Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Final Visit

I made my final visit to Layer Road today, to collect my seat. It's funny that I call it 'my' seat. I never really owned it, just the right to sit in it. But anyway, since I didn't win anything in the auction at the weekend I decided to take up the club's kind offer so that I have my own memento of Layer Road.

It was a strange sight that met me at the ground. Heavy el
ectric cables snaking across the ground, large strips of turf missing from the playing area, turnstiles ready for collection, very few signs left behind, and the Barside crush barriers had been removed. I had visions of the Col U faithful having been finally unleashed onto the playing surface and wandering around the ground looking for some away supporters to insult.

I chatted with a few people who were also there assisting with the last rites. One gentleman was lifting some turf to place on the grave of a friend (a Colchester United supporter). For me that was probably the most appropriate use of the hallowed playing surface. I'm not particularly religious but I do wonder if all those people whose ashes have been scattered here have been considered in the move. Will their spirits move with us to Cuckoo Farm?

After wandering aimlessly myself around parts of the pitch and the back alleys and then sitting in the stands for a few moments it was time to leave. I was sure I could hear the faint sound of music playing somewhere in the distance - 'Danny Boy' I think.

"Don't look back" someone once said - look forward, onward, Onward Christian Soldiers - sorry, I'm going down the religious path again. But then, football IS a religion. It stirs up emotions in much the same way. Most wars are fought over a religious issue or belief. I believe we can win the League this year. Bring on Southend, Leeds, Millwall, Gillingham, and all the rest. It's off to Cuckoo Farm for the next campaign. What time's the next bus?

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Sunday, 20 July 2008

Final Layer Auction

So the time has come for the crown jewels to be sold off. I'm sure we'll get a lot of detail in due course about the value of each item - that's the value according to the 500 or so that turned up at Layer Road on Sunday (20th July). It was more like a treasure hunt at times. The auctioneer and his henchmen darted into offices, changing rooms, behind the stands and onto the pitch but not into any of the WCs or the boardroom, and they just daren't set foot inside the Barside stand.

There were some unusual purchases (in terms of prices paid). The goal posts and net at the Layer Road end (once the domain of the home fans, but not in recent history) fetched a measly £10, but the same equipment at the Clock end fell for £180.

How about a shed with no floor, half buried in weeds and hedges, and with a filing cabinet inside. A bargain at £10, yet only 10 yards away a catering hut complete with lock on the door (so we couldn't look inside) fell for £2. Surely the lock is worth that alone - unless they've lost the key.

Chatting with a few people we shared the concern that the two penalty spots were a bit worn and despite each one achieving the same amount of £8, what happens to the worn out circles? Will the new owners be tempted to re-seed them? Surely the most intriguing contrast of purchases was the timber catering shed fixed to Terrace 4 a snip at £2, yet the sign proclaiming this as 'Terrace 4' was keenly fought over and finally succumbed for £110.

I've mentioned the crown jewels and I know there's been some stuff about this in the media already. I happen to agree that a number of items shouldn't have been in the sale. One can only hope that they will find their way back to the home of CUFC through kind donations. I'm sure that will happen in the case of Lot 341 (framed and glazed picture of FA Cup 5th Round 1971 - Col U v Leeds). I know this because I heard both of the main bidders earlier in the day speak of their desire to purchase it and loan it back to the club. It's a shame they didn't speak to each other since they raised the final value from around £200 to £400 on their bids alone and the end result was always going to be the same.

I think there may be a surprise for one purchaser who got the staircase from the first floor level up to the commentary box for about a tenner. The catalogue shows this as INCLUDING the commentary box. Surprising omissions were Wickes' shed and wall (from the absurd half-time 'entertainments'). Please don't tell me we are in for repeat performances of these next season? There must be an alternative. Please! I'll buy them now just to stop them being used again. Please!

Anyway an eventful day which has now come and gone and there's just one more entry to make in this blog later in the week. Some season ticket holders have been offered their seats for free, so I have to make one more journey back to collect my dues. I've always felt that the stadium has had an enormous effect on visitors and that's been one of the major factors that has influenced performances here over the years. To own just a small part of the infrastructure that has brought Leeds United and Ipswich Town to their knees is priceless.

Saturday, 31 May 2008

Point of no return

It's strange to be thinking of points during the close season. Well, it's our close season anyway. I guess you can argue that our season continued until at least until after the play-offs so we know who we are playing next season. I have to confess some satisfaction that Doncaster made it to the Championship. I'm not that excited for THEM, it's just that Southend stay down and we get another couple of local encounters. Even better is the fact that Leeds are also still down and we can re-live our past encounters with them.

I know I've been a bit keen on comments about basic coaching skills, but there's a chap in the Premiership who's getting paid more money than our whole squad, and he doesn't know how to take penalties. After the Beckham soft turf encounter a few years ago you'd expect any other England captain to be extra vigilant. Hey, it was raining and that made the grass wet. Now how on earth did he get to slip and fall on his a**e in front of all those people, live on TV across the globe, in allegedly the top match of the season (actually our home game against Ipswich takes that crown). Well we just have to accept that when it comes to the credit crunch even the most highly paid footballers suffer from nerves at a crucial moment. Just how much time and effort has been ploughed into coaching that man?

Talking of Chelsea, we do have to feel sorry for that bunch of swingers. Runners-up in the Carling Cup, Runners-up in the Premiership, Runners-up in Europe. That's an unsuccessful season apparently. Reminds me of a struggling Yorkshire club called Leeds United in 1970. They were runners-up in the top flight, runners-up in the FA Cup and bombed out in the semi-finals in Europe. Look what happened to them. We live in hope for our current 'big four'.

Back to the 'point' of this little end of season rambling. I got to thinking if there was a point when we could actually say we were never going to play at Layer Road ever again. A point of no return perhaps. You might say it has already passed. The evidence is quite compelling. The new stadium is underway and nearing completion and the club has told everyone they are moving in the summer. Isn't this just like any other house move? What if Southend came in at the last minute and made a better offer? Could they play there?

OK, so the floodlights have been re-erected at the new site - perhaps that just means we wouldn't be able to play evening matches at Layer Road. The goalposts have been taken down - that happens at the end of every season. Layer Road has been put up 'For Sale' - just testing the market chaps. Lots of people do that to see what they are worth.

The evidence to the contrary? Well the offices and shop are still in Layer Road. There's no grass on the new pitch yet and only a handful of seats. Maybe they are ony installing the seats as the season ticket applications come in. Let's face it - it's still a building site. and the road signs are still in place around Layer Road together with their match-day parking restrictions.

So what is going to be the defining moment, the point at which we can consign 'Layer Road' itself to the club's Hall of Fame, when we can really start to re-plan our travel arrangements for match days. I'm not sure either, but I'll tell you here when I think it's happened.