Disappointing, in that the U's never really got their game going consistently enough. However, Barrow are clearly a tidy side, and might be just as disappointed they didn't win - though on balance a draw was probably the right result. Heyho, still unbeaten...
Matchday #3, and Robbie’s not happy. I know opinion is divided, but I have considerable sympathy with the Chairman on this one. I don’t want this to be necessarily a political comment, but many are looking on with bemusement as the government seem to lurch from one knee-jerk reaction to another during this crisis, and I would be saying this of any government, regardless of their political persuasion. The nub of Robbie’s comments is quite simple, what’s the point in having a panel of experts working closely with responsible club owners to plan supporter’s safe return to essentially open air stadia, investing in alterations, changes to layout, developing detailed procedures etc. to then have the rug pulled out from under their feet? I know why, a second wave seems to be coming, and frankly it looks like people simply can’t be trusted to follow the rules – but why then are pubs still open, or does the virus only come out after 10pm?
Colchester United v Witton Albion Sunday 10th May 1992 Vauxhall FA Trophy (Final) Attendance 32,254
Letters from Wiltshire #05 returns to happier times, and the U’s first visit to the twin towers of Wembley. There have been a lot of column inches in recent weeks throughout the media on the triumphant return of today’s opponents Barrow to the football league – even Durham’s excellent match preview looks back on some of the previous encounters between the two sides, so I have chosen the FA Trophy Final very specifically, as the very next match after we claimed the Conference title with a convincing 5-0 victory over Barrow the previous weekend.
I’d imagine most of you have one of these at home, mines getting a bit dog-eared now…
Auld lang syne Before we get into the match, let’s reflect briefly on our on-off relationship with Barrow. They were formed in 1922, 15 years before we even existed, but we didn’t cross paths until November 1961, with a 1-1 draw at Layer Road. For a few seasons, the Ziggers (as they were then) were a bit of a bogey team for the U’s, and it would take until September 1967 before we finally won a match – 3-2 at Layer Rd, with Dennis Mochan scoring his first for the U’s that day. There have been several notable names who opened their U’s goal-scoring account against Barrow, including Ray Crawford in August 1970, Watney Cup hero Phil Bloss on his debut in April 1971, and Mark Kinsella no less in August 1991.
Parting of the ways… Going back to the 1971/72 season, infamous in the collective memory of Barrow AFC, the U’s had an average season in Division 4, finishing mid-table. Grimsby won the league, with Southend, Brentford and Scunthorpe promoted alongside them. Back then there was no automatic relegation, clubs had to apply for re-election, and usually got it too. Barrow finished third from bottom, 8pts ahead of Crewe at the foot of the table (in the days of only 2pts for a win as well), and only a point from avoiding relegation altogether.
The precise detail of the re-election process is dealt with in a very good article by Ged Scott on the BBC website ( https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/52283009 ), which I recommend. In essence, the old boys network came together to decide who to sacrifice to make way for Hereford, very much in the limelight at the time thanks to Mr Radford. Sadly, unfashionable, unfancied and in particular isolated Barrow, despite finishing 8pts clear of the bottom, were voted out on a second ballot going head to head with new boys Hereford.
A brief romance… It would take Colchester United suffering the same ignominy to be reunited with Barrow, when we too were relegated into the Conference in 1990, albeit this time there was no vote, this was straightforward off you go stuff. We drew 2-2 at Holker Street, and won narrowly 1-0 at Layer Rd (Mario Walsh scored in both games for the U’s). In the intervening years, Barrow had even slipped as far as the Northern Premier League for a few seasons, but in 1990/91 they were a reasonably solid mid-table outfit.
Much less so the following season, and whilst the U’s were sweeping everyone aside on our march back into the football league, Barrow were fighting a losing battle at the other end. Much has been written about that fantastic day at Layer Rd on Saturday 3rd May 1992, when a Mike Masters hat-trick, and goals by Nicky Smith and Big Roy in front of 7,193 saw the U’s promoted ahead of fierce rivals Wycombe Wanderers and a hilariously dejected Martin ‘Sour Grapes’ O’Neill on goal difference. Barrow weren’t so lucky, and although technically relegated back to the Northern Premier already, were officially so at the final whistle, alongside Cheltenham Town (relegated to the Southern League).
All caught up So there we have it, Barrow’s role in our past, and context for today’s match report, our very next competitive fixture, our first trip to Wembley, and a chance to do the non-league double. I wasn’t at the Barrow game, I’d already travelled over for the FA Trophy home leg semi-final against Macclesfield, and got my pass for the Final, so I had to follow that one on Ceefax.
