Saturday, 26 April 2008

Match 23 - Stoke

Not too many words this time. I'll let the photos tell the story. There was a football match, but that was a non-event. Neither team played particularly attractive football. Whilst the Col U Faithful were correct to point out that the away fans 'have only got one song', it was also true that the away team had only one tactic - a long throw into the box. So there you have it. For 87 minutes you could have gone to sleep and missed nothing of any interest to the home support.

The final 3 minutes were a bit different, with attack upon attack by the U's, but it didn't change the result. Stoke won 1-0. Their fans thought they'd clinched autmatic promotion but about the same time as Colchester woke up, so did Hull and they have a chance of spoiling it. Stoke went top of the division. Colchester are now firmly rooted to the bottom, and next week's 'cup final' against Scunthorpe is now meaningless - we will still be bottom, no matter what happens.
[picture: The band are in the tunnel ... ... ...]

Today was a media circus day. 6,300 of us were invited to watch the media parading themselves in front of us, while we watched (sitting and standing patiently) from the stands and terraces.
[picture: Formation Fireworks with the Match Officials]

BBC Essex had a great idea. They broadcast their sports prpgramme live from Layer Road. So what? How did that help their listeners? There were dozens of photographers on hand to record the occasion. For who? Several TV and video cameras dotted around the place to capture the story - for various TV programmes they want you watch or videos they want you to buy.
[picture: Are we playing Smoke City today?]

Loads of former players were introduced to us. I think we know who they are. It's a shame they don't all come back for every game. They got to speak to the other media people but not to us. It was all a bit like a postcard from someone who's on holiday - "I'm here. You're not. It's great. I'm having a wonderful time. You ought to be here - watching me having a great time."
[picture: A crowd invasion before the game - stewards in Roman uniforms advance to eject them]

We were reminded about 20 times throughout the afternoon not to enter onto the pitch after the game. "It's an arrestable offence" it says on the postcard. (The standard of football was criminal - who was going to arrest them?) The usual stuff from the half-time roving microphone - I think it's time he was retired. He's not funny. He's not entertaining.
[picture: Doogie tells the team a joke. It looks like one of the players has burst with laughter - remnants of shirt on pitch]

[picture: It's Saturday - it's 3 o'clock - it must be ... ... ... time for a nap]

[If you missed the kick-off, here's what it looked like]

[picture: Dark forces at work. Just behind the Barside stand, a stream of balloons lodged in a nearby tree and formed themselves into the shape of a 'U'.]

[picture: Half-time entertainment. Stoke City fans kept on singing all through the break - I can't actually tell you what the band played.]

.. ding, dong
This is public announcement. In the event of an emergency please remain calm, and await further instructions. Thank you.
... ding, dong

[picture: I think we may be down to our last few balls. They needed an armed guard at half-time]

[picture: I think you know who they are all are, but for a bonus point name all the photographers and the media scrum.]

[picture: Then they went and spoiled it all by playing something stupid like ... ... a game of football]

[picture: Four minutes - you cannot be serious !!!]

[picture: At last - the deed is done. We can all go home. Last one to arrive at Cuckoo Farm is ... ... probably the MP for Colchester!]

I hope you've enjoyed the season and these ramblings of the final season at Layer Road. There will be a couple more postings before I hang up my blogs for the summer, but I will return in the new season in the guise of 'The First Cuckoo', and will share my experiences of 'Being a League One Fan in a Brand New Stadium'.

Saturday 26th April 2008 really was a media celebration day. The real celebrations have taken place over the years and you can't take that away from anyone. If you feel like you should have been there, well, at least I'm sharing my thoughts and my photos here.

Saturday, 19 April 2008

Match 22 - Coventry

Nearly there - League One that is. A great first half today. A goal from Scott Vernon and nearly a second from Lisbie who held onto the ball far too long while the crowd had time to shoot three times for him. Nevertheless the opposition looked quite weary and disinterested in those 45 minutes. That was a cunning ploy by Chris Coleman. In the second half you'd be forgiven for thinking there had been ten substitutions (Schmeichel was still dodgy in the Coventry goal). They really turned us over in the second period.

I'd like to say that there was something to report from the half time entertainment but the final of 'Over the Wall' fizzled out into a one-horse race when the first competitor (from Hospital Radio) missed with all five attempts. In the junior penalty competition we lost 4-5 to the travelling fans and it must have been really disappointing for one our boys who was built up as having come all the way from Canada for today's game. His shot was saved by Eddie the Eagle who isn't known for his prowess between the posts.

I do have to say that even though we were well and truly done for in the second half the players generally still continued to make an effort and we did have chances. The score-line still remains at 1-5 and with Scunthorpe scraping a win against Cardiff the chances of salvaging some pride against them on the last day are looking quite grim. There have been some absolutely dismal performances this season and we have only lost those by the odd goal, yet today we get slaughtered and yet we tried hard. It's a funny old game, football!

I also have to say that if too many fans keep going on about Williams having to go, he just might think it's not worth staying on for them. He has been the one consistent performer for the U's in recent years. He is the one who has shown loyalty to the club when others have jumped ship. I really do hope he stays and is allowed to build up a decent squad for next season to get us back in the Championship. I wonder how many of those who phone, text or email to BBC Essex are those who leave these matches early?

It's time to show our support for George and the club as a whole despite our current position. We have one more home game in which to make an impact. People in my section of the ground are asking each other how many games they are going to see next season, and the most asked question I've heard has to be 'Are you going to buy a season ticket next season?'. Well, if that's the attitude of a large proportion of so-called fans then perhaps we deserve our current plight.

