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Latest statement from Robbie
at 07:57 1 Jul 2020

For anyone who hasn’t seen it already, link below to Robbie’s latest and superb statement.

https://www.cu-fc.com/news/2020/june/club-statement2/

Each to their own, and given these are difficult times for everyone financially, and probably won’t improve any day soon, I wouldn’t begrudge anyone who needed a refund on their unused season tickets, match credits etc. Personally, I love the idea of Club United, and will be gladly transferring my match credit refund into it. I bought the match credits to have priority for Spurs tickets, and they continued to serve me well for Crawley and Man U, plus a couple of match tickets too, so they’ve served their purpose - the club can have the rest.
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New grounds
at 19:18 26 Jun 2020

Accepting we don't quite know the full line-up for next season, as things stand these are on my never-been list:

Barrow
Bolton (pretty sure, can't remember if I have)
Grimsby
Macclesfield
Morecambe

Doesn't matter who wins the play-off final, obviously I've been to both. As for the National League play-offs (are they actually happening, I thought they were?), Boreham Wood, Halifax, Harrogate or Stockport would be new additions to the list.

Obviously Bolton will be the big attraction for many, so what's the betting it'll be early in the season with lockdown still in force.

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Matches of Yesteryear - Cardiff v U's 11/4/98
at 13:51 21 Jun 2020

Here we are then, after a reasonably solid but distinctly dull semi-final first leg lit up by a moment of sheer brilliance by Bramall, just one match away from a socially distanced Wembley play-off final. We may have a slight advantage, but there is of course still much to do, and I can’t imagine for a moment that Exeter will be that shot-shy again at t’other St James’ Park. It’s all about the result though, performance is irrelevant, so I’ll take an even duller 0-0 every day of the week and twice on Sundays. I hope you’re all keeping safe and well, and for those of you blessed with progeny – Happy Father’s Day!
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Matches of Yesteryear - Cardiff v U's 11/4/98
at 13:51 21 Jun 2020

Here we are then, after a reasonably solid but distinctly dull semi-final first leg lit up by a moment of sheer brilliance by Bramall, just one match away from a socially distanced Wembley play-off final. We may have a slight advantage, but there is of course still much to do, and I can’t imagine for a moment that Exeter will be that shot-shy again at t’other St James’ Park. It’s all about the result though, performance is irrelevant, so I’ll take an even duller 0-0 every day of the week and twice on Sundays. I hope you’re all keeping safe and well, and for those of you blessed with progeny – Happy Father’s Day!

Cardiff v Colchester United
Saturday 11th April 1998
Nationwide League Division 3 (Tier 4)
Attendance 2,809


Match #58 of the Matches of Yesteryear series, and appropriately the random match selector has chosen one of our later matches in the 1997/98 season, the last time we gained promotion out of this league (via the play-offs – just saying like). We are at proper old skool Ninian Park for a mid-April match against Cardiff City. Back then, Ninian Park was a crumbling behemoth of a ground, desperately in need of a major uplift, and with the Bluebirds struggling that season, looking even poorer with less than 3,000 turning up for the match. If memory serves, at least 250 of those travelled over from Essex, but I don’t think we were on the Grange End terrace – pretty sure we were in the Bob Bank stand, for what I guess must have been the last season before they switched away supporters to the Grange End?

Steve Wignall was managing the U’s at the time, and a run of four undefeated matches stretching back to mid-March had propelled us into the play-off zone. Only just though, we were 6th, with Peterborough in 8th just one point behind us, so we needed a good result to keep the momentum going. Cardiff on the other hand were having a poor season, albeit 6th from bottom and on 49 points would normally be a reason to expect that safety was virtually guaranteed. However, this was no normal season in the 4th tier, with hopelessly inept Doncaster Rovers so far adrift at the bottom on 19 points that Cardiff had been mathematically safe for several months already (Cardiff had smashed them 7-1 at Ninian Park less than a month earlier). It was a foregone conclusion at the other end too, with Notts County already champions of the league, and had been since March.



Cardiff City has always been a relatively easy ground to get to, but one I’ve always approached with considerable caution. My battered much-travelled Football Fans Guide sensibly advised “…it’s an extremely good idea not to wear colours outside the ground, or to have any showing in cars. This applies to all games, not just high profile or local derby matches”. The in-laws were visiting for the weekend, so the Father-in-Law and I were afforded an afternoon pass so that they could do some Mum and Daughter stuff, which worked for us.

We took the train over to Cardiff in plenty of time, and walking from the station popped in to The Cornwall on the way for a couple of pints. The Cornwall is, or certainly was, one of the few reasonably friendly pubs that away fans could use anywhere near the ground – it was almost as if the decent Cardiff City supporters in there felt the need to over-compensate for the generally poor reputation of Cardiff City fans in general. Whatever the psychology, they were all very pleasant, and I wasn’t the only U’s fan in there that day either (my Father-in-Law was an avid follower of football, but without any particular allegiance – perhaps mainly Kettering if he had to choose). Suitably refreshed, we headed to the ground.

The U’s line-up that afternoon was exactly as listed on the back of the programme, which is somewhat of a rarity based on my experiences writing these blogs:

1….Carl Emberson
2….Joe Dunne
3….Simon Betts
4….Aaron Skelton
5….David Greene
6….Guy Branston (Paul Abrahams 24’)
7….Richard Wilkins
8….Paul Buckle
9….Mark Sale (Nel Gregory 73’)
10..Tony Lock (Karl Duguid 89’)
11..David Gregory

There aren’t too many names in the Bluebirds line-up that register with me – I’d heard of midfield duo Tony Carss and Jason Fowler, but not in the context of being household names who’d go on to do great things in football. Probably the biggest name in their squad that day, with the benefit of hindsight, was a youthful Robert Earnshaw on the bench. Earnshaw had joined the youth set-up the year before and had made his league debut for the Bluebirds just two weeks earlier, coming on as a substitute in a 0-0 draw with Brighton and Hove Albion (the programme cover photo is from that match).

So, given I can’t remember with any certainty which stand we were in, it won’t come as too much of a surprise that my memories of the match itself are also pretty hazy. The U’s were certainly playing with confidence, and causing problems for Cardiff City, but suffered a set-back with Branston going off injured after 24 minutes. Cardiff City had two bookings that day, but I’m not sure if either were associated with this? Incidentally, for anyone who oft associates Cardiff City with a ‘robust’ style of play, we had four bookings that afternoon of our own, so certainly no choirboys ourselves.

Paul Abrahams replaced the injured Branston, which turned out to be a fortuitously inspired move, as he blasted the U’s into a 1-0 lead just after half-time. If anything, this spurred Cardiff City on, and for the next ten minutes or so kept us penned in our own half, defending resolutely. The siege was broken in emphatic style, with David Gregory breaking free on the hour mark to put the U’s into what we hoped would be an unassailable 2-0 lead.

This prompted a flurry of substitutions on both sides, with first off Robert Earnshaw coming on for Carss. It was clear the lad had bags of pace and talent, and when Chris Roberts came on a few minutes later, we were again under considerable pressure. In response, Wiggy swapped Sale for Neil Gregory, with Gregory playing deeper in more of a midfield role, and then for a bit of game-management to run the clock down, brought on Doogie for Tony Lock in the last minute of normal time. It worked too, and for all Cardiff’s later pressure, the U’s held on reasonably comfortably to win 2-0 and keep our promotion challenge on track.

Cardiff City 0 Colchester United 2 (Paul Abrahams 48’; David Gregory 60’)

I had taken the advice of the Football Fans Guide sort of to heart – albeit I had a shirt on, but had also made sure I had the sort of coat that could be zipped up to keep all colours hidden for the walk back to the station. We were amongst a larger group of U’s fans, but also interspersed with a fair few Cardiff City supporters. One of our number hadn’t bothered to cover his shirt and ended up on the wrong end of some Welsh verbals, but that was all, and the walk back to the station and journey home was otherwise uneventful.

Zambian born Earnshaw would go on to become a cult hero not just for Cardiff City (he played for them between 1998 and 2013 in two separate spells), but for the entirety of Wales – making 59 appearances for the national side. His background is quite remarkable, particularly his mother Rita, who was not only a professional footballer in Zambia, but later went on to be a professional boxer! If that wasn’t enough, his English-born father David was manager of a gold mine. Rita moved the family to Bedwas near Caerphilly in 1990 (to be near her sister) after David contracted and died from typhoid fever, and Robert grew-up on the streets as mates with near neighbour David Pipe.

