It is entirely possible, me and Daniel bump into each other in far-flung places reasonably often. You'll have to arrange your next trip back to Blightly to coincide with a U's game, and we can make sure we do.
LEICESTER CITY v SOUTHAMPTON 2-0 MANCHESTER UNITED v NORWICH CITY 3-1 WOLVERHAMPTON WANDERERS v NEWCASTLE UNITED 1-1 TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR v LIVERPOOL (17.30) 1-3 HULL CITY v FULHAM 2-1 LEEDS UNITED v SHEFFIELD WEDNESDAY 1-2 OXFORD UNITED v ROTHERHAM UNITED 1-1 SUNDERLAND v WYCOMBE WANDERERS 1-0 MORECAMBE v COLCHESTER UNITED 0-2 SWINDON TOWN v CREWE ALEXANDRA 2-1
You may well be right, I know Robbie particularly is into property these days. There was of course the well-publicised sex scandal involving the two of them and a lady following a night out in Colchester, but this being a family forum, I'll say no more about that
The U’s travel to the Globe Arena tomorrow, aiming at the very least to keep the unbeaten run going – though in truth after three somewhat disappointing draws against Exeter, Crawley and Stevenage, surely nothing less than three points is acceptable? Ahead of this trip, the Matches of Yesteryear random number generator has chosen a match which for me has a particularly bitter-sweet poignancy.
Cheltenham Town v Colchester United Saturday 22nd February 2003 Nationwide League Division 2 (Tier 3) Attendance 3,607
Match #36, and for the first time in the series a trip to Whaddon Road, home of Cheltenham Town. Cheltenham had been in the football league since gaining promotion from the Conference in 1999, and following a successive promotion via the play-offs at the end of 2001/02, this was the very first season we were to play each other in the football league (we had of course already met in both of our Conference seasons). This wasn’t quite my first visit to Whaddon Road, we’d also been drawn away at Cheltenham earlier in the season for a 1st round LDV Vans Trophy match on a freezing night in October, for which I had made my first trip to Whaddon Road. Rather wished I hadn’t in some ways, after the U’s were trounced 4-1 mainly as a result of a Richard McKinney horror-show which concluded on 45 minutes conceding a penalty for their first goal, with the bonus of a straight red for his troubles.
Cheltenham, managed by Bobby Gould at the time, were finding life in the third tier a bit of a struggle, and at the time of this match were bottom of the league, albeit only by one point and still well in touch with those above them, and with only five points separating the bottom nine clubs. The U’s were one of those nine, only two points above the relegation zone, and looking to make some serious progress away from danger and towards the relatively hallowed ground of mid-table obscurity (and safety). Our poor start to the season had lead former manager Steve Whitton to conclude he could do no more for the U’s, and he resigned on 29th January following a home defeat against Blackpool that saw us deep in the relegation mire. As a result, for this game we had Geraint Williams as caretaker manager – his first spell in charge of the U’s – and he wasn’t doing too badly either, getting a decent point at Stockport, victory at Ashton Gate, and then a home win against Mansfield.
The U’s lined up: 1….Simon Brown 25..Sam Stockley (Micky Stockwell 45’) 5….Scott Fitzgerald 19..Alan White 18..Liam Chilvers 7….Karl Duguid 10..Kem Izzet 6….Thomas Pinault 3….Joe Keith 23..Gareth Williams (Dean Morgan 63’) 9….Scott McGleish
My in-laws lived just outside Cheltenham, and my father-in-law particularly was a proper football supporter – born and bred within sight of Old Trafford, and a genuine Manchester United fan as a result (unlike the hordes from the Home Counties etc.). He would take any opportunity to get to a match, and was therefore delighted when his daughter hooked up with the sort of football fanatic who was always trying to get to any games that were possible. This was our second visit together to Whaddon Road, as he had braved the elements to be there with me for the dreadful LDV game too. We were never happier than with a glass of scotch or two watching Match of the Day on a Saturday night, marvelling at the skill, and howling with laughter at the incompetence in equal measure. Over the years we shared many excellent trips together to watch football, mainly Colchester United, sometimes Gloucester City, and even Salisbury City on occasion, before he was tragically taken from us by cancer at far too young an age. I can genuinely say he was one of the finest people I have had the privilege to meet, and I miss him terribly to this day. My trip to Old Trafford was tinged with the regret that he wasn’t there with me – he would have loved it.
