Quantcast
Please log in or register. Registered visitors get fewer ads.
Blog
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!
Forum
Thread
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!



TWTWTW
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.

However…

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
Blog
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.
Forum
Thread
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...
Forum
Thread
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.



TWTWTW
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
Forum
Thread
U's v Gills - Papa Johns goblet
at 19:24 7 Sep 2021

U's line up:
4-2-3-1

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
Substitutes
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 :-)
Blog
When Saturday Comes #4
at 19:16 4 Sep 2021

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.
Forum
Thread
When Saturday Comes #4
at 19:13 3 Sep 2021

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.



TWTWTW
Out in the real world obviously the big news has been the withdrawal from Afghanistan, but as promised I’m not going to say any more on that other than it’s done now, and we wait to see how the Taliban lives up to its claim to be the new progressive voice for the Afghan nation.

On Thursday, England strengthened their World Cup qualification prospects with an eventually comfortable 4-0 victory over Hungary at the Puskas Arena, all goals scored in the second half following a distinctly mediocre first half. However, the match was overshadowed by a toxic atmosphere of repeated racial abuse from the Hungarians, particularly aimed at Raheem Sterling and Jude Bellingham. Objects, including a flare, were thrown on the pitch and specifically at players, and Gareth Southgate pelted with ice during his post-match interview.



UEFA had already imposed a 3-match supporter ban on Hungary for similar discriminatory behaviour during Euro 2020, but the World Cup is a FIFA competition, who therefore decided that the ban didn’t apply to their own competition. Needless to say, FIFA are now investigating this most recent incident – one hopes that investigation includes understanding why they chose to ignore the warning signs that everyone else could see and allow supporters to attend. Gareth had it right when he commented post-match “the world is modernising and although some people are stuck in their ways of thinking and their prejudices, they're going to be the dinosaurs in the end because the world is changing”.

FIFA have vowed to take “adequate actions”, so that’s a relief…

Closer to home
For the U’s, the big news has to be the deadline day signing of Armando Dobra on a season-long loan from our feeder club up the A12. Not the tried and tested out-and-out 20-goal per season striker we were hoping for, but given those beasts appear to be as rare as hens teeth, I’m very happy as a consolation prize to see highly-rated attacking midfielder/ winger Dobra arrive. Others were after him too, including League 1 sides Gillingham, Shrewsbury and AFC Wimbledon, as well as a bunch of fellow League 2 sides, so another feather in the cap for the recruitment team I say – or does that constitute fishing 😊?


Welcome to the U’s Armando!

Born in England, Dobra qualifies to play for Albania through his father’s side, already representing both the U19 and U21 Albanian national sides and scoring once (the consolation goal in a 5-1 defeat against Greece in a Euro 2020 U19 qualifier). Although I’m relying on Wikipedia here, I don’t think he’s scored a domestic goal yet in his professional career, so I would imagine he’s going to break that duck soon enough whilst at the U’s – hopefully in front of the iFollow cameras on Saturday.

Stat attack
Tomorrow we face league new boys Sutton United, though for the U’s, they are by no means strangers. We first met in our unsuccessful attempt to escape the Conference in 1990/91, winning 1-0 home and away for one of many league doubles that season under Ian Atkins. It could be argued Sutton had their revenge, albeit a somewhat pyrrhic one, later the same season beating the U’s 2-0 at the Borough Sports Ground in the Conference League Cup (aka the meaningless Bob Lord Trophy), ultimately going on to win the trophy that season.



The real revenge however was to come two years later, when we met in the first round of the FA Cup at Layer Road. In a tense end-to-end game (that I had the misfortune to witness), Sutton charged into a 2-0 lead, we pulled it back to 2-2, they took the lead again in the 84th minute, we again equalised in the 86th minute, and when we were all coming to terms with the likelihood of a somewhat embarrassing replay against non-league opposition, Ollie Morah spared our blushes by scoring the winner for Sutton United in the 88th minute.

Their reward was a second round trip to Torquay, and to show they weren’t to be underestimated, won that 1-0. This earned a third round draw against Endsleigh Division 1 side Notts County. To their credit, Sutton United made a game of it, eventually bowing out with a narrow 3-2 defeat at Meadow Lane – denied a deserved replay by a 94th minute penalty for the Magpies. All the more impressive when you consider Notts County finished the season just one place and three points outside the play-offs for the Premier League, also reaching the final of the Anglo-Italian Cup (losing 1-0 to Brescia) – oh how the mighty have fallen.

Match of the Day
Partick Thistle v Colchester United
Saturday 29th July 1989
Pre-season friendly
Attendance 1,500




With thanks to fellow messageboarder pwrightsknees, today’s Match of the Day is a WSC special which comes right out of leftfield, as we go back to the season before we first met Sutton United. However, and pretty much for the first time, Match of the Day is a pre-season friendly, away at Partick Thistle – the first time the U’s had ever played in Scotland. The match report combines both personal recollections from PWK and online accounts of the game.

The backstory here is that PWK and his family had been living in Scotland for the previous six years, at the time only a few miles from Firhill, so when the rare opportunity to watch the U’s came along (and just a couple of weeks before PWK’s birthday), his son decided to treat Dad to birthday tickets to go and see the match. As PWK comments, lower league English football didn’t (probably still doesn’t) have much of a draw in Scotland, so after six years of being starved of U’s news and views, he was really looking forward to running the rule over the team.

As a further lovely twist, for some reason they didn’t buy a programme on the day, so the same son recently scoured the internet and eventually found a copy on Ebay, which was presented to PWK at his most recent birthday – many belated happy returns PWK! Through a herculean effort, PWK has sent me photographs of all the pages of the programme – no mean feat when you consider that for a pre-season friendly, this was a full-on 40-page proper programme, and all for the princely sum of just 60p.



But why Partick Thistle, why a tour of Scotland?

