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Knees-up Mother Brown #5
Written by wessex_exile on Sunday, 3rd Sep 2023 14:31

Now that the euphoria of our stunning 3-0 victory at league leaders Gillingham has begun to subside, Ben Garner’s U’s ready themselves for a back to earth tough trip to the Bescot this afternoon. I’ve been to Walsall many times, some days good, others less so, and this was one definitely on my radar for this season. However, and as already mentioned on the board earlier, even without the train strike going on, with a long day ahead tomorrow (hopefully) finishing off the eagle seat designs, my aching bones decided two longish trips in one weekend was probably asking a bit too much. More on our deadline day transfer activity later, but for now good luck Junior, and I hope it works out well for you at Stoke City.

[b]The world outside U’s World[/b]
In relation to the ongoing industrial dispute between unions and the rail bosses and/or government, the great British public may have put a spanner in the works where the planned ticket office closures are concerned. Almost 870 ticket offices were facing closure, but with more than half a million members of the public responding to the consultation phase, according to the Times sources within the rail industry admitted that “[i]the scale of opposition…had defied expectation[/i]”. The watchdog Transport Focus has asked for more time to review the responses, potentially giving hundreds of the ticket offices at least a stay of execution, and hopefully an actual reprieve.

In the week when earthlings were treated to a super blue moon, and not content with their stunning landing on the Moon’s south pole, India has decided to go a step further, announcing plans to launch an observation mission to the Sun. Their rocket Aditya-L1 is due to lift-off today from their launch pad in Sriharikota, with the Indian Space Research Organisation expecting the craft to take four months to reach its destination. Their lunar mission has already detected the presence of sulphur (or sulfur as it is now formally spelt) at the south pole. This might in itself seem unremarkable, but as a chemical found in soil, water and plants on earth, its presence on the Moon infers the presence of water ice – essential if humans are to ever develop a lunar colony.

Typically, as the school summer holidays come to an end, next week looks like it might be a bit of a heatwave, with temperatures expected to reach 30c in some regions. This is thanks to an Iberian plume pushing north from the Spanish plateau, a meteorological condition that previously had a significant impact on the UK back in July 2014. It’s a complex story, but combined with cooler air at height moving westwards, the result is both elevated temperatures across most of south and south east England, and a significantly increased likelihood of powerful electrical storms and exceptional rainfall, as mapped in the 2014 event below.

[b]U’s World[/b]
So, first and foremost, the will he won’t he saga is finally over, with Junior Tchamadeu signing for Stoke City on deadline day. Obviously, this comes as no surprise to anyone, but I confess a little part of me wondered if we might just hold on to him until January. It would have been remiss of me not to have taken the opportunity to ask Robbie where things were last Sunday, but it would have been equally remiss of Robbie to have answered. As ever these days, it was an ‘undisclosed fee’, but I’m reasonably confident it was a decent fee (and that’s not a scoop, just my hunch).

In many respects I think we can be grateful that was the only major departure on deadline day, albeit we did sell Ossama Ashley to Salford during pre-season (another undisclosed fee), and the Jake Hutchinson enigma was finally resolved, with the U’s player signing for tier 3 Scottish side Queen of the South. U’s youngster Frankie Edwards has also gone out on loan to Maldon & Tiptree for the remainder of the season.

Incoming just before deadline day, we were first teased with the signing of 23-year old Yassine En-Neyah, who spent the second half of last season at Truro City, and who goes immediately out on loan, also to the Jammers. On deadline day, we signed highly regarded defender Zach Mitchell from Charlton Athletic on a year-long loan, and who is expected to be in the squad for this afternoon. Zach was followed by Jay Mingi, formerly also with Charlton Athletic after progressing through the West Ham academy. Allegedly Charlton wanted to keep Jay, but as contract negotiations broke down, the U’s nipped in and signed him for free on a two-year contract – shrewd bit of business there, hope our Addicks feeder club aren’t too peeved.