As this was clearly going to be a day when beer was to be taken, I travelled up bright and early on the train from Salisbury for the match. We knew that ticket sales for U’s fans had been going extremely well, so it was no surprise to start bumping into blue and white shirts even on the train up from the West Country. More so at Waterloo, and the tube journey across London, and by the time I arrived at Wembley Park (I think it was) it was blue and white everywhere. Witton Albion had been allocated the West side of Wembley, and therefore the fans favourite Green Man as their designated pub. The U’s were on the east side of Wembley, and so I headed for the Torch to meet my brother-in-law, and a whole bunch of other friends and family who’d made the trip.
The place was absolutely heaving, I’d never seen so many U’s fans crammed into one boozer. Queuing at the bar was 3-4 deep at times, and with the chanting going on, absolutely deafening as well. We took to getting double rounds, just to avoid too much essential drinking time being lost at the bar, but everything was very good natured – even with quite a few Witton Albion fans clearly reckoning they’d have more fun at our pub than theirs (and I think they did).
The abiding memory, however, was the coaches – wave after wave of packed out U’s coaches steaming past down Bridge Road towards Wembley, each one greeted with a roar from the assembled throng in the pub car park, flags waving, scarves twirling – I’d never seen anything like it in all my years following Colchester United, and it’s a memory I’ll cherish for ever.
For once, enjoy the U’s line-up as it was published in the commemorative programme:
If I thought the Torch had been mental, nothing prepared me for the sight as we walked up Wembley Way to take our seats – a sea of blue and white flags, banners, scarves all around, and the noise! To be fair, given their usual level of support, Witton Albion hadn’t done too bad either, and there must have been 6-7,000 of their supporters on the east side, and definitely playing their part to create an atmosphere. However, with an estimated 25,000 U’s fans in full voice opposite them, they had to pick their moments to be heard. The roar as Roy McDonough led out Colchester United sent shivers down my spine, and still brings me out in goosebumps when I think of it today.
We were still in full voice when Mike Masters put the U’s 1-0 up after just five minutes, and in doing so became the first American professional footballer to score at Wembley. For the next 15 minutes, we just passed it around, fully in control, and it came as no surprise when Nicky Smith doubled our lead in the 19th minute. I still see Nicky Smith around at U’s away games, in his role as whatever the modern-day equivalent of a police ‘spotter’ is called, and he’s always got time for a chat – providing we’re on best behaviour of course. Halftime, and the U’s were comfortably in control, and thoughts of refreshments – one look at the jammed concourse had me deciding to tough it out for another 45 minutes and grab a pint or two after the match in town.
Witton hadn’t been completely overawed and had come close on a few occasions in the first half. They came out even brighter for the second half, and whilst I never felt we were under too much pressure, they were enjoying far more of the ball. In the 57th minute that pressure told, with Lutkevich scoring a fine glancing header that looped beyond the reach of the despairing dive of Scott Barrett. Whilst this gave Witton Albion and their supporters a considerable lift, still the U’s weren’t to be overrun, and comfortably weathered wave after wave of Witton Albion forays. Shortly after their goal, Roy subbed himself for Gary Bennett, really a like for like substitution, but obviously on much younger legs 😊.
The turning point, if there was going to be one, might have been Jason Cook’s reckless challenge in the 81st minute, which earned a straight red card. Whilst very sad for Jason, and his family watching on, you couldn’t really argue with the decision – though it broke your heart to watch him trudge off dejected. But the U’s were made of sterner stuff, and roared on by the blue and white army, refused to buckle and took the fight to Witton Albion for the last ten minutes. We were rewarded with a minute of normal time to go, when McGavin scored the third to put the result beyond doubt, and set up incredible celebrations from the U’s Army in the stand!
Colchester United 3 (Masters 5’; Smith 19’; McGavin 89’) Witton Albion 1 (Lutkevich 57’)
The rest really is all a bit of a blur, I can remember Roy holding the trophy aloft to tumultuous roars, the lap of honour, the dancing, hi-jinks and stuff, the obligatory wearing of the lid as a hat – I also remember Jason Cook, boots in hand, being dragged out to take part by team mates. It was a peculiarly spiteful twist that red carded players weren’t eligible for a winners’ medal – so step forward unused sub Eamonn Collins – a little man with a BIG BIG heart – who gave his medal to Jason Cook!