Prior to kick off, as neither of us were wearing colours, we popped into the large home-only Cat and Fiddle pub on Whaddon Road for a pre-match beer. This is another football pub that has since disappeared, converted into flats in 2009, and subsequently demolished and rebuilt as some form of housing facility – not sure, but it looks like warden-assisted flats or some such now? I can only assume calling this new-build “Arkells” is in reference to the former pub that occupied the site?
The Cat and Fiddle shortly after closure
Back in 2003, away supporters were housed at the south end of the Wymans Stand – the new Whaddon Road End stand where we gather these days wasn’t built until 2005. I don’t recall it being a huge U’s following that day, probably no more than about 150-200 I’d guess, but we were in good voice hoping to see the positive uplift in results continued. Unfortunately, we’d barely warmed our seats when giant striker Julian Alsop headed home his tenth goal of the season after just 90 seconds. Although a massive set-back right at the outset, I always console myself in these situations with the belief that we still had plenty of time to put things right.
Cheltenham were proving to be no slouches on the pitch, despite their lowly position, but the U’s gradually began to impose themselves in the game as the first half went on. We rightly received our reward following good approach work by Joey Keith, when Gareth Williams drilled home an equaliser just before half-time. This was the first goal scored for the U’s by Williams, who had signed on loan from Crystal Palace a month earlier, along with Liam Chilvers from Arsenal. They were, I think, the last two players bought into the club by Steve Whitton – not a bad brace to finish on I reckon.
Both managers changed things around at half-time to try and gain an advantage. Gould replaced McAuley with David Bird, and George brought on Micky Stockwell for Sam Stockley (incidentally, it had been Micky Stockwell who was sacrificed following McKinney’s red card in the LDV, to allow benched Simon Brown to go in goal). The second half was just as evenly contested, with both teams well-matched on the pitch. Gould mixed it up further after 58 minutes, bringing on Damian Spencer for Tony Naylor, which was countered by George five minutes later, replacing goal-scorer Gareth Williams with Dean Morgan. The final roll of the dice was Bobby Gould’s, replacing Devaney with Marvin Brown with just over twenty minutes to go, but to no avail, and the match finished without any further goals.
Cheltenham Town 1 (Julian Alsop 2’) Colchester United 1 (Gareth Williams 44’)
Geraint Williams had finished his caretaker manager spell with two wins, two draws and no defeats, and had rightly put himself forward to become the new permanent manager. Peter Heard interviewed George and two other (then unknown) short-listed candidates in London – the Evening Gazette at the time reported on the Sunday that the interviews had taken place the day before (on the matchday!). I can’t believe that to be the case, it must have been either Friday 21st February, or Monday 24th February, and on Tuesday 25th February the relatively unknown (and completely untested) Phil Parkinson was announced as the new manager. Without the benefit of hindsight, I thought that was unfortunate for George, who I believed had earned his chance. But Parky clearly recognised the value of Geraint Williams as well, and moved swiftly to get him signed up as his assistant – and the rest, as they say, is history.
Cheltenham were to continue to struggle to adjust to life at this level, and although they did climb off the bottom eventually, they couldn’t escape the relegation zone, and finished fourth from bottom in May. Although it took a few seasons, it was our very own John Ward who eventually steered them back into League 1 via the 2006 play-off final.
Off the field, it was being widely reported that the broadcaster ITV Digital was in serious financial trouble, beset by low audience figures, piracy issues and a frankly unaffordable broadcasting rights multi-million pound deal with the Football League. This was proving to be a serious financial problem for many clubs, who based on the hype surrounding the broadcasting deal, had budgeted on the expectation of substantial revenue from the arrangement. Bradford City and Barnsley both went into administration, clubs were forced to cut staff and sell players, and ticket prices were increased to mitigate the shortfall in revenue from broadcasting. In all, 14 clubs went into administration in the four years following the collapse of ITV Digital, and many believe it was a major factor in most of these cases. Fortunately, the ever-wise and ever-prudent Peter Heard had refused to believe the hype surrounding ITV Digital, had never budgeted more than the U’s could afford, and as a result we were largely unaffected by the collapse.