As we all know, back in 1989 the U’s were managed by legendary firebrand Jock Wallace Jnr, who had just successfully guided the U’s away from relegation to the Conference. Jock Wallace was a legend in Scottish football, particularly for Rangers supporters who still look on him as one of their greatest ever managers. I am led to believe that when the U’s visited Darlington in that vital relegation 6-pointer at the tail end of the 1988/89 season, the massed ranks of U’s who made the long trip north were swelled by Rangers supporters travelling south just to see and support Big Jock. Given his strong Scottish connections, it came as no surprise therefore that Wallace organised a pre-season tour of Scotland. The trip to the “Jags” was the first one on the itinerary, to be followed by games against Raith Rovers (lost 3-0), Stranraer (drew 0-0) and Cumnock Juniors (drew 1-1).



As one would expect from a pre-season friendly, the matchday programme didn’t know in advance what the line-ups for each team were going to be. However, from a match report also provided by PWK, we know the U’s lined up:

1….John Grace
2….John Pollard
3….Clive Stafford
4….Eamonn Collins
5….Steve Hetzke
6….Scott Daniels
7….Ian Allinson
8….Tony English
9….Richard Wilkins
10..Bob Scott
11..Mark Kinsella

Our subs are listed as Rodney Rooke, Robbie Devereux, Lee Hunter and Mark Radford, but I can’t find any record that any of them actually made an appearance – not just a rarity, almost unheard of these days. The noteworthy names in the U’s line-up were the summer arrivals of Irish trio John Grace (undisclosed fee from Tolka Rovers), Eamonn Collins (free transfer from Portsmouth) and of course Mark Kinsella (free transfer from Home Farm).

I’m not sure whether there were many others of the U’s faithful at the match (anyone?) but given Kinsella must have only just arrived (he’s not listed in the squad or round-up of U’s players in the programme), I would imagine this would make PWK part of a very small and select group to have witnessed probably Kinsella’s first appearance in a U’s shirt. Comparing dates, Graeson’s coludata website lists Kinsella signing for the U’s on 26th August 1989, whilst Wikipedia suggests 18th August 1989, so about 3-4 weeks after this match. I’d imagine it would have been somewhere about those dates, which must mean Kinsella was only a triallist for the Scottish tour.

Partick Thistle, despite their name, haven’t played in Partick since 1908. They play their matches at Firhill Stadium in the Maryhill district of Glasgow and have done since moving there in 1909 after a season spent homeless. Their “Jags” nickname is a reference to the club thistle badge, and is derived from the Scottish expression jaggie (i.e. prickly). From their formation back in 1891, right the way through to the early 80s, they were predominantly a top-flight side, though have been on a bit of a roller-coaster ride up and down the leagues since then. At the time of the U’s visit, the Jags were plying their trade in the Scottish First Division. Until April 1989, the club was under the ownership of none other than Ken Bates, apparently trying to use the Jags as a feeder club for Chelsea. It was an experiment doomed to failure, and in April Bates was bought out by a local group of businessmen led by Jim Donald.

With the new owners making their mark, the Jags boasted quite a few new faces at the club, but it was established midfielder Chic Charnley who was causing the U’s the most trouble right from the outset. With barely six minutes on the clock he struck a great effort in on goal, which just cleared both Grace’s dive and fortunately the bar as well. Straight after he linked well with striker Flood, the latter shooting wide of the post with English and Wilkins in close attendance.



I’m not sure who was responsible, but shortly after Charnley went down injured following no doubt a crunching tackle, but fortunately (for Partick Thistle) was able to continue after treatment. Albeit online accounts are mostly from a home team perspective, it seemed to be all Partick Thistle in the opening exchanges, including a header from Gallagher that went narrowly wide. Eventually though the pressure told, and in the 24th minute Flood and Charnley worked well together to set up a chance for Gallagher, who made no mistake from 10 yards.

Partick Thistle weren’t done either, McCoy nearly made it two with a cheeky overhead kick that nearly caught out Grace. However, the U’s were slowly starting to get into the game themselves, though the Jags defence were generally dealing with any pressure reasonably comfortably. On 38 minutes Grace had to be alert to danger and rushed 40 yards out to clear a chance put through from Charnley into the path of Flood. Right on the stroke of half-time the U’s really should have equalised from a clever lob by Richard Wilkins which beat goalkeeper Murdoch, but sadly hit the post rather than nestling in the back of the net.

Not too downhearted from that missed opportunity, the U’s started much brighter in the second half, with Ian Allinson forcing a fine save from Murdoch within minutes of the restart. On 55 minutes the U’s finally got the reward their improved performance deserved. A long throw into the penalty area created havoc in the Partick Thistle defence, and whilst many of the U’s players appealed for what looked like a clear handball, Bob Scott took full advantage of the distraction to tuck a shot past Murdoch and into the corner of the net.



Now more evenly balanced, both sides had half-hearted chances to take the lead, with big central defender Alex Kennedy (recently signed from Motherwell) in particular making a set-piece nuisance of himself amongst the U’s defence. On 67 minutes Partick Thistle finally broke the deadlock, with a well-worked goal inevitably involving man of the match Chic Charnley again. It was his clever lob that caught both Grace and Hetzke at sixes and sevens, allowing Peebles to nip in and drill home what would turn out to be the winning goal.

PWK’s post-match analysis reflects the online accounts available – it was a solid performance, the U’s gave a good account of themselves, but ultimately 2-1 to the Jags was about the right result.

Partick Thistle 2 (Brian Gallagher 24’; Gary Peebles 67’) Colchester United 1 (Bob Scott 55’)

Chic Charnley was to go on to become a cult hero at Partick Thistle, playing for them on no less than four separate occasions between 1988 and 2003, coached them for one season, and needless to say is a member of their Hall of Fame. In another interesting parallel with the U’s around this period, Charnley picked up an impressive 17 red cards during his 20-year professional playing career, still a way short of Big Roy’s record tally of 22 though.

The least said about the approaching 1989/90 season for the U’s the better, suffice to say it was match #7 before we finally won a game (4-1 at home to Maidstone) and it would be Boxing Day before we did again – though given it was our 2-0 victory at Roots Hall, probably worth the wait. Relegation, the Conference and Sutton United et al beckoned…

Sadly, Jock Wallace was forced to retire just before that Roots Hall match through ill-health (as a result of the degenerative effects of Parkinson’s disease, though that wasn’t public knowledge at the time) and passed away from a heart attack aged just 60 in 1996. Although one or two openly expressed their distaste for his Sergeant Major approach to training, the vast majority of Wallace’s players throughout his managerial career adored him. Certainly the U’s players did, affectionally referring to him and assistant Alan Ball as Bawl and Ball.