…and finally Amidst all the celebrations, do spare a thought for the poor old Colchester Hippodrome – shirt sponsor for the U’s all the way to the Wembley final, and then ousted on their biggest day by the fat wallets of The Sun newspaper – never one to miss a trick when it came to cheap advertising.
Whilst celebrating our own FA Trophy Wembley triumph, I should also give a shout out to Barrow – they had already got FA Trophy winners medals themselves two years earlier. They’d go on to do it again in 2010, becoming the only side to win the FA Trophy at both old and new Wembley – bravo Bluebirds, and welcome back!
I guess we have to keep one eye on the bigger football family picture - yes, my ifollow payments have so far benefited Reading, Pompey and Bradford, who, lets face it, are probably in a better financial position than most, but my payments will go on to benefit the likes of Barrow, Harrogate, Scunthorpe, Newport, even Southend - who need every penny available to survive. I won't begrudge them my cash whilst watching the U's.
Simple answer is no Noah. Bolton passed the ball around a lot, trying to pull us out of shape, but we were far too disciplined. At League 2 level, they weren’t good enough to keep this up for ever, and inevitably gifted possession back to the U’s. We were far more effective with the ball, more pace, more urgency, more drive - hence equal or better stats with far less of the ball.
Evatt’s quote reminds me of “apart from that Mrs Lincoln, what did you think of the show?”
CRYSTAL PALACE v EVERTON 2-1 QUEENS PARK RANGERS v MIDDLESBROUGH 2-0 DONCASTER ROVERS v BRISTOL ROVERS 3-0 SUNDERLAND v PETERBOROUGH UNITED 2-1 MANSFIELD TOWN v EXETER CITY 1-2 WALSALL v LEYTON ORIENT 1-1
Good result, some promising performances - Bolton had chances, but I was pleased to see the defence looked a lot more solid today. Good instinctive finish from Brown, and I agree, looks a completely different prospect for the U's this season.
After last weeks’ solid point away against Bradford City, tipped by many to be strong promotion contenders, we now face another stern test against fallen giants Bolton Wanderers. Okay, giants may be stretching it a tad, but these guys have won the FA Cup four times, the League Cup twice, and the Charity Shield and Football League (Sherpa Van) Trophy once apiece. Christ, they were in the Premier League just eight years ago. But, they are where they are for a reason, and Saturday is all about 11 v 11, literally on a level playing field…
Bolton Wanderers v Colchester United Friday 11th December 1987 Barclays League Division 4 (Tier 4) Attendance 1,725
In preparing for this Letter from Wiltshire, I thought first and foremost to have a look at some of our previous matches with Bolton. I knew there couldn’t be many (I couldn’t remember any), but I was also pretty sure Bolton weren’t one of our very few ‘never played’ sides (West Ham, Liverpool, Harrogate…any others?). It turned out our paths have only crossed once in the league, during the U’s topsy-turvy 1987/88 season, the only previous occasion that Bolton Wanderers have been in the basement.
Programme image courtesy of www.coludata.co.uk
Context By a curious coincidence, we find ourselves in the very same season as the previous Letter from Wiltshire (Bradford v Ipswich), and therefore yours truly still living in West Yorkshire. With Christmas fast approaching, there was no way I could afford a separate trip just for this game – that would have to wait until I came down to see family, and the U’s take on Cardiff at Layer Rd on 28th December. It was a shame too, because it looks like I missed a real cracker against (even then) big boys Bolton Wanderers. I’ll get to the match stats in a moment, but it’s worth first of all reflecting on that attendance – just 1,725 for a Friday night match at Layer Road! An outsider looking in would rightly consider that pitiful, and they wouldn’t be wrong. But context is everything, and diehard U’s supporters of a certain age will know only too well we were in the Jonathan Crisp years.
Crisp was an ‘erratic’ chairman at best and had decided without bidding to introduce a members-only scheme for attendance at Layer Rd this season, with all away supporters banned. Attendances plummeted, with only 1,372 bothering to turn up for our first home match of the season against Torquay (we lost 1-0), only very rarely managed to exceed 2,000 all season, and very occasionally even dipped below 1,000. Mind you, I would imagine lower league sides would give their eye teeth for 1,000 paying attendees right now, if it could be done safely. It will be interesting to see how the eight test events fare this weekend (Luton and Morecambe pulling out at the last minute).
