Hull City/Middlesbrough – Awaydays
Sunday, 5th Sep 2021 13:32 by Clive Whittingham
A decade since we stopped doing them, the sheer joy of the trips to Hull and Middlesbrough have us tentatively dipping our toes back into the over-written, under-read, verbose travelogue nonsense that is The LFW Awaydays.
In the beginning
The Awaydays, like so much of the stuff on LoftforWords, was an idea stolen from somewhere else.
It was 1996, it was February, I was 12 and I was cold. My father, as he was wont to do, had parked me in the corner of the sort of no-place-for-a-child public house he liked to use to get enough lager in him to cope with the forthcoming horrors of Stoke 0 QPR 0 at the Old Victoria Ground. They pulled the place down at the end of that season, but it was still in better shape than Mark Hateley who “lead the line” that day in his own special way. At one point he must have felt a bit guilty (dad, not Mark Hateley), peering through the thick cigarette smoke and catching sight of how obviously bored I was, so bought me a copy of Stoke’s Oatcake fanzine from behind the bar by way of “ere, I got you something to do”. Lucky me.
Anyway, in there was an Awaydays feature where they took their trip to Birmingham the week before, marked things like the ground, the pub, the journey, the atmosphere and the pies out of ten for a score out of 100, and produced a league table across the season. When I stumbled into LoftforWords some eight years later, I started doing the same, and because it’s LoftforWords, and because it’s me, these eventually morphed into great, long, verbose tomes about the history of various railway stations, reviews of Wetherspoons food, and the annual encounter with that hand towel in the bogs of The Ministry of Ale in Burnley. Like a really budget version of Bill Bryson crossed with Anthony Bourdain, but with more people being sick on public transport. They took a lot of time, but I quite enjoyed doing them, because I’m weird and enjoy doing things like this, and they were often well received – the last one, from that game at Manchester City has been read 24,000 times I noticed this morning. The archive is at the top of the site in the ‘features’ section, by the way.
That’s the last one we did because around that time I’d moved out of the frequently hilarious trade of court reporting, and into trade press in the television industry. From chuckling my way through unlikely “I found it there” defences of how somebody came to be discovered by security guards standing in the river at the end of the B&Q car park with a stolen leaf blower hoisted over their head, I was now plunged into a world of lunches where white men with double barrelled surnames talked about the “creative process” for a four-part Channel 4 drama nobody watched, over prosciutto and overpriced table wine. I’m from Grimsby mate, I was out of my depth, and I spent these mostly praying nobody would talk to me or ask me anything other than my choice of starter. However, on one occasion I was seated, by chance, with an experienced journo in this field who I greatly admire and we got chatting about all sorts of things, including, it turned out, a shared love of Queens Park Rangers. Eventually I coughed that I was actually so obsessed by QPR that I wrote one of the websites to which he replied, rather too quickly for my fragile self esteem: “oh it’s not that one with the long rambling pieces about which bloody pub they drank in is it?” To which, obviously, I laughed, and said “nooooooo, of course not” before scrambling together a story about how I came up with the name WeAreTheRangersBoys.com.
Wellll, confidence shot, time in ever shorter supply, QPR away trips under Mark Hughes and Harry Redknapp increasingly taking on the feeling of signing up for some drug trial that’s gone badly awry, I quietly knocked them on the head. However, literally almost four of you have asked on occasions where they went and whether they might make a return, and as we come back out, blinking into the light, and travelling round the tattered remains of this strange little country again, I’m inclined to agree with you.
I travelled up to Hull on the Friday before the game, in a train carriage empty bar one other person who got on as the doors closed at Kings Cross, fairly well oiled for a little after one in the afternoon might I add, sat on the seat directly across from mine (because of course), smashed a can full fat Coke, laid his head down on the table in front of him and slept very soundly through to and beyond my change at Doncaster, bar one fart just after Peterborough which bordered on being a fucking war crime. Get me The Hague. They brought me a bacon sandwich just after Newark because “I’m going off shift and we’ve only got one left”. LNER hacks – sit in the unreserved seats nearest the kitchen.