And finally, I mentioned for Match #57 how I was looking forward to seeing my place amongst John McGreal’s Cardboard Army last Thursday. Well I wasn’t quick enough to spot myself during the broadcast itself, but thanks to a photo on one of the Col U Facebook pages, I have now. 10 points for anyone else who can 😊



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Matches of Yesteryear - Reading v U's 11/11/2000
at 10:49 18 Jun 2020

So, after months of uncertainty, here we finally are at the start of a well-deserved play-off campaign. I say well-deserved, though in truth the play-offs ought to have been our minimum aspiration back in August. But sometimes life throws you a curve ball – no one could have predicted back then what the world was going to become, that hundreds of thousands would perish, and that most clubs today are probably fighting for their very existence. In fact, as already mentioned by MFB and Durham, no one could have predicted that were it not for a stirring 3-0 victory at Carlisle in our last match back in March, we wouldn’t have even been in the play-offs. During lockdown, I have been reassured by the honest and stateman-like announcements from our Chairman keeping us all updated, and never more grateful that we have him looking after the club.
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Matches of Yesteryear - Reading v U's 11/11/2000
at 10:49 18 Jun 2020

So, after months of uncertainty, here we finally are at the start of a well-deserved play-off campaign. I say well-deserved, though in truth the play-offs ought to have been our minimum aspiration back in August. But sometimes life throws you a curve ball – no one could have predicted back then what the world was going to become, that hundreds of thousands would perish, and that most clubs today are probably fighting for their very existence. In fact, as already mentioned by MFB and Durham, no one could have predicted that were it not for a stirring 3-0 victory at Carlisle in our last match back in March, we wouldn’t have even been in the play-offs. During lockdown, I have been reassured by the honest and stateman-like announcements from our Chairman keeping us all updated, and never more grateful that we have him looking after the club.

Reading v Colchester United
Saturday 11th November 2000
Nationwide League Division 2 (Tier 3)
Attendance 11,549


Match #57 of the Matches of Yesteryear series, and we go back nearly 20 years to an away-day at the shiny new Madejski Stadium, for a league match against Reading FC. In Match #10 of the series, for a subsequent visit in January 2002, I’d already reflected on my company’s role in clearing the ground ahead of the new stadium, so I’ll spare you that one a second time.

Steve Whitton was managing the U’s back then, and we were in our third consecutive season at this level. We were also struggling to adjust to life without Lua Lua, who’d been sold to Bobby Robson’s Newcastle for £2.25m at the end of September. Since when, we’d lost six out of eight matches, and were poised perilously just one point outside the relegation zone. Reading on the other hand, strongly tipped for promotion, were justifying that billing in third place, just behind Walsall and Wigan in the automatic promotion slots.



At the time my company had just started our main phase of fieldwork for HS1, so I was spending a large amount of my weekday time in Kent. Not that I was complaining, as I’d met Alfie’s mum working on the scheme, and in the words of John Paul Young, love was in the air 😊. However, that weekend I was a free man, my eldest two were with their mum, Em had returned to nursing and was on an early shift in Bournemouth, so off to Reading I went. I didn’t feel too shabby about indulging in a football trip whilst Em worked, I was after all taking her on a surprise weekend break to Dublin for her 30th a fortnight later (though of course she didn’t know that at the time 😉).

It’s a fairly straightforward journey by train, Salisbury to Basingstoke, change there and then Basingstoke to Reading. As usual, I took the opportunity for some pre-match refreshments, and had a couple of tins of lager for the journey. The first leg went fairly smoothly, drinking lager, relaxing and listening to music; in fact I was so preoccupied that I didn’t realise we were coming into Basingstoke pretty much until we arrived. At this point, I realised that perhaps a visit to the facilities was going to be needed sooner rather than later, but with no time to do so on this train, figured the station platform loo would do just as well. Except that there was no time to do that, as my connection was ready to depart and I literally had to run to make it. No problem, one of the loos on the train would do – only this was a two-carriage commuter type train, and the only two toilets on the train were out of order and locked.

Now alarm bells were really ringing!

It’s not a particularly long journey from Basingstoke to Reading, but long enough that I knew without doubt it would be too long for my bladder to hold out. There were no options to bail out at a stop on the way either, the train wasn’t stopping. My only hope of salvation was what had put me in this predicament in the first place, the virtually empty tin of lager I was still holding. Fortunately, it was not a busy train, and positioning myself as discretely as possible to avoid causing offence (ironically this turned out to be the seats next to the locked toilets), I had to utilise the only receptacle available to me.

It is a matter of some pride and tremendous relief that I managed to do so on a bouncy train (a) without being observed, (b) without a single spill, (c) with impeccable aim, and (d) without lacerating my nether regions in the process. Pressure relieved, I then had to resolve the problem of what I was left holding for the remainder of the journey and disposing of at the end of my journey. That was emptied down the loo at Reading Station – I couldn’t leave it anywhere for fear someone might think it was their good fortune that they’d stumbled on a freshly opened tin of lager.

Naturally, I celebrated the close escape with a couple more beers at the station bar, and then headed out to the ground. Still got the ticket for this one too.



The U’s line-up that afternoon was:

29..Andy Woodman
19..Alan White
4….Gavin Johnson
20..Micky Stockwell
18..Aaron Skelton
26..Scott Fitzgerald
8….David Gregory (Joe Dunne 45’)
11..Jason Dozzell
10..Steve McGavin (Tony Lock 81’)
7….Karl Duguid
??..Barry Conlon

Without doing a bit of research, I’m not exactly sure what Barry Conlon’s squad number was for the U’s. This was his loan debut, so he isn’t listed in the matchday programme. Nor indeed was Andy Woodman, who was also making his debut – but Andy would go on and sign for the U’s, so our 2000/01 Wikipedia page provides his squad number. To provide context, Andy Woodman first met his teammates at the hotel on the Friday evening! Lining up for the Royals that afternoon was a breath-taking array of talent, many of whom being names we were all familiar with at the time – Adrian Viveash, Martin Butler, Lee Hodges, and of course our very own Jamie Cureton and Phil Parkinson. It was rumoured that they had over £1m of talent on the bench alone, so despite my pre-match Dutch courage, I really wasn’t expecting too much out of this game if I’m honest.

I can’t remember too many specifics from the game, but I do remember I needn’t have been so concerned. Right from kick-off we took the match to our wealthy opponents, with scant regard to our relative league positions, and quite frankly at times Reading struggled to contain us in the first half. It was one of those heady combinations of genuine flair at times, real passion for the cause, and when needed simply guts. Given their reputation, I don’t think Reading were that used to teams really having a go in their own backyard, and just didn’t know quite how to handle it. Our first half performance was capped off in the 38th minute by a blistering unstoppable 30-yard thunderbolt from Gavin Johnson to give the U’s the lead. This was his first for the U’s, and as the Gazette commented at the time “worthy of winning the World Cup itself”.

I was never confident we could keep control of the game into the second half, and with Reading manager Alan Pardew bringing on both Sammy Igoe and Tony Rougier at half-time, their class did start to show. But the U’s were resilient – Whitton also made changes, sacrificing David Gregory for Joe Dunne at half-time, and we entered into our gritty determined phase. The back four and five-man midfield simply refused to buckle, with Alan White in particular throwing himself into every tackle. Steve McGavin chased every lost cause that was punted his way, until utterly exhausted he was subbed with less than ten minutes to go, and despite all the pressure we hung on for an incredibly valuable – and spirited – 1-0 victory away at league high-fliers Reading FC. It’s worth emphasising too, without picking up a single booking.

Reading 0 Colchester United 1 (Gavin Johnson 38’)

This result stopped the rot for the U’s, and in the league at least we went unbeaten until Christmas, winning four out of five in the process to get within sight of the play-off zone. However, the least said the better about our FA Cup 5-1 defeat at non-league Yeovil just a week after the glories of Reading. Our recovery didn’t last, and after being smashed 6-1 at Millwall on Boxing Day, we started to slip back and eventually finished lower mid-table.

We did manage to do the double over Reading in the process though. Those six points cost the Royals automatic promotion, and although they made the play-offs, they lost the final 3-2 to Walsall after extra time.

I do sometimes wonder whether this game ever had any bearing on Cureton’s or Parky’s decision to join Colchester United, whether that afternoon they saw a spirit, togetherness, self-belief that made them think – “you know what, this is the sort of club I could play for?”

Later today, we embark on probably the most surreal chapter in certainly my history of following the U’s, and if in the years to come any of my children see fit to provide me with grandchildren, I look forward to boring them relentlessly about it 😊

In the meantime, I’m looking forward to seeing my place amongst John McGreal’s Cardboard Army!

