Over 5,200 yesterday according to someone on the OMB. I was on the phone to the ticket office earlier about tickets for the Salford game, and the chap didn't have the number, but reckoned sales were still going well. With very few left to sell up the back of E331, it's possible that people are waiting for the lower tier to become available?
Gut feeling at the moment is that we might make 6k, but maybe not many more - so that's only twice our usual home attendance, for an evening game just a week before Xmas, and over 250 miles away - not bad really
I have the first of several Xmas work outings tonight, so I'm posting this a bit earlier.
Match #28 of the series, and we return to league action following our brief foray into the shadowy underworld of fanzines. We also return to the County Ground for a second visit – given my location, it will come as little surprise that there are quite a few more trips to Swindon in my collection.
Swindon v Colchester United Saturday 1st September 2001 Nationwide League Division 2 (3rd Tier) Attendance 4,889
Perhaps already the date has resonated with some of you as somehow familiar, or maybe significant, but can’t quite put your finger on it – but more of that later.
This was our fourth consecutive season in the third tier, and our third season under Steve Whitton, taking over after the departure of Mick Wadsworth in 1999. As I’ve mentioned in other blogs, the U’s had started this season exceptionally well, and went into this game top of the league with three victories and a draw, ahead of Brentford on goal difference (thanks in no small part to smashing Chesterfield 6-3 at Saltergate on the opening day). With my wife working away on the Outer Hebrides at the time, this was a men behaving badly opportunity, so my brother-in-law came down to watch this game with me, and of course share a few beers.
The U’s lined up: 21..Andy Woodman 3….Joe Keith 12..Scott Fitzgerald 18..Alan White 5….Micky Stockwell 6….Karl Duguid 8….David Gregory (Dean Morgan 75’ – I think it was for Greggers?) 10..Kem Izzet (Bobby Bowry 80’) 14..Thomas Pinault 9….Scott McGleish 20..Kevin Rapley
As for Swindon Town, they did have Richard McKinney on the bench as their reserve goalkeeper, but the big name (in more ways than one) was Neil “Razor” Ruddock in the middle of defence, arriving on a free transfer from Crystal Palace. Ruddock was signed as a player/coach, and this was to be his debut for the Robins. Mind you, it very nearly didn’t happen, as his club struggled to find a supplier capable of providing shorts large enough to fit his (ahem) ample frame. I recall there was much amusement amongst the U’s online community (back in the good old days of Rivals) about Ruddock, e.g. turning circle of an oil tanker, it’ll take two minutes to run around him etc etc. Shorts were eventually found for Razor – they had to be flown in from Egypt!
We drove over to Swindon from Salisbury on a bright September day, and with time for a quick one in the Merlin beforehand. There was a fairly decent turnout for the U’s (about 250 I reckoned), and we as ever were housed at the east end of the Arkell’s stand. Swindon had had an indifferent start to the season, and were sitting lower mid-table at the time, perhaps a factor in a surprisingly low crowd for them of under 5k.
There weren’t too many clear-cut chances in what was a fairly uneventful first half (described as “no-thrills” by the BBC reporter at the time). Ruddock was obviously getting plenty of banter directed at him from the U’s faithful, but if it was getting to him, he really didn’t show it, and commanding his defence like a great big silverback. There were one or two close calls, Andy Woodman getting down well to keep out Jo Osei-Kuffour when through on goal, and that man Ruddock booting a Pinault effort off the line at the other end. However, other than that, not much to speak of, and at half-time it was still 0-0.
The second half certainly started better, and to be fair for both sides, with a bit more attacking intent, and some real end to end stuff. The deadlock was finally broken in the 53rd minute, and I just knew it would have to be Razor Ruddock. Swindon were awarded a free-kick 20-25 yards out, and there was Ruddock lining up to take it. Lumbering forward to get up to speed (think glacial), he put all his prodigious weight behind a left-footed pile-driver, which simply burst through the wall as if it wasn’t there. The kick took a slight deflection on the way through, which wrong-footed Andy Woodman, who could do nothing about it. Probably just as well, because if he’d got behind it, he’d have ended up in the back of the net as well. Ruddock embarked on a mazy Neanderthal celebratory run back towards the Town End, certainly the fastest he’d moved all afternoon, whilst his teammates clung on like oxpeckers on a hippo.
From a U’s perspective, this was the start of fairly sustained constant pressure through to the end, with numerous chances to equalise going begging – Micky Stockwell, Kevin Rapley and Dean Morgan all missing scoring opportunities with only the goalkeeper to beat, but try as we might, we couldn’t find a way through. It’s not churlish, or sour grapes to say we at least deserved a draw that day, and on clear-cut chances made, a victory wouldn’t have been a shock, but it just wasn’t our day.
