|When Saturday Comes #1|
Written by wessex_exile on Sunday, 8th Aug 2021 14:29
So here we go for another rollercoaster ride on the trials and tribulations of being a U’s supporter. 2021/22 is a noteworthy personal milestone, as we start my 50th season following Colchester United Football Club. Nowhere near as long-suffering and venerable as some of you out there I know, but it’s significant to me that’s for sure. More of less this time next (on my birthday as it happens) will be my actual 50th anniversary – will I be celebrating with the U’s in League 1? Who knows, but with the players that Hayden Mullins has added to the squad during the summer, hope springs eternal.
I still haven’t reconciled quite what the format of the new blog is going to be, but one thing is for sure, I won’t be able to do these per match, it will have to be a Saturday thing, hence the copyright challenging title of the blog. Of course, a U’s match will feature, but potentially also commentary on the events of the week at times, some stats maybe, really anything that has grabbed me that seems appropriate.
Euro 2020 did also, unfortunately, remind us that football still has a long way to go to rid itself of the scourge of racism, with Marcus Rashford, Bukayo Saka and Jadon Sancho on the wrong end of shameful vile racist abuse from alleged England ‘supporters’ after missing their kicks in the penalty shoot-out (inevitable) defeat to Italy in the final. I’m delighted to see that some of those responsible have since been arrested, but if anyone was in any doubt why footballers feel the need to make a stand against racism by taking the knee, there’s your answer – and why protests like these are still needed.
[b]Closer to home[/b]
With, for now, social-distancing regulations relaxed, the EFL has reintroduced the ban on streaming matches in the Saturday afternoon slot. I can understand why, as disappointing as it is to no longer be able to watch matches as an exile from afar, all clubs will be suffering financially, and streaming revenue just can’t match revenue from bums on seats – nor, as we saw in Euro 2020, the difference a decent atmosphere inside a ground makes. I will take my consolation from the fact that I (and others) was able to watch every single match of the 2020/21 season – a feat never achieved before, and likely never to be achieved again.
As some will have already seen, and on behalf of others involved in the concept, I have a Club United proposal active, aiming to raise £5k in pledges to deliver a seat design suggestion that would add “1937” to the North Stand and a stylised version of the club crest eagle to the South Stand. Thanks to any of you who have already pledged – at the last count it has raised £731.87. Not a bad start since going live on Wednesday, but still a way to go yet if it’s to reach the target by the 1st January 2022 deadline.
All donations gratefully received btw 😊
Releasing my inner nerd, I thought I’d have a quick look at opening day fixtures throughout the history of the club since 1937. Our excellent presence on Wikipedia (never mind Graeson’s excellent www.coludata.co.uk) rightly states that 2021/22 will be Colchester United’s 85th season as a football club, and they’re not wrong. However, this includes the five years of the Second World War, when competitive football was suspended (barring four matches played in 1939/40 before the outbreak of war). In reality, this is actually our 80th competitive season, meaning there have been 79 previous first day fixtures for the U’s. Mostly league matches, there have been a few season’s where our opening game was a cup match, mostly including a run of League Cup games in the mid to late 70s, but of course also including our 1972 Watney Cup semi-final against Luton Town.
Overall, we’ve scored 128 goals on the first day, and conceded 108 – a reasonably positive return over the years. It will come as no surprise that the highest score was our magnificent seven at Carrow Road in 2009, but who also can forget the 6-3 demolition of Chesterfield at Saltergate in 2001, the 4-1 victory at QPR the season before (in the League Cup), or most recently winning 4-2 at Preston North End in 2011 (one I had the pleasure to witness and featured in MoY #18). Remarkably, these were all away from home, but Layer Road also witnessed a couple of thumping victories under Benny Fenton back in the 60s too, 4-0 in 1960 against Hull City, and 4-1 against Barnsley in 1963.
On the win, lose or draw front, again our first day form is reasonably healthy, with 34 wins, 19 draws and 26 defeats. Our longest successful run was six on the trot from 1997/98 through to 2002/03. Our worst streak was just three on the bounce from 1964/65 to 1965/66, but before we get our hopes up too much, it’s sobering to reflect that our last victory on the opening day of a season was back in 2013/14 (1-0 at Gillingham under Joe Dunne), since when we’ve drawn five and lost twice.
