Archive for September, 2008

Game 04 – Leicester

30 September, 2008

Our first evening league match at Cuckoo Farm and Leicester are the opposition.  I’ve been wondering for ages what it is about the ground that really feels different.  It’s the fact that the home fans are so thinly spread around that we feel like the away fans.  We can’t get a good song together like at Layer Road.  It was easier there because you could almost talk to each other across the ground.  I fear that until we really start to feel comfortable at Cuckoo farm we will actually behave like away supporters.  That happened tonight.  The thousand odd away fans were bunched together and sang with one voice.  It’s been true of most of the travelling bands.

There was of course one spell when the players forgot the bad stuff and started stroking the ball around from side to side, end to end, and more importantly to each other.  Sadly it lasted only around 10 minutes late in the first half but it was reminiscent of the first Championship season when it seemed to happen every game.  You could tell that the home fans were bursting to get behind the team and for a while anything seemed possible.  Leicester, on the other hand, were content to bore us into the interval.

In the second half the game livened up at times, but players in both teams seemed to lose the plot a bit.  Only Yeates with another bit of carpentry was able to get us excited when he hit the woodwork.  Even bookings hold no fear for some players these days.  It’s like an award and occasionally some of them have to do something daft to get one or they will get criticised by the boss for not being competitive enough.

Talking of The Boss.  Symons didn’t get the result he needed tonight.  He seemed to start well and was actively trying to motivate a few players but he quickly drifted into the ‘arms folded’ pose with occasional scribbles on his scrap of paper (shopping list or transfer list?).

A dreadful series of players backing away from a fast Leicester break led to the only goal and that was the story of last season all over again.  It’s about time the players started to get stuck in and really earn their bookings.  It’s about time they started to compete for the ball.

I take back all I said about the E8 New Barside at the MK Dons game.  They can be just as disloyal as the rest.  Tonight they were the first to vacate the ground and we were only a goal down, and to be fair the team were trying to get back into it.  Maybe we should cram the home fans into West and North stands and make the away fans spread themselves around East.  Maybe then it would feel like we are the home team.  Maybe then we’d get together behind the team and maybe we’d get a home win.  It’s about time.

Rollercoaster

26 September, 2008

A fairly obvious headline for the Tranmere game.  4-1 up with 16 minutes to go and it’s a white knuckle ride to the end as they pull two back and we drag ourselves off the pitch with a 4-3 victory and another away win under our belts.  It’s very much like the home game against Derby in our first Championship season.  On that occasion we left it until the last 10 minutes before we let them claw two back for the same scoreline.  Now let’s look for some other omens in this.  That was on the 26th of the month (August 2006) and this is 26th.  At that point we were in the bottom regions of the table with no points and only Leeds and Sunderland below us.  Sunderland went on to win the the title and we had our best ever finishing position in history.  One more thing – a few days earlier in the previous game we had lost rather embarassingly to MK Dons (in the League Cup).

Anything else of significance in that game two years ago?  Yes, the win hauled us out of the bottom three above Hull City.  What happened to them?  Oh yes, they stole two of our best players at the end of the campaign and got promoted to the Premiership next time around.

Going back another year to the promotion season in League One and we had a similar start, table position, points total and mountain to climb.  The 8th league game started the ride to the top.

So maybe this is the turning point we have been waiting for.  A bit later than we would have liked, but a step in the right direction nonetheless.  Let’s not get carried away either.  It’s just one game under a caretaker manager.  The players, for an hour at least, were playing to impress whoever might be waiting in the wings to take centre stage at Cuckoo Farm.

Maybe Kit’s the one to take us onwards and upwards.  Who knows?  It’s far too soon to make those judgements and one good result doesn’t mean that much on its own.  Consistency over the rest of the season is what we want and it’s the players we are relying on most of all to supply that.

Farewell to a Gentleman

22 September, 2008

There was a sombre atmosphere hanging over Cuckoo Farm after the match on Saturday. As it turns out Geraint Williams had probably already decided he was on the move. His body language on the day told it all. He had his arms crossed for most of the match, and only unfolded them when some idiots in the West Stand were being restrained by stewards, and GW beckoned them forward to speak their mind. Even to the end he was prepared to tolerate even the most insulting behaviour from the fans who supposedly worshipped him less than two years earlier.

It’s a pity he couldn’t walk out himself when we went two-nil down. I guess the walkout by several hundred was a protest against GW, and it would have been ironic if he had beaten them out of the door. Mind you, in reality he probably had.

What a load of crap being spouted on some message boards now, begging for Parky to return. They’ll be asking for Kevin Keegan next. It seems the disloyal following would be happy to accommodate a disloyal manager. Maybe we should try to re-sign Doogie and all the rest who abandoned us in the last year or so. While we’re at it let’s go back to Layer Road and rebuild a new stadium on the site of past memories. Give it up – we’ve moved on.

I hope the mindless idiots who called for his head so vociferously will be sleeping soundly now that they have their way. It’s the players that need to be sorted out. I’d put money on a few moving on under new management. I get the feeling even GW’s hands were tied on that score.

I wish GW all the best in his future career. He’s a top bloke and deserves success in the game. Our loss, someone else’s gain. Farewell to a Gentleman.

Game 03 – MK Dons

20 September, 2008

First of all the good news.  The stadium IS officially the home of Colchester United and contrary to popular belief you can see it from the A12 (if you are travelling west to east). The badge is quite impressive and I’m told it will look even better at evening games.  The game started on time as well, and we had a bigger attendance than last time (4,888 according to official figures).  I believe the local MP also managed to find his way there today.  Perhaps he saw the badge and was surprisingly drawn to it.

The visitors brought a band of 450 and if there was a competition between the fans they won it easily.  I know it’s probably a case of ‘only sing when you’re winning’ but they were in our ears for the whole game folks and we didn’t counter with anything worthwhile.  I guess it akes a performance on the pitch to stir up the enthusiasm and we weren’t given much to raise the pulse.  Yes, we hit a post and there was a moment when it looked like Sunday had arrived early, but he was still living in Friday-land.  The visiting manager attracted more attention most of the time and seemed to be more energetic as the game progressed.  di Matteo managed to provide his players with drinks during frequent stoppages but ours kept his arms folded and looked like he was rooted to the spot for most of the game.

Sadly a large proportion of ‘alleged’ United supporters weren’t quite as stationary late in the second half and decided to register their protest by walking out at 0-2.  Quite childish behaviour really and they could have missed a great comeback.  Ha!  Who am I kidding?  There was no danger of a comeback.  There was nowhere to come back from.  We weren’t anywhere.  When I say ‘we’ I have to include the home fans too, myself included.  At Layer Road we had at least four sets of vocal support in various terraces and they all occasionally combined into a performance of concert hall proportions.

Now we’ve got a stadium worthy of holding pop concerts only E8 can stand up to be counted. I take my hat off to the New Barside.  They were in good voice before AND after the opening goal in the second minute but the cavalry never came to their rescue and they had to satisfy themselves with jeering at the away crowd.  I have to say I didn’t sense them losing faith in the team at any stage – well certainