|Letters from Wiltshire #08|
Written by wessex_exile on Saturday, 10th Oct 2020 13:13
Lots of discussion this week on football forums, including here, on two subjects – the petition to lobby parliament to allow limited numbers of supporters back into football grounds, and of course the return of that old chestnut from Man City Chief Executive Ferran Soriano, introducing Premier League ‘B’ teams into the EFL. First off, I don’t mind admitting I’ve signed the petition ( https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/552036 ), as have 192,779 others at the time of writing, though I don’t actually think it’ll make any difference. I can completely understand why some do not think this is a good idea, as second-wave spikes of coronavirus infection pop up all over the country (mainly because – let’s face it – some people are dicks and can’t be trusted to sit the right way on a toilet). But to me, the two go hand in hand (not dicks and toilets) – whilst football clubs throughout the country struggle financially without spectators, we are always going to be under threat of this sort of ‘B’ team nonsense as a condition of financial support from the Premier League fat cats. They got their way in 2016 with the EFL trophy, who’s to say they won’t again when the financial squeeze really starts to tighten its grip without paying customers through the turnstiles? Robbie has featured prominently in this debate in recent weeks, and looks like he will again on Sky tomorrow if this tweet from Sophy Ridge is anything to go by -
[b]Walsall v Colchester United
Saturday 3rd May 2014
Sky Bet League One (Tier 3)
For now, back to matters in hand, and the tricky choice of what to cover for Letters from Wiltshire #08. Actually, not really a difficult choice at all as it happens, I was already forming this idea when writing the blog ahead of the Oldham match. It was Daniel’s excellent interview with Micky Cook that gave me the inspiration, and particularly Micky at the time musing on the (then) future a young Karl Duguid might have at Colchester United. Fast-forward twelve years from then, and we come to Doogie’s last ever appearance for Colchester United, fittingly in the context of today, away at Walsall.
[b]The Man, The Myth, The Legend[/b]
Before we get to the match itself, it would be wrong not to dwell on the remarkable Colchester United football career of Karl Anthony Duguid. Born 21st March 1978 in Letchworth, Karl joined the U’s as a 16 year old through the Layer Road youth scheme, and by 17 had already played for the first team – his debut coming on as a substitute in a 1-1 draw at Hereford on 9th December 1995. Little known fact – the player substituted to make way for Doogie’s debut? Our very own Steve Ball. He scored his first goal for the U’s less than a month later, in a 3-2 victory at Torquay on New Year’s Day.
My personal recollections of both Duguid and opinions about Duguid on the terraces from back in the 90s were very much the Marmite kid. Opinions definitely varied (back then, for instance, my brother-in-law couldn’t stand him), almost as much as his starting position for the U’s, and I’m certain he even had a spell playing up front as a striker – though not a very good one. Graeson’s coludata website lists Karl as a ‘utility player’ and that kind of sums him up really, though most these days would associate him with a right back or midfield position.
Mind you, if opinions about Doogie varied amongst the U’s faithful, thoughts were considerably more focussed for opponents. Duguid seemed to have this rare ability to be able to really get under the skin of, and wind up, opposition players, which he utilised to very good effect. Who can forget him squaring up to Ian Wright down near the Barside corner flag in that Burnley game, which earned Wrighty a yellow card. Doogie should have had one too, but in a case of what was widely believed to be mistaken identity, referee Rob Styles booked Joe Dunne instead.
As his U’s career progressed, those lingering doubts about the Marmite kid evaporated, and Duguid established himself as a firm fans favourite, and without doubt the first name on the team sheet for a succession of managers. Apart from, of course, 2004/05 which he missed in its entirety thanks to a serious knee-injury. But Doogie was made of sterner stuff and returned with a bang the following season to lead the U’s as club captain to promotion into the Championship.
[b]Parting of the ways[/b]
Despite being almost ever-present for our two seasons in the Championship, Duguid couldn’t prevent our relegation at the end of 2007/08. It was therefore with very mixed feelings that we agreed an undisclosed fee and sold Doogie to Plymouth Argyle. Gut-wrenching to lose someone who seemed to epitomise the underdog spirit of Colchester United Football Club, tinged with pleasure that his value was recognised by others, and that he at least would be able to continue the Championship adventure.
