2 May, 2009

Cuckoo FarmThe comparison with the final game three years ago wasn’t lost on many people.  Three years ago we needed a point from the final game at Yeovil to secure automatic promotion.  We got it and another chapter in the U’s history was written.  For the current chapter, the result, a 2-0 win, is nothing more than a reflection of what has been happening most of the season – saving the best performances for the away games.  It did push us back into the top half of the table so we finish in 12th place.  Firmly in the middle of the table, but on a positive note we are in the top half!  That’s also thanks to Stockport going into administration this week and having 10 points deducted, otherwise we would have been top of the bottom half of the table.

We are in something of a pivotal position with goal difference of absolutely zero.  It’s like sitting on the fence really – are we a top half team or a bottom half team?  Well, during this season we have been both.  Our away record is better than Leeds and Scunthorpe who both finished in the play-offs.   Our home form is the second worst in the division, and we have scored the least number of home goals – 21 in 23 games.  Talk about a Jeckyll and Hyde season.  We really didn’t know who was going to turn up for games at times.

I’ll wait a couple of weeks before speculating on the anticipated summer clearout, although the rumours are that the taxis are parked outside with the postcode of certain players already set in the satnav.   In one or two instances I’d even offer to pay the fare, except that I feel I’ve paid enough into their purses this season.  There have been a few movements since that game three years ago.  Only 4 of the Colchester squad turned out for both games – Gerken, Izzet and Vernon plus Cousins on the bench.  For Yeovil not one name survives from that game.  An indication of the state of the game today?  I wonder how many were in the crowd on both dates?

Congratulations to Leicester and Peterborough for earning automatic promotion.  We’ll see who joins them soon, and who replaces them even sooner.  At the other end we now know that Wycombe (Paul Lambert’s old club) will be joining us along with Brentford and Exeter.

Game 23 – Peterborough

25 April, 2009

img_3085_webA great quote in the media this week from Alan Maybury.  Something to the effect that we don’t want away fans celebrating promotion on OUR patch.  That’s the first time I’ve heard one of the players refer to Cuckoo Farm as ‘Home’.  Most of this season they have been playing like the away team, and the fans for the most part have felt like the away support.   Unfortunately Maybury’s passion for his home turf wasn’t translated into direct action today as he wasn’t in the squad.  In the squad was Clive Platt for first time in three weeks and his name was greeted with boos.  Actually it was the away fans that started it, but their dislike of him was far greater than the home fans’ admiration.  Perhaps there’s something significant about that.

img_3028_webOn the subject of absentees, with a virus rampaging through the ranks Captain Hammond also wasn’t fit for duty today but he was on hand to receive his Player of Season trophy.  Tierney was my choice.  He has shown the positive approach to the game that the rest would do well to copy.  On the subject of ‘player of the season’ it seems we have a home winner, an away winner, a young player, a Hospital Radio choice (I thought Gillespie might have earned that one, but Baldwin got it for the number of opposition players he sent to hospital).

img_3050_webThis was probably the best away team performance of the season that we have seen at Cuckoo Farm.  All credit to Peterborough for their entertaining style of play and clearly some of the key Ferguson genes have passed from father to son.  Let’s hope some of the managerial style and luck has rubbed off in the embrace between today’s two managers at the start of the game.  The away fans deserved their success and although it was hard to swallow, at the end of the game they deserved their win, thoroughly deserved their promotion and I wish them all the best in the Championship next season.

img_3104_webI hate statistics really, but this is now the 15th time we have conceded the opening goal at home this season and the 9th time we have lost 0-1, in fact 4 times in a row.   To rub salt into the wound a local business is once again allowed to sponsor the away goal.  When will the club learn?  Who wants to support an organisation that gets a kick out of their local team taking a beating?  Mind you, it woud be good if the home team could actually score a goal!  Maybe the next home game will see a change in our fortunes?  Or maybe not!

Away form returns

18 April, 2009

img_0422_webIt’s a shame they only give full commentary on the second half on BBC Essex.  It would have been good to hear today’s goals go in at the time they happened.  I’m in desperate need of listening to a winning performance (given that home performances recently have left me completely bewildered).  The second half today sounded rather drab and although a 2-0 win away from home is quite desirable at any time, when you look at the quality of the opposition you have to feel we should have bagged a few more.

img_0459_webCuckoo Farm was announced this week as the second stop on a world tour of football league grounds by the BBC Sport team of Tom Fordyce and Ben Dirs.  See their blog.  I just had to have my say of course, and a collection of my photos from the first season here at Cuckoo Farm is now available on Flickr.  It just goes to show that despite our lack of performance recent history has put us on the map.  Sometimes we forget what a rich set of experiences we have had in Colchester in the last 30 – 40 years.  I dragged out my old matchday programmes the other day and found the visits of top flight teams such as Leeds (1971 of course), Aston Villa (1979), and Manchester United (1979).  As a matter of interest today’s opponents Hereford played their first ever Football League match at Layer Road in 1972!