Swindon Town 1 (Neil Ruddock 53’) Colchester United 0
Although there’s no sound, I have found an extremely grainy YouTube video of the highlights from the County Ground, including that Ruddock thunderbolt. Ruddock only scored one league goal in his time at Swindon – why did it have to be against Colchester United!
However, now to that date – Saturday 1st September 2001, and Germany v England World Cup Qualifier at the Munich Stadium. Having planned ahead, we were out of Swindon straight after the final whistle, and by kick-off in Munich, already a couple of beers to the good in a packed-out football pub in Salisbury (alongside a sizeable number of Pompey’s 6:57 crew as I recall). I tend not to get over-excited or over-hyped about England these days, bitter experience has shown me often that there’s little point, but that night we watched the most comprehensive dismantling of one of the leading football nations in the world I’ve ever witnessed.
When Jancker poked home to put Germany ahead after just 6 minutes, I feared the worst, but nothing could prepare us for what was to come. On 12 minutes, a Beckham corner is cleared, only to be returned with interest, Barmby heads down to Owen, who finds the net with the home side appealing for offside. Crucially, on the stroke of half-time, following another Beckham free-kick, the ball found it’s way out to Gerrard, who from what must have been well over 25 yards, blasted the ball low into the far corner of the goal – needless to say, the pub erupted, beer, glasses, people flying everywhere!
If we were in bedlam then, imagine the scenes just three minutes after the restart, when Owen again found the net, an excellent poachers goal if ever there was one, and we had a vital two-goal cushion to sit back and defend. Like heck we did, on 66 minutes Owen, doing most of the work himself this time, burst through to fire past Oliver Khan for his hat-trick to make it 4-1…and we weren’t done then either, Emile Heskey competing the rout on 74 minutes from an excellent Scholes pass.
It’s never easy seeing the U’s lose, particularly lose in a game we didn’t deserve to, but that night England certainly eased my disappointment – enjoy!
The fallout from this result was profound: from comfortable group leaders, Germany slipped behind England on goal difference, and a position they couldn’t retake. With only the group winners qualifying, England went through, and Germany had to suffer the ignominy of the play-offs to qualify. Of course they did qualify, but I’m loving the fact that they were so confident of winning the group that they’d already arranged friendlies for the dates of the play-offs! Let’s put that night into context, Germany had never been beaten, ever, in a World Cup qualifier at home. The last time they lost a World Cup qualifier at all was back in 1985. Since 1966, we’d only beaten Germany once in a competitive match, and Germany deserved a stuffing after beating England 1-0 in the match to close the old Wembley Stadium.
Noted chap, and probably inevitable at some point - I'll do my best. I too love(d) fanzines, and lament their virtual passing as a vibrant part of the football community. I was an avid subscriber and occasional contributor to When Saturday Comes, back when it really was produced in the fanzine style. But over the years they gradually lost their edge, fell in love with the Premiershite (no offence) and all things $ky, and it became more of a chore than a pleasure to read it. Eventually, quite a few years ago, I gave up on it, and haven't read an issue since (is it still even going?).
Much better second half, but the damage was done in the first half unfortunately. I saw two clear cut penalties for the U's second half, but with an ineffectual referee failing to get a grip on Stevenage's dreadful 'game-management' in the second half, we must rely on the two remaining routes to a possible Wembley appearance.
First half I was glad I don't have to watch the U's play like that too often, second half I was glad I don't have to watch Stevenage at all.
Some of you may recall when I first introduced the concept behind the Matches of Yesteryear series that my list of football memorabilia from which matches are selected includes not only a small number of non-U’s programmes, but also slightly more Colchester United fanzines. As a result, the random match selector ahead of our EFL Trophy match against Stevenage tonight has finally chosen a fanzine – in this instance Issue 39 of “The Blue Eagle” from back in February 2000.
I knew this would eventually happen, but hadn’t quite worked out what I was going to do about it. I’d considered just doing a blog about the fanzine itself, but that would be a bit dull to be honest. I also thought about throwing in another random match, but thought that would be a bit too…errr…random? In the end, I’ve decided to include a relevant additional match, either the closest to the date of the fanzine, or a match that had particularly relevance to the content of the fanzine. For this blog, the decision was easy – I bought the fanzine outside the ground ahead of the game between Colchester United and Burnley, and that match is also mentioned on a number of occasions in the fanzine itself, so there we have it.