However, the big news was saved for last, with the welcome return of Owura Edwards following his highly successful loan spell at the tail end of the 2021/22 season, including scoring on his debut at Sutton United. His loan spell was unfortunately interrupted through injury, but last season he was loaned out to Ross County to help keep them in the Scottish Premiership. The U’s paid hard cash to Bristol City for Owura, no doubt covered by the fee for Junior, and the pacy winger has signed a two-year contract, though not in time to be eligible for today unfortunately.

In other news, from a personal perspective, tomorrow we will hopefully see the completion of the JobServe stadium eagle seat designs. It’s worth remembering a bit of the back story to this, which originated on the OMB as an idea by poster ColuPhil to spell out “1937” with white seats in the North Stand. It was poster Lofty’s suggestion to do something in the South stand with the spare blue seats that got me thinking about the eagle design, but it was really the graphic design skills of SmithyD that brought the design to life, and which caught the attention of Robbie Cowling.

The original proposal didn’t get past the Club United hurdle, though I think I’m right in saying it did raise the most in pledges to date on Club United. Leaving aside what we’re doing now, I think the Club United concept needs a rethink – I’m all for it, but there seems to be a fundamental flaw that for some reason prevents even the simplest suggestions from getting over the line. However, moving on, Robbie reached out to me with the idea of us supporters, with him as well, just getting on and doing it – club and supporters genuinely working hand in hand to strengthen bonds and to be honest, forging links that at times have been somewhat strained in recent times.

For that, Robbie Cowling deserves all the credit!

[b]Match of the Day
[i]Brentford v Colchester United
22nd April 2011
Npower Football League One (Tier 3)
Attendance 4,480[/i][/b]

[b]No programme for this one, just the ubiquitous calendar entry…[/b]

The memorabilia random match selector has dipped into one of our Easter weekend fixtures for this blog, with the U’s visit to Griffin Park on Good Friday 2011. Always a popular destination in the football calendar, this one was doubly so on an unseasonably hot afternoon in April, which flushed out all manner of reprobates, including myself and my mate Jon, and Paul and Martin from the Swedish branch. It’s somehow appropriate that Martin was both at our Priestfield game last weekend and will be at the Bescot today.

At the time the U’s were managed by John Ward, his first season in charge, and although he’d been keeping our hopes of a play-off spot just about alive, those hopes were pretty much dashed following a 4-1 thumping at Carlisle the previous Saturday. However, that didn’t stop well over 500 from Essex making the trip over to West London, including the welcome distraction of doing a ‘lap’ of the ground pre-match.

With the U’s safe, and our play-off hopes more or less gone, thoughts had already turned to which of our assets could we hold on to for the following season. John Ward was adamant that despite a reduced budget, he wouldn’t have to sell anyone – unless of course, the price was absolutely right. With shades of Junior Tchamadeu in the air, back then Ward highlighted the tale of Marc Tierney, for whom Norwich City made repeated bids for, each one firmly rejected by Robbie Cowling until they matched our valuation. In the build up to Brentford Ward said “[i]I’ve never been told that we have got to sell. But if someone said they wanted to make a bid for one of our players, we would say ‘go on then, we’ll see where we go’[/i]”.

On Good Friday, John Ward’s U’s lined up:
1….Ben Williams
2….Conor Powell
20..Brian Wilson
28..Matt Heath
31..Tommy Smith
10..Kem Izzet (captain) (8. John-Joe O’Toole 76’)
26..Lloyd James
7….Ashley Vincent (22. Anthony Wordsworth 76’)
16..Ian Henderson
18..Steven Gillespie (15. Kayode Odejayi 46’)
19..David Mooney

First off, I had completely forgotten that we had Tommy Smith on loan from Ipswich way back then. His debut was mid-March in a 1-0 defeat at Tranmere Rovers, and he would go on to make six appearances for the U’s before returning to Portman Road. Following the thrashing in Cumbria, John Ward made five changes, giving Conor Powell his debut, and dropping Ben Coker, Kayode Odejayi, Andy Bond, JJ O’Toole and Nathan Clarke. In addition to Powell, taking their places were Ashley Vincent, David Mooney, Lloyd James and Matt Heath.