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Matches of Yesteryear - Millwall v U's 14/4/99
at 14:25 25 Apr 2020

And so here we are, at what would have been the last match of the domestic season, at home to FGR, and almost certainly still in with a shout of making the play-offs – maybe even already guaranteed by now. As I look out this morning, it’s a beautiful sunny day, and I would almost certainly already be on the first leg of a train journey to be amongst the faithful at the Jobserve Community Stadium. Given the location of our opponents, I’d probably be sharing the journey with a few hundred FGR supporters too, but they’ve always been a friendly bunch whenever I’ve met them, so I wouldn’t have been too concerned about that. Instead, we sit and wait to see how and when the season may (or may not) finish – strange times indeed…
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Matches of Yesteryear - Millwall v U's 14/4/99
at 14:25 25 Apr 2020

And so here we are, at what would have been the last match of the domestic season, at home to FGR, and almost certainly still in with a shout of making the play-offs – maybe even already guaranteed by now. As I look out this morning, it’s a beautiful sunny day, and I would almost certainly already be on the first leg of a train journey to be amongst the faithful at the Jobserve Community Stadium. Given the location of our opponents, I’d probably be sharing the journey with a few hundred FGR supporters too, but they’ve always been a friendly bunch whenever I’ve met them, so I wouldn’t have been too concerned about that. Instead, we sit and wait to see how and when the season may (or may not) finish – strange times indeed…

Millwall v Colchester United
Wednesday 14th April 1999
Nationwide League Division 2 (Tier 3)
Attendance 4,686


Match #56 of the Matches of Yesteryear series, and for now at least, the last one for this season – we wait to see whether there will be any more. If there are more matches, the series will of course return to cover them, and if all else fails will return next season (whenever that may be). I had hoped that the random match selector would have chosen a real humdinger to bow out on, but chance being the capricious mistress that it is, it has instead chosen one of my more miserable experiences following the U’s. Heyho, those unfortunately are the breaks, and I’m certainly not planning to tinker with fate by overruling the choice.

This was our first season back in the third tier of the football league, and it had been quite a struggle for the U’s. With Steve Wignall falling on his sword in January, deeming he had taken the club as far as he could (I disagreed, if I’m honest), we were managed by Mick Wadsworth, who was just about doing enough to keep us away from relegation. Going into this match, with seven games to go, we were on 45pts, and five points clear of relegation, so whilst it was looking optimistic that we’d avoid relegation, it was by no means certain. Millwall were doing considerably better, three places outside the play-off zone, but in truth the 12-point gap was almost certainly too big a deficit to overcome.



I’m not certain why this match was played on a Wednesday evening, there aren’t many other matches I can remember that had been. Piecing together the evidence available, and without anything definite to corroborate it, I imagine this fixture should have been played on Saturday 17th April, but with Millwall getting through to play Wigan in the Auto Windscreens Shield Final at Wembley on Sunday 18th April, our match had to be rearranged. I guess they chose the Wednesday as a suitable mid-point between the AWS final and Millwall’s previous match at York City on 10th April. Who knows, but there we were, playing on a Wednesday night in South London.

Back then, I was directing excavations in advance of the construction of HS1 (we knew it then as the Channel Tunnel Rail Link). Specifically, at this time we were excavating a nice Late Bronze Age site known as Little Stock Farm, near Mersham in Kent, and whilst we were there also excavating machine-cut evaluation trenches immediately to the east in fields next to Park Wood Cottage farm. I was supervising the main excavation that day, whilst one of our Project Officers was in the next field cutting the evaluation trenches. Mid-afternoon, and my phone rings – disaster! The machine had sliced through a water pipe, which was flooding everywhere.

I dashed over, and sure enough there was the evidence – a somewhat mangled blue plastic water pipe pissing everywhere, and somewhat ominously looking like it ran from the mains along the road straight across the field to the farmhouse – yep, we’d cut through their water supply. Now, I should add, we had done everything in advance that we should have, including checking plans with all utility suppliers, and carrying out a full CAT & Genny scan – but utility companies rarely map local supplies such as these, plastic water pipes are notoriously difficult to detect, and whoever had laid the pipe (probably the farmer himself) hadn’t buried it particularly deeply, nor laid any form of warning tape over the pipe to indicate its presence. However, it didn’t change the fact we’d cut off their water supply, so we had to do something.

The water board didn’t want to know, it was a local supply on private land, not their problem to fix, so it most definitely became our problem to fix. The pipe had been completely mangled by the machine bucket, so my only option was to dash off to the nearest plumbers merchant, pick up a length of replacement pipe, some couplers, and a hacksaw to trim up the broken ends and cut the replacement to fit. I was back within the hour and set-to effecting a repair. Cutting the downflow end of the broken pipe was easy enough, as was fitting the coupling and connecting that end to the replacement section. Now we came to the tricky bit, trimming off the upslope section of the pipe, which of course was still absolutely pissing water.

When I look back, this was in reality quite comical, but if you’ve never tried to hacksaw through a live pressured water pipe, you cannot begin to imagine what it’s like. The best I can compare it to is trying to cut through a pipe whilst someone aims a power-washer straight into your face. I had to take breaks just because I couldn’t hold my breath long enough, for fear of actually drowning. When the end was finally trimmed, and the replacement pipe coupled up (and that wasn’t easy either), to say I was wet is a considerable understatement – everything, and I mean literally everything I was wearing was absolutely soaked, nothing was spared.

Worse still, by then I had no time left to get back to the accommodation to change, I was due to rendezvous with my brother-in-law en route to the match and was already running late. All I had thrown into the car that morning was a U’s shirt, a change of socks and some shoes, so pausing briefly to order a slap-up takeaway for the farmhouse by way of apology, of I had to go – sat in a puddle of misery on the drive into London. We’d arranged to meet at a big sprawling pub we knew alongside either the A2 or the A20 – not sure which, can’t remember its name, nor exactly where it was, but I can definitely still picture it in my head – I’ve had a thorough search on Google Map and streetview, and can’t find anything that looks like I remember, so maybe this is yet another pub lost to the world? We just about had enough time to grab some food and a pint, leave my car in the pub car park, and carry on to the New Den in his car.

The U’s line-up that evening was:

1….Tamer Fernandes
2….Fabrice Richard
3….Stephane Pounewatchy
4….Geraint Williams (Karl Duguid 44’, Paul Abrahams 66’)
5….David Greene
6….Paul Buckle
7….Richard Wilkins
8….David Gregory (Neil Gregory 45’)
9….Jason Dozzell
10..Lomana Tresor Lua Lua
11..Warren Aspinall

This was a slightly different line-up to the matchday programme, particularly Fernandes in goal instead of former Millwall keeper Emberson, who had broken a finger ahead of the match. This was indirectly caused by Richard Wilkins in training the day before, as it was his shot which had done the damage. However, most notably there was the complete absence of Joe Dunne, listed as no. 3 in the programme – was this a portent of things to come, only we didn’t realise it at the time? Nope, he’d broken his arm as it happens. This was also Richard Wilkins’ 250th league game for Colchester United, and in an interview building up to the game “Mr Loyalty” said “…every landmark you reach is very pleasing, but I lost my first-ever game for the club, 2-0 against Preston – I want to make sure that’s not going to happen tonight…[and with Millwall facing a trip to Wembley at the weekend]…so it is very important that we get stuck into them early to find out what their attitude is like tonight”. In researching this match, I also realised this is another game that I still have my ticket for.



Millwall, player-managed by Keith Stevens at the time, were littered with familiar names, including 41-year old veteran Nigel Spink in goal, and of course Bobby ‘Sideways-Bob’ Bowry, Scott Fitzgerald and Leke Odunsi, all of whom would end up playing for the U’s in the future. It is worth reflecting here, Millwall made ELEVEN changes for this match – yep, they fielded virtually an entire second string side, resting every one of the side due to run out for the club’s first game at Wembley – the only survivor from that evening’s line-up was Bobby Bowry, who would be an unused sub on the bench at Wembley. If other teams in and around the U’s with relegation worries were annoyed about this, they really needn’t have been.

What followed was one of the more abject performances by a U’s team it’s been my misfortune to witness, and dare I remind you, endured in a miserably sodden state. Things started very badly for the U’s, when after just 34 seconds we gifted Millwall a 1-0 lead. Aspinall and Green made a complete pigs-ear of what should have been a simple back pass, allowing Kim Grant to break through the middle and slot home easily past Fernandes. With the wind in their sails, the Lions’ makeshift squad continued to press the U’s, until, very much against the run of play, we were thrown an 11th minute lifeline. Millwall player-manager Keith Stevens tripped Aspinall in the box, and up stepped our penalty maestro David Gregory to bring the U’s level. Sadly, replacement keeper Spink hadn’t read the script, and rolling back the years dived superbly to his left to keep Gregory’s rather tame effort out.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, Millwall showed how it should be done just four minutes later, to double their lead. Green and Hockton got into a bit of a wrestling match in our penalty area, Greene adjudged to have committed the foul (and booked for his troubles), and Grant stepped up to make it 2-0, sending Fernandes the wrong way. 2-0 down after just 15 minutes, against a second string line-up, and needing every point we could get to stay clear of relegation – could it get much worse? Well, yes and no – finally stung into action pretty much thereafter through to half-time it was all U’s. Both Buckle and Lua Lua went close, both from Dozzell lay-offs, and even when we managed to get anything on target, a towering point-blank header from Pounewatchy and an angled drive from Aspinall, there was Spink throwing any part of his body in the way to keep the U’s out.

The second half was very much more of the same, albeit both Geraint Williams and David Gregory were taken off injured, to be replaced by Duguid and brother Neil respectively. Doogie made an immediate impact, pinging a lovely ball across the face of Nigel Spink’s goal – a simple touch from anyone would have finished it, but no one could reach it. The U’s continued to press, but never looked completely in control, and Grant missed an excellent opportunity to complete his hat-trick, breaking clear from his own half but missing his one-on-one chance. After about 20 minutes of the second half, another setback when substitute Duguid had to be substituted himself because of injury – it’s one of the few occasions I can actually recall this happening, and a real shame, as he was making a big difference. Neil Gregory went on to slice a 12-yard sitter wide, provided by an incisive pass from Pounewatchy, then fired an almost carbon-copy straight at Spink, Buckle and Aspinall went close with efforts that on another day they would have at least got on target, and with only two minutes to go Spink somehow managed to save a close-range header from an unmarked Dozzell.