Game 22 – Brighton

13 April, 2009

img_1731_webDire.  We used to have a player with a name that sounded like this.  Paul Dyer.  Always entertaining.  We could do with someone of his stature now.  Is he still chief scout?  I think he’s got a big job on his hands. We need a lot more players. Players who want to wear the Colchester shirt.  Players who want to play FOR Colchester and the people of Colchester.  I think that’s what’s missing from the game at large.  Too many transfers and you have players who don’t really identify with the town or city they now represent.  How many of our regulars were born in Colchester, or Essex even?  I’ll stretch to London if that makes it any easier.  It’s especially true in the higher divisions and it’s starting to creep down into our level.  Yes, I have to admit we are currently playing at the correct level for our overall performances.  We may fancy ourselves as a Championship outfit with our new stadium but we need to string a few more wins together and put in performances that will bring the fans back.

img_1736_webDesperate.  There was only one team desperate enough to make a game of it this afternoon.  It doesn’t really say much for Brighton that they managed to walk away with a 1-0 win since we weren’t competing with them.  What a load of tripe we were dished up today.  It’s difficult to stomach rubbish like this.    No tackles, no sensible passing, no effort, no teamwork.  Just a load of long balls to no-one and nowhere in particular.  Oh the joys of League One football.  Brighton were clearly intent on time wasting from the outset.  Their keeper was lucky not to be booked for spending so long over every  goal kick.  He even dropped to the ground on one occasion after  he clearly caught a ball with his eyes shut.

img_1743_webDreary.  The announcement of the day came with about 15 minutes to go.  “The Ticket Office is open after the game.”  This made the home fans smile for the first time this afternoon.  What for they asked – ‘Refunds?’.   The worst announcement was accompanied by the realisation that we had 4 minutes of added time.   Not another four minutes of this?  I was going to describe the fact that we were getting that Layer Road feeling back again – two balls out of the ground today, South and East.  At least at Layer Road we had some fans singing, even when weren’t winning. Today the stewards were doing their best to upset the E8 crowd.  It was obvious from all round the ground that the home and away fans were being treated differently.  This is OUR HOME GROUND for crying out loud!

img_1750_webDoom and gloom.  Inevitably the fans were starting to blame Lambert and he received a few choice comments with the obligatory boos at the end.  Listening to the post match interview it seems he accepts this.  Let’s hope he sticks to his word and gets rid of the worst of the squad this summer.  Sadly I wonder if management and fans have the same idea over what makes a good squad.  The fans want players they can relate to.  Someone who will show loyalty to the club and become part of the community.  I don’t see a lot of it here at the moment.

Disaster.  The season is officially a disaster as the other team in Essex will now finish above us.  It’s getting tight on whether Geraint Williams’ Orient may join them in leapfrogging us.  That would be a result for George, but a hard pill to swallow for those at Cuckoo Farm.  There’s only one word for this afternoon’s experiences – Difficult.

A Question of Intention

11 April, 2009

img_0409_webPaul Lambert has always been keen to remind us that his aim was for Championship football next season.  A careful analysis of his statements will show that the name of Colchester United hasn’t always figured in the same sentence.  I’m not questioning his commitment or loyalty and I accept that his ultimate aim must be to manage a top club or even his country, however I wonder if we are just a stepping stone on his path to success.  My thinking here is furthered by his appearance on A Question of Sport on Friday (10th April) when he was introduced as a European Cup medal winner with Borussia Dortmund, and some footage of his Celtic playing days was shown.  No mention of his move into management, and no mention  of Colchester.   Maybe I’m reading too much into all this and maybe this latest event is just an example of the control and manipulation of the media in what they promote.  After all, how could they show this episode again when Lambert is managing his national team at some stage in the future?  It’s far better to concentrate on something more fashionable of course, and the truth is that Colchester just aren’t in that league.

img_0421_webWhich brings me on to the match at Orient.  This was the first meeting with previous manager Geraint Williams.  ‘George’ is having a successful time at Brisbane Road since his return and I’m really pleased for him.  I’m sort of pleased he ended up happy with today’s result as it did him more good than it did us harm.  Last week I was complaining at how many times we have gone down 0-1 at home.  This week my gripe is that we seem to relinquish the lead away from home too often.  Eight times we have squandered an away lead and only once recovered to take all the points.  Surely the players must know by now that we are at our most vulnerable just after scoring a goal?  Four games to go and nothing to play for.

