

Good afternoon everyone, North Wilts calling. We’ve all no doubt heard (and used) variations of the expression “strange times we’re going through” during this crisis. They certainly are, and without a doubt the term crisis is apt, with deaths and positive tests seemingly rising almost exponentially at the moment. But we’ll get through this, and when we do, I firmly believe as a society we’ll be better for it. We’ll be a society better connected to our family, friends and neighbours, and more caring for those that need support. More so, we'll be a society in tune with the concept that we don’t have to burn fossil fuels to conduct business, we do have the technology available to avoid it, we’ll all be pretty adept at using it, and will all be far more comfortable with using it. It's an ill wind...
Blog
Matches of Yesteryear - U's v Macclesfield 4/4/92
at 14:33 28 Mar 2020

Good afternoon everyone, I sincerely hope you are all doing well? Today would have been a vital home match against Mansfield, struggling at the wrong end of the league this time after a couple of seasons flattering to deceive at the sharp end. Since the last blog, we now know that all football below the National League is cancelled, and the season expunged from records. A tough break for the likes of Jersey Bulls in the Combined Counties League Division 1, who had won all of their 27 matches and already promoted, but then these are very strange times indeed. I sincerely hope the EFL season can be completed somehow, but I’m increasingly pessimistic about whether it will be.
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Matches of Yesteryear - Wycombe v U's 6/3/99
at 14:44 21 Mar 2020

Here we are again, so greetings to all you social distancers and self-isolationists, I sincerely hope you are all well. This would have been our third fixture since the suspension of all football in the UK, and with more and more measures being implemented by the government to minimise social gatherings, including extending the football league break until at least the end of April, one wonders whether we’ll ever finish this season? There have been numerous measures announced, including £50m from the EFL, to minimise the financial burden on us smaller clubs, but Robbie Cowling has gone on record stating that “…to really survive and go forward there is going to be help needed from the Premier League or elsewhere” – quite right Robbie.
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Matches of Yesteryear - U's v Bournemouth 27/4/99
at 19:50 17 Mar 2020

Tonight would have been our home fixture against table-toppers Crewe, and a chance to avenge the draw at Gresty Rd which really should have been a victory. However, what’s really interesting about it for me is that myself and probably a considerable number of you out there would have been watching it on i-Follow – exactly what our chairman suggested should have been the first option the EFL considered before deciding to postpone league fixtures. Ho hum, wonder how we would have got on…
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Matches of Yesteryear - U's v Yeovil 15/8/09
at 15:04 14 Mar 2020

…and so we enter the start of the coronavirus-enforced football league postponement period for 2019/20. As things stand, we will emerge on 4th April away at Bradford City, with nine fixtures (some teams, including Swindon, Crewe and FGR have ten) still to complete over the following 21 days, though I’m sure the end of the season could be extended if needs be. Whether we do restart on 4th April only time will tell.
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Matches of Yesteryear - Swindon v U's 23/8/08
at 11:52 7 Mar 2020

Another very busy week at work, so apologies this is a little later than usual. For once I look out on a Saturday with bright skies and the sun even occasionally peeking out – will it be shining on John McGreal and the U’s by 5pm though? It’s at times like this I need the sage words of Doris Day (and latterly Wivenhoe resident Captain Sensible) “Happy talk – keep talkin’ happy talk”.
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Matches of Yesteryear - Posh v U's 11/10/97
at 19:28 28 Feb 2020

Another Saturday, another storm – this time Storm Jorge (pronounced ‘hohr-heh’, the Spanish Met Office apparently beat us to the punch on naming this one, so Storm Ellen will have to wait). After the horizontal blasting we received from Storm Dennis at Salford last weekend, I’m rather hopeful the U’s are learning to adjust to these conditions, and at least the JCS pitch ought to hold up better than the Peninsula’s did last Saturday – will it ever stop raining though…
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Matches of Yesteryear - Yeading v U's 12/11/94
at 21:40 21 Feb 2020

I had a chat earlier this week with my neighbour, Head Groundsman at Forest Green, lamenting the interminably dreadful weather we’ve been experiencing, and he wryly asked the rhetorical question ‘do you know when it last wasn’t raining – October!’. Not literally, but it does feel like it right now, and all but the most pristine of surfaces are really starting to creak at the seams now. The news that there’s a pitch inspection at 9am tomorrow does not fill me with hope, particularly as I’ll be halfway to Birmingham by then…
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Matches of Yesteryear - Northampton v U's 24/4/99
at 18:13 14 Feb 2020

Well, here we are going through the exhilarating highs and despairing lows of what it is to follow the U’s rollercoaster journey this season – one wonders what Saturday will bring, apart from yet another storm (Dennis this time). Vale Park is a tough enough place to go at the best of times, so will howling winds and lashing rain be the great leveller for the U’s? We shall see, but in the meantime, how about we go back to a time when our perennial concentration around this time of the season always seemed to be at the wrong end of the table, maybe put things a little bit into perspective…
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