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Knees-up Mother Brown #11
Written by wessex_exile on Sunday, 29th Oct 2023 14:34

Well, following the U’s has been a bit of a rollercoaster through the last week. Ben Garner’s U’s slumped to a very poor home defeat last Saturday against Harrogate Town, despite taking the lead with a sublime strike from Chay Cooper. Robbie had seen enough, and that evening Ben was let go, with U21 lead coach Matty Etherington announced as the interim Head Coach on Monday. On Tuesday night, Matty Etherington’s U’s put in one hell of a shift, to come away from Grimsby (Cleethorpes – ed.) with all three points and a masterclass from Arthur Read – happy days, could Matty be our man? Well, not right now that’s for sure, after a call to Robbie from Crawley Town yesterday letting him know that apparently Matty is tied up in a contract exit clause from his brief spell at Crawley, seemingly forbidding him from operating in a head coach/ manager role until May 2024 (when his Crawley contract would have expired). So, Matty Etherington is stood down, with Assistant Head Coach Scott Marshall stepping up as our new interim Head Coach for the tough trip to Accrington Stanley.


[b]The world outside U’s World[/b]
In the Middle East, Israel appears to have started its counter-offensive against Hamas terrorists in Gaza, with a barrage of missiles knocking out the internet and communications across the entire region, largely cutting off the territory from the rest of the world. No doubt this will have a significant impact on Hamas’s ability to coordinate any sort of defence, not that they’re known for preferring a stand-up scrap against a military force – civilian women and children are more their sort of thing. However, human rights organisations have raised valid concerns that the mass blackout risks providing cover for all manner of mass atrocities.

Hopefully there is good news coming for beleaguered homeowners. As the Bank of England Monetary Policy Committee prepare to decide whether or not to maintain the current 5.25% base rate of interest next week, financial commentators are cautiously optimistic that five-year fixed mortgage rates could drop below 4% by next summer. This might even become a thing even if the interest base rate itself doesn’t change, though don’t ask me how that works.

Less good news within their ranks, as Conservative MP Crispin Blunt becomes the eighth Tory during this parliament to lose the whip over allegations of sexual misconduct. Education Secretary Gillian Keegan has denied there is a “[i]cultural issue[/i]” within the party, insisting that each and every individual episode across the eight disgraced MPs were coincidental and separate. That they may be, but perhaps Ms Keegan doesn’t fully understand the meaning of “[i]cultural issue[/i]”? Blunt was arrested on Wednesday on suspicion of rape and possession of drugs, both of which he has obviously denied.

…and finally, in the battle of the megabands, the Rolling Stones have finally overtaken the Beatles as the band with the most chart-topping studio albums. This was a mere 53 years after the Beatles broke up, and no doubt helped by Sir Paul McCartney playing bass on their latest album.

[b]U’s World[/b]
Not really much more I can add on top of the intro really. There has been lots of social media speculation about this apparent contract clause hold Crawley have over Matty Etherington, whether Colchester United knew about it if it is even a thing, and if it is and they didn’t, why on earth not? But it’s all just that – speculation. Crawley Town and Colchester United will no doubt get together next week, and one way or another quietly and calmly resolve this situation amicably.

I guess the bigger question is whether or not this influences Robbie’s choice to replace Ben Garner. If the appointment of Matty Etherington comes with a big pay-out to Crawley Town, would Robbie be better using that dosh to offset the cost of attracting a bigger name to the club as our new manager (as mentioned by [b]Durham[/b], it could be used to cover the cost of Mark Hughes’ suits).

The U’s performance at Accrington Stanley will almost certainly factor into these considerations, particularly if we win. Yes, I know the name on the chair will be Scott Marshall, but given he was only thrust into the limelight yesterday evening, it’s not unreasonable (nor unfair) to assume pretty much all of the preparation work has been finished under Matty Etherington. We shall see.

As suggested in last weeks’ blog, Colchester United Women did indeed notch their magnificent seventh consecutive victory, and sixth consecutive league victory in the Essex County Women’s Football League Div. 2, as they ground down a dogged defensively-minded Hedinghams United 3-0 on Sunday. The table makes impressive viewing, with the U’s Women six points clear at the top, with a whopping +54 goal difference! Tomorrow, they face second place Stones Ladies at home.

[b]Match of the Day
[i]Sheffield United v Colchester United
11th August 2007
Coca-Cola Football League Championship (Tier 2)
Attendance 26,202[/i][/b]

[i]Match of the Day[/i] for KMB11 and the random memorabilia match selector takes us back to August 2007, as we kicked off our second season in the Championship at Bramall Lane. Following the departure of Phil Parkinson, Geraint Williams had performed miracles in our first season in the Championship, very much keeping alive the possibility of the Premier League play-offs virtually through to the end of the previous season. Expectations were high (hopeful?) that he could go one better this season, our last at dear old Layer Road.

Even without that expectation, there was still a huge following making their way up to South Yorkshire on that sunny August day, many (including myself) looking forward to seeing our new number 8, none other than 41 year old England legend Teddy Sheringham. Rumours persist to this day that whilst Teddy was drawing a regular wage from the club, chairman Robbie Cowling was ‘topping’ this up out of his own pocket. Who knows, but it was going to be interesting to see quite what he could bring to the U’s. I was living in Salisbury at the time, and travelled up on the train for this one, stopping for a few alongside loads of other travelling supporters in the Rutland Arms pre-match.