I'm okay with keeping Robinson, he's done pretty good with his opportunities. Southend don't need him, they need the sort of miracle that isn't going to happen to spare them from relegation bottom of the league, and possibly with the record for poorest performance ever in doing so. They can't sell him, he's already played for us and Southend, so no one will buy him before the summer. They might want to hold on to him for League 2 next season, but they are already (back) into dire financial straits and need every penny Ron can muster.
Ron knows this, Robbie knows this, so if McGreal and Humes think Theo ultimately has a role in the second half of the season, I have no doubt we pick him up for next to nothing during this transfer window. I'm happy with that if it happens, but I do think we also need to cast our net a bit wider anyway.
My taxi driver from Chippenham station on Saturday night was a refreshingly 'plain-speaking' Plymouth Argyle fan, 'effing and jeffing all the way home, which was just what I needed to lighten the mood. I was lamenting our solitary point at Stevenage, and he asked how we got on last season - "missed they play-offs by one point" was my reply. "Well there you go then" he replied "there's the point you'll need to make them this time!".
Okay, allowing the dust to settle on the actual decision, I'm picking up another vibe regarding Brown through t'internet whispers - has something happened we know nothing about?
There have always been rumours of an attitude problem coming out of Cambridge in the past, and he was let go with immediate effect from Posh due to what was reported as "off-field incidents" at the time. However, we also have the curious affair of what happened at FGR for our league game? Brown went down on the coach with the rest of the squad, and then bizarrely didn't even make the bench - that's a long way to take a player you have no intention of playing.
McGreal said at the time "Jevani is one of the players who has to improve. I’ll have a chat with him but these boys who have been coming on like Kwame (Poku) and Brendan (Wiredu) have been playing particularly well. I can only have so many subs on the bench and people have to miss out".
Yep, that's pretty much the game I saw too Durham, top work as ever. Sorry I didn't see you at the ground, we were housed at the far end near the drum for most of the match - managed to bump into Noah though. Morecambe and Macclesfield are a bit beyond range so soon after Christmas, but Exeter is a certainty on the 25th - will you be arranging a family visit to Devon around that time?
I appreciate your frustration Durham, but these things happen. You’re right, Brown did look like a replacement for Szmodics, but I’m sure we’d all agree he isn’t that player yet. I would disagree that he hasn’t had the opportunity, because we don’t see the day in day out on the training ground (nor, apart from Noah, the U23 matches he’s played in). As Tom would say, it’s not unusual in these circumstances for a player to be loaned out, and it doesn’t surprise me that it’s a club at our level. It was never going to be League 1 (or above), and in the context of the fee we paid, unlikely to be non-league. Going to FGR is a shrewd move in my opinion, it gives him match time playing at the right level, and at a club who can afford to buy him if they like what they see and we still don’t think he’ll be the right fit for the U’s once his loan period expires.
I see it the same way Noah - Brown has failed to impress on the few occasions I’ve seen him, certainly far worse than the other options he have. If he shapes up with a spell on loan, all good, we can either bring him back or sell him on.
As for yesterday, one of those days unfortunately, with so many chances created and not converted, against a team happy to pack the defence. All the more frustrating that we continually tried to pass it through a packed penalty area all too often. There were enough convertible chances for Norris, Harriott etc., but those that were on target their goalkeeper was equal too. My mate reckoned Stevenage would sneak a winner right at the death, so I guess we have to be grateful that didn’t happen.
Good to see Junior come on, though he looked a bit off the pace in his 10 minute cameo.
SUNDERLAND v LINCOLN CITY 2-1 CHELTENHAM TOWN v OLDHAM ATHLETIC 2-0 MANSFIELD TOWN v GRIMSBY TOWN 1-0 SALFORD CITY v WALSALL 1-1 SCUNTHORPE UNITED v PLYMOUTH ARGYLE 0-2 SWINDON TOWN v BRADFORD CITY 3-1
Wiredu was actually recalled some time ago, but I expect they couldn't publicly announce it until the end of the official loan period. Just also to add, the Brown news is currently speculation, and features on the FGR messageboard - I can see it happening though. I think I'm right in saying it is an FA rule that loanees can't play against their parent club, if that helps?
Ahead of tomorrow’s match at Stevenage, the Matches of Yesteryear random match selector has chosen one with some familiar faces in, one or two of whom we will see tomorrow, and one we probably won’t.