Light ales in The Draughtsman at Donny Station (survived the pandemic, Jurassic Park) and onto the rattler across to Sunny Scunny and a first visit to my parents' place since before the plague. Mum cried. I’d forgotten this but there’s a bit of the journey, as you’re approaching the town that time forgot, where the line bends round and over the Trent through a small village that straddles the river linked by an enormous lifting bridge which if you tried to lift it now would kill many people. Network Rail have put a sign up on the station there saying “GOOD NEWS – WE’RE MENDING YOUR WAITING ROOM” to which somebody has taken the trouble to scrawl underneath “bout time paint the fucking bridge while your [sp] here”. The bridge being stuck means it’s the last point of the Trent you can load a boat up before pointing it out into the Humber and the North Sea beyond so there’s a bit of a wharf there where they take lumps of metal on and off ships by way of earning a living.
The bit on the west side of the river is called Keadby, and the bit on the east is called Gunness, so naturally they called the station (which my train, like most trains, did not stop at) Althorpe. Which was fine, because nobody lives here or has any reason to visit, and the train doesn’t stop anyway, until Diana Princess of Wales croaked and, in the period of hysterical public grieving that followed, posh people in funeral attire started alighting in this little North Lincolnshire wharf town, most famous for a power station that’s no longer there, mistaking it for Althorp the grade one listed stately home and 13,000 acre estate in West Northamptonshire where the Queen of Hearts was laid to rest in a leopard print leotard. The staff at the Ironstone Wharf public house could do little but serve them a driving lager and turn them back around, with a cautionary warning that the next train probably won’t be for a few days. Incidentally, I’d always considered The Ironstone Wharf to be like the dockyard bar on the original Airplane movie, with less charm, but it scores 4.6 from 49 reviews on Google. “Friendly staff and locals and a good range of drinks. Beer garden overlooks a good size car park,” says Paul Darley. So there you go.
And as we trundled on into Scunthorpe, past the municipal golf course where kids, and adults, could enjoy an entry into that sport for £4.50 a time, rather than £1,000 a year at a private club, until the council couldn’t be arsed to cut the grass any more so now it’s just an overgrown field scattered with dead trees, I was inclined to agree with the four (three) of you. Somebody, somewhere, should be writing this shit down.
Tenner. And give it a wipe afterwards for that.
Crawling into Teesside on the stopping road from Whitby we approached a set of lights next to a tattoo parlour called “Rumple Ink Skin”, which feels rather like somebody heard there was a trend for tattoo parlours and chip shops to have funny puns in their name but got caught overthinking their own version. As the lights changed we slowed to flash a gentleman into the traffic from the adjacent petrol station, only to find that he had simultaneously lowered the driver’s side window to start negotiating a price with a local prostitute and was no longer paying any attention to us. It was a little after five o’clock in the afternoon, and she was very much the standard you would expect of the ‘early shift’. We weren’t going to ask twice, he missed his opening. In the traffic I mean excuse me. Potty mind, there’s a child’s bike outside.
Somebody, somewhere, should be writing this shit down. But here’s the other reservation I have about doing so again. It’s really easy to stray, or at least be perceived to stray, into Benefits Street territory by doing so. I think watching a leather-faced guy haggling over blowies with a hooker at a Shell garage next to a tattoo parlour called Rumple Ink Skin on the outskirts of Middlesbrough at five in the afternoon is funny, because it just is, and if you can’t take the piss out of that what can you take the piss out of? But QPR, as a southern team, in a northern-dominated division, come to places like this all the time, and white, middle class, journalist Clive pointing at things he finds funny could easily just become Channel 5 shoving a London-based production company into a council estate and filming the guy who drinks cider at the side of the road at ten in the morning.
Except Middlesbrough, and Hull, is where I’m from. Born in another fishing port, Grimsby, and raised through teenage years in another steel town, Scunthorpe. Grandparents on one side worked on the railways shovelling coal, and latterly a power station where they got my granded to strip the asbestos from the roof in a paper mask. Rumours my mum, an only child, was only conceived because he slipped under ‘Grandma Gray’ while she was doing her press-ups unconfirmed. He died a week before I was born. Grandparents on the other side moved from Motherwell to work in the steel works – other grandad was a “moulder”, i.e. the guy that made the moulds they pour the molten steel into. Fuck me, imagine that. How would you even begin? Biggest, hardest, funniest bastard I ever met. Had a massive heart attack a couple of days after John Spencer scored on his debut at Reading. A legend of The Goldhawk, where he’d propose to Margaret the landlady every home game, before heading home to long-suffering and eternally patient Fanny (shut it) who lost her temper with him only twice – once when he returned from the pub on Christmas Day and tried to take the turkey out of the oven with his bare hands (moulder, I told you) and it ended up in the cat litter tray, and then later when he brought my aunt’s wedding reception to a halt with an enormous wolf whistle and shouted over the silence for gran to “bring him some more sausage” from the buffet.