With more time, and lots of research, there’s a fascinating story to tell I’m sure about Jonathan Crisp, but one I’m certainly not qualified to write. One of the OMB regulars posted a link last month to the obituary of his father Bob Crisp, a quite remarkable man by any measure. It is well worth a read if you want, perhaps, a glimpse of some of the influences that might have helped form Jonathan Crisp ( https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2013/mar/05/the-spin-bob-crisp-amazing-life ).
Under Mike Walker as manager, we’d got the season off to a flyer, winning 3-0 at Burnley, but thereafter had struggled for most of August and September. Walker had been working on effectively rebuilding the U’s, and had already brought in Mario Walsh, Trevor Lake, Dale Tempest, Gary Smith, and loans for Graham Benstead and Mark Walton. On 29th September the tide started to turn, with a 2-1 home victory over Swansea City, ironically in front of our record lowest league attendance ever of just 1,140. Under Walker, the resurgent U’s just couldn’t be stopped, winning six out of seven matches on the trot, and getting a point for the seventh.
You couldn't make it up By the end of October we were third, so of course the perfect time for Crisp to unceremoniously sack Mike Walker on 1st November. Over the years there have been various (occasionally salacious) rumours circulating about why Walker was sacked, but I’m not going to go into that here. Suffice to say that after a brief caretaker manager spell for Steve Foley (winning his one game 4-1 at Rochdale), Roger Brown was appointed on 6th November. Ironically, on the same day, Mike Walker was named Manager of the Month, with the U’s top of the table, and having already been sacked by the club he had been managing to win the award in the first place!
Brown kept the win streak going with his first match, winning 2-1 away at Halifax, but came a cropper at home to Wolves in the next, losing 1-0 in front 2,413 supporters, unusually one of our larger home crowds of the season. The reason was simple, literally hundreds of Wolves fans signed up to Crisp’s members-only scheme to get a ticket for the match, Crisp finally realised the futility of his actions, and the scheme was scrapped with immediate effect. Brown could only draw the next match, away at Stockport, so we come to the Bolton game needing to do something to get the promotion push back on track.
The match Anyway, to the match, and all I have to go by primarily are the match stats from Graeson’s www.coludata.co.uk website, and our remarkably good suite of Wikipedia pages (thanks, whoever you are).
The U’s lined up: 1….Mark Walton 2….Paul Hinshelwood 3….Rudi Hedman 4….Nicky Chatterton 5….Colin Hill 6….Keith Williams 7….Winston White 8….Richard Wilkins 9….Dale Tempest 10..Tony English 11..Stephen Grenfell
The two subs, Mario Walsh and Mark Radford, were unused. The Bolton team, managed by Phil Neal no less, no doubt contained many names who are very familiar to their supporters even today, but there are one or two worthy of mention for non-Trotters. Firstly, Phil Neal was acting as a player-manager at the time, and turned out as the no. 3, alongside the one and only, everyone’s bete noire, Robbie Savage. I honestly had no idea Robbie had graced the turf at Layer Road until now, so I’d be interested to know whether he ever did again (if anyone knows?). They also had Trevor Morgan on the bench, who would go on to play a season for the U’s two years later. Bolton had signed him from Bristol City, who themselves had remarkably signed him from fierce local rivals Bristol Rovers. Remarkably, because a cross-Bristol move doesn’t happen very often at all, and for nearly 30 years he was the last player to do so until Matty Taylor repeated it in 2017.
The match stats are pretty straightforward – Richard ‘Mr Colchester United’ Wilkins put the U’s in front in the 29th minute, and in the second half Winston White added a brace (68th and 81st minute) to round of what appears on paper as a very comfortable home win against one of our fellow promotion contenders. Although a poor crowd by normal standards, with the member-only scheme scrapped, fans were slowly returning to Layer Road, and at least for this evening most went home happy (apart from maybe those of a north west persuasion who might have travelled down for a Friday night match).
Colchester United 3 (Richard Wilkins 29’; Winston White 68’, 81’) Bolton Wanderers 0
From here… Although the result got our promotion challenge temporarily back on track, and we stayed top through to the end of the year, winning every game, January and February were disastrous months, and by the end of the season we could only manage 9th place, three points short of the play-offs. Bolton gained revenge over the U’s, thrashing us 4-0 at Burnden Park on the penultimate game of the season, helping them to gain automatic promotion in 3rd place behind champions Wolverhampton Wanderers and Cardiff City, with Swansea City promoted via the play-offs.