To start our second Championship campaign, Geraint Williams’ U’s lined up:
1….Dean Gerken
7….Karl Duguid
12..Pat Baldwin
16..George Elokobi
18..Matthew Connolly
4….Johnnie Jackson
10..Kem Izzet (17. Luke Guttridge 87’)
11..Mark Yeates
14..Kevin McLeod
8….Teddy Sheringham
9….Clive Platt

Alongside Teddy Sheringham, this match also marked debuts for Mark Yeates (second spell), Matt Connolly, Luke Guttridge (started on the bench) and Clive Platt. In fact, Geraint Williams broke our transfer record fee paid twice in one day, signing Clive Platt for £300,000 from MK Dons, and then Mark Yeates as an undisclosed fee reported to be in the region of £500,000 from Spurs. Not that we didn’t need strengthening mind you, following the summer departures of Wayne Brown, Jamie Cureton, Richard Garcia and Chris Iwelumo.

Clive Platt had received a straight red card during a pre-season friendly against Bolton Wanderers during the previous week. George had decided to appeal the decision all the way up to referee’s chief Keith Hackett but failed to get the decision overturned. Platt would have to serve a three-match suspension, but I assume because of the appeal process, it did at least mean he could play in the Sheffield United match.

Following relegation from the Premier League the previous season, then manager Neil ‘Colin’ Warnock had been replaced with another England legend, Bryan Robson, who wasted no time in splashing out £4 million on programme cover poster boy James Beattie. To put that into context, it was more than the value of our entire squad combined. The also had warhorse Lee Hendrie in their ranks, a player I grew up watching at Valley Parade during my Bradford exile years, not to mention Billy Sharp up front. Today looked to be a difficult day.

[b]Photo quality shows it’s age[/b]

Mind you, despite the financial gulf between the two teams, and roared on by an ever-raucous away following, the U’s were not in awe of their opponents, nor the venue. Sheffield United were clearly a good side, who probably counted themselves unlucky to have been relegated from the Premier League, but we were a match for them across the park. From my vantage point relatively high up in the stand, what was most pleasing was Teddy Sheringham’s performance.

He didn’t have the legs anymore, that was apparent, but what he lacked there he more than made up for in his almost uncanny vision at times. He seemed to have an instinctive ability to find passes that you would have thought at pitch level just shouldn’t have been possible to see? The other factor that was starting to work in our favour was the home support, boisterous and full of cheer at kick-off, but no doubt in expectation of a comfortable victory over little old Col U, becoming increasingly frustrated as we held our own. I’m pretty sure at half-time, with the score 0-0, there were even boos from the home support. Pfft – lightweights.

Into the second half, and it was more of the same as the U’s continued to match Sheffield United, and amazingly Teddy’s legs continued to hold out (bear in mind he was only four years younger than manager George). On 66 minutes it was Bryan Robson who first rolled the dice, swapping Hendrie and Mikael Leigertwood for Michael Tonge and Chris Armstrong in a double substitution. Two minutes later the deadlock was broken, and it would have to be the £4 million man Kevin Beattie that did it. Latching on to an inch-perfect cross from Derek Geary, Beattie rifled home with Dean Gerken a virtual spectator.

Bramall Lane finally erupted, certain they would now kick-on and brush the U’s aside. Ha, not so. Literally straight from kick-off the U’s swarmed forward, Mark Yeates picking out Kevin McLeod at the far post to tap home from close range – and the only voices you could hear in Bramall Lane were Essex ones. It was no more than we deserved mind you, we had been and continued to be a match for Sheffield United all across the park.

There was a feel about the ground that probably the next goal might win the game, it was that balanced, so it was a shame when it fell to Sheffield United. With eight minutes to go Sheffield United won a corner. The kick picked out substitute Michael Tonge, who made no mistake to restore Sheffield United’s lead. That was gut-wrenching, seemingly so close to a point we fully deserved, were we destined to leave South Yorkshire empty-handed?

Not if the U’s could have anything to do with it. Kemi Izzet had run his socks off in midfield, and on 87 minutes gave way to our fifth debutant Luke Guttridge. Two minutes later, and with just 60 seconds left on the clock, Guttridge had a hand in another classic U’s sweeping move that saw new signing Clive Platt rise highest to head home Karl Duguid’s cross to level the scores – amid scenes of utter pandemonium in the away stand.

[b]Sheffield United 2 (Beattie 68’; Tonge 82’) Colchester United 2 (McLeod 68’; Platt 89’)[/b]

On my walk back to the train station post-match, I had the dubious pleasure of an expletive-riddled rant from an older man, presumably with what I took to be his grandson in tow, about how sh’t we had been, stolen a point, not fit to be in the same league as the mighty Blades etc. etc. etc. I was feeling somewhat bullish and ebullient, so I walked up to him, asked if he’d actually watched the game or was some sort of idiot, and just laughed in his face. Muttering curses, he and the profoundly embarrassed child sloped off to lick his wounds somewhere else.

Post-match Kevin McLeod paid tribute to the never-say-die fighting spirit of the U’s. “[i]We showed a lot of character to come back twice and that's down to the gaffer and Micky Adams. They generate that spirit among the lads, and I think we all know what we can do. We never give in, and we always work hard for each other. That's why I think the team can go to places like Sheffield United and get a result[/i]”.

Following another 2-2 against Barnsley at Layer Road, and an emphatic 3-0 win away at Deepdale, the U’s were in the Premier League play-off zone. However, it wouldn’t last, and by Christmas we were in the relegation zone, where we stayed for the rest of the season. Bryan Robson underachieved compared to Sheffield United’s expectations and was replaced by Kevin Blackwell in February. Blackwell improved performances but failed to even make the play-offs. It would be 12 more years and a dip into the third tier before the Blades finally got back into the Premier League.

[b]Up the U’s![/b]

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