Sausage. At a wedding. That’s where I’m from. When I come back up here with QPR and hear “we pay your benefits” and “this place is a shithole, I want to go home” I wonder, having left Finchley where £450,000 buys you a two bedroom upstairs flat in a converted office block, and landed in a place where £450,000 buys you a five bedroom house in open countryside, with land, and a swimming pool, who’s mugging who off here really?
It started, as these things often do, in The Minerva on the dockside in Hull. It’s a bloody brilliant pub this, one of the best from our travels, all rooms, enclaves and corridors to cope with its peculiar shape. It’s survived worse than Covid-19 but it has nevertheless had to bite down on the gumshield and get through the lockdown closure, which was prolonged by the council helpfully telling them they weren’t allowed to re-open with seats outside on the pavement. Finally serving again, they’ve found that same council has picked now (rather than any point over the last 18 months) to dig up all the surrounding pavement and road to tart the place up a bit, so you have to pick your way through all sorts of roadworks paraphernalia to get inside. Thanks lads. Just revoke its fucking liquor licence if you hate the place that much. Five steps forward out of the front door and you’re in the water, keep going in that direction past the oil refineries and Blundell Park and you’re in Rotterdam. It’s more passenger ferries and wind turbine ships setting out on that quest across the widowmaker than trawlers these days, but you’ll do well to find better pub fish and chips than they serve in here. Haddock, of course, not cod – they send that shit down south for us to eat at three times the price. Again, who’s mugging who off here?
If you’re compiling a list of the UK’s biggest shitholes from the comfort of BuzzFeed’s trendy Soho offices then Hull’s the standard lazy pick for top spot. And, sure, if you did your pre-match in The Silver Cod, or ventured into the Spoons opposite the station seeking sanctuary, then it could very well have felt like you were in the waiting room for the end of the world. But then, if you judge places by what it’s like directly outside the railway station, then Barcelona’s a shithole too. It’s a place I’ve spent a lot of time, and have a lot of time for (Hull, not Barcelona), improved further by the sell off of the public owned telecoms company Kingston Communications, previously one of this country’s weird anomalies that meant Hull had cream telephone boxes, now a private company providing appalling coal-fired broadband to the region, with the money invested back into facilities and amenities for the city.
One of those is the stadium in West Park where we wound our way a little before three in the afternoon. Always worth recapping the history of how a ground as impressive as this ended up here, built at the time for a football club in the Third Division, and a frequently destitute rugby league team lucky to attract 5,000 people to games at its characterful/derelict Boulevard stadium just over the road. In the beginning, because Hull City were run by the astute Adam Pearson, and FC by the disinterested Hetheringtons, ownership of the football club also came with control of the third party stadium management company. Never a problem, until the Allam era took hold. Walk around the place now, you’d struggle to know Hull FC still call this place home as well as City. While allowing the place to fall into disrepair, festooned with pigeon shit, beset with roof leaks, filthy to the point of being unsafe, the Allams never miss a chance to, for instance, paint all the gangways and concrete in the place tiger colours. There has been a litany of petty misdeeds, ranging from replacing pictures of Johnny Whiteley in the Johnny Whiteley Suite with ones of Steve Bruce unless the rugby club agreed to pay a five figure rental charge per season to have them up; to reconfiguring the pitch so it’s no longer long enough for a standard rugby league field; forcing Hull to play away for six weeks every summer so they can work on said pitch; replacing the floor of the adjoining sports hall with a 3G surface rendering all the community clubs that use it homeless; locking the gates on public rights of way because of a "threat of terrorism"; making such punitive and restrictive demands that two Hull FC players have now had to play their testimonials away from home while at the same time bending over backwards to hold a squash championship here in front of a dozen people, churning up the pitch with the temporary courts in the process.