And that was that, for all their efforts for 75 minutes, against a team of reserves, the U’s were undone by 15 minutes of ineptitude – in truth, it had been a very poor performance, and all I wanted to do was go back to the accommodation, peel off my still decidedly damp attire, and go to bed…

Millwall 2 (Kim Grant 1’, 15’p) Colchester United 0

Sadly, Richard Wilkins’ somewhat prophetic words pre-match had returned to haunt us this game. However, as mentioned in previous blogs in the series that have covered this season, we did eventually avoid relegation, reasonably comfortably too. Likewise, Millwall didn’t amass the unfeasible points haul they needed to have a chance of the play-offs and finished upper mid-table.

If, like me, you care little for Millwall, then you’ll probably be faintly amused that having rested their entire squad for their upcoming first visit to Wembley, they ended up losing the final 1-0 to Wigan Athletic. In gut-wrenching fashion too – conceding in the 3rd minute of injury-time when extra-time looked on the cards, and in front of a crowd of 55,349 – it was estimated that about 47,000 of these were Millwall supporters. Shame 😊

This would turn out to be the last appearance for Geraint Williams in a U’s shirt, though of course he would return as Assistant Manager the following season, eventually taking over the reins post-Parky in our first Championship season in 2006. By coincidence, the colu_official YouTube premiere this afternoon is our final game of the 2005/06 promotion season at Yeovil, which I’m certainly looking forward to.



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Matches of Yesteryear - U's v Accrington Stanley 13/1/04
at 13:33 18 Apr 2020

Happy Saturday everyone…well, less of the happy actually, with rain falling freely since yesterday afternoon. Still, good weather to be in lockdown for, takes away that feeling that you might be missing out on some quality time outside. In an open letter yesterday to all supporters of EFL clubs, chairman Rick Parry stated “…with or without spectators, delivering a successful conclusion to the 2019/20 season remains our goal to ensure the integrity of our competitions”. If that can be achieved, it appears almost certain these will be matches behind closed doors, streamed live to all supporters – which inevitably will break the long-held Saturday 3pm blackout for televised matches. We all know why that blackout was in place, but this is a difficult time, and it requires an innovative solution.
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Matches of Yesteryear - U's v Accrington Stanley 13/1/04
at 13:32 18 Apr 2020

Happy Saturday everyone…well, less of the happy actually, with rain falling freely since yesterday afternoon. Still, good weather to be in lockdown for, takes away that feeling that you might be missing out on some quality time outside. In an open letter yesterday to all supporters of EFL clubs, chairman Rick Parry stated “…with or without spectators, delivering a successful conclusion to the 2019/20 season remains our goal to ensure the integrity of our competitions”. If that can be achieved, it appears almost certain these will be matches behind closed doors, streamed live to all supporters – which inevitably will break the long-held Saturday 3pm blackout for televised matches. We all know why that blackout was in place, but this is a difficult time, and it requires an innovative solution.

Colchester United v Accrington Stanley
Tuesday 13th January 2004
FA Cup (3rd Round replay)
Attendance 5,611


Match #55 of the series, and we have the midweek FA Cup 3rd round replay at Layer Rd against (then) non-league Accrington Stanley back in 2004. I wasn’t at the original 0-0 draw at the Crown Ground, but by all accounts it wasn’t exactly a stimulating affair, with the U’s under the cosh for much of the match. Post-match Accrington Stanley manager John Coleman observed “it felt like a defeat. We created a handful of chances and their keeper must have been man of the match as he produced some world-class saves”. Simon Brown was indeed hailed as the Man of the Match, pulling off a number of stunning saves to keep the U’s in the competition. Going into the replay, both teams knew a trip to Coventry City in the 4th round would be the reward – not exactly a glamorous tie, but the Sky Blues were a solid mid-table Nationwide First Division side at the time, so definitely a tricky prospect, and maybe a bit of a payday too.



There is quite a back-story to this match, why I was there, and particularly who I was with, so bear with me. At the time, my company was carrying out the archaeological excavation at the former St Mary’s Hospital site, in advance of the Balkerne Heights redevelopment. Whilst I wasn’t managing this particular project, I wore many hats at the time, one of which was the company H&S Coordinator, and all of the fieldwork management staff carried a responsibility for carrying out staff appraisals. So, with the replay date confirmed, and the prospect of a 4th round match away at higher league opposition, it was highly appropriate, urgent even, that I visited the site on the Tuesday afternoon to carry out a site H&S inspection, and then schedule an on-site appraisal for one of our supervisors for the following Wednesday morning – perfect! Whilst I didn’t take this site photo, it was from that excavation, capturing a particularly stunning sunrise behind Balkerne Gate, Jumbo and the Hole-in-the-Wall pub.



But there’s more…my wife Em was working on the site at the time, and we had found out a few weeks earlier she was expecting Alfie – happy days! Here she is on site at the time, just about to start the excavation of a late 4th century Romano-British burial. The black lines you can see are the stains left from the decayed remains of a coffin – though corroded coffin nails do survive, there’s no wood left at all, it’s just a shadow in the sand, but visually still quite striking.



I have considerable form when it comes to dragging friends along to U’s matches, and many of you have over the years met many of them at various matches. Everyone who knows me knows of my U’s obsession, and pretty much all of that site team knew only too well that I had an ulterior motive for my visit, and that the U’s were at home in the evening. As a result, not only did Em come along to Layer Rd for her first taste of the U’s, but six more came with us – nine in all if you count Alfie 😊. This required a bit of pre-planning, as a big crowd was anticipated, so I’m pretty sure for the first and only time, I actually booked eight barside tickets ahead of the match, which after swift ones in the Drury were duly collected from that little booth out front pre-match. It was one of those truly magical evenings at Layer Rd, a chill in the air, mist hanging low, breath steaming, the floodlights gleaming, and a bumper noisy crowd expecting a rip-roaring night of football – we weren’t going to be disappointed. In Issue 7 of Daniel’s The U’sual fanzine (published a week or so after this match) his editorial reflects on the limited success of the “Mates Day” bring a friend campaign for Saturday’s home match against Barnsley, with only 3,507 turning up, and that “…perhaps everyone got the fixture wrong and instead brought a mate to the Stanley game a few days later…5,611…” – you’re welcome Daniel 😊.



The U’s line-up that evening was:

1….Simon Brown
22..Greg Halford
5….Scott Fitzgerald
18..Liam Chilvers
25..Sam Stockley
12..Craig Fagan (Alan White 87’)
10..Kem Izzet
6….Thomas Pinault
3….Joe Keith
8….Wayne Andrews (Rowan Vine 76’)
9….Scott McGleish

As with our 2nd Round opponents Aldershot Town, Accrington Stanley were a reformed club, established back in 1968 two years after the collapse of the original Accrington Stanley – and this was their first visit to Layer Rd since that collapse. After many years spent in the lower tiers of non-league football, and after the appointment of long-serving manager John Coleman in 1999, Stanley had finally found some success through promotion to the Conference. They weren’t doing too bad either, still in with a shout of making at least the play-offs, and had certainly been tough opponents in the original match. I’ll be honest, and with no disrespect at all intended, I’m not certain whether any of the Accrington Stanley line-up that evening went on to have notable careers in professional football. The one name that stands out in their line-up was no. 8 Paul Cook, who had a long and successful career at many league sides over the years, and had signed for Stanley in the summer, after captaining Burnley the season before.

The U’s were facing their own relatively modest struggles too, with an injury crisis ruling out regulars including Duguid, Andy Myers, Gavin Johnson and Bobby Bowry. However, every cloud has a silver lining, and for a youthful Greg Halford, this meant his FA Cup debut (he was on the bench for our 1st Round match against Oxford United, but didn’t come on). The game itself was one of the more hot-blooded feisty affairs I’ve witnessed follow the U’s, with the intensity on the pitch more than matched by the support from the terraces – quite one of the best Barside atmospheres it’s been my pleasure to be part of, and I think quite a surprise for those who came with me, who were perhaps expecting something a bit more ‘lower league’.

It didn’t take long to get going either, in the 10th minute Accrington Stanley though they had scored, only for referee Phil Joslin to rule it out – can’t remember what for, possibly offside? However, there was nothing wrong in the 11th minute when a beautiful cross from Craig Fagan was met with the sweetest of (right foot!!!) volleys from Joe Keith, and Layer Rd erupted – absolutely bedlam, huge surges forward, and everyone getting tossed around like ragdolls in their delirium. This came as a considerable surprise to poor Em, who really wasn’t expecting anything quite like that, and she couldn’t work out whether to join in the bedlam, or perhaps remonstrate with the unruly ruffians behind her she considered responsible 😊. The game went on, and tackles were flying in everywhere, the U’s definitely giving as good as they got. Even the subs warming up got in on the act at one point, having a bit of a ding dong with each other on the touchline.