His reputation as a tough disciplinarian was certainly well-deserved. A terrified Gary Lineker once recalled when Wallace was manager of Leicester City that Big Jock “…pinned me against the dressing room wall at half-time and called me a lazy English this and that. We were 2–0 up and I'd scored both goals. I didn't score in the second half – I was still shaking!”. However, many who knew him well also understood that beneath the granite exterior, Big Jock may well have had a gruff growl but it masked a soft centre.


Blog
When Saturday Comes #3
at 13:19 22 Aug 2021

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.
Blog
When Saturday Comes #2
at 13:18 22 Aug 2021

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.
Forum
Thread
When Saturday Comes #3
at 13:17 21 Aug 2021

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.

TWTWTW
I’m sure all of you will have read about the untimely death of comedian Sean Lock, aged just 58. I’m not usually one to get all mawkish about celebrities passing on – they invariably have lived privileged, entitled and affluent lives, never had to sweat on getting through to payday, and in some cases I suspect are not particularly nice people. However, in Sean Lock’s case I am going to make an exception, because the news really did upset me.

I’ve always admired his work as a comic, acerbic, witty, never afraid to be controversial, but never necessarily vulgar, and always absolutely hilarious with it. However, after 16-17 months of Covid-19 lockdown binge-watching YouTube clips of 8 out of 10 Cats, Cats does Countdown, live at the Apollo etc. I actually felt like I’d lost someone quite close to me, and the world of entertainment had lost one of its brightest stars. The genuine sorrow expressed in the multitude of tributes flooding in bear witness to this, with all emphasising not only what a rare talent Sean Lock was, but what a thoroughly decent human being he was too.

Sean Lock wrote his own obituary in one episode of Cats does Countdown, in typical Sean Lock style. White Van Man artist Ruddy Muddy has immortalised that obituary in a way I’m certain would have Sean in stitches.


Sean Lock
22 April 1963 – 18 August 2021
Rest in Peace


Closer to home
I missed the midweek Col U TV show, but as there’s nothing on the messageboards, safe to say I didn’t miss any surprise announcements. The transfer window remains open for another ten days, and Hayden Mullins has already confirmed we’re still out there looking, so fingers crossed something lands – whether that’s Frank’s mate Theo, or Folivi making a remarkable recovery, the missing in action Richard Kone, or someone else. I echo the point that Durham has made in his excellent match preview though, once Jasper gets off the mark, and I can’t see it being long, I think he’s going to make a huge impression for the U’s this season (or at least until his loan expires next January). Great to see Charlie Daniels sign though, he looked a class act when he came on last Tuesday.

Otherwise, making the news (or at least the ripples) in CUFC World is undoubtedly Robbie Cowling’s ticketing arrangements for this season. Now in many respects I’m not really qualified to comment; I’ve never been a season ticket holder, rarely have the opportunity to visit the JobServe, and when I do apart from usually trying to get a seat somewhere up the back of the South Stand, don’t have a preferred seat. I get that some people are creatures of habit and do like to sit in the same seat season after season, and don’t like having that choice taken away from them.



Robbie has set out very clearly on both Col U TV and in a club statement why the arrangements as they stand are in place, so there’s no point in me picking over that. He might be right to worry about another lockdown either shutting fans out of the stadium or at the very least ramping up social-distancing requirements – infection rates are after all still gradually increasing. Obviously we all hope not, but it does remain a possibility. The dilemma is that in trying to do right by all supporters and the club, Robbie Cowling again finds himself in the crosshairs.

On the one hand there are those who don’t like not having choice over where they sit, and I get that, whilst on the other hand there are those who do want the club to continue to enforce social distancing. The latter are hardly encouraged to learn via social media that the reality in the stadium is that fans seem to be largely sitting where they want once they’re through the turnstiles (in many examples apparently sanctioned by stewards). Both demographics are staying away for the polar opposite reasons, resulting in sub-3k crowds and no doubt considerable lost (and much-needed) revenue. I have no magic wand here but imagine some of those choosing to stay away for whatever reason might overcome their reluctance if the U’s started winning and moving up the table – we can only hope.

Stat attack
Durham has made the point that our recent history at Boundary Park is very good – he certainly can’t remember ever seeing the U’s lose there on his trips, and although my journeys to the frozen outpost at the foot of the Pennines pale into insignificance by comparison, nor can I. However, looking into the stats in a bit more detail, our recent 20+ years record at Boundary Park really is quite impressive.


”I said ‘old ‘em!”

Since Steve Whitton’s 2-1 victory back on November 14th 1999, over the last 27 visits to Boundary Park the U’s have only lost four times, though that does of course include last season’s 5-2 mauling of a woeful relegation-threatened U’s. The early years, going back to our first encounter in 1961/62 tend to even up the stats somewhat, to a solidly average 14 wins, 20 draws and 15 defeats home and away. A win this afternoon will level those stats up nicely.

Whether interesting or not, a small factoid is that we’ve never played Oldham in a cup competition – make of that what you will. Also, often given as a pub quiz answer to the question of the highest UK football ground, Boundary Park at 526 feet above sea level is actually second highest, pipped by the unlikely Hawthorns at 552 feet – but does anyone know the lowest?

Match of the Day
Swansea City v Colchester United
Saturday 26th August 2000
Nationwide Football League Division 2 (Tier 3)
Attendance 6,247




I have reverted to the random match selector for this weeks’ football report, which goes back to around about the start of that impressive run of form at Boundary Park – this time a visit for the U’s to Swansea City almost exactly 21 years ago. Technically, this one wasn’t originally in my memorabilia collection, until I transposed all the matches I have scribbled on the various calendars I still have in a drawer. Hence the programme cover photo is a tad grainy, as it’s the best resolution I can find on t’internet, and frankly I’ve done well to even find that. Funny really, I wasn’t sure I’d ever been to Vetch Field, but it turns out not only had I, but for what was our last visit to the stadium before the Swans moved to the Liberty Stadium in 2005.