The Allams wanted this place, a community asset paid for with public money, for a quid, so they could stick a large and profitable retail park on the wasteground to the north that comes with it. When the council laughed and said “obviously fucking not” the vindictive pettiness started, and while many City fans have no time for rugby league or FC, they have seen their team and club dismantled from one in the Premier League to one in League One. If you really think the whole attempt to change the name of the team to Hull Tigers was about accessing some latent Far Eastern market desperate to support an unfashionable football club in the north of England if only it was named after a fucking wild animal, you haven’t been paying attention. That wasn’t film about a shark either. Hull bounced back from a relegation to League One - brought about by the Allams once again selling the team’s best players (Jarrod Bowen and Kamil Grosicki) without adequate replacement in the January transfer window, wrongly believing they were already safe - but they haven’t scored a goal in the league since a surprise opening day thrashing of equally dire Preston, and QPR, Derby, Wigan and Bournemouth have all taken positive results home from Humberside already. Choosing to spend your Saturdays, as the pimply little virgin in the grey tracksuit clearly does, standing as close to the away end as possible and goad the travelling fans until they’re winning so comprehensively that you lose the plot entirely and get hauled out by the stewards, is not a pastime that’s going to bring you much joy. This club will never make significant progress under this malignant ownership.
Bar a terrifying start to the second half when QPR’s single goal lead was preserved only thanks to one brilliant Seny Dieng save and an outrageous Rob Dickie clearance from the line, Rangers are much the better of the two teams and win three nil. Chris Willock scores from range Matt Ingram should have saved at, Dykes shoots in low from a corner, Dickie scores into an empty net from a yard, and there’s a bad miss from two yards by the Scotsralian in the first half with his head, and a great Ingram save in a one on one situation in the second. For this QPR are given an xG rating of 1.56. My arse. A column for another day.
Is Scarborough on the way from Scunthorpe to Middlesbrough? Well, probably not, but then rivers, estuaries, the motorway network, and nobody in their right mind ever wanting to go from Scunthorpe to Middlesbrough means there isn’t really a way as such. Drink had been taken at Leyton Orient the week prior when my dad’s old mate Mick randomly took the seat alongside me and so I was full of “yeeeeeeeeeeh I’ll pick you up mate” when I heard he was holidaying here without means of return from the Riverside. Actually, it was a fine way to spend a random 25 degree day of sunshine. The problem with Leeds, of course, is it’s full of people from Leeds and the problem with Scarborough is this is where the Leeds train lets them all out for their summer holiday. There were some sights to behold and some sounds to cower from but another portion of fish on the quayside, watching a couple of seals bobbing up and down in the harbour, was almost idyllic if you could block out the people around and about. One of the little fishing boats was called The Optimistic, almost certainly recently bought by a police officer two weeks away from retirement.
As we wound towards kick off in Middlesbrough, a worried crowd of parents with increasingly irate children gathered outside the town Nando’s, fuming at its closure as we watched on from the window of Dr Brown’s over the road. One by one the landlady called out which beers they’d run out of until we were reduced to bottles of Budweiser. Middlesbrough voted 65-35 to leave in the EU referendum, I could quite happily sit here and do a “not the Brexit we voted for – exactly the Brexit I voted against” piece, but actually my mind drifted back to my youth when I rattled around the villages of North Lincs in a battered Corsa, making ends meet by delivering pizza. I’d clock on as Neighbours finished, work until 3am, and go back to college the day after to fall asleep when the hungover history lecturer stuck an episode of War of the Worlds on in lieu of a lesson. The early part of that shift, without fail, was delivering hideous, monstrously unhealthy, pizza and kebabs to exactly the same dozen homes, where exactly the same mum and kids fresh back from school would greet me at the door and count out change to pay for it. Every. Single. Night. The “ham” topping wasn’t ham at all, because the Muslim owners of the shop wouldn’t handle it. It was “turkey rash” - turkey entrails ground into a paste with breadcrumbs, formed into house bricks, died pink, and chopped up into cubes for pizza tops. If they put a new kebab on the burner on a Monday, it would still be there come Thursday, each night being lifted off and left to stand in the summer heat of the kitchen overnight, dripping whatever those things drip onto the floor, then back for another 10-hour stint on the warmer the following day. It looked, smelt and tasted like medical waste. Nando’s would be a twice-a-year treat that required some saving for. Schadenfreude is difficult when you know the people the shit that is going down at the moment is going to screw the most, and how little it will harm the people that drove it.
Can you feel the love tonight?
I guess when you support QPR and not Chelsea the answer is obvious, but there’s something that draws me to Hull over the other bigger, better supported, more successful clubs of the M62 corridor, and indeed Middlesbrough over Sunderland and Newcastle. There’s a sense of entitlement at Elland Road, Stadium of Light, St James’ Park, that seemingly no lengthy period of chronic shitness can cure them of. They deserve better, apparently, because… it’s a big place… there’s a lot of them… …. If you’re sticking with Hull City and Middlesbrough, airs and graces are checked in at the door. In The Minerva, as ever, fans mixed freely and talked about their respective sides. Name the three former Hull City signings in the QPR squad – ‘signings’ is the operative word, Charlie Austin is the trick answer, and although he’s not here today he loves scoring on this ground and pointing to the supposed busted shoulder that scuppered his transfer from Burnley before QPR moved in first time around. Boro, too, friendly, chatty, keen to swap intelligence on the sides.