At half-time, Coleman and his bench were incandescent with rage about…well, I’m not actually too sure about what – it wasn’t as if his team were whiter than white on the agricultural football front, maybe he felt cheated in some way, maybe he was still seething about not finishing the job the first time? Maybe the disallowed goal, and a strong penalty appeal also waved away? Perhaps he was just picking up on the intense atmosphere around Layer Rd that night? I don’t know, but he was so fired up that the police had to intervene as he tried to remonstrate with the officials as stewards were escorting them from the pitch, and for his trouble John Colman was sent to the stand for the second half.

Into the second half, and even with seething John Coleman sat in the stand, their bench were just as vociferous, arguing almost every decision against them, and the team on the pitch were certainly picking up on the vibe too. However, we weren’t exactly choirboys ourselves, this was a proper rip-roaring roll your sleeves up cup tie, and I was loving it! As the second half progressed, the U’s were comfortably in control, Barside was in full voice, and the cherry on the cake finally arrived with six minutes to go. And who else than man-of-the-match Joe Keith to do it, sealing victory with a stunning left foot pile-driver of a shot. Em was better prepared this time, but still we were tumbling all over the place as a euphoric Layer Rd celebrated in style! Our cause was helped immensely when Stephen Halford (no relation) picked up a second yellow card a couple of minutes later (I think Coleman literally exploded at that point). Parky tightened things up straight after that, sacrificing Fagan for Alan White, and as the U’s sat deep, Accrington Stanley did get a last-minute consolation through Paul Mullin. However, nothing was stopping the U’s progressing to the FA Cup 4th Round that night, and a trip to Coventry City beckoned.

Colchester United 2 (Joe Keith 11’, 84’) Accrington Stanley 1 (Paul Mullin 89’)

Walking back into town after the match, everyone in the group agreed it had been a brilliant night, great fun, great atmosphere, and cracking celebrations – even a slightly bruised Em. A very close friend, and now part of my management team, reckoned it was one of the most enjoyable but dirtiest matches it had ever been his pleasure to enjoy – and he supports Bristol City!

Following the game, and as a result of referee Phil Joslin’s match report, the FA charged both John Coleman and his assistant Jimmy Bell with misconduct over their behaviour – I don’t know what came of that, or if anyone from Colchester United was dragged into it as well, but it certainly didn’t surprise me.

Accrington would take a few more seasons to reach the football league; after turning fully professional the following season, and still managed by John Coleman, they gained promotion in 2006. Coleman stayed at Accrington Stanley until 2012, and after a couple of seasons managing Rochdale, Southport and even a brief spell at Sligo Rovers, returned to Stanley in 2014, and is still there to this day – there’s loyalty for you.

Incidentally, the colu_official YouTube premiere this afternoon is our vital game for survival against Preston North End, which happened to feature as Match #1 of this series – I’m looking forward to this one!



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Matches of Yesteryear - Swansea v U's 7/3/06
at 15:00 13 Apr 2020

Good afternoon everyone, I sincerely hope you’re all doing well, and hopefully not going too cabin-feverish! Today would have been a home match against Oldham Athletic, and after our surely guaranteed epic 3-2 victory at Sixfields on Good Friday, it would be just one more victory needed to guarantee a play-off place…think I might have been out in the sun a bit too much over the last few days 😊
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Matches of Yesteryear - Swansea v U's 7/3/06
at 15:00 13 Apr 2020

Good afternoon everyone, I sincerely hope you’re all doing well, and hopefully not going too cabin-feverish! Today would have been a home match against Oldham Athletic, and after our surely guaranteed epic 3-2 victory at Sixfields on Good Friday, it would be just one more victory needed to guarantee a play-off place…think I might have been out in the sun a bit too much over the last few days 😊

Swansea City v Colchester United
Tuesday 7th March 2006
LDV Vans Trophy (Area Final – First Leg)
Attendance 7,285


Match #54 of the series, and we return to one of our most successful seasons in the club’s history, with an evening trip to the Liberty Stadium to take on Swansea City in the first leg of the LDV Vans Trophy Area Final in 2006. As with the Match #53 blog, the random match selector has rolled the dice of chance and again come out with 11, given the colu_official YouTube channel at 3pm this afternoon is premiering “The Road to Stamford Bridge” FA Cup run from the very same season.



Given our glorious success in both the FA Cup and of course the league this season, to me the LDV Trophy run remains somewhat overlooked in 2005/06. Of course it was by far the least glamorous competition we competed in that season, even the League Cup overshadowed it – albeit that we slumped out in the 1st round at home to Cardiff City in front of less than 2k. But, it did represent probably our most realistic possibility of reaching a major competition final, for what would have been our first trip to the Millennium Stadium…and here we were, just two matches away from that happening. It’s also worth remembering that both legs of the LDV Area Final had been put back a week because of a clash with our trip to Stamford Bridge.



Firstly, before we get to the match itself, spare a moment to consider the actual programme. Only 20 pages cover to cover, but they more than made up for that in size – a whopping A4 booklet, clearly not designed like most programmes to be shoved into a back pocket or inside a jackett (see what I did there 😊). This is easily one of the largest (and most inconveniently sized) programmes in my collection, matched only by my three Wembley commemorative programmes. I’m not certain whether this was also a commemorative issue, or whether all Swansea City programmes that season were this size, but I strongly suspect the latter.

Swansea City had moved from the crumbling Vetch Field less than a year earlier, albeit winning promotion into the same league as the U’s in the process. The Liberty Stadium (unofficially known as “White Rock” at the time) redeveloped land formerly occupied by the Morfa Athletics Stadium on the west bank of the River Tawe. It cost in excess of £50m at the time, much of which was funded through Swansea Council and a developer-led consortia building a massive retail park on the opposite bank of the river. Swansea City continue to this day ground-sharing the Liberty Stadium with Welsh Rugby Union side Ospreys.

We were, of course, hoping to close in on our own comparatively modest new stadium at Cuckoo Farm, likewise primarily financed through the council, but we were still more than a year away from planning approval, so for now we could only gaze on what might be longingly. This was the second visit for the U’s to the Liberty Stadium, having drawn 1-1 in the league back in December 2005 – notable as this match was one of only two we didn’t win between 29th October and 7th February that season – but it was my first visit. However, amidst all the success of 2005/06, to put this match into context, we had just been smashed 3-0 at home on the Saturday by none other than Southend United ☹.

The U’s line-up that evening was:

13..Dean Gerken
5….Wayne Brown
16..George Elokobi (Kemi Izzet 89’)
18..Liam Chilvers
25..Sam Stockley
4….Neil Danns
6….Kevin Watson
7….Karl Duguid
28..Richard Garcia (Pat Baldwin 60’)
8….Gareth Williams (Jamie Guy 83’)
11..Chris Iwelumo

Parky wasn’t that much into the habit of resting players if he didn’t need to, so though this wasn’t quite our first XI, it was very close. The exception was probably Dean Gerken, no. 2 to regular goalkeeper Aidan Davison. However, Dean Gerken had played in all of the previous LDV fixtures and earned the right to be on the pitch, and would go on to make a very respectable 14 appearances in all competitions in a season with that much success. Swansea were managed by Kenny Jackett at the time, not one I’ve warmed too if I’m honest, but he has enjoyed reasonable success as a manager, though never threatening to break into consideration for top level management. The Swansea City team that evening were littered with names I’m sure we’ve all heard of, including Willy Gueret in goal, Garry Monk, Leon Britton, Kevin McLeod, Lee Trundle and of course Adebayo Akinfenwa. Kevin McLeod would of course go on to play two seasons for Colchester United, when he wasn’t otherwise occupied hosting Grand Designs.

This was a school night, and a fairly long two-hour trip there and back, so leaving the kids at home I drove over for this match. I remember being mightily impressed at the sight of the new stadium as I drove into Swansea from the M4, fully illuminated and gleaming brightly in the gathering dusk, and of course imagining “if only…”. Given there wasn’t expected to be a massive crowd for the match, and to spare the aggravation of driving around looking for free street parking and a long walk, I decided to park in the stadium car park – can’t remember how much it was at the time, but at least it was hassle-free. I don’t know the exact number, but by kick-off I reckon there must have been 250-300 U’s supporters there, not bad for a midweek match so far from Essex.

After humiliation at the hands of bitter rivals Southend on the Saturday, metaphorically leading us out into centre circle, pulling our shorts down and giving us a right good spanking in front of everyone, we needed a strong performance for this game. In what Parky would go on to say was “…a step in the right direction”, I’m pleased say I watched one. For the first half particularly we played very well indeed, more than a match for what was clearly a very good Swansea City side (they were 3rd in the league at the time, we were 4th).

