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Letters from Wiltshire #33
at 13:09 21 Feb 2021

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.
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Letters from Wiltshire #32
at 17:46 15 Feb 2021

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 the greatest cup giant-killing ever!
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Letters from Wiltshire #31
at 18:29 6 Feb 2021

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.
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Letters from Wiltshire #30
at 18:37 30 Jan 2021

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…
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Letters from Wiltshire #29
at 18:50 27 Jan 2021

Looks like some around the world have started 2021 a bit cross. Never mind the attempted insurrection at the Capitol earlier this month, those normally laid-back Dutch have now been rioting for three nights running about the imposition of a night-time curfew to try and curb the spread of coronavirus. Farmers in Delhi have stormed through police lines and breached the Red Fort in protest against market reforms, and tragic Somalia has just passed the 30th anniversary of their ongoing civil war. In brighter news, President Biden has immediately begun dismantling and/or reversing some of Trump’s more contentious decisions, including rejoining the Paris Climate Accord, renewed funding for the World Health Organisation, revoking the ‘Muslim travel ban’, defunding the border wall, rescinding Trump’s report calling for a ‘more patriotic’ syllabus in schools, and overturning the ban on transgender people serving in the military.
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Letters from Wiltshire #28
at 18:18 24 Jan 2021

It’s difficult to think about quite how to write this editorial, without appearing mawkish. On Sunday 17th February 671 people succumbed to coronavirus, with the 7-day average creeping just above 1,000 deaths. On that day, one of those was someone very dear to me, who died in Watford General Hospital of Covid-19 pneumonia. Idiots and conspiracy-theorists will tell you there’s no plague, or that masks infringe their civil liberties, or some other form of spurious non-science bullsh*t, so do me a favour – if they say this to you, please punch them on the f’cking nose for me, and say that’s from Wessex – thank you.
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Letters from Wiltshire #27
at 16:01 16 Jan 2021

Welcome to 2021, and hopefully a vaccine-driven start to a much better year for everyone – which as you can guess was going to be my introduction two weeks ago. From a selfish perspective, hopefully an improved year for the U’s as well that sees us cement at the very least a play-off spot, but why stop there – don’t mess around with the lottery of play-offs, go straight for it with automatic promotion (who am I kidding). First up in that quest is a tough match against Tranmere Rovers Cambridge United, and no longer with Chuck to help us out. Still, set up for Jevani to put one over on his former club.
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Letters from Wiltshire #26
at 18:18 29 Dec 2020

Well, after a piss-poor Xmas period so far for the U’s, culminating in the Roots Hall horror show on Boxing Day, let’s hope the U’s have burned off those festive calories and are raring to go. They’ll certainly have to be at their best against a Cheltenham side aiming to force their way into the automatic promotion places. In other news, we now finally have confirmation that there will be a trade deal in place with the EU once Brexit arrives in 2021. It remains to be seen whether it’s a good deal or not, and more to the point, who for, but at least it’s not the economic uncertainty of no-deal.
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Letters from Wiltshire #25
at 12:30 24 Dec 2020

A little earlier than usual, but as we approach the end of what has been a most difficult year for everyone, I’ll keep the introductory editorial brief, as I’m sure you will all be very busy in the coming days rescuing what you can from this pandemic-ravaged festive period. I simply wish you all peace on earth, goodwill to all (yes, even our South Essex cousins), and here’s to a happy, prosperous and most importantly healthy 2021 for us all.
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Letters from Wiltshire #24
at 14:39 19 Dec 2020

Welcome to our last match before Christmas. With South Essex going into Tier 3, by the time we take to the pitch at Roots Hall, it’ll be another behind-closed-doors match. With the Tier 3 boundary creeping inexorably closer, one wonders how long the JobServe will hold out and still be able to allow fans to attend. Robbie is doing all he can to make it possible for supporters to attend, and I confess I’m seriously considering our January 2nd match against Tranmere. In other news, I’m relieved to read that the FA will not take disciplinary action against Colchester United after a shameful minority chose to boo players and officials taking the knee, in the words of the EFL “as they highlight the inequality and injustice experienced by the Black Community”. I noticed a tiny minority chose to boo at our mid-week match at the Abbey Stadium, but I was pleased to hear they were immediately drowned out by the remainder of the 2,000 cheering and applauding. I admit I’m a little anxious about today…
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Letters from Wiltshire #23
at 17:58 15 Dec 2020

As I’ve been providing updates on the ongoing US presidential election, it is worth mentioning that the Electoral College votes have now been cast, which formally confirms Biden as the new President-elect. Normally a formality, as the losing candidate has usually long-since conceded defeat, but these are far from normal times, and America has far from a normal lame-duck President. Still, at least the threat of members of the Electoral College ignoring the popular vote in favour of an outcome demanded by Trump has failed to materialise. In the UK, new Covid tiers were announced this week, with London going into Tier 3. Colchester stays in Tier 2, but only just, with as far north east as Maldon, Braintree and Chelmsford also moving into Tier 3 – and as if you need reminding, Tier 3 means no supporters at matches.
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Letters from Wiltshire #22
at 14:42 12 Dec 2020

Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat…hence I’m a bit late today, following the inevitable Christmas tree hunt – the decorating will have to wait until later I reckon. In the news, despite my confident assurance several weeks ago that Trump appeared to be grudgingly starting to accept that he had lost the US presidency election, he’s since doubled-down on his baseless accusations of election fraud – without obviously providing a single shred of evidence to back it up (and how could he, there isn’t any). His latest apoplectic tirade, just today, follows the Supreme Court telling Texas just where they can stick their egregious lawsuit demanding that Biden’s victories in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin and Georgia be thrown out in favour of Trump. From a global perspective, it is deeply troubling that no less than 126 republican congressional representatives signed an amicus brief supporting the challenge. Trump will leave the White House in January, but they will stay at the heart of the US government, and I don’t think that’s good news for democracy, nor even the rest of the world. Ho hum…
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Letters from Wiltshire #21
at 18:01 9 Dec 2020