It came as no surprise that he very quickly became a fans favourite at Argyle also, and stayed with the Pilgrims for three seasons. He only scored three goals whilst there, though when you consider they were against Watford, Newcastle United and Arsenal in the FA Cup, that’s not a bad record to have on your CV!
Plymouth were relegated out of the Championship in 2009/10, and at the end of 2010/11 suffered a successive relegation back to the basement. At this point they released Karl Duguid, along with eight other first team players. As often happens, during the pre-season Duguid trained with the U’s, and after a brief chat with John Ward, signed a one-year contract back with the U’s for 2011/12. He clocked up his 400th league appearance for the U’s in February 2012, and subsequently signed a one-year extension to his contract until summer 2013.
Appointed player-coach by then manager Joe Dunne in December 2012, Doogie focussed on developing the youth team to be ready for first team football, and really wasn’t playing much football himself. His player-coach contract was extended for a further year, and on 21st March 2014 (his 36th birthday) he announced he would retire from his playing career at the end of the season (his last appearance for the U’s had been back in October 2012, and his last goal much further back in March 2012), to focus on coaching.
[b]All caught up[/b]
So there we are, up to speed and at the final game of the 2013/14 season at the Bescot against Walsall (actually Bank’s stadium at the time). It had been a distinctly average, even below-par season to be honest. Not quite escaping relegation by the skin of our teeth, but still a bit too close for comfort. Mathematically we were kind of safe from about mid-April, helped by winning 3-2 at Stevenage, a dour 0-0 at Crewe, and thumping champions-elect Brentford 4-1 in our penultimate match. As a result, there was nothing really to play for as far as the U’s were concerned, nor for Walsall who were destined to finish in a comfortable mid-table slot.
It was a beautiful early May day, sunny and dry, white clouds scudding across an azure sky, so what better weather to be on my way from Warminster on the train up to Walsall. The Bescot has always been one of my more popular destinations, really easy to get to with a football station actually at the ground, never any hint of hassle from the home supporters, and just as importantly always good connections home in time to still have some of the evening left for entertainment. I travelled up on the train, along with a few cold ones who sadly didn’t survive the journey, and met up with many others (including [b]noah4x4[/b]) at the excellent and super-cheap (£2 a pint) Saddlers Club bar at the ground. Perhaps the cold ones were having effect, but I did manage to place one of those pints on thin air about an inch from the table whilst there, but fortunately most of it missed Noah’s leg 😊.
Being last game of the season, and with the likelihood of Doogie making a farewell appearance at some point in the proceedings, a large and noisy following were there for the U’s that day, and I reckon there must have been close on 400 in the away stand closest to the M6. Technically, this match isn’t in my memorabilia collection, as I didn’t get a programme, but the U’s lined up as follows:
4….Magnus Okuonghae (Frankie Kent ’46)
9….Clinton Morrison (captain)
15..Marcus Bean (Drey Wright 46’)
25..Dominic Vose (Karl Duguid 72’)
As for the match, whilst it did have that end-of-season meaningless match feel to it, a bit kind of training match, it actually wasn’t too bad a game. The U’s were certainly happier soaking up what pressure Walsall could bring to bear in the May sunshine, and by and large offering little threat at the opposite end for the most part. That’s not to say we didn’t create any chances – Clinton Morrison (also making his last appearance for the U’s) fired tamely straight at ‘keeper Richard O’Donnell when he should have done better, and O’Donnell did well to keep out a better curling effort from Massey in the middle of the half. Walker was also being kept on his toes, and did well to keep out decent efforts from Baxendale and Mantom in the first half, the latter a bit of a fumble that he had to gather at the second attempt.