In fact, but for an extremely harsh offside flag, Iwelumo would have headed the U’s into a thoroughly deserved 1-0 lead, but it was disallowed. He could have done it again, breaking clear with only Willy Gueret to beat, but Gueret did extremely well to block the effort. Sadly, it’s slim margins such as these that can win or lose a match, and five minutes before half-time an ever-threatening Swansea City showed how it should be done, when Akinfenwa expertly controlled a flick-on from none other than Kevin McLeod, turned inside and rolling the ball into the bottom of the net. Going into half-time 1-0 down, when we should have been 1-0 or even 2-0 up felt like a real punch in the guts, but everyone agreed if nothing else the performance was excellent.

There’s not a great deal I remember in detail about the second half, other than the U’s continued to play very well, more than a match for the most part with Swansea City, and certainly did not disgrace themselves. That being said, real chances were few and far between for most of the half, the only I can remember was Trundle running clear through late in the second half, only be denied by a good save from Gerken. And so the match finished 1-0, and whilst it was disappointing to lose, following a solid performance and with the home leg still to come, 1-0 wasn’t a complete disaster – 1-1 would have been so much better though.

Swansea City 1 (Adebayo Akinfenwa 40’) Colchester United 0

Post-match, and before the second leg, Phil Parkinson commented on the disallowed goal “I felt that the linesman got it wrong and that decision could cost us a trip to Cardiff”. The linesman had got it wrong, and given we didn’t perform well in the second leg and lost 2-1 at Layer Rd, perhaps he had. Heyho, we might have missed out on an LDV consolation trip to the Millennium Stadium, but at least we won the main prize – promotion to the Championship.

Swansea went on to win the trophy at the Millennium Stadium, beating Carlisle 2-1 in front of over 42,000, so perhaps PWK another one of those rare examples of the U’s going out to the eventual competition winners (albeit not in the FA Cup). There may be more non-FA Cup examples, so any suggestions gratefully received.

Whilst the U’s finished the season strongly, Swansea City stuttered and fell away, only just squeezing into the play-offs in 6th place. They did make the final, their second trip to the Millennium Stadium that season, but lost 4-3 on penalties after a 2-2 draw with Barnsley, this time in front of a whopping 55,419.

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Matches of Yesteryear - Yeovil v U's 30/9/17
at 13:53 10 Apr 2020

Good afternoon everyone, and first and foremost I must take the opportunity to wish you all a happy, healthy and most of all chocolicious Bank Holiday Easter weekend. This morning I should have been waking up in Langenhoe with all the kids, probably slightly muzzy-headed after my cousin’s wedding yesterday, and preparing for the journey home via Sixfields to watch the U’s bolster their promotion hopes. Needless to say, first the EFL, and then the wedding had to be postponed, so here I am still in North Wilts, though what a beautiful day it is!
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Matches of Yesteryear - Yeovil v U's 30/9/17
at 13:52 10 Apr 2020

Good afternoon everyone, and first and foremost I must take the opportunity to wish you all a happy, healthy and most of all chocolicious Bank Holiday Easter weekend. This morning I should have been waking up in Langenhoe with all the kids, probably slightly muzzy-headed after my nephew’s wedding yesterday, and preparing for the journey home via Sixfields to watch the U’s bolster their promotion hopes. Needless to say, first the EFL, and then the wedding had to be postponed, so here I am still in North Wilts, though what a beautiful day it is!

Yeovil Town v Colchester United
Saturday 30th September 2017
Sky Bet League 2 (Tier 4)
Attendance 2,556


Match #53 of the Matches of Yesteryear series, and we come (relatively) bang up to date with a short trip for me to Huish Park to watch the U’s take on Yeovil Town. My random match selector has thrown out yet another odd coincidence, given that the colu_official YouTube channel at 3pm this afternoon is premiering the 2005/06 promotion season video “Against All Odds”, which of course finished so magnificently at this very ground in front of an away terrace packed out with the U’s faithful (including most of us I’d imagine). Even if, like me, you already have the DVD, this is definitely worth a watch if you want something to cheer you up in these difficult times – so sit back, pour a cold one and enjoy!



Compared to May 2006, there were considerably fewer of the faithful at Huish Park for this match. The terrace may have been empty, but remarkably my solitary photo taken at the match, of that empty terrace, has also inadvertently captured dear departed Paul Wright in the process.


RIP Bingo

The U’s, managed of course by John McGreal, were entering their second successive season in the basement, after missing out on the play-offs the season before by one place and one point – sounds familiar sadly. There were the usual comings and goings during the summer, the most notable departees including Matt Briggs, previous season’s top scorer Chris Porter (to Crewe), Richard Brindley, big George Elokobi, and most controversially, Macca Bonne to Leyton Orient (easy there Gerry and Durham 😊). New arrivals included Ryan Jackson from Gillingham, Cole Kpekawa from Barnsley, and French striker Mikael Mandron from Wigan Athletic.

We hadn’t started our second attempt at promotion out of this league particularly well, losing five, drawing three and only winning twice – albeit one of those was the emphatic 5-1 demolition of new boys Forest Green Rovers. As a result, going into this match we were perched precariously outside the relegation zone, and still without recording an away victory, nor indeed even managing a clean sheet. Me and Alfie therefore drove down to this relatively local game unburdened by any outrageous anticipation, but perhaps just a simmering of hope – surely we had to turn a corner soon? I don’t have a programme from this game, but I do still have mine and Alfie’s ticket stubs.



The U’s line-up that day was:

1….Sam Walker
2….Ryan Jackson
22..Kane Vincent-Young
6….Frankie Kent (captain)
26..Ryan Inniss
8….Doug Loft (Brandon Comley 69’)
16..Sean Murray
7….Drey Wright
17..Kyel Reid
19..Mikael Mandron
21..Brandon Hanlan (Kurtis Guthrie 92’)

The big news, however, was after seven months out with an ankle injury, bête noire Kurtis Guthrie was finally on the bench for the U’s – and not a moment too soon according to his own social media outbursts. The obvious name of note in the Yeovil line-up that day was Colcestrian Omar Sowunmi. A product of the Ipswich Town academy, giant centre-back Sowunmi had loan spells at both Braintree and Lowestoft, before catching the eye of Glovers’ then manager Paul Sturrock in an Exeter City triallist match against Yeovil Town in the summer of 2015. Sturrock signed Sowunmi on the back of that, and by the time of this match he was on his second contract at Huish Park, under new manager Darren Way. Also in the Glovers’ line-up that day was former U’s Ryan Dickson, who had joined Yeovil after one season at Crawley, having left the U’s back in 2014.

The U’s started very brightly, though without really creating any clear-cut chances, and dominated the first fifteen minutes or so. We were doing our bit in the stand as well, there may have only been 150 or so of the faithful, but we were creating plenty of vocal encouragement for the U’s. Inevitably Yeovil started to get back into the match, with a deflected shot from Olomola and a 25-yard effort from Khan both going close but thankfully wide. They went closer a few minutes later, with a drilled on target free-kick from James pushed back out into play by Walker, and shortly after Olomola thought he’d scored, only for it to be disallowed for a foul by Sowunmi in the lead-up play.

That was the wake-up call we needed, and for the last fifteen minutes of the half it was all U’s, with Hanlan’s fine headed effort from a wicked Drey Wright cross desperately cleared off the line, and a similar effort from a Jackson cross creating mayhem in the Glovers’ defence shortly after. As half-time approached, our dominance was finally rewarded. A recycled ball by Murray was passed out wide to Kyel Reid on the left, he returned the favour back to Murray, who took a couple of steps before drilling low into the corner of the goal, passed the despairing dive of Yeovil goalkeeper Artur Kysiak, for his first goal for the U’s! We were in bedlam, particularly G-Man (who’s also in that photo btw), who as we all know had quite a thing for Murray! However, Yeovil were still a threat, and deep into injury-time nearly equalised from a Gray shot that Walker palmed away, Zoko’s follow-up effort deflected wide for a corner, and Nelson’s header from that corner going narrowly wide – but we held on until half-time.

The second half was considerably less memorable, and whilst Yeovil did create one or two half-chances, an effort from Bailey outside the box curling narrowly over for instance, these moments were few and far between. So much so that relatively early on in the second half the home support were already openly expressing their frustration at this lack of intent. If Yeovil were showing a lack of intent, you should have seen the U’s – clearly happy to just sit back and stifle the game. A reckless strategy at the best of times, particularly as we were only holding a slender 1-0 lead, but nervy as it was the U’s were just about controlling the game, and we were still in good voice supporting their efforts to do so.

Yeovil manager Darren Way had used all three substitutes during the second half in an attempt to inject some pace and urgency into his squad, but it was John McGreal bringing on Brandon Comley for Doug Loft that really made the biggest difference. In the final ten minutes, with Comley and particularly man-of-the-match Jackson making big nuisances of themselves, we came very close to doubling our lead on a number of occasions, including Mandron only inches away from connecting with a fine Jackson cross. The final meaningful attempt, however, fell to Sowunmi, who had the best chance of the half for Yeovil with only minutes to go, but he didn’t connect properly with a close-range header from a corner, and his effort thankfully went wide.