Swansea were full of hope – plans were already being hatched to move out of the crumbling Vetch Field, the club had clear ambitions above their relatively lowly status at the time, and that ambition had been backed up by promotion as champions from Division 3 the previous season. Not without detractors though, as Swansea ground out numerous 1-0 victories with a playing style described as more functional than attractive. That dour style possibly epitomised by substitute Walter Boyd, who struck a Darlington opponent straight after coming on to the pitch and before play had even restarted, the timing of his red card therefore listed as zero seconds.

The U’s lined:
1….Simon Brown
2….Joe Dunne
3….Joe Keith
4….Alan White
5….Aaron Skelton
6….Simon Clark
7….Steve McGavin
8….Micky Stockwell (David Gregory 56’)
9….Jason Dozzell
10..Karl Duguid (Tony Lock 67’)
11..Trésor Lomana LuaLua

I’d been over for the League Cup 1st leg match at home to QPR (which we lost 1-0, but were very unlucky to do so), so I was doing well getting another football trip on the Saturday straight after. I won’t kid you by pretending I have genuine memories of the match, when I couldn’t even remember being there, but I am absolutely certain I would have travelled over by train to this one. I’ve been to the Liberty Stadium numerous times since then, but driven every time, but that ground is some distance from the train station, whereas Vetch Field was right in town, no distance at all.



Looking at the state of the pitch, the aerial photo of Vetch Field must have been after the club had moved to the Liberty Stadium, either that or they were taking the ‘Field’ element far too literally. The remainder of the Match of the Day report will have to rely on what I can glean from online resources, and notably Graeson’s www.coludata.co.uk website, the Evening Gazette and BBC archives and our own Wikipedia pages.

Very much a close reflection on this season, the U’s had made a shaky start to 2000/01; a 0-0 draw at Swindon followed by successive 0-1 defeats at home to Rotherham United (promoted alongside Swansea from Division 3) and the aforementioned QPR in the League Cup. After that match, then QPR manager Gerry Francis stated "We may have won the game but Colchester were by far the better side. They outpassed us and we struggled to keep up with them in the first-half. When we got the goal it was totally against the run of play”. Prophetically, Francis also stated his team will have to perform much better to prevent the U's from pulling off a shock win at Loftus Road in the second leg.

As for the Swansea game, unlike fellow promotees (is that a word?) Rotherham, who had showed a reasonable amount of flair in winning at Layer Road, Swansea City were clearly quite happy to continue what had been a winning formula of that functional unattractive football against the U’s. It was to be a harsh lesson for them that clogging negative long-ball tactics might work in the basement, but is far less likely to the higher up the pyramid you climb. Within 15 minutes the individual flair of LuaLua, combined with the passing game that Steve Whitton was imposing on the U’s, completely undid Swansea City for the U’s to take a well-deserved 1-0 lead. A defence-splitting run by Jason Dozzell tore a bus-sized hole in the Swans defence, before laying off to allow LuaLua to hammer home with ease.

The U’s continued to probe, harry and harass the pedestrian Jacks, and were comfortably in charge as half-time arrived to a chorus of boos. The atmosphere inside Vetch Field was ugly – Swansea City had been struggling to score goals of late, and didn’t look even close to doing so in this game, much to the annoyance of the home support.

It was more of the same in the second half, with the Swans now not only playing against the 11 men of Colchester United, but pretty much all of the home supporters as well, who moaned, cursed and grumbled about every single misplaced pass, wayward shot or failed attack, and with increasing volume too. The U’s, on the other hand, kept the ball on the deck, continued to pass it around, and with just five minutes to go of normal time, received their reward when LuaLua blasted his and the U’s second in from 20 yards.

It was no more than we deserved, but it was more than the Swansea City supporters could take, who poured on to the pitch in protest about…well, the ineptitude of their own team I guess? Play was briefly halted until the police and stewards had cleared the pitch, following which the U’s comfortably kept control of the game for the last few minutes to register a much-needed morale-boosting away victory.

Swansea City 0 Colchester United 2 (Lomana Tresor LuaLua 15’, 83’)

A minor purple patch followed, with a home draw against today’s opponents Oldham Athletic, a comfortable 3-1 home victory over Bournemouth (to take us into the play-offs), and the cherry on the cake, a 4-1 reversal at Loftus Road to knock QPR out of the League Cup, making Gerry Francis’ prophesy a grim reality. The QPR result was thanks to a masterclass performance by LuaLua, who almost single-handedly destroyed them with a sublime hat-trick. He was already on everyone’s radar for a big money move, but that performance guaranteed it, and less than two weeks later he was bought by Bobby Robson’s Newcastle United for £2.25m.



I wouldn’t say that was the kiss of death to our season, in fact quite the opposite in terms of guaranteeing our financial survival for a few years to come, but there’s no doubting we struggled to adjust to the LuaLua shaped gap in the squad for the next month or so. By the time we had adjusted, we’d slipped to lower mid-table, and were destined to stay there for the rest of the season.

Swansea predictably faired far worse and were relegated back to the basement on just 37 points, though still 10 points ahead of bottom-placed and woeful Oxford United on 27 points. John Hollins paid for the failure with his job, and Swansea had to start the rebuilding process once again. To their credit, they did it though, and just 10 years later were promoted to the Premier League.

If you weren’t at Loftus Road and haven’t seen LuaLua’s goals, I’ve found this clip for your edification and delight.


Forum
Thread
When Saturday Comes #2
at 13:07 14 Aug 2021

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.

TWTWTW
I’m really pushing the envelope where copyright is concerned here, but my brief look over the events of last week has a focus on ‘murica. I have more than a passing fascination with the American political system, particularly since the November 2020 election, and specifically Trump’s Big Lie as he cried about losing the election. Sadly, it’s not just Trump, a significant portion of the Republican party and supporters believe him, and the lie perpetuates. As Mark Twain said “Never argue with stupid people, they will drag you down to their level and then beat you with experience”.



The sham audit by the “Cyber Ninjas” (now there’s a name which screams non-partisan forensic auditing) rumbles on, refusing to allow their ‘data’ to be verified, whilst they struggle to work out how they can ‘evidence’ proof of non-existent election fraud. Make no mistake, they will state they have found widespread election fraud in Maricopa County – they won’t of course be able to evidence it, but they’ll say it nevertheless, and the ramifications of that amongst the heavily armed alt-right just doesn’t bear thinking about.