Half-time came and went with no one really seeming to bothered about the actual result. Joe Dunne made a double substitution at half-time, bring on Drey Wright and Frankie Kent, which left just one more available – and we all pretty much knew who that’d be. Less than ten minutes into the second half, and what was a lovely relaxed day got even better, as defender Adam Chambers attempted a driven clearance out of his box, only for Eastmond to throw himself in the way and the ball cannon off over O’Donnell to nestle in the back of the net. We didn’t care how it came about, let the celebrations begin!
There was some good banter going as well, with a beach ball being punted around the away end, until one of the stewards decided he’d confiscate it. His fellow stewards clearly enjoyed the U’s faithful serenading him en masse with “Does your mother cut your hair?”. There was also a surreal pitch invasion by two Saddlers – not exactly sure what that was about, but it also seemed to spark some sort of internal power-struggle brawl amongst the Walsall supporters in the stand. All a little incongruous in the context of meaningless end-of-season fixture to be honest.
[b]”If Doogie scores we’re on the pitch…”[/b]
Then finally, with 18 minutes to go, came the moment that most in the away end were waiting for, movement on the bench and up goes the fourth official’s board – no. 25 (Vose) off, no. 37 (Duguid) on. It’s a bit shaky, grainy, and the volume dips halfway through, but I did manage to capture the moment on my iPhone.
Sadly, he didn’t score, but he still helped stiffen up our midfield, and although Walsall had late chances for both Andy Butler and Amadou Bakayoko (Morrison blocking the latter on the line), they could get the equaliser they probably deserved, and the U’s finished 2013/14 with back to back victories.
[b]Walsall 0 Colchester United 1 (Craig Eastmond 54’)[/b]
[b]Memories are made of this…[/b]
In a career at Colchester United spanning 19 years over two stints, Karl Duguid made 471 first team appearances for the U’s, scoring 49 goals (including one penalty), and picking up 54 yellow cards and four red.
No doubt we’ll all have memories of our own very special Doogie-moments, whether it was the fist-cuffs with Ian Wright, the ‘accidentally kick the ball out of reach when stooping to pick it up’ time-waster that so infuriated opposition players and supporters, his tears at the AutoWindscreen Final, [b]that[/b] goal at the Layer Road end on Friday 29th September 2006, or countless other highlights from his career.
I wasn’t fortunate enough to be at the Ipswich game, but I was fortunate enough to be at Dean Court five months earlier to see Doogie bombing on down the left wing to cross perfectly on to the chest of Scott Vernon, who expertly controlled and volleyed home to give the U’s a vital 2-1 victory in our bid for promotion to the Championship. To me, it wasn’t the nervy jittery 0-0 at Yeovil that won promotion, this was the day we actually achieved it, and fitting that it was Karl Anthony Duguid doing the heavy lifting.
Up the U’s
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Letters from Wiltshire #34 by wessex_exile
I won’t dwell on Robbie’s latest message to the supporters – we’ve all read it, and we’ve all probably drawn our own conclusions about what it doesn’t say as much as what it does. To me, bottom line, I suspect the clock is now ticking for Steve Ball (at least), turn around this terrible form pretty damn quick, or start clearing out your locker. Regardless of personal opinions on any of the individuals concerned, I would like to think none of us actually wants to see people made redundant in the current climate. But, these are difficult times that require tough decisions. If Steve Ball is up to the job and can turn this around, I’ll be more than happy to support him. If he’s not, he has to go before irreparable harm is done…and we all know what that will look like, we’ve been there before…
Letters from Wiltshire #33 by wessex_exile
Today we face a trip to Crawley, not usually a venue that bears fruit for the U’s it has to be said. In nine visits we’ve only won once in the league, and once in the League Cup. Of course, we’ll all remember that League Cup victory, indeed many of us were probably there to see us progress through to 5th round and the dream fixture against Manchester United at Old Trafford. All of our goal-scorers that night, Luke’s Norris and Gambin, and Cohen Bramall (okay, technically an O.G.), are no longer with us, so let’s hope at the very least that recent departee and subsequent returnee Frank Nouble can bag another like his late equaliser against Mansfield. Steve Ball commented during the week about how tight the league is at the moment, and he’s right that a couple of back to back victories would see us move significantly up the table away from danger – but we’ve got to win them first Steve – something we’ve failed to do since our 1-0 victory at Scunthorpe on December 8th.