Game 21 – Leeds

4 April, 2009

img_1682_webWhat a disappointment.  In reality Colchester never turned up for this one, even though a near capacity crowd turned out.  True, a third of them were from Leeds and they outsang the home support throughout.  Mind you they had more to sing about.

img_1699_webThe video screen attempted to add some interest by showing segments of the match live.  I’m not sure what was happening with that but it was annoying when the clock disappeared and a bit of live ‘action’ was screened.  It looked like some of the home players were watching the screen rather than their own game at times.

img_1695In the first half a couple of strange things happened with the crowd.  First of all the Barside ‘patch’ in the top corner of E8 was empty.  It was almost like that area was haunted by the ghost of the former Barsiders and the Leeds fans were afraid of going near it.  Then at the other end of the stadium those ‘formerly known as E8′ seemed to be herded into a corner of the Not-so-Noisy-North.  I wonder what makes the hard core of the home support want to gather in a corner of a stand rather than in the middle like all the travelling support we’ve seen.  Is it something to do with the way they have been leaning against the Layer Road structures for years ?  Have their bodies adapted in some way to create a lean-to-the-left?

img_1704_webAt least we have experienced something of a matchday event a couple of times in recent months with the visits of Southend and Leeds.  Sadly we seem to be getting on the end of a 0-1 scoreline all too often.  Seven times we’ve been turned over by this score at Cuckoo Farm and six more times we’ve conceded the first goal.  I’m sure that when I look at the video screen now it already has 0-1 etched onto it.  We need a screen saver!

img_1709_webIn the second half I felt the urge to concentrate on the sky for quite a while.  There were some interesting cloud formations which helped to pass the time.  There were some fluffy movements and a little dark stuff to be seen, but I can’t remember now if that was the game or the sky – everything went into soft focus for most of the second half.

img_1717_web

For a moment I was sure I saw a pig flying past and then it jumped over the moon, but of course I may have been mistaken.  It was difficult to concentrate when the video screen effectively gave me a second helping of not-very-much-at-all.  At least it gave me some time to think about the state of the nation, the financial climate, world peace, anything but football really.

img_1710_web

I did glance back in time to see a bit of a cat-fight at one stage but it didn’t really justify the purchase of a ticket. By the time I got my camera out the handbags had been put away and the players had resorted to a spot of name-calling and nasty glances at each other.  I don’t even think the ref felt it was worth making any notes.  In fact if we were still there while I’m writing this blog later in the evening, and the away team are on their way home I don’t think Colchester would have got anywhere near an equaliser.  Oh well, it’s George’s boys next week.

Pre-match build up – Leeds

4 April, 2009

It’s a sell out. A full ground. Yes, really, this time we are assured it will be full.  Not ‘full’ like the under-19 international when just 9,692 turned up, but maybe something close to the 10,000 capacity.  The main difference this time will also be that the majority of the crowd will be cheering for club rather than country.  It’s Colchester v Leeds for the third time in 38 years. So far the results are both in our favour.  Crawford (2) and Simmons hit the net for the 3-2 cup win in February 1971.  In April 2007 Iwelumo and and Cureton got the goals that gave us a 2-1 result. Which pair of strikers want the glory today?  It should also be the biggest travelling support.  It might be argued that the result will potentially do more for Leeds than for us since it looks like our play-off hopes have been burned.  We have the chance to dent Leeds’ chances as well, in the hope that we can play them again next season.  We also have the chance of yet another double, having won the fixture at Elland Road in December last year when we attracted one of their lowest home league crowds, just under 20,000.

Lions tamed?

31 March, 2009

img_1492_webJust when we thought it was time to start thinking about next season they go and register another away win at Millwall.  That’s twice this season we’ve come away from The Den with a 1-0 victory. It lifts us three places back to 10th but still 10 points from the last of the play-off places.

Making up 10 points from 6 games is not really a possibility – is it?  That’s ten points more than at least one of the top six teams AND assuming none of the three teams immediately above us also have a good run in.  It’s more complicated than that but I think the maths are clearly stacked against us.

I’ll bet they go and beat Leeds on Saturday and make us all think it’s possible again.


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