Michael J Lindell (aka the Pillow Guy) continues to foam at the mouth, last week hosting his much vaunted “Cyber Symposium” where he would provide the proof that the election was stolen by Deep State goons and Chinese hackers. The symposium was an unmitigated disaster right from the outset, that crashed and burned in a wholly predictable fashion. Lindell failed to provide the evidence he promised (of course, how on earth could he have done), leaving even his own “Cyber Guy” Josh Merritt to go off-script and admit to the Washington Post after the event “…so our team said, we’re not going to say that this is legitimate if we don’t have confidence in the information…” and went on to admit that the data, in the form that it was provided, could not prove that a cyberattack had occurred.

Closer to home
Colchester United will screen their first matchday Col U TV broadcast of the season at 2.30pm this afternoon, with Steven Gillespie making a guest appearance apparently. In the press Hayden Mullins has stated he does still have active interests in other players he’s trying to bring to the club, could it be too much to hope that this afternoon might see an announcement – probably, but it is still encouraging to hear we’re still out there looking anyway. Needless to say, most would probably like to see more firepower up front, and I’d be happy with that. However, in the end, if we don’t bring in another striker, I still think we’ve got an extremely strong squad, which should be more than enough this season.



The seat design proposal on Club United rumbles on, with the first milestone of £1k now in sight, but as always, all donations are gratefully received 😊. A shameless plug I know, I will stop though, promise.

https://tickets.colchesterunited.net/WebPages/EntaExt/ClubUtdProposalDetail.aspx

Stat attack



You will no doubt already know that our referee for the opening home fixture of 2021/22 is none other than Trevor Kettle, an announcement that normally brings groans of despair from football supporters across the land. And not without good reason, he is, after all, the referee at Accrington Stanley that blew for half-time as the ball was in the air heading for goal.



It is surprisingly hard to find useable stats to analyse Kettle’s appearance as referee in relation to the U’s, even Graseon’s coludata website doesn’t have that functionality, so I have to resort to websites like soccerbase to reconstruct data. Kettle has ref’d once so far this season, a 0-0 draw between Cambridge and Swindon (Cambridge won 3-1 on penalties) and Kettle handed out a modest 3 yellow cards in what looks like a fairly bland non-controversial performance. Last season he refereed 33 games, showing 95 yellows and 5 reds (unremarkable to be honest, though he did dish out seven yellows and a red in a game between Sunderland and Oxford, and seven yellows in todays opponent Northampton Town’s 1-0 victory over Fleetwood).

He ref’d the U’s twice last season, and who can forget that did include a 6-1 mauling at Exeter City back in November – though to be fair, I don’t think we can lay any blame for that performance on the referee. However, his most recent appearance in a U’s game was at home to Carlisle United in March, ironically the reverse of last Saturday’s match, and it is this game I will focus on for Match of the Day.

Match of the Day
Colchester United v Carlisle United
Tuesday 2nd March 2021
Sky Bet Football League Division 2 (Tier 4)
Attendance 0



Programme cover (thanks to www.coludata.co.uk)

Apologies for reminding everyone, but last season the U’s had been gradually sliding down the league towards the dreaded trapdoor into non-league. Our previous victory had been back in December, winning 1-0 at Scunthorpe to keep us in the play-offs. By early March we were 21st, just two places outside the relegation zone. Confidence was shot, Steve Ball had been removed and replaced by Wayne Brown as interim Head Coach on 24th February. It hadn’t started well for him either, comprehensively beaten 3-0 at FGR on the Saturday, and now facing a Carlisle side challenging for the play-offs in his first game at the JobServe.

The U’s lined:
29..Shamal George
6….Omar Sowunmi
18..Tom Eastman
5….Tommy Smith (captain)
22..Brendan Wiredu
14..Noah Chilvers
2….Miles Welch-Hayes (Michael Folivi 68’)
38..Junior Tchamadeu
15..Callum Harriott
9….Aramide Oteh (Jevani Brown 68’)
45..Frank Nouble (Billy Cracknell 90’)

Wayne Brown rolled the dice for this match, bringing in former-fox Shamal George to replace Dean Gerken in goal, as well as Omar Sowumni in the heart of defence and Aramide Oteh up front alongside big Frank.

Before we delve into the match and Mr Kettle, it should be pointed out that he wasn’t originally scheduled to be the match referee, it should have been Brett Huxtable (aka Brett Fuxtable, once dubbed the only referee close to being as sh’te as Trevor Kettle). I don’t recall precisely why Kettle had to take over, whether it was an injury or perhaps Covid-related? It’s also worth pointing out that much of the game was played out in dense fog which surely came close to causing the game to be abandoned. As any driver will tell you, visibility (certainly on the iFollow stream) wasn’t helped by having the floodlights on, and the East Stand side of the pitch was a virtual white-out at times.



However, and the commentary team mentioned this on a number of occasions, visibility was actually considerably better down at pitch level, and Trevor Kettle was happy for the game to proceed.

As our relative league positions would suggest, Carlisle started considerably the stronger, exploiting our 3-5-2 formation to good effect. Brennan Dickenson was baing a particular nuisance, and before too long whipped in a wicked cross that Aaron Hayden should have done better with. Shortly after, Kettle had his first of four penalty shouts to consider, as Carlisle players claimed somewhat half-heartedly that Eastman had handled in the box, though it was a weak shout and immediately dismissed by the referee.

However, the pressure on the U’s continued to grow, with Shamal at full stretch to expertly palm away Dickenson’s 25 yard free-kick. In the 29th minute the pressure finally broke, with the U’s failing to clear a Dickenson corner, leaving Jon Mellish to sweep home into the corner, with George stranded. It was, to be honest, no more than they deserved, and I for one was struck with that horrible ‘here we go again’ feeling. Carlisle had other chances too, with both Furman and that man Dickenson going close, and we were fortunate to go in at half-time only 1-0 down.

Ten minutes into the second half, and it looked like the Curse of Trevor Kettle was to strike us again, with his second penalty call of the match. This was a much closer decision, with Sowunmi sliding in perfectly to take the ball off the toes of Josh Kayode, only for Kettle to point to the spot. The proests from the U’s, clearly insisting he spoke to his linesman (who hadn’t flagged), persuaded him to do so, and eventually overturned his own decision to give (correctly) a corner to Carlisle instead. Mind you, the danger wasn’t over, and from the corner George made an excellent save to deny Mellish a second, which would have surely finished the U’s.