Brentford, under manager Nicky Foster, were having a similar season to the U’s and likewise had pretty much given up any hopes of reaching the play-offs. They also had Marcus Bean in their starting XI, a year before the U’s would sign him, but otherwise their squad reads as unremarkable to me.

With the combination of very sunny weather, pre-match refreshments and neither team with much to seriously play for, this one definitely had the feel of an end-of-season kick-about, with both sets of supporters by and large pretty chilled and relaxed. However, after an open and even quarter of an hour, one shining moment stands out. Great work between Mooney, Vincent and Gillespie saw an inch perfect driven cross from Gillespie put into the Bees’ box, and there was Ian Henderson to head powerfully into the back of the net. A great start, stirring the U’s support into action on the away terrace. There is an argument for saying Gillespie was actually shooting, but Henderson was happy to take the opportunity and make sure.

For the remainder of the first half it continued as an even contest, with the U’s just as likely to extend their lead as concede an equaliser, albeit neither side carved out any really clear cut chances. However, seconds before half-time we were undone by a tragic accident. Gillespie, who’d been having a brilliant game, attempted to charge down a defensive clearance and landed badly on his left arm. It looked nasty, and Gilly was subbed immediately and taken straight off to hospital. Kayode came on as replacement, but I can’t remember if it was there and then or whether we waited for the imminent half-time break?

Into the second half, Gillespie’s injury took some of the impetus out of our attacking intent, with Brentford coming more into the game. That didn’t prevent us creating a few decent chances of our own, with Vincent driving one just over the bar after a good run, and Bees keeper Simon Moore doing well to save another effort from Henderson. Just after the hour mark Nicky Foster made a double substitution, replacing Marcus Bean and Michael Spillane with Adam Reed and Sam Wood, and it nearly paid immediate dividends. A perfect pass from Diagouraga allowed Grabban to beat the offside trap, and he should have buried his chance but somehow managed to poke his effort just wide of the post.

A considerable let-off, but Bees weren’t done yet. With 15 minutes to go Kemi brought down substitute Reed on the edge of the D for a soft free kick. With no other thought than to go for it, Sam Saunders curled his free-kick perfectly around the wall and just inside Ben Williams’ lefthand post, with the keeper helplessly stranded. This immediately prompted John Ward to replace Izzet and Vincent with JJ O’Toole and Anthony Wordsworth, clearly not content with just settling for the point.

Despite the nothing to play for tag, it was a pleasant surprise to see both sides in the final quarter of an hour genuinely going for it, and both could have justifiably claimed a winner – a decent effort from Odejayi was well-saved by Moore, Grabban went close with another curling effort, and Williams had to be on his toes to smother the ball as Bees third substitute Nathan Byrne raced through on goal. But it wasn’t to be, and the U’s had to be content with a point from their trip to sunny West London.

[b]Brentford 1 (Saunders 76’) Colchester United 1 (Henderson 15’)[/b]

With nothing to rush back for that day, Jon and I tagged along with the Swedish Branch and a whole bunch of others and found ourselves at a lovely pub down by the River called the Brewery Tap. In keeping with the general ambience of the day, it was the perfect way to finish the day out. It was particularly noteworthy for Jon, as the first opportunity to meet the Swedish Branch, and to his delight also spot an absolutely pristine Rover 2000 (in the background of this photo).

The following week we learned that Steven ‘made of biscuits’ Gillespie had shattered his left wrist and was out for the last few games of the season. What was equally frustrating was he’d only just returned from injury in January, and since then had gone on to score nine goals in 18 appearances. Who knows how much better his pretty decent U’s career could have been if he’d stayed injury-free?

A good point at home against champions-elect Brighton and Hove Albion on Easter Monday was followed up with a 4-2 defeat at Yeovil, and the season rounded off with a 2-1 victory over relegated Bristol Rovers. This left the U’s in 10th place, in what has to be considered a pretty good first season for John Ward as manager.

[b]Up the U’s![/b]

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Knees-up Mother Brown #22 by wessex_exile
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