And then finally to the closing seconds, and after receiving great support during the pre-match and half-time warm-ups, Guthrie earned the second biggest cheer of the afternoon from the U’s faithful, as he came off the bench deep into injury-time. This was nothing more than game management by McGreal, but I remember thinking at the time it was nice that he’d chosen Guthrie for it. And so the match finished 1-0 to the U’s – our first away victory, our first clean sheet of the season, and a much merrier drive back to Wiltshire for me and the boy!

Yeovil Town 0 Colchester United 1 (Sean Murray 43’)

This was the start of much better things to come, and throughout the next three months the U’s would only lose two more matches, and firmly establish themselves as genuine promotion/ play-off contenders. However, as we know only too well, performances slipped into 2018, and after a pretty cataclysmic end to the season, losing four and drawing one of the last five matches, we finished well short in mid-table.

Although Sowunmi had fired blanks in this match for Yeovil, McGreal must have seen something he liked – and in truth he had been a handful. So much so that when the opportunity came last year he was signed by his hometown club for an undisclosed fee.

The match was recent enough that there’s still a highlights video on Youtube, so as a prelude to this afternoon’s main event, sit back and enjoy our first away win of that season.



Up the U’s
[Post edited 10 Apr 23:31]
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Matches of Yesteryear - U's v Swans 3/4/01
at 13:14 4 Apr 2020

Good afternoon everyone, North Wilts calling. We’ve all no doubt heard (and used) variations of the expression “strange times we’re going through” during this crisis. They certainly are, and without a doubt the term crisis is apt, with deaths and positive tests seemingly rising almost exponentially at the moment. But we’ll get through this, and when we do, I firmly believe as a society we’ll be better for it. We’ll be a society better connected to our family, friends and neighbours, and more caring for those that need support. More so, we'll be a society in tune with the concept that we don’t have to burn fossil fuels to conduct business, we do have the technology available to avoid it, we’ll all be pretty adept at using it, and will all be far more comfortable with using it. It's an ill wind...
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Matches of Yesteryear - U's v Swans 3/4/01
at 13:13 4 Apr 2020

Good afternoon everyone, North Wilts calling. We’ve all no doubt heard (and used) variations of the expression “strange times we’re going through” during this crisis. They certainly are, and without a doubt the term crisis is apt, with deaths and positive tests seemingly rising almost exponentially at the moment. But we’ll get through this, and when we do, I firmly believe as a society we’ll be better for it. We’ll be a society better connected to our family, friends and neighbours, and more caring for those that need support. More so, we'll be a society in tune with the concept that we don’t have to burn fossil fuels to conduct business, we do have the technology available to avoid it, we’ll all be pretty adept at using it, and will all be far more comfortable with using it. It's an ill wind...

Colchester United v Swansea City
Saturday 3rd April 2001
Nationwide League Division 2 (Tier 3)
Attendance 2,886


Match #52 of the series, and by a spooky coincidence the random match selector has picked a game almost on this day, as we go back exactly 19 years and one day to a home fixture against Swansea City. Of course it shouldn’t have been, as the game should have been our New Year’s Day fixture, but was postponed back then because of frost. As were two other successive home games during that period, meaning after our 3-2 home victory over lowly Oxford United on December 22nd, our next home match wasn’t until Millwall visited on February 6th (and they won).

The U’s were managed by Steve Whitton, in his first full season in charge, and we were coming to the end of our third consecutive season back in the 3rd tier of professional football. A decent run leading up to Christmas had raised my hopes of making the play-offs. However, those hopes were cruelly dashed by a massive reality check on Boxing Day when Millwall destroyed us 6-1 at the New Den (and they scored all seven goals too). This was followed by a simply dreadful January, February and early March, winning just twice in 11 matches. Thereafter, my focus was for the U’s to get mathematically safe first and foremost, and then worry about consolidating our position mid-table – going into this game we were 14th on 48pts.



U’s legend Kemi Izzet had only recently arrived at Layer Road, on a one-month loan from Charlton Athletic. Apart from knowing he was the younger brother of well-known Leicester player Muzzy Izzet, I confess I didn’t know much about him at the time. But, he had apparently made a decent impression for his loan debut, coming on for an injured Joey Keith in the first half of our 3-1 home victory over Luton Town the previous Saturday, so I was looking forward to seeing what he was made of.

This is another midweek match that I’m struggling to recall why I found myself at Layer Rd, particularly as at the time I was supposedly managing our large team up on the M6 Toll (we knew it then as the Birmingham Northern Relief Road). If I had access to my work diaries, which are currently on a shelf in my office, I might have more of a clue, but unfortunately I don’t and I’m sure you all know the reason why. However, my calendar for that year says simply “Wick Court” for all of the week, and whilst I can’t for the life of me remember either the site or where on earth it was, it must have been somewhere reasonably close enough to Essex for me to make an evening journey over for the match?

The U’s line-up that night was:

29..Andy Woodman
7….Karl Duguid
4….Gavin Johnson
6….Simon Clark
19..Alan White
26..Scott Fitzgerald
20..Micky Stockwell
18..Aaron Skelton (Joe Dunne 82’)
24..Kem Izzet
28..Barry Conlon (Dean Morgan 89’)
9….Scott McGleish (Steve McGavin 87’)

Swansea City, under manager John Hollins, were really struggling at the wrong end of the table, 15pts from safety even then, and only kept of the bottom by an even more woeful Oxford United. John Hollins, as a player, was a very talented midfielder/ full-back, who distinguished himself with a long and successful career at Chelsea (mainly), QPR and Arsenal, making a combined record total of 714 top-flight appearances. With a career that emphatic, he really should have had more than just one solitary England cap on his CV. Inevitably, his first taste of management came at Chelsea, initially as coach in 1985, and then taking over the manager role after John Neal’s retirement. He eventually arrived at Swansea City in 1998, after very briefly rekindling his playing career at Cobh Rangers (one appearance), and had definitely established himself as a fans favourite.

Having established I really have no recollection why I was at Layer Rd, it will come as no surprise that I similarly have very little recollection of the actual match details. I know I was Barside with my brother-in-law, so I presume that means we had a drink in the Drury beforehand. Even without the benefit of online soccer stats, I do remember is was a fairly sparsely populated Layer Rd that night, and at under 3k, I wasn’t wrong.

Piecing together what I can remember and what I can find online, Kemi Izzet started very brightly, and was already showing those terrier-like midfield attributes that we would grow to love. On 20 minutes, Swans veteran goalkeeper Roger Freestone kept out a decent effort from Izzet, only for Barry Conlon to power home a header as a result. Not much else to report from a tense reasonably close first half, so the U’s went in 1-0 up at half-time.

Although possibly already beyond any chance of avoiding relegation, the Swans came out for the second half as if their lives depended on it. Andy Woodman was called upon to save several clear-cut chances for Swansea during the opening period of the second half, and twice they also rattled crossbar with Woodman beaten, including a great strike from Venezuelan Giovanni Savarese just after the hour, on loan at the time from that powerhouse of world football, San Jose Earthquakes.

The pressure wasn’t doing much for my nerves – we still after all needed a few points to be absolutely certain of safety – so imagine my relief when Scott McGleish, breaking clear from the almost constant Swansea City pressure, rounded Freestone a minute later to put the U’s 2-0 up. Relief and high-fives all round, and that really took the sting out of the pressure from a now deflated and dispirited Swansea City. Joe Dunne came on with less than ten minutes to go, to further bolster a tenacious midfield already benefiting from Izzet’s presence, and we looked to be cruising to a comfortable 2-0 victory.

However, Freestone had other ideas, and following a howler gifting the ball to super Scotty, McGleish picked out Barry Conlon in the box for an easy tap in and his second goal. That was that for Swansea City, and with substitutions for man-of-the-match Scott McGleish and his strike partner Barry Conlon virtually straight after, the U’s comfortably held on to win 3-0.

Colchester United 3 (Barry Conlon 20’, 86’; Scott McGleish 64’) Swansea City 0

With the benefit of hindsight, we know that for this season, 52 points was going to guarantee safety, so despite this thumping victory over relegation-doomed Swansea City, we still weren’t quite there – one more point was needed. That duly arrived a fortnight later, in a bruising 2-2 draw at home to Posh, with new boy Izzet getting one of the goals, and we went on to finish 17th on 58pts. Not exactly a rip-roaring success, but a marginal improvement on our previous season finishing 18th on 52pts, so there was always that as a positive.

Swansea weren’t so fortunate and were inevitably relegated on just 37pts – very poor indeed, but considerably better than Oxford United, who could only manage a paltry 27pts, and they were joined in relegation by Luton Town and Bristol Rovers. As a south west based exile, all four were teams normally on my radar for an away day, so I wasn’t too chuffed. Hollins was sacked as a result of this relegation, and moved to Rochdale for the 2001/02 season, taking them to the play-offs – after haggling over his new contract following that success, he was notoriously sacked by fax in the summer.

This was technically the final appearance of Kemi Izzet for his first spell at Colchester United, but when his loan period expired a week or so later, we snapped him up on a free transfer, and he went on to make 471 appearances for the U’s in a career that spanned 13 seasons!


