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Knees-up Mother Brown #6
Written by wessex_exile on Sunday, 10th Sep 2023 14:33

The rollercoaster ride that is following the U’s continues, as we wait to see whether it’ll be Dr Jekyll of Gillingham or Mr Hyde of (fill in blank) that turns up at the JobServe today. With back to back home games against Tranmere today and the Scabs next Saturday, never has it been more important to get our season well and truly on track. Six points and a comfortable mid-table slot will do wonders for our confidence, anything less just doesn’t bear thinking about. The least said about Walsall the better, other than to say if we wait until we’ve conceded midway through the second half to actually start playing, that’s not good. What’s even more frustrating is that when we eventually did, we could have easily equalised, and maybe even won that one (albeit that would have been hard on the Saddlers).

[b]The world outside U’s World[/b]
In what many consider to have been a test case, former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows has failed in his bid to have his case in the plot to overturn the Georgia 2020 vote moved to federal court. Meadows claimed he was acting in his role as a federal employee at the time, but Judge Steve Jones, in his ruling, has stated that Meadows “[i]has not met even the 'quite low' threshold[/i]" to have the case relocated, and reminding Meadows that laws prohibit federal employees from participating in elections while acting in their official capacity. Trump and the remaining 17 co-defendants were obviously hoping for a more favourable outcome, paving the way to a trial outside the heavily Democrat Fulton County district, to a federal court somewhere with a more Republican jury pool. Top advice, if you don’t think you’ll get a sympathetic jury somewhere, probably best not to commit crimes there in the first place.

In a move that is widely considered meaningless, Turkish crypto boss Faruk Fatih Ozer has been found guilty of defrauding investors of millions of dollars and sentenced to 11,196 years. Ozer fled the country in 2021 but was caught and extradited back to Turkey for trial earlier this year, alongside his brother and sister, also found guilty of the same charges. Apparently, according to the BBC, since the abolition of the death penalty in 2004 such sentences are quite common in Turkey. With good behaviour, Mr Ozer will be eligible for parole in 7,389 years.

The heatwave continues, with meteorologists predicting temperatures could reach 33c in parts of the UK today. This is after Thursday was declared the hottest day of 2023 to date, with a temperature of 32.6c recorded at Wisley in Surrey. The NHS has reportedly seen a surge in enquiries seeking advice on heat exhaustion since the heatwave began, according to Sky News. As mentioned in last weeks’ blog, the Iberian Plume effect is expected to kick-in this weekend, with thunderstorms forecast across south and south east England, after which thankfully the weather is expected to cool into next week.

Expect multiple water breaks at the match today and remember folks – don’t wait until you’re thirsty to take on water – thirst is a symptom of dehydration!

[b]U’s World[/b]
As reported elsewhere and covered under [b]Durham’s[/b] excellent match preview, the U’s have been boosted by some welcome news during the week. New signings Cameron McGeehan and Jay Mingi have both trained with the squad this week, and alongside Zach Mitchell, some or all of them are likely to play a part today. Owen Goodman is also available, having returned early from the England U20 training camp – no, he hadn’t been naughty, this was apparently a prior agreement. And, after three games absence, big John Akinde also makes a welcome return from injury. In addition, Jayden Fevrier has also signed a new contract, keeping the talented winger at the U’s until 2025.

It was also reported during the week that former chairman Roy Chapman passed away this week. Whilst I confess I knew next to nothing about him, or even his existence at the time, it is sad to reflect that Roy was our chairman when I very first started following the U’s, a 1-0 victory over Hartlepool on 20th August 1971, courtesy of a Len Ashurst own goal.

On the subject of chairman, much has been written about our work with Robbie to implement the Eagle seat designs over the previous two weekends, and I’m really looking forward to seeing them in action today (thanks iFollow for the International break rule!). I was at one point even thinking of travelling over to be there in person, but to be honest, after two long hard weekends travelling over to Essex, the lure of just resting my aching bones proved too tempting to resist. With regard to the U’sual community, hats off to [b]mfb_cufc[/b] and [b]TropicalUs[/b], first boots on the ground last Sunday, and in mfb’s case, amongst the last boots to leave too.

One of the OMB volunteers captured some time lapse footage of the South stand eagle in development, and whilst the phone battery unfortunately died before the end of the day, it provides an excellent record of what was involved!

However, the image below to me really captures quite what the day was all about. Our chairman Robbie Cowling, working alongside youngest volunteer Ronnie, hauling a trolley-load of seats up to the North stand, and deep in conversation. This right here, this is the image that really tells the story of what everyone achieved.

[b]Match of the Day
[i]Exeter City v Colchester United
3rd December 1994
FA Cup (Second Round)
Attendance 3,528[/i][/b]

The memorabilia random match selector has gone all the way back to one of my earliest visits to St James Park back in December 1994, and also the first of only a handful of matches in the archive that coincided with George Burley’s brief tenure as U’s manager. This was for an FA Cup second round match, and it had been an eventful journey to get there too.

Drawn away against non-league Yeading in the first round, I joined 900 or so other U’s fans in West London, all hoping we’d dodge the non-league banana skin we were all far too familiar with. Whilst we did just that, drawing 2-2 at Yeading, and smashing them 7-1 in the Layer Road replay, it was the events off the pitch that really tell the tale of that first Yeading game. Not least, that involved a Met Police ‘snatch squad’ trying to remove unruly elements within the U’s support late in the second half, prompting a virtual riot with young and old (me included) spilling onto the pitch to avoid the flailing truncheons, and then trying to get back off the pitch to avoid the snarling police dogs.