Newport County v Colchester United Saturday 14th January 2017 Sky Bet League 2 (Tier 4) Attendance 2,397
As with Match #11 of the series, we return to Rodney Parade almost exactly three years ago for Match #35, and a game against Newport County. At the time Newport County were managed by journeyman manager Graham Westley, who began his somewhat controversial managerial career at the youthful age of just 28, steering Kingstonian away from relegation in his relatively short spell at the club before being dismissed. Since then, he has exclusively managed at non-league and lower league level, including three previous spells at Stevenage. In terms of relatively high-profile appointments, he did have spells in charge at both Preston North End and Peterborough whilst they were both League 1 sides, though neither ended particularly well. On the 15th December 2019, Westley rejoined Stevenage for a fourth spell as their manager – the club where he has probably enjoyed most of his success in management.
Being a relatively easy trip from where I’m based, me and my youngest took the train over for this match, and just three weeks before I moved from Warminster to Calne. I don’t have a programme for this match, just my ticket stub, though therein is another story. You may recall I pointed out in the previous Newport County blog (for our game in November 2018) that I’d managed to blag complimentary tickets for that game – well this appears to be another one for which a freebie was received, though in this case just my ticket – had to pay for Alfie’s ☹. I don’t recall the circumstances with absolute certainty, but I’m fairly certain this was one the ticket cabin staff were holding for the right looking sort to benefit from – they must have liked my face!
At the time of this match, and after losing eight on the bounce, the Exiles were already adrift at the foot of the table, six points from safety behind Notts County. In typical Westley style, the manager had decided sweeping changes were needed, and during January either signed or loaned-in 12 players, whilst releasing seven during the same period. Eight of his new signings either started or were on the bench on this day, five of them as debuts, so they could be forgiven for maybe not knowing too much about each other. The U’s were riding high at the time, on an unbeaten run of eight games stretching back to mid-November, winning seven of them. This run had propelled the U’s from the relegation zone to sixth place, and it was probably no coincidence that this turnaround in form had coincided with the recall of Big George Elokobi from his loan at Braintree. Incidentally, for those that might be wondering, Frank Nouble was yet to arrive at Rodney Parade – he was to be signed at the end of the season.
The U’s lined up at Rodney Parade: 1….Sam Walker 6….Frankie Kent 18..Tom Eastman 15..George Elokobi 2….Richard Brindley 11..Brennan Dickenson 24..Craig Slater (Tarique Fosu-Henry 88’) 4….Tom Lapslie 22..Owen Garvan 28..Kurtis Guthrie (Denny Johnstone 78’) 9….Chris Porter (captain)
This was my first visit to Rodney Parade (owned by the Welsh Rugby Union), and whilst I had an inkling what to expect, given the pitch was used for not only football, but rugby as well (both the Dragons regional rugby union side, and Newport RFC rugby union club played there), nothing quite prepared me for the quagmire that day. Admittedly, mid-January is never a good time for sports pitches, but this was frankly shocking, and it didn’t bode well for the free-flowing passing game the U’s fans had been enjoying in recent months. Our current form clearly a contributing factor, an impressive 312 had made the long trip from Essex for this game, including three coachloads – so many in fact that the paltry block of seats allocated weren’t sufficient to accommodate us all comfortably. With our more vociferous S1 choir and drummer wanting to stand, not enough seats in the first place, and tempers fraying between those wanting to stand and those wanting to sit, the stewards had no choice but to open the terraced area at the east end of the south stand. Normally I’d have joined those on the terrace quite happily, but with Alfie accompanying me it was far better to stay in the seats for this one.
As for the match, with Prosser injured Chris Porter was captain for the day, and the U’s fielded a strong line-up (injuries permitting). Right from the outset, it was clear that the dreadful pitch was going to be the consummate leveler between play-off and relegation zone teams. The bounce was so unpredictable that the U’s more often than not had to resort to a more aerial approach to our game. Given they played on it every other week, this wasn’t a problem for Newport – in fact it was clear that it was their usual modus operandi (not unexpected from any side managed by Graham Westley). Newport also had a considerable physical aspect to their game (again, not unexpected from any side managed by Graham Westley), but it was pleasing to see the U’s stand-up to that sort of nonsense and give as good as they got.