So here we are. What should have been a celebration of the faithful returning to the stadium, a fantastic debut by our new junior Junior (just 16 years of age), and indeed a hard-fought victory against tough opposition, has unfortunately been overshadowed by a very small minority who decided to boo our multi-racial team who ALL chose to take a knee against racism. Needless to say, following on from a similarly reaction from the notoriously intolerant Millwall supporters, we’re now on the front page of football websites. Thankfully, this has been in the context of our Chairman’s splendid response, which basically said if you don’t like it, go away because we don’t want you – bravo Robbie Cowling!
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Letters from Wiltshire #20
at 16:00 5 Dec 2020

And finally, for now, we see football supporters return to stadia to watch elite football…well, those that aren’t in Covid-19 Tier 3 anyway. After some of the more recent performances, there are no doubt many of the faithful that would question the moniker ‘elite’, so let’s hope the U’s respond with some pride and passion today. With Essex in Tier 2, that would allow up to 2,000 in attendance, but Robbie (sensibly in my opinion) has currently restricted capacity to just 1,000 whilst he assesses how effective the measures that have been put in place will be to ensure fans stay safe. Whether we get 1,000 in remains to be seen – when the restriction was announced we had 540 season permit holders, I don’t know if we’ve sold any more since, and I severely doubt all of the permit holders we already have will attend. But, whether its 100 or 1,000, it’ll be refreshing to at least hear some crowd noise on the iFollow stream.
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Letters from Wiltshire #19
at 11:19 1 Dec 2020

Within the football world, we’re all painfully aware that football clubs are at considerable risk because of the financial pressure resulting from the coronavirus pandemic. Worryingly, outside the football bubble, it is clear that retailers too are now feeling the pinch, with Debenhams looking likely to close with the lose of 12,000 jobs, and Arcadia (owner of Topshop, Burton and Dorothy Perkins) going into administration with debts of apparently £30m, putting another 13,000 jobs at risk. Needless to say, the world of social media has stepped in, reminding those that care that Sir Philip Green, owner of Arcadia, was seen earlier this week relaxing on his £100m superyacht – make of that what you will.
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Letters from Wiltshire #18
at 18:20 24 Nov 2020

Trump has finally conceded defeat, albeit in a childlike, begrudging and typically ungracious manner, but at least things are moving on now, and hopefully the beginning of a new, less adversarial era in world affairs. There was an interesting article on one of the news websites this morning looking at how the transition for other administrations have gone – none as poorly (so far) as this, but still some amusing anecdotes nevertheless. Apparently, ahead of George W Bush taking up residence, the departing Clinton team went around the White House removing all the W’s from keyboards – very childish, but quite funny too…
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Letters from Wiltshire #17
at 17:30 20 Nov 2020

So I never actually imagined more than two weeks after the event that Trump and his attack-dog “Hot Mess” Giuliani would still be refusing to acknowledge that Biden has won the US Presidential election, but there you have it. Closer to home, we are just past halfway through our circuit-breaker 4-week lockdown, and most of the graphs suggest things are slowly improving, but nowhere near a rate that would see figures return to the pre-October levels. Much closer to home, Alfie has been in self-isolation for the last 14 days because one of his teachers tested positive – delighted to say we have both passed through that period without developing symptoms…and without killing each other either 😊
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Letters from Wiltshire #16
at 14:02 14 Nov 2020

Good morning everyone. Outside the football bubble, and across the pond, we have the soon to be ex-President of the United States walled up in his White House bunker, inexorably going through the Kübler-Ross 5 stages of grief…and in a particularly undignified and un-statesman like manner. Clearly we’ve had Denial by the bucket-load, Anger as he lashes out firing those he perceives as disloyal, Bargaining as his legal team try and force recounts of perfectly valid election results, and no doubt a huge amount of Depression as he sulked in silence for the best part of a week. Now perhaps, as he nearly slips up when eventually breaking radio silence to address the press, we see the beginnings of Acceptance. If I’m honest, I’d be quite happy for Trump to keep this up and make the transition as embarrassing as possible for himself and his supporters – and if the police could eventually drag him out of the White House in hand-cuffs, all the better.
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Letters from Wiltshire #15
at 18:22 10 Nov 2020

Well, there’s a turn up for the books, the mighty U’s unceremoniously dumped out of the FA Cup by lowly Marine AFC, four tiers below us in the league pyramid. These things happen, and we’ve done it to others on more than a few occasions, but the manner of the result on Saturday is what rankles the most. Virtually our strongest line-up available, but the complete lack of any urgency right from the outset was dreadful to see. Even as we reached squeaky bum time into the 2nd half, having drawn level, still we ponderously passed aimless triangles in midfield for far too long. Someone has to pay for that debacle, so let’s hope it’s the auld enemy Southend tonight in the Pointless Trophy…
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Letters from Wiltshire #14
at 12:02 7 Nov 2020

Welcome to Lockdown #2, and as I write this blog, an as yet uncertain future with the orange loon threatening to refuse to hand over the keys to the White House and calling on all his white supremacist mates to rise up in arms. Moving on swiftly from chump to champ, Chairman Robbie has again addressed the U’s faithful, with another clear, concise statement on the current situation and how it may or may not affect Colchester United. I know in the past he hasn’t been everyone’s cup of tea, but I do think an awful lot of people are warming to him because of the leadership he has shown through this crisis, and long may it last!
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