Newport County were relegated out of the league, and were declared bankrupt, expelled from the Conference and had gone out of business by February of the following year. They were reformed in June 1989 by 400 supporters, and as we know eventually returned to league football 25 years later in 2013.
…and finally However, it was Winston White that really piqued my interest from this match report, as he wasn’t a name I was familiar with at all. Okay, so his playing career with the U’s coincided with my time in West Yorkshire, so I wasn’t watching the U’s anywhere near as much as usual, but still a surprise, so I checked him out.
Winston White at Leicester City
Born Eric Winston White, Winston started his serious football career as a 16-yr old apprentice and then youth player for his hometown club Leicester City, under then manager Jimmy Bloomfield. His preferred position was out on the wing, and with bags of pace, plenty of tricks and a good eye for goal, it didn’t take long for Winston to graduate to the Leicester City first team under new manager Frank McLintock.
McLintock was sacked in 1978, to be replaced by our very own U’s man Jock Wallace. Jock, as we well know, had a reputation for preferring hard work, an uncompromising approach to the beautiful game, and very much an army-like mentality to his management style. He had precious little time for a fleet of foot, skilful flair player, so it was no surprise that in 1979 Winston was sold to Hereford for £15,000.
Winston stayed at Hereford for four years, and did well there too, but with Hereford finishing bottom of the Football League in 1983, his time was over. Knowing that Bury were after him, but had to move some other players around to make room, Winston temporarily played for Hong Kong Rangers, and on his return to the UK even had brief loan/trial spells with Chesterfield, Port Vale and Stockport, before eventually signing for Bury in December. He stayed with the Shakers for four seasons, racking up 145 appearances in all competitions, with a decent return of scoring 13 goals in the process (plus four appearances on loan to Rochdale in 1986), before joining the U’s on a free transfer in March 1987.
It baffles me how to this day I knew nothing about Winston White, considering his record whilst at Layer Road. From March ’87 he appeared 16 times for the U’s through to the end of the season, scoring once. In 1987/88 he was almost ever-present, scoring 11 times (include the brace here), and racked up another ten appearances in 1988/89 before we sold him to Burnley for £17,500. Although nowhere near our record as far as transfer fees were concerned (we had, after all, recently sold Rooster to Man City for £75k and Chamberlain to Everton for £80k), that was still a pretty decent transfer fee – particularly given we’d signed Winston on a free.
However, when looking into the career of Winston White, one particular chapter (for me) stands head and shoulders above the rest, and for that we go back to 1979. West Bromwich Albion wanted to hold some sort of benefit match or event for Len Cantello, one of their longest serving players.
Pardon? Some bright spark came up with the idea of a Blacks v Whites football match!
Yep, you read that correctly…
Cyrille Regis and Len Cantello at kick-off
In modern times, this would probably be considered very very odd at the least, downright unthinkable to some, and if nothing smacks of patronising tokenism in its worst form. But we lived in a different world back then, and it was actually considered a quite progressive, even avant garde idea. Adrian Chiles, a lifelong WBA supporter, wrote an excellent article about the match, and the backdrop of prevalent racism within football at the time, which is well worth a read ( https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-37924448 ).
What’s even more interesting is that many of the top black players at the time, including people like George Berry, Bob Hazell, Garth Crooks, Cyrille Regis, Laurie Cunningham, Remi Moses and of course our very own Winston White, were more than happy to take part…in a benefit match…for a white man…at a time when the level of racist abuse from the terraces was at a simply horrific level. For goodness sake, they even put the black players in an all-white kit!
Back row left to right: Ian Benjamin, Vernon Hodgson, Brendon Batson, Derek Richardson, Stewart Phillips, George Berry, Bob Hazell, Garth Crooks. Front row: Winston White, Cyrille Regis, Laurie Cunningham, Remi Moses, Valmore Thomas
Incidentally, the game finished Blacks 3 Whites 2, with Laurie Cunningham, Garth Crooks and Stewart Phillips scoring for the Blacks. In the link to Adrian Chiles’ BBC article there’s an embedded clip that shows footage from the game, but the YouTube interview below with Chiles and particularly some of the black players, is also well worth watching.
My programme has yet to arrive, but like you I have already signed up to the match stream. Really looking forward to this one, ought to be another stern test against a side who pundits back to be there or thereabouts, but then again so should we.
Stay safe in your lockdown, sadly too many idiots about at the moment who really don't get what's going on.