Early on, Dickenson was getting a reasonable amount of joy down the left wing, despite that being the worst part of the pitch, giving David Pipe (no slouch when it comes to ‘ahem’ physicality) a torrid time. Brennan went close after just a few minutes, only just failing to get on the end of an excellent cross from Garvan. As we struggled to cope with the conditions adequately, Newport slowly grew into the game – not surprisingly with much of that threat also coming down the worst side of the pitch that they’d be most familiar with. However, we were still a threat, and with about 15 minutes gone, Porter raced through into the area from an excellent Guthrie pass, only to tumble over under a hefty challenge – I wasn’t convinced, sadly neither was referee Michael Salisbury, who waved play-on. Unfortunately, not long after Newport took the lead, as we failed to deal adequately with a Nelson long-throw, allowing Sheehan to drill low into the far corner past Walker – who I honestly thought should have done better from the view I had of it at the time.
However, the U’s weren’t daunted, continued to press the home side, and on 35 minutes received their reward after Guthrie intelligently nodded the ball into the box, raced through to pick up his own pass, and was unceremoniously blocked off in the box. Porter slotted home the resultant penalty, though not the most convincing of spot-kicks by my reckoning. Had the goalkeeper gone the right way, it would have been an easy save, but they all count when they hit the back of the net. From then to half-time the match became more and more fractious, ironically with the home crowd becoming increasingly incensed that the U’s were perfectly happy to mix up if that’s how the Exiles wanted to play it.
The second half mostly became a war of attrition, with both teams having spells in control, but neither side managing to break the deadlock. Just after the hour, Williams fired in a low shot that Walker saved comfortably, and Walker went one better a few minutes later, brilliantly tipping over a shot from newly arrived substitute Owen-Evans. Again Walker came to the rescue with 15 minutes to go, easily saving Reid’s header from an excellent Butler cross, but that was pretty much the last serious effort on goal for Newport. With Denny Johnstone replacing Kurtis Guthrie on 78 minutes, the U’s found another gear, and spent the remainder of the game pegging Newport back in their own half, and very nearly claiming the victory. Probably our best chance fell to Johnstone, after Porter had excellently closed down a clearance, but his snap-shot was dragged agonisingly wide, and that’s how the match finished.
Newport County 1 (Josh Sheehan 23’) Colchester United 1 (Chris Porter 35’p)
On balance, at the time I thought that wasn’t a bad point, even if we were playing the team at the bottom of the league. I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned it already, but the pitch was atrocious, so to escape with a point and our unbeaten run continued felt okay to me on the journey home. Of course, with the benefit of hindsight it proved to be a bit of a turning point in our season, and from hereon in our form was patchy, seeing the U’s slip out of the play-off zone for the last time at the end of February.
As for Newport and Westley, they parted company a month and a half later, with Newport County an even further 11 points adrift at the foot of the table. To say it was an acrimonious parting of the ways was an understatement – club secretary Graham Bean had already resigned in December, stating Westley was “…an impossible man to work with...he needs to learn some manners and start treating people with some respect”. When the board had finally had enough of Westley’s controversial approach to man-management, it transpired they had actually consulted with not only the players but the supporters as well in advance of making their decision. Newport-born Mike Flynn, one of the 12 signed in January by Westley, was appointed caretaker manager, and miraculously managed to steer the Exiles clear of relegation, winning seven of the final 12 matches of the season. The dreadful Rodney Parade pitch was removed in its entirety in the close season, and they now play on a hybrid pitch made of both natural grass and artificial fibres, which can stand up much better to the relentless battering it receives from three different teams.
For the U’s, this was one of the better games for Guthrie, who was to miss out the final few months of the season through an ankle injury sustained in March. He made a brief return in September of the following season, but after some increasingly frustrated outbursts through social media (and, I’d personally say, not helped by having a far bigger opinion of his ability than was matched in reality), Guthrie’s contract was terminated by mutual consent in March 2018. This followed an on-field altercation with Szmodics about who was going to take a penalty against Yeovil. Guthrie was snapped up by tomorrow’s opponents Stevenage, and of course he had a comedy-villain pivotal role in our match their last season. However, t’internet rumours suggest he won’t be there tomorrow, even if Graham Westley will be, as it is reported he’s gone to Brizzle Rovers – we shall see.