Colchester United v Burnley Saturday 26th February 2000 Nationwide League Division 2 (3rd Tier) Attendance 6,194
First off, for reasons I can’t recall, I have two copies of this issue of “The Blue Eagle”. I’ve no idea why, and certainly don’t need two issues, so if anyone out there wants one of them, I’d be happy to share. I don’t have too many copies of this fanzine, unlikely Daniel’s resurrected version “The U’sual” – of which I think I have pretty much all of them (thanks in no small part to Daniel himself). I’m not that familiar with the history and development of “The Blue Eagle” (other than I think it originated during our Conference years?), so if anyone can share more information, it would be much appreciated. By Issue 39 the fanzine was edited by Jason Skinner, whom I think I’m on “vaguely know your face” nodding terms, and the contributors to this issue include other well-known names in CUFC circles, including Bob Searle, Lea Finch and Dave Todd.
As mentioned, the editorial includes brief focus on the visit of Burnley, and indeed a notable recent signing for the Lancashire club “…it does seem that we only win against clubs doing well, so that should at least be an incentive when Ian Wright and Burnley are in town next week”. However, far more column inches are devoted to the fallout following the dismissal of Brian Launders, one of Wadsworth’s ill-fated signings. Launders was sacked for gross misconduct, and the fanzine isn’t shy about reporting that this allegedly involved fiddling his living expenses. Launders had reacted by taking the U’s to a tribunal, alleging that he was sacked for refusing to answer questions from the club about legal proceedings also being brought against the U’s by his agent Barry Silkman. The letters page is particularly entertaining, clearly the editor either had a very good lawyer on call, or in the true spirit of proper fanzines, really couldn’t give a sh*t…
As for the match, many of you reading this will have been jammed into Layer Rd that afternoon, with over 6k there on the day (including a packed out away terrace of Burnley fans). I was on the Barside terrace that day, for what would turn out to be quite a notorious and controversial day for the U’s faithful.
The U’s lined up: 1….Simon Brown 2….Joe Dunne (Aaron Skelton 84’) 3….Joe Keith 4….Ross Johnson 5….Richard Wilkins 6….Gavin Johnson 7….David Gregory (Lomana Tresor Lua Lua 50’) 8….Jason Dozzell 9….Karl Duguid 10..Jamie Moralee (Tony Lock 62’) 11..Steve McGavin
As for names of note, there’s really only one worth talking about. Former England international and Premier League star Ian Wright MBE had been persuaded by manager Stan “The Man” Ternent to sign for Burnley just 12 days earlier (on Valentine’s Day apparently – that’s sweet!), and this was only his second game for the Clarets (and his first away from home). The media circus frenzy that followed was remarkable, rumour having it that Burnley recouped a large proportion of what it cost them in “Wright” replica shirt sales almost immediately. Without doubt a significant proportion of the increased gate for this match was specifically to see Ian Wright, and probably enjoy giving him a bit of bird in the process…
Although manager Steve Whitton was struggling to undo some of the post-Wadsworth fall-out from the previous season (like bringing back cast aside Joe Dunne to Layer Rd), going into this game we weren’t doing badly at all. Six wins out of eight since early January had propelled the U’s up to mid-table, and we were actually the form side of the league ahead of the Burnley game. Burnley were having a better season, in 3rd place for this match and challenging hard for automatic promotion.
Wrighty started on the pitch, and the game started at a high-tempo pace, with both teams spurred on by vociferous support, inevitably much emanating from the Barside being directed at Wright, and in particular his wife (more of that later). There are few specific details I can recall about the actual match itself, other than the chants, but the history books show that Steve Davis (not that one) put Burnley 1-0 up after just 17 minutes, side-footing home at virtual point-blank range from a wicked left-wing cross. However, that didn’t last long, following a bit of a cock-up by Crichton in the Burnley goal, who calmly side-footed a pass back to him straight to McGavin in the penalty area, who didn’t need another invitation to equalise. Burnley were however clearly the better side, and it really wasn’t unexpected when Davis grabbed a second to restore Burnley’s lead before half-time, this time rising high to bullet home an unstoppable header from a corner.
The second half was more positive, particularly following the introduction of our own star in the making Lua Lua on just 50 minutes. Burnley sat deeper, happy to try and hold on to their lead in the bear-pit atmosphere of Layer Rd, and despite all of our efforts, could not be breached to give the U’s a share of the spoils. With my blue-tinted glasses on, I’d say we deserved a point, but it wasn’t to be. The comedy moment, quite near the end of the match, was when Doogie and Wright got into a bit of a tussle right down next to the corner flag next to the Barside, and from my perspective appeared to square up to each other. The ref was having none of it, and promptly booked both players, much to the intense pleasure of the Barside.