They’ve done a reasonable job of generating some atmosphere in a half empty, identikit new stadium too. Shifting the away fans up into the corner and taking the old visiting section behind the goal, a wall of their most enthusiastic support has been built and while the big continental flags are a bit much the noise is formidable. QPR are blitzed from the kick off and when the onslaught eventually pays in the form of a generous penalty against Lyndon Dykes, its conversion is met with scenes not seen since fall of the Berlin Wall. Limbs, actual limbs, for a successful penalty ten minutes into the third game of the season against QPR. Fair play to you lads, clapping sticks not required. Looking forward to Fulham next month already.
There followed every possible emotion you can experience as a football supporter, crammed into a mad two hours. It was a game that took you from one extreme to the other, often within the same minute of play. Initially, something approaching despair. All that optimism over the summer, all those foolhardy predictions of play-off pushes, all that hope, all that expectation, and it turns out we’re shit again after all. Lucky against Millwall, fortunate against Hull, and now getting beaten up here by the first proper team we’ve played. Woe is me, a fucking idiot, still at 36 insisting on coming to the other end of the country on a Wednesday night to be let down again, wasting my time, wasting my money, wasting my whole bastard life. Hate it. Hate it. Not doing it any more. This is it, this is the moment it bottoms out, this is the turning point, this isn’t me any more, from this day forth. Oh wait, we’ve equalised. There’s that chemical rush again that I can’t get anywhere else. The little surge in anticipation and noise as Captain of Glasgow Rangers Lee Wallace gets going down the left, right beneath our feet in the far corner of the stadium. The upward inflection as he gets the cross right, the moment of silence as Johnny Howson sticks out his leg, the realisation it’s in the net, and then the euphoria. All those games we watched stuck in the house, all those Adomah at Watford and Bonne at Luton moments we missed, all those bloody Facebook Watch quizzes we sat through, and now we’re back here for this, and there’s nowhere else in the world I’d rather be at this moment. Moses Odubajo has been sent off. Fucking penis. Well it’s a long old night ahead of us now Kathy. Lyndon Dykes has scored. Lyndon Dykes has scored. Celebrations the celebrations of surprised people, who never expected that moment from that player at that angle at this point of the game in these circumstances. Often the best kind of joy this. Joe Lumley, we’ve seen that before. Now, stomach knotting, migraine inducing, water torture-like nerves. Ever think your life is passing you by too quickly? Can’t believe it’s already September? Get your team two one up away from home with ten men and half an hour left for play, then we’ll see. There’s genuinely no anguish like it. How many minutes can there possibly be between 60 and 70? It crawled by like the chuffing Cretaceous Period. This game that you’ve paid £30 to attend, travelled to the other end of the country to see, taken time off work, petrol, rail fares, commitment, and now more than anything else you want it to be over. Just finish it. You can’t look at it, and nor can you look away. You dare not believe Rangers will hang onto win, because to do so would be to tempt fate and out of your thoughts will emerge the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man to head in an equaliser. Actually, it’s Matt Crooks, similar build, off Dom Ball’s error. International Day of the Wally Brain. Did all the hard work. Don’t you know how emotionally invested in this I am, just boot the thing away down the line. Toss pot. How long now? A quarter of an hour. Pissflaps. That’s too long. Enough stomach acid being churned to burn a hole in the hull of a ship. I’d take a point now if you offered me it, but that option is not available. The choices are stay and watch the inevitable, or leave and have it happen without you, but either way it’s happening, like the day your wife moved out. Chrissy Willock doesn’t think so. He’d nearly scored earlier after slaloming round half the population of Teesside, and now he has, finding the far bottom corner with a left foot shot that should come with parental guidance. Now it’s losing your shit time. Now it’s falling over rows of seats, climbing up the back of stands, jumping on random strangers, rupturing your oesophagus, tearing at your clothes levels of chaos. I have an erection so large it's a three hander. If they could put this feeling in a tablet it would knock the opioid epidemic into a cocked hat, nobody would go to work again, the economy would collapse. Middlesbrough are beaten now and know it. Willock nearly scores again straight after. QPR, with ten men, have played and attacked beautifully, and richly deserve their win. The pride, the songs, the players and fans celebrating together at the end, you get back to the car and realise your hands are sore and trembling from all the applause and chems rushing through them. A young boy at the front draws Willock’s attention and when he hands over his match shirt the joy of the moment means any attempt to play it cool dissolves and he throws his arms round the winger in a big hug. How can you not get romantic about baseball?