It's good to see the club has decided to review its prices for next year, but there's a still a way to go in my opinion. I think there's a need to get a lot more junior support onside and maybe there's some mileage in the plan to issue free tickets to local school groups for a number of matches next season, and much cheaper tickets for juniors who bring an adult. These are potential lifelong supporters.

Saturday, 12 April 2008

Crisp and Even

I hesitate to use the word 'crisp' in this posting but I needed something to typify the Walkers stadium and the fact that we suffered yet another draw against The Foxes. I use the word 'suffered' rather than any positive slant on the phrase like 'earned' or 'achieved' because it's the shared honours that has done most to frustrate our survival this season. Sixteen draws.
If only ...

Listening to the radio commentary I was full of hope until the commentator's curse reminded us in the 89th minute that we have a tendency to blow it late in the game. Well, it only took aout 30 seconds for that prophecy to come true. If league tables really do change in the middle of matches then for around 17 minutes we were off the bottom. The reality of it all of course is that we are heading full tilt towards a final day showdown at Scunthorpe where the loser rather perversely will be remembered more than the winner - hopefully.

In the meantime there are two final home matches in which we have the chance to reverse the results from the respective away games. I'm trying to put a positive spin on things here. The point is that every game provides a reason for wanting to win. In the case of the Ipswich game recently there wasn't any need for statistics. It was just the fact that we always need to beat them. Just in case the tractor boys across the border want to go on about the home win earlier in the season let's add it all up and show that in both our Championship seasons were have beaten them on aggregate - both times on away goals!

Oh, and just in case anyone's listening to this blog, here's a snippet from the end of match celebrations at the Ipswich game. This is what it's like when we win!

Thursday, 10 April 2008


Popped into the ground on Wednesday afternoon and caught the second half of the U's Reserves against MK Dons. Quite a spooky atmosphere with a crowd of around 50. Most of the noise was from the players themselves and you could hear every word out there on the green baize. It occurred to me that this game was a warm up for the first team encounter next season - especially now that it's official we are stepping down.

The lads came alive in the second half and won by a significant 4-2 margin. Some fine keeping by Cousins too. Seven of the U’s have first team experience in the Championship. It will be interesting to see which players from both teams are lining up against each other next season in League One. So, for the record (and I don't think you'll find this information in one place anywhere else on the web), the line ups were:

Colchester United Reserves:
Cousins, Speed, Balogh, Hammond, Nelson, McLeod, Guttridge, Watson, Wordswo
rth, Guy, Webb
Subs: Quintyn for Guy, Griffiths for Speed - Unused: Smelt, Oakley, Olusanya

Goalscorers: Guy (3), Guttridge

MK Dons Rerserves:
Fox, King, Collins, Shuter, Thorne, Flannighan, Farden, Delderfield, Powell, Ashraff, Roles
Subs: Dowling for Farden - Unused: Heald

Goalscorers: Powell, Ashraff

I’m glad I was there, I witnessed Kevin Watson challenging and winning a header. I’m sure it happened. At least I’m reasonably sure it happened. I might have been distracted at the time by a movement of a large proportion of the crowd (6 of them) from the Tiptree stand towards the Layer Road terraces.

I got the feeling that a lot of the people at the game wondered what they were doing here. I think most of them were secretly eyeing up potential salvage items. Working out what size of screwdriver to bring to the last game to loosen the seats. I hope no-one brings any WD40 along. The rust is just about the only thing keeping the stadium together.

Saturday, 5 April 2008

Match 21 - Ipswich

There's been a lot of chat in the last week about season ticket prices. That's not really what I want to talk about here, except to say that perhaps we should pay for our tickets AFTER each match, and based on the result and team performance. In this case I would gladly have paid treble the normal price for the display we were given today.
All sing: "Oh what fun it was to see, Ipswich lose away".

It reminded me of last season when we felt invincible at home. What's more, a clean sheet for the second time this season. It's still more than 50 years since the tractor boys won at Layer Road (and they'll never do it again!). The biggest crowd of the season saw arguably the most important result. I can accept relegation, based on results over the whole season, but what I couldn't accept is losing to Ipswich twice in one campaign. The lads didn't disappoint me.

A solid and experienced central defensive display meant the full backs and keeper could get on with their jobs. The forwards played together, linked up and continually threatened the Ipswich end. Midfield bridged the gap and generally frustrated attempts to build against us. I had to admit today that we have a half decent team at last. Mind you, I'll stick with 'half' decent for now. Given time they could become a fully decent team. At last there's something worth building on.

It was significant for me today that several injuries showed where the weaknesses have been at times over the season. Did we miss Virgo and Platt? Not at all. Did we yearn for Sheringham? Not at all. That was an interesting diversion in the first half of the season and it might have come off, but sadly it didn't really work. It's ironic that Teddy was meant to draw in bigger crowds, and maybe draw some more players in our direction. Well we did get a lot of draws, but we needed wins. Did we need to use our substitutes today? Not at all. We didn't last season either, when incidentally we slaughtered the Suffolk side 1-0.

What was especially pleasing was that the majority of the crowd stayed to applaud the team off the pitch. Even better was the response of the travelling fans to the Ipswich team as they walked towards them to thank them for coming along - they didn't boo them, or jeer at their players, they just waved them away, ... priceless!

Talking of priceless, in our section today we got to discussing what parts of the ground we might want to salvage as souvenirs of Layer Road after the last match of the season. It didn't take long to decide that there probably isn't anything material worth having. What you can't put a price on, or replace, are the memories of beating Ipswich here twice in two years - and they couldn't get a goal past us in either of those two encounters.

Let's hope there's good news in the coming week about some realistic ticket prices for next season. (Oops, sorry, I said I didn't want to mention those!)