The turning point came halfway through the second half, with Frank Nouble holding the ball up well inside the bottom right corner of the box, with his back to goal, and eventually inevitably drawing the foul. Penalty decision number three for Kettle, and he had no hesitation in correctly pointing to the spot – a decision that wasn’t seriously contested by the Carlisle defence. Callum Harriott stepped up to blast in off the inside of the post, giving goalkeeper George Tanner no chance. In some respects it could be argued that it was a brilliantly placed penalty, and it certainly was, but seeing it cannon off the post and virtually along the goal line in the foggy gloom certainly gave me some conniptions I can tell you.

A resurgent U’s weren’t done there either, particularly with Wayne Brown showing his attacking intent making an immediate double substitution to bring on Miles Welch Hayes and Jevani Brown. Tommy Smith should have done better with a virtual free header shortly after, but glanced his effort over the bar, but five minutes later the U’s were in front. Good work down the right between Frank and Jevani saw the ball run across the edge of the penalty area for Smith to lay off, and there was Harriott steaming in to drive an absolute thunderbolt through the congested box and past the despairing (and fruitless) dive of Tanner.



Time for Carlisle manager Chris Beech to make his own double substitution with just over ten minutes to go, but the U’s were just as resolute in defence to snuff out most serious attempts on goal, and with George in excellent form to mop up the rest. With virtually no time left on the clock, Kettle had his fourth and final penalty decision to make, this time pointing to the spot when Jevani Brown appeared to be fouled by Farman in the area. It was the turn of the Carlisle player to remonstrate with the referee, and again encourage him to consult with the linesman – which again remarkably Trevor Kettle did, and again reversed his decision to (correctly) give a goal kick instead.

It was academic however, as the U’s saw out the remainder of the game to earn a much needed 3 points in our bid to avoid relegation.

Colchester United 2 (Callum Harriott 67’p, 74’) v Carlisle United 1 (Jon Mellish 29’)

Any hope that this was the dawn of a resurgent U’s were brought crashing down to earth thereafter, with a succession of draws and defeats bringing about Wayne’s early departure before the end of March. Hayden Mullins, assisted by Paul Tisdale in a mentoring role, took over and with three victories and a draw in our last five matches steered us away from relegation – at the expense of Grimsby Town and our dear friends Southend United – terrible shame.



For those of you who were living in a cave somewhere in March and missed this, the foggy highlights are on YouTube.

Forum
Thread
Birmingham City tonight
at 10:01 10 Aug 2021

I might be going senile, but anyone know if there's a streaming service tonight, and if so, how do I (or even do I have to) purchase a match pass?
Blog
When Saturday Comes #1
at 14:29 8 Aug 2021

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.
Forum
Thread
When Saturday Comes #1
at 14:19 7 Aug 2021

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.

Format



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
The delayed Euro 2020 competition was in many respects a real shot in the arm for English football in general, with Gareth’s brave lions doing the nation proud with their conduct both on and off the pitch. To reach our first major final since 1966 was one hell of an achievement, and with a squad brimming with youthful talent it really does bode well for years to come. I’m really looking forward to seeing how we fare in next years’ World Cup (pandemic permitting).



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.

Closer to home
On the home front, Col U TV has been launched, and whilst still a bit ‘wooden’ at times, it is a welcome addition to the ways and means we hear news about the club. I didn’t win one of the commemorative shirts from the Southend United victory (how much fun was that! Cheerio Southend), but I did still earn enough loyal supporter tokens to get a replica anyway, and a loyal supporter mug too, to add to my growing collection (several of which courtesy of Daniel).



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 😊.

Stat attack



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.

Match of the Day
Gillingham v Colchester United
Saturday 3rd August 2013
Sky Bet Football League Division 1 (Tier 3)
Attendance 6,792




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. Match of the Day 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:
44..Sam Walker
2….David Wright
3….Ryan Dickson
4….Magnus Okuonghae
6….Craig Eastmond (Andy Bond 87’)
11..Freddie Sears (Drey Wright 78’)
15..Marcus Bean (Alex Gilbey 74’)
17..Jabo Ibehre
18..Tom Eastman
20..Brian Wilson (captain)
21..Gavin Massey

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 right 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.

Gillingham 0 Colchester United 1 (Andy Bond 89’)

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.


[Post edited 7 Aug 14:34]
Forum
Thread
Gillingham and Ipswich pre-season friendlies
at 19:01 18 Jul 2021

For those with an interest, the club are offering a £10 per match streaming service for these two fixtures. Log in to your Col U ticket account to purchase access.

https://tickets.colchesterunited.net/WebPages/EntaWebShow/SHOWLISTVENUES.ASPX?LR
Forum
Thread
Club United proposal
at 20:40 8 Jun 2021

Some of you may have seen on the OMB that a group of us are pulling together a proposal for Club United, which I wanted to flag up here in readiness, as it's gaining some traction with the club.

The original excellent proposal was from Coluphil, who thought spelling out "1937" in the North Stand in honour of our formation would help give the stadium some personal identity. Lofty came up with the idea that we could do so by swapping seats with the S3 white block in the South Stand to keep costs down (i.e. less new seats needed). So I threw together some suggestions for S3, ran a poll, and the idea of creating a stylised version of the Col U eagle was the preferred option.

SmithyD then did some inspiring Photoshop work to show what it would look like in the ground, and it is this (below) that we have put forward to the club. The club have indicated they like the idea, and are currently looking into the financials (e.g. new seats, labour to do the swap etc.) so the Club United proposal can be properly costed.



So this is just a heads-up that it will hopefully be appearing on Club United in due course, and if you like the idea we'd all appreciate it so much if you'd pledge your funds to support it.

Up the U's!
Forum
Thread
U'sual Champions League Final
at 19:12 27 May 2021

Here goes for the U'sual Champions League 2021 final, between concordman and Daniel, and of course the 3rd place play-off between Sector4 and mfb_cufc.

