I listened to the away game against Norwich live on the radio. This was almost as punishing as watching live. At times the team seem to come alive and make you think they can do something special. 2-0 down and then they wake up, score a goal, create several more chances and then camp in Norwich's penalty area for corner-kick practice just before half-time. Then in the second half it's a different team that emerges. The fight has gone out of them. Three more goals conceded and it's all over. To make things worse our leading striker from last season nets a hat-trick.
Therein lies the problem I'm afraid. Players from last season who no longer pull on the blue and white stripes for us. Cureton and Iwelumo plundered every defence on our behalf and scored a combined 41 league goals. Now they 'grace' the colours of Norwich and Charlton respectively. So far they have scored 22 between them with only a handful of games left. They have both had an impact in games against us. Garcia and Brown followed the money to Hull who now occupy a play-off place - like we also did last time for a while. Halford has been travelling the country (Reading, Sunderland, Charlton) seeking fame and fortune - one out of two can't be bad. Barker and Ephraim (both on loan last year) have now turned their stripes into hoops at QPR.
So that's last season - what about this season? Let's look at the team that strode out on the first game of the campaign at Brammal Lane. Six of the eleven are not currently in contention - Elokobi and Connolly are playing elsewhere, while Duguid, McLeod, Yeates and Sheringham (remember that famous U's player?) are all injured. I'm losing count of the centre halves that we keep breaking (Coyne and Heath). Long term injuries to Davison, Watson and Cousins. Not forgetting short term loanee Izale McLeod.
How many of the first starting line up at Sheffield United also started the match at Norwich this week? Three. Gerken, Jackson, Izzet. If you add in the substitutes I can find two more, Baldwin and White who have both struggled to command regular places.
Against this backdrop of defections and injuries how can any manager be expected to deliver the same results as last season, unless he has a solid squad of enough players to field two strong starting teams? Our current plight is not the manager's fault. It's partly circumstances, partly down to money, and partly the fact that Colchester have been unlucky with the amount of injuries. That doesn't mean the players are excused from turning up and performing for their employer every week.