A day or so later I’m in the Tut ‘n Shive between trains at Doncaster again. It, too, has survived the pandemic, albeit with a brutally unkind Greene King makeover. Six days, 500 miles, several hundred pounds, three crates of Peroni, two portions of fish and chips, two curries, and two of my mum’s barbecues in weather completely unsuited to barbecues later and I am a broken man. It’s oozing out of my pours. The beer in front of me could kindly be described as 'chewy'. I’m about 16 hours away from being back in The Crown and Sceptre for the Barnsley game. A speeding ticket is on the way, from the Beverley bypass on the way back from Boro, bang to rights at 76 miles an hour but having not seen another car in either direction for an hour between Scarborough and the Humber Bridge I am rather bitterly wondering exactly who that’s protecting? Not exactly going to maim a school patrol at one in the morning am I? It’s my mum’s car, so she gets the letter, and takes it in exactly the sort of relaxed, chilled out manner I expected. I am, for a moment, 16-years-old again. She appreciates neither my joke about “QPR not the only ones bringing three points back from Boro”, nor the follow up blaming “all the beer I’d had”. The jukebox is turned up to an implausible volume, and appears to be set to “songs from the musicals”. Five old soaks and I sit and watch At The Races together. Conversation is pointless, with Elton John’s Can You Feel The Love Tonight from The Lion King overwhelming everything in its path. I’m not sure we had much left to say to each other anyway.
Total Hull 97/140 Boro 94/140
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When Saturday Comes #5 by wessex_exile
“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.”
When Saturday Comes #4 by wessex_exile
I start with an apology for the no-show last weekend, but for all the right reasons. My nephew and his fiancé finally managed to tie the knot on Friday, at the fifth time of asking (previous four attempts falling foul of covid restrictions unfortunately). It was a fantastic afternoon and evening over in Essex, but meant it just wasn’t possible to get a blog produced. A significant proportion of the wedding party were U’s supporters, including the groom, but any thought of live-streaming the Rochdale game at the evening celebration might have resulted in the fastest divorce on record, so we contented ourselves with surreptitious glances at the BBC Sports updates – and what an own goal it was! Different circumstances, but I was (painfully) reminded of Aidan and Kevin’s howler at Blackburn – golden rule, never, ever pass the ball directly towards your own goal.
When Saturday Comes #3 by wessex_exile
The goalless U’s have eventually got that monkey off their backs, with the Frank and Freddie show combining to win a somewhat dubious penalty, in the 5th minute of injury time, allowing Freddie to get his new goal account at the U’s off and running (all in all he now has 37 goals, five of them penalties). It was tight though, and on another day the goalkeeper would have got a hand to it, but they all count, whether it’s a 25 yard peach or one off the arse. Everyone has rightly said that without doubt Mansfield were the best side we’ve faced so far – I’ll go so far as to say they’ll probably be one of the best sides we face all season. Though it wasn’t comfortable viewing at the time, some of their passing and movement, particularly on the break, was breath-taking at times. But enough of the love-in, however good they were, the U’s stood up to them, kept them out for the most part, and eventually got the point we deserved.
When Saturday Comes #2 by wessex_exile
Two games into the season, and although still goalless, it has been a reasonably promising start for the U’s. A tough opening day fixture away at Carlisle, and in front of a bumper crowd which delayed kick-off by 15 minutes, the U’s were largely resolute in defence, whilst still creating enough chances to have won the game if our finishing had been sharper. To be fair though, were it not for prodigal son Shamal George making his return to Brunton Park, we could just have easily lost – a performance which rightly earned him the Man of the Match award. Midweek at Championship club Birmingham City in the Carabao Cup was an even more spirited performance, and one which really should have seen the U’s victorious, but if you don’t take your chances you will get punished, and we did in the 75th minute. Much has been said about the opposition being a second (third?) string side, and with players taking the field with squad numbers in the 50s, that can’t be disputed. But, when you’re facing a team that actually has squad numbers in the 50s, you realise just how big a club our opposition was.
When Saturday Comes #1 by wessex_exile
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.
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