Colchester United 1 (Steve McGavin 19’) Burnley 2 (Steve Davis 17’; 38’)
Now, to the elephant in the room, the chanting. I’m not going to repeat it here, suffice to say it was extremely disrespectful to both Ian Wright, and particularly his wife, much of it focussing oh her (ahem) fuller figure. It was harsh, it was unrelenting, and it clearly got to Ian Wright – some might say job done, even if Burnley still won the game. In some of the chanting, there was indeed reference to Mrs Wright’s skin colour, but I’ve always believed it was in a non-racial way. Is it possible to refer to skin colour in a non-racial way? I’d say so, because in the context of the chanting, it wasn’t her skin colour that was the focus of attention, it was her size. Extremely insulting – certainly, actually racist – I don’t believe say. However, I’m not living in some bubble here, I know only too well that there were indeed at that time quite a few on the Barside who were most certainly racist, and thankfully most were left behind when we moved to the new ground.
There was inevitably fall-out after the game, with Ian Wright demanding an apology “after derogatory comments were directed at his family during Burnley’s weekend win” – note, not racist according to Wrighty, derogatory. U’s spokesman Brian Wheeler refused to condemn the chanting as racist, stating “We have had no complaints from Burnley fans or anyone connected with Colchester, fans or officials. The facts are that the chants were offensive but they were not racist”. Colchester United had already arranged for the delivery of a large bunch of flowers to Mrs Wright by way of apology, and everything seemed to calm down fairly quickly.
That was until five years later in 2004, when Stan Ternent published his autobiography, in which he described Layer Rd as an “Essex fleapit” (fair enough), and the treatment of Wright as “the foulest racist abuse I'd ever heard at a football match”. Marie Partner, the U’s Chief Executive at the time, hit the proverbial nail on the head with this measured response “At the time, the club dealt with the incident in the appropriate manner and made a full apology to Ian Wright. With that in mind, we feel it is a shame that Mr Ternent – who has a reputation for being an extremely professional manager – has to stoop to that level to sell books and we will not be drawn into making similar comments”.
Ian Wright would go on to make 15 appearances for Burnley that season, of which at Layer Rd was one of only four that he started, mostly coming on as an impact substitute. At the end of the season he permanently retired from his playing career, embarking full-time as a TV football pundit. Whether it can be attributed to Ian Wright is debatable, but Burnley finished second and were automatically promoted back to Nationwide League Division 1 alongside PNE, with Gillingham promoted via the play-offs. The U’s slipped back from our mid-table position that Saturday, finishing in 18th place, albeit a relatively comfortable 8pts clear of relegation.
Incidentally, both Launders and Silkman lost their tribunals – and good riddance to the pair of them.
CHELSEA v WEST HAM UNITED 3-1 LIVERPOOL v BRIGHTON & HOVE ALBION 4-0 TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR v AFC BOURNEMOUTH 2-2 BRENTFORD v LUTON TOWN 1-1 LEEDS UNITED v MIDDLESBROUGH 2-0 MACCLESFIELD TOWN v BRADFORD CITY 1-3
KINGSTONIAN v AFC FLYDE 0-2 OLDHAM ATHLETIC v BURTON ALBION 1-1 PETERBOROUGH UNITED v DOVER ATHLETIC 3-0 SHREWSBURY TOWN v MANSFIELD TOWN 1-1 WALSALL v OXFORD UNITED 0-1 BRISTOL ROVERS v PLYMOUTH ARGYLE (14.00 Sunday) 2-1 COVENTRY CITY v IPSWICH TOWN (14.00 Sunday) 1-2 CRAWLEY TOWN v FLEETWOOD TOWN (14.00 Sunday) 0-1 EXETER CITY v HARTLEPOOL UNITED (14.00 Sunday) 2-0 NORTHAMPTON TOWN v NOTTS COUNTY (14.00 Sunday) 3-1
Yep - unfortunate for the Jammers, not outclassed at all, but the Exiles did have plenty of chances to win it. Just a shame their winner came too close to the end to do much about it. Entertaining game though, just hope the Newport player stretchered off is okay.
Harsh, but at this stage in his career I’d have to agree. I think he could be, and is certainly better than League 2. We won’t see him back here, but I would expect him to be loaned out to a League 1 side in January - please not Ipswich, Wycombe or god-forbid the Thames estuary bottom-feeders though!
My smartmeter's been on the fritz for about 6 months now. Tried getting it resolved with British Gas, who really didn't have anything useful to add (they even suggested turning it off and leaving it in the meter box outside, because somehow that would teach the smartmeter who to talk to when transmitting!). Anyway, 6 months, and it would appear society hasn't broken down and I appear to somehow be coping without one - make space Room 101, smartmeter coming through...