The Champions League Final
29/5/2021: Manchester City v Chelsea (rescheduled for Porto to ease travel restrictions - kick-off 8pm)

Predictions
As usual, there are nine categories to predict, so please either post here or PM me your predictions, and I will reveal when I have them all. For categories C-H, as usual there will be 2pts if spot-on, and one point for whoever is closest (or 1pt each if equidistant). Deadline for all predictions is kick-off at 8pm on Saturday.

 A) Result - 3pts spot-on, 1pt for the outcome; 
 B) Goal scorer - pick one, get 1pt for each goal they score (including own goals); 
 C) Attempts on target - 2pts for spot-on, 1pt if closest;
 D) Attempts off target - ditto; 
 E) Corners - ditto; 
 F) Fouls - ditto; 
 G) Yellow cards - ditto (a straight red is not two yellows); and 
 H) Red cards - ditto (two yellows will count as two yellows and one red). 
 TB) The tie-break is the minute for the first substitution, closest (either side) wins. In the unlikely event that there are no substitutions, this will be counted as 0 (zero) minutes. Substitutions in injury-time will be counted as 45' or 90'.

The small print
Note that for the final alone, a spot-on result will not count towards the tie-break, it's just the total points scored. 

All predictions will be for the normal time match, extra-time or penalties will not count. The only questions you can't match exactly on are (A), (B) and (TB), so whilst there is no other advantage to predicting first, predicting last may mean having to change one or more of those predictions. 

All stats will be taken from the BBC Sport website, just in case there are discrepancies elsewhere.

Good luck everyone!
Blog
Letters from Wiltshire #48
at 13:42 8 May 2021

And now the end is near, and so we face the final curtain…regrets, we’ve had a few, but then again, too few to mention”. Not quite right Paul Anka, probably more than a few, but otherwise a fair assessment of where the U’s are today. It’ll be interesting to see how we perform with the relegation monkey finally off their back – I’m not expecting miracles, particularly with Tranmere needing at least a point to guarantee making the play-offs, but they’ll certainly be more nervous than we will be, so can we make that count? This will be my last blog of the season, and not yet sure what I may or may not do for next season, but suggestions are always welcome.
Forum
Thread
Letters from Wiltshire #48
at 13:40 8 May 2021

And now the end is near, and so we face the final curtain…regrets, we’ve had a few, but then again, too few to mention”. Not quite right Paul Anka, probably more than a few, but otherwise a fair assessment of where the U’s are today. It’ll be interesting to see how we perform with the relegation monkey finally off their back – I’m not expecting miracles, particularly with Tranmere needing at least a point to guarantee making the play-offs, but they’ll certainly be more nervous than we will be, so can we make that count? This will be my last blog of the season, and not yet sure what I may or may not do for next season, but (polite or otherwise) suggestions are always welcome.

Manchester City v Colchester United
Saturday 31st October 1997
Nationwide Football League Division 2 (Tier 3)
Attendance 24,820




On the subject of nervy teams needing a point, there’s been much talk online over the week about the 15th anniversary of our 0-0 draw at Huish Park on May 6th 2006, in the process gaining promotion to the Championship for the first time in our history. As The Times reported after the match “…nobody involved in the club will care about the quality of yesterday’s uninspiring draw against Yeovil, as the point was sufficient to secure automatic promotion from League One and elevate them into the second tier of English football”. A fantastic day for all associated with Colchester United, and particularly the 1,700 of us jammed into Yeovil’s ground.

One day, I may well do something about that day, but for now and true to the original concept behind these blogs, I’ve let the random match selector close out this season, and once again it hasn’t failed me, with our first and only visit to Manchester City – then of course still plying their trade at Maine Road. In the Premier League just three seasons earlier, a catastrophic run of underperformance under a succession of no less than six managers in less than three years had seen them tumble down the leagues in epic style, to land for the first time in their history in the third tier of English football.

50 up!


But first, let’s also celebrate another golden moment, and of particular relevance to the world we live in today. Not the U’s 50th competitive match this season, it is actually Match #51, nor indeed the Letters from Wiltshire blogs, which is only at #48 (I had to skip some midweek matches recently because of other commitments). No, this is the 50th iFollow broadcast of this season, with the dreadful FA Cup match against Marine broadcast by the BBC. Frankly, although at times it hasn’t been pretty viewing, this season – indeed this year, would have been significantly gloomier for all concerned without the streaming service. I know football is all about fans being in the stadium, and we really don’t want TV broadcasts to undermine that, but I sincerely hope that as we slowly come out of the pandemic crisis, some way can be found to continue to allow those who can’t be in the stadia to follow their clubs.

Sleeping giant
More comatose than actually sleeping, but back to Maine Road. Considering Man City were a big fish in our small pond, and obviously everyone’s top tip for automatic promotion back to the second tier, they’d had a pretty ropey start to the season. Of their opening 15 matches, they’d won just five, drawn six and lost four. Not an unmitigated disaster I grant you, and considerably better than the U’s, but manager Joe Royle – and more importantly chairman Frannie Lee and the Man City board – would have been expecting something much more than the mid-table mediocrity they were showing.



In his defence, Joe Royle had a massive job on his hands, and that was off the pitch as well as on it. He took over in the February of the previous season, too late to do anything about the relegation that was coming. I can’t remember the exact quote, but I recall at the time he commented, on arrival at the training ground to be greeted by his over 50-strong squad, all on lucrative professional contracts, that it was “…like something out of Zulu”. He set to paring that back to realistic levels, whilst battling relentlessly with the board to try and get them to see they were no longer the big club they used to be, and had to be much more realistic in their ambitions – it was definitely a big ask. On top of which, if the board’s burden of expectation wasn’t enough, he had a massive fanbase to win over too, with attendances regularly topping 30,000.

As for the U’s, three defeats and a draw in the previous four matches under Steve Wignall had seen us slip down to 18th in the league, certainly a bit too close to the relegation zone for comfort. But this match wasn’t just about league points and places, this was the big one that pretty much every U’s fan had looked for when the fixture list came out. It wasn’t just a first for us either, in a long and distinguished playing career, manager Wignall had never played at Maine Road either, commenting in the press on the Friday “ I played well over 600 League and cup games in my career, including ties against Manchester United, but I never had the chance to play against City or at Maine Road”.



Our allocation was of course all-ticket, and I still have the stub, with eventually nearly 2,000 making the trip to Maine Road that day. Not quite sold out, but still easily the largest gathering of the U’s faithful on an awayday that season. I had a very good friend living in Manchester at the time and having no love for the blue half of Manchester either, he was more than happy to come along for the match. As a result, I travelled up on the Friday night to make a weekend of it with him and his partner – and a cracking weekend it was too.

1….Carl Emberson
2….Joe Dunne
3….Scott Stamps
4….Geraint Williams
5….David Greene
6….Paul Buckle
7….Jason Dozzell
8….David Gregory
9….Tony Lock
10..Neil Gregory (Mark Sale 71’)
11..Karl Duguid (Paul Abrahams 79’)

The name of note in the U’s line-up that day was Jason Dozzell. Initially playing on a game-by-game basis for the U’s reserves back in September, Wignall had been very keen to sign Jason, but protracted negotiations and discussions dragged on well into October before he eventually put pen to paper. Only 30 at the time, he represented a significant coup for the U’s, and brought with him a vast amount of experience playing at the highest levels of the game – and it showed too. Teaming up with former Ipswich team-mate Geraint Williams in midfield, they were a classy pair of players for a third tier club to boast.



Where do you start with Man City’s squad though – never mind that Joe Royle had been pruning relentlessly, and they were without Lee Bradbury as well, sold to Crystal Palace for £1.5m (mind you, they paid £3.6m for him barely a year earlier) – they still had in their line-up that day Nicky Weaver in goal, Lee Crooks, Shaun Goater and Kevin Horlock amongst others. They also had brick-outhouse defender Andy Morrison, signed on loan during the week from Huddersfield following Bradbury’s departure, and making his debut this day.

Housed at the Kippax Street end of the North Stand, with some somewhat antsy home fans immediately to our right, the U’s faithful were still in excellent voice, and for the most part we refused to be drowned out by the tens of thousands of City supporters all around us. As the match kicked off, the Maine Road roar was of course deafening, but as the first half wore on, with the U’s more than a match for Man City, the home supporter grew quieter and quieter, whilst we just got louder and louder.

First of making sure they couldn’t hurt us, as the half progressed Man City found themselves more and more penned back by a rampant U’s, marshalled superbly by the George and Jason midfield pairing. Then the Maine Road support started to find their voice again – but through a chorus of groans and barracking as Man City utterly failed to lay even a punch on the U’s. As the half-time whistle went, with the U’s more than good value for the 0-0 scoreline, the Man City team left to a chorus of boos from all around the ground.

Into the second half, Royle brought on Ian Bishop for Danny Allsopp in a bid to try and regain some sort of control in the midfield. It certainly helped, with the match much more even to begin with. The telling moment was to come barely five minutes into the second half, with Carl Emberson alleged to have brought down Michael Branch, and referee Mike “don’t tell him your name” Pike awarding a controversial penalty. It looked a dubious one from our vantage point, the U’s players were incensed, as was the bench – but it changed nothing, and Kevin Horlock gleefully put away his chance to give Man City an undeserved 1-0 lead. Post-match Wignall was furious, stating “I have watched the incident four or five times on video and I have to say the decision was very harsh. In my view the City lad wasn't going to get the ball and just fell over”.


He fell over

Still reeling from that decision and struggling to regain our composure against the now rampant Sky Blues, within three minutes City had double their lead, with new signing Andy Morrison scoring a bullet header on his debut. It was kind of surreal – for 50 minutes we had been by far the better team, and more worthy of being two up in truth – and suddenly we had a mountain to climb if we wanted to get anything at all from the game.


…and Morrison makes it two

However, the U’s were made of sterner stuff that day, and set to getting back in control of a match that had slipped from our grasp for barely a few moments - and five minutes later got just what we deserved, with Jason Dozzell scoring his first goal for the U’s to halve the deficit and send us ballistic into raptures. Now Man City really did have the fear factor, but despite Wignall bringing on Sale and then Abrahams to try and get the elusive second goal, we just couldn’t find a way to unlock a resolute 10-man City defence, who celebrated at the final whistle as if they’d just won promotion.

We celebrated too though – yes we’d lost, but it had been such a brave performance, deserving of so much more, and held promise of things to come with Dozzell in the midfield.

Manchester City 2 (Kevin Horlock 50’p; Andy Morrison 53’) Colchester United 1 (Jason Dozzell 59’)

And what better way to finish off celebrations that evening than a cracking proper Wilmslow Road Rusholme curry…

Despite this victory, Man City continued to struggle in the league right the way through to Christmas. Joe Royle was under considerable pressure, with supporters demanding a change, but the board stuck by him. They were repaid that confidence after Christmas, with Man City going on a remarkable run, only losing two more matches from then to the end of the season. That would include doing the double over the U’s, in the first ever pay-per-view match broadcast, and Fumaca and all that.

It was touch and go, but they could only make the play-offs even with that run – officially the lowest league position they’ve finished in. Getting past Wigan in the semi-final, they faced Gillingham at Wembley at what is widely regarded as one of the more epic play-off finals. With eight minutes to go Gillingham went 1-0 up, then doubled it to 2-0 with three minutes to go. City looked doomed, but Horlock made it 2-1 in the 90th minute, and in the 5th minute of injury-time, and with virtually the last kick of the match, Dickov equalised. No one could break the deadlock in extra-time, and clearly shattered by those late goals, Gillingham were abject in the penalty shoot-out, scoring just one, and Man City returned to the second tier.

The U’s bounced around in lower mid-table, never quite clawing our way to mid-table safety, never quite getting fully sucked into a proper relegation scrap. A week after giving LuaLua his debut, Wignall left in January, and following a brief caretaker spell under Steve Whitton, Mick Wadsworth took over. Eventually, we’d settle exactly where we were going into that epic match against Man City, in 18th place – but what a day at Maine Road that was!

Up the U’s
[Post edited 8 May 13:48]
Please log in to use all the site's facilities

wessex_exile


Site Scores

Forum Votes: 31
Comment Votes: 0
Prediction League: 0
TOTAL: 31
About Us Contact Us Terms & Conditions Privacy Cookies Advertising
© FansNetwork 2021