[b]Match of the Day
If I’m going to sued for copyright infringement, I might as well go down in flames with the title for this section of the blog. [i]Match of the Day[/i] for WSC#1 goes back to that Saturday afternoon on 3rd August 2013 at the Priestfield Stadium (known today as the MEMS Priestfield Stadium for sponsorship reasons). Managed by Joe Dunne, this was our sixth consecutive season in League 1, and after narrowly avoiding relegation the previous season, Joe was determined to get the season off to a good start against his former club Gillingham (Joe is still seen very much as a club legend by Gills as well as U’s). I travelled over on the train for this one, meeting up with my mate Jon at Hamilton Hall for a few fresheners before the relatively short journey out into Kent, to take our place up at the back of the open end at the Priestfield alongside what must have been about 500 of the faithful.
Joe had been reasonably busy in the close season, meaning today saw debuts for Ryan Dickson, and technically Craig Eastmond and big Sam Walker as well. Craig originally joined the U’s on loan back in 2012, on the day Joe Dunne took over as manager, but an injury forced him back to his parent club Arsenal in December of that year. When Arsenal announced they were releasing Eastmond, Joe was straight in there to get Eastmond signed up for the start of this season. Sam had signed on loan for the second half of the previous season, and then rejoined on a new loan deal (and hence a new debut) for the start of this season.
The U’s lined up that day:
First off, it was a very hot day, so being bleached on the open terrace after a lunchtime bunch of beers was not the most comfortable of surroundings. However, the Gillingham scally away to our left kept the U’s faithful both amused, and therefore in good voice. For much of the game, it was too solid sides very evenly matched and largely cancelling each other out. There were moments, Danny Kedwell for Gillingham hit the woodwork with Walker beaten, and both Freddie and Jabo went close at the other end, though from our vantage point quite how close was difficult to ascertain.
Into the second half, and the game started to open up a bit more with decent chances for both sides. Sam did well keeping out an effort from Charlie Lee, and Alex Gilbey had at least two clear-cut chances to take the lead without really testing Nelson in the Gillingham goal. Just before his substitution, Marcus Bean went close too, but it was Joe’s subs that would ultimately make the difference.
As the second half wore one, and with a 0-0 stalemate looking on the cards, Joe Dunne introduced Alex Gilbey (for Bean) and Drey Wright (for Freddie) in rapid succession, and then finally with just three minutes of normal time to go, Andy Bond replaced new-boy Craig Eastmond. It paid off too, as Drey Wright jinking and swerving in the box, provided the inch-perfect pass for Andy Bond to drill home with just a minute to go (and with what I think was his first touch of the game). The away terrace erupted in bedlam, and we were still celebrating like maniacs as the mass exodus from the Priestfield was in full flow.
[b]Gillingham 0 Colchester United 1 (Andy Bond 89’)[/b]
Come the end of the season, the even balance between the two sides was born out, with the U’s finishing 16th on 53 points and Gillingham 17th on the same points. Albeit we hadn’t really ever challenged for promotion (though 2 wins and 2 draws at the start had kept us briefly in the play-offs), Joe had at least delivered on his promise to improve on the previous 20th place finish.
First off, there is a good post-match interview with Joe Dunne on YouTube that was aired by Gillingham Football Club. Joe’s somewhat downbeat demeanour clearly a testament to his respect for Gillingham Football Club.
There is also a match highlights video, though it looks like it was filmed on a potato, and there’s no sound.
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Blogs by wessex_exile
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When Saturday Comes #11 by wessex_exile
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 – “[i]He who would valiant be, 'gainst all disaster, let him in constancy follow the Master[/i]”. 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 ([b]Noah[/b], [b]Durham[/b] 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 #10 by wessex_exile
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 #9 by wessex_exile
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 [b]Durham[/b] and the rest of the U’s faithful who make the trip.
When Saturday Comes #8 by wessex_exile
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 [i]When Saturday Comes[/i] blog.
When Saturday Comes #7 by wessex_exile
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!