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When Saturday Comes #5
Written by wessex_exile on Sunday, 12th Sep 2021 15:36

“[i]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.[/i]”

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 [i]Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs[/i], 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.

[b]Closer to home[/b]
For this week, [i]When Saturday Comes[/i] 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 😊.

[b]By all means relive the experience, and you’re welcome 😊[/b]

[b]Stat attack[/b]
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?

[b]Incidentally, if you haven’t worked it out, the left shield pane is bee-arrow, taken from the Barrow-in-Furness coat of arms[/b]

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 [i]et al[/i]. 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.

[b]Match of the Day
[i]Torquay United v Colchester United
Saturday 27th November 2004
Coca-Cola League 1 (Tier 3)
Attendance 2,984[/i][/b]

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 [b]Leadbelly[/b], both driving forces in the [i]Colchester Community Stadium Action Group[/i]), 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 [i]Show Racism the Red Card[/i] campaign, and was awarded the MBE in 2018 for his work tackling discrimination.

So, on arrival at Torquay’s [i]Boots and Laces[/i] 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.

[b]Torquay 1 (Martin Gritton 74’p) Colchester United 3 (Craig Fagan 67’, 72’; Richard Garcia 78’)[/b]

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

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