As a result, I was hoping for a somewhat less ‘energetic’ visit to Devon for the second round, at least off the pitch anyway. At the time the U’s were still trying to find their feet back in the Football League. After another season of struggle under previous manager Roy McDonough, the perfect man for the job to get us out of the Conference, less so to prevent us going back, Roy was sacked by Gordon Parker in the summer. He was replaced by Portman Road legend George Burley as a player-manager. It’s also worth noting that Roy was Gordon Parker’s son-in-law at the time – that was going to make Christmas dinner a tense affair.

Six defeats in a row, including a brace of 2-0 loses in the League Cup first round legs against Brentford, was not exactly an auspicious start for Burley. However, with the benefit of hindsight it could be argued that Burley first had to contend with exorcising the spirit of Big Roy from the squad and then instil some proper discipline. The evidence bears that out too – from the start of September through to this FA Cup second round game, the U’s lost only twice, and one of those was a narrow 3-2 defeat at Craven Cottage in the FL Trophy, to bring the U’s to the brink of the play-offs.

Picking a strong squad for the game, George Burley’s U’s lined up exactly as the programme predicted:
1….John Cheesewright
2….Simon Betts
3….Tony English
4….Peter Cawley
5….Gus Caesar
6….Adam Locke
7….Trevor Putney (12. Tony Dennis)
8….Steve Brown (13. Chris Fry)
9….Steve Whitton
10..Mark Kinsella
11..Paul Abrahams

Exeter City had endured a similarly poor start to the season under manager Terry Cooper, and former Leeds United left back on that fateful FA Cup day of 13th February 1971. Ironically, Exeter’s first points of the season had to wait for the visit of the U’s at the end of August. Thereafter, and in the midst of a financial crisis, they struggled to gain any traction and move away from the bottom of the league. There were some noteworthy names in the Exeter squad that day, not least Trevor Morgan, and although we didn’t know it at the time, U’s goalkeeper to be and Gareth Southgate best bud Andy Woodman.

Living in Salisbury at the time, I travelled down on the train for this one, taking the opportunity for some liquid refreshment on the way there (and back). That, and the fact it was nearly 30 years ago, probably explains why I remember so little of detail from the game to be honest. Despite their lowly league position, and clearly desperate to have something to celebrate after knocking out non-league Crawley Town in the first round, it was the Grecians who started the brighter.

On 22 minutes that proved decisive, with Trevor Morgan (and also assistant player manager) drilling past John Cheesewright to give the Grecians a deserved lead. However, what was really decisive occurred just a minute later. With (I think) Paul Abrahams bearing down, Andy Woodman decided to play safe and dive onto a back pass with both hands, several yards outside his box. Referee Paul Durkin (yes, him) had no choice, and out came the red card. This was Woodman’s second red card in rapid succession for Exeter City, the first for violent conduct as he and opposition player Stuart Young got involved in a dust-up the previous Saturday, as the Grecians battered Scarborough 5-2.

What is pertinent was that on both occasions, Woodman was replaced by 15 year old substitute keeper Ross Belotti, who for the entirety of the second half was going to suffer mercilessly at the hands of the 300 or so U’s faithful gathered behind his goal on the open terrace. However, that was to come, what was more important was making the sure we took advantage, particularly as it was goal scorer Trevor Morgan who was sacrificed to bring on Belotti. With no intention of doing anything but hold one, Exeter City parked the bus, and try as we might we simply couldn’t break through before half-time.

However, within two minutes of the restart we finally got the equaliser we deserved, with Steve Whitton as the provider. By that point, Belotti knew he was in for a long afternoon, an afternoon he probably wakes up screaming about to this day. It was both brutal and hilarious, and the poor lad just had to stand there and take it. On the pitch, and still showing very little attacking intent, Exeter City seemed content to still hold on for a draw and try their luck in a replay with eleven players on the pitch at Layer Road.

And for a long while, despite the U’s dominance, it looked like they might do it, until with the lights on and the night encroaching, Tony English finally netted our second on 87 minutes, to send the away terrace ballistic and the U’s into the hat for the FA Cup third round. And to be fair, at the final whistle the U’s support gave young Berlotti a round of applause, still to this day the youngest ever goalkeeper to play in both the Football League and FA Cup.

[b]Exeter City 1 (Morgan 22’) Colchester United 2 (Whitton 47’; English 87’)[/b]

The U’s were drawn away against Wimbledon at Selhurst Park in the third round, to complete my hat-trick of FA Cup games for that season. By then, traitorous Burley had walked out on the U’s at Christmas for his first love Ipswich Town, with Dale Roberts as caretaker manager for the Selhurst Park trip. Steve Wignall would be appointed during the following week, and in the second half of the season of mostly struggle still managed to finish tenth, four places outside the play-offs.

As for the Grecians, they finished at the foot of the table, and should have been relegated. But they were saved by the football authorities, who determined that Conference champions Macclesfield lacked a stadium adequate for Football League standards – a move which probably saved Exeter City from bankruptcy too. Ross Belotti would make three appearances for the Grecians that season, the two covering for Woodman’s red cards, and once as a starter (a 0-0 draw the following Saturday at Bury). Sadly, he broke his leg in a training ground accident not long after, bringing an effective end to his football league career.

[b]Up the U’s![/b]

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