A true U’s legend

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Latest statement from Robbie...
at 22:14 2 Apr 2020

...and a pretty uplifting one at that - made me smile!

https://www.cu-fc.com/news/2020/april/club-statement---covid-19-latest/
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Matches of Yesteryear - U's v Macclesfield 4/4/92
at 14:33 28 Mar 2020

Good afternoon everyone, I sincerely hope you are all doing well? Today would have been a vital home match against Mansfield, struggling at the wrong end of the league this time after a couple of seasons flattering to deceive at the sharp end. Since the last blog, we now know that all football below the National League is cancelled, and the season expunged from records. A tough break for the likes of Jersey Bulls in the Combined Counties League Division 1, who had won all of their 27 matches and already promoted, but then these are very strange times indeed. I sincerely hope the EFL season can be completed somehow, but I’m increasingly pessimistic about whether it will be.
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Matches of Yesteryear - U's v Macclesfield 4/4/92
at 14:31 28 Mar 2020

Good afternoon everyone, I sincerely hope you are all doing well? Today would have been a vital home match against Mansfield, struggling at the wrong end of the league this time after a couple of seasons flattering to deceive at the sharp end. Since the last blog, we now know that all football below the National League is cancelled, and the season expunged from records. A tough break for the likes of Jersey Bulls in the Combined Counties League Division 1, who had won all of their 27 matches and already promoted, but then these are very strange times indeed. I sincerely hope the EFL season can be completed somehow, but I’m increasingly pessimistic about whether it will be.

Colchester United v Macclesfield Town
Saturday 4th April 1992
FA Trophy (Semi-Final 1st leg)
Attendance 5,443


Match #51 of the series, and we return to happier times, albeit given the U’s under Big Roy McDonough were in their second consecutive season playing in the Conference. As well as riding high in the league, we were doing pretty well in the FA Trophy as well, and for this match faced Macclesfield Town in the first leg of the semi-final, and just two games away from what would be a first trip to Wembley. This was our second season attempting success in this competition, the previous finishing somewhat ignobly with a 2-0 home defeat to Witton Albion in the quarter-final.



Cup fever was gripping the town, and with Wembley in our sights, the programme featured a rousing article about our famous 1947/48 FA Cup run. Back then, we were the first non-league side to reach the 5th round of the FA Cup, and the programme recalled that moment by reproducing a number of cartoons from that time that had featured in the national press. Though a few teams have since equalled our record, it would take until 2017 before Lincoln City finally went one further and reached the quarter-finals.



I drove over for this game on my own (my partner was pregnant at the time with my first child), and after lunch at Mum’s headed over to the game with my brother-in-law. It was a long time ago, and although I remember the occasion extremely well, the precise details of the match are rather more hazy – though fortunately there are plenty of bits of reference material about to help. I certainly do remember it was a bright dry day, a very boisterous Drury was packed out before the match, as was Layer Rd when we finally got in, with nearly 5,500 jammed in (our biggest home crowd of the season at the time). Layer Rd was so packed out in fact that the kick-off was delayed by ten minutes to try and get everyone in. As well as a programme, I’m not 100% certain but this might have been the first time I also bought a Colchester United fanzine (“Out Of The Blue” – Issue 9) – it’s certainly the earliest U’s fanzine I still have, that’s for sure.



We had opened our 1991/92 Conference campaign back in August ’91 with a home game against Macclesfield, which the U’s had won 2-0. Going into this match we were of course top of the Conference, but as we know, with Wycombe breathing hard down our necks – and to say it was already a two-horse race was a bit of an understatement. I think, at the time, Redbridge in 3rd place were something like 20 points behind the U’s? Macclesfield were having an indifferent season, floating around mid-table, with no real likelihood of relegation, and certainly no chance whatsoever of going anywhere in the opposite direction.

Remarkably, as it rarely seems to happen, the U’s lined up exactly as listed on the back of the programme:

1….Scott Barrett
2….Warren Donald
3….Paul Roberts
4….Mark Kinsella
5….Tony English
6….Dave Martin
7….Jason Cook (Eamonn Collins 75’)
8….Ian Stewart (Garry Bennett 70’)
9….Roy McDonough
10..Steve McGavin
11..Nicky Smith

Managed by long-standing manager Peter Wragg, and without any disrespect to Macclesfield Town, none of their team that day stand out to me as notable names. A handful had football league experience, including goalkeeper Mike Farrelly (at PNE) and Mark Dempsey (Man U apprentice, and played with Sheffield United, Rotherham, Swindon and Chesterfield), but the Silkmen were widely considered as no slouches in non-league football. If nothing else, they knew their way around this cup competition, winning the inaugural 1970 Wembley final 2-0 over Telford United in front of over 28,000. They’d been there more recently too, just three years earlier, and again against Telford, though they lost that one 1-0. In the Conference, they were also known for their well-marshalled defence, with only the U’s and Wycombe conceding fewer goals at the time of this match.

Despite Macclesfield’s non-league pedigree and robust defence, no one was really expecting anything other than a U’s victory, and probably a comfortable one at that (bookies were already listing us as 5-4 on favourites to win the trophy). However, there is such a thing as complacency, and early on Macclesfield reminded us of that, when Askey should have done better from inside the penalty area than shoot straight at Scott Barrett. For the opening twenty minutes or so, it was a fairly even competition, neither side really carving out clear-cut chances.

Then, on 23 minutes that all changed – Dave Martin passed a free-kick to Ian Stewart, who tried to then feed it on to McGavin in a threating position. However, the ball struck the referee, rebounded perfectly back to Stewart, who delightfully took this huge slice of good fortune and drilled it past a wrong-footed Farrelly in the Macclesfield goal. Layer Road erupted, and the roars were still echoing around the ground when less than two minutes later it was 2-0. Another somewhat fortuitous goal, Tony English and Big Roy played a clever one-two, after a foul on McGavin was played on for advantage, with Tony’s shot deflecting off defender Hanlon and into the back of the net. We were now in uproar, everyone expecting the U’s goal-machine would just roll on and absolute demolish Macclesfield. However, they were made of sterner stuff that day, and not only managed to stifle our attacking threat, but actually get themselves back in the game.

In the early stages of the second half, with still no more goals, it was actually Macclesfield who came closest to scoring next. Askey almost atoned for his miss in the first half, intercepting an under hit back pass to Barrett, but Scott did well to race out and spread himself to prevent a goal. For Macclesfield, worse was to come not long after, with Askey this time turning provider, lifting a beautifully weighted cross over Barrett for what looked like an easy tap-in for Andy Green – but he somehow contrived to let the ball slide under his foot and the opportunity was lost.

By now, we were getting really nervous, jittery even. A 2-0 victory in the first leg would be okay, but not insurmountable, and a 2-1 home victory (or worse) could be a disaster. However, cometh the hour, cometh the man, and three minutes later we were all breathing a bit easier. With a long-throw aimed at him, I’d say McDonough made a bit more of a meal of the pressure from his marker Edwards than was really there, but it worked and the referee pointed to the spot. Who else but Roy McDonough to step up – he’d earned the penalty, he was taking it, and sending Farrelly the wrong way, hammered it into the corner of the goal.


Wembley here we come! (© EADT)

From then to the end of the match the noise was deafening, the sense of relief was palpable, surely we’d done enough now to book our first visit to Wembley! Big Roy dabbled in a bit of game management, replacing Stewart with Gary Bennett straight after his goal, and then five minutes later bringing on Eamonn Collins for Jason Cook, and we held on for a comfortable 3-0 first leg lead. According to Graeson’s ColUData website ( https://www.coludata.co.uk/) this would turn out to be Eamonn’s last appearance in a U’s shirt.

Colchester United 3 (Ian Stewart 23’, Tony English 25’, Roy McDonough 70’) Macclesfield Town 0

Spoiler Alert: We had done enough, and as I couldn’t join the army of 800 U’s fans making the long trip to Moss Rose for the second leg the following Friday night, and it won’t therefore feature in this series, I’m happy to report the U’s drew 1-1. It was nervy mind, with Macclesfield taking the lead early on, but Jason Cook levelled the scores in first half injury-time, and the U’s comfortably kept out a deflated Macclesfield in the second half.

Incidentally, the second leg should have been played on the Saturday afternoon (and I should have been there), but it was bought forward to avoid clashing with Chester City’s home game against Birmingham. Yep, you read that right, back then Chester City were in the old Third Division, alongside teams like Birmingham, West Brom, Huddersfield and Fulham.

From Issue 9 of “Out Of The Blue”, and for a bit of fun, there’s a crossword on pages 4-5 that’ll have you scratching your heads – it probably would have been fairly easy back then, but a completely different kettle of fish 28 years later – good luck brainiacs! (you might have to zoom in a bit though)



Up the U’s
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Latest statement from Robbie...
at 19:19 23 Mar 2020

...for those that haven't seen it.

https://www.cu-fc.com/news/2020/march/club-statement/?fbclid=IwAR2ljVGMBtn2wQz_N

All seems eminently sensible, provided we actually get any choice in the matter that is.
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