Letters from Wiltshire #32 by wessex_exile
Fifty years ago yesterday, Colchester United of the 4th Division pulled off the greatest cup giant-killing ever, beating 1st Division Leeds United 3-2 at Layer Road. Watched by 16,000, and the Match of the Day cameras, Dick Graham’s U’s, a rag-tag band of mostly aging journeymen, defied the odds to defeat arguably the greatest club side in Europe at the time. “The greatest cup giant-killing ever” is a bold claim, and over the years various football magazines and websites have run their own polls of which was the greatest. Whilst that day at Layer Rd always features, as the years have gone by other feats fresher in the memory have been put forward as a candidate – we probably all remember Ronnie Radford’s screamer against Newcastle, Sutton’s exploits, or even Bradford City quite recently at Stamford Bridge – but these pale into insignificance when you pause to reflect on the Don Revie side that we beat that day. Sprake, Cooper, Charlton, Hunter, Lorimer, Giles etc – all full internationals, all household names – the only one missing was Billy Bremner, and that was because he was injured. By comparison, all we had to offer was Ray Crawford – at his peak arguably on a par with some in the Leeds side, but that peak had been ten years earlier playing for Ipswich and England. Eleven heroes didn’t just try and hold out against Leeds United, they took the game to their illustrious opponents with such tenacity, grit and no small amount of flair, and before we knew it, the U’s were 3-0 in the lead. As legs tired, Leeds got back into the game with goals from Hunter and Giles, but we held firm – typified at the death by Graham Smith pulling off an impossible save to ensure the U’s achieved [b][u]the greatest cup giant-killing ever![/b][/u]
Letters from Wiltshire #31 by wessex_exile
And so the dust settles on another transfer window closing, and despite (my) expectations that the possibility of incoming business was going to be remote, we have instead seen a veritable flurry of activity, with no less than three coming in. Big Frank Nouble, making a very welcome return on loan from Plymouth Argyle, of course needs no introduction. Neither really does feisty Brendan Sarpong-Wiredu, here on loan last season, and this time signed full-time from Charlton Athletic for an undisclosed fee. Actually paying hard cash for someone did come as a surprise, presumably offset by the sale of Cohen Bramall to Lincoln for a similarly undisclosed fee. However, the fact that the Addicks have insisted on not only a sell-on clause, but a rarely used buy-back clause too, suggests (a) Wiredu’s signing fee probably wasn’t too high, and (b) Charlton are protecting those finances with these clauses. The last one, which would have been a complete surprise for me were it not for a contact leaking me the news earlier yesterday, is left-back Josh Doherty on loan from Crawley. Josh was only announced once outgoing left-back Bramall was confirmed, and presumably his loan is directly related to part-time fashion model, TV and radio celeb and former left-back Mark Wright signing for Crawley on a non-contract game-by-game basis in December. We have also released seven from the academy, Ollie Kensdale, Miquel Scarlett, Sammie McLeod, Michael Fernandes, Ollie Sims, Danny Collinge and Matt Weaire, and I’m sure we all wish them the best for the future.
Letters from Wiltshire #30 by wessex_exile
Friday night football – can’t beat it. Gives you that feelgood factor all weekend, sitting back to enjoy a stress-free Saturday afternoon watching others fail in your wake. Of course, you have to win first, which we’ve been struggling to do for a while now, so be prepared for the possibility of a miserable weekend just in case. We share this evening with Reading v AFC Bournemouth, albeit they kick-off an hour later than we do. In the real world, leaders of the UK’s five largest business groups have written to Boris demanding action on the substantial difficulties they are facing over Brexit bureaucracy, whilst French border authorities are reporting that two-thirds of lorries arriving from the UK are empty (i.e. no exports leaving the UK). Still, at least the NHS can enjoy their extra £350m per week…