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When Saturday Comes #3
Written by wessex_exile on Sunday, 22nd Aug 2021 13:19

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.

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.

[b][i]Sean Lock
22 April 1963 – 18 August 2021
Rest in Peace[/i][/b]

[b]Closer to home[/b]
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.

[b]Stat attack[/b]
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.

[b]”I said ‘old ‘em!”[/b]

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?

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

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 [i]Match of the Day[/i] 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 "[i]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[/i]”. 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.

[b]Swansea City 0 Colchester United 2 (Lomana Tresor LuaLua 15’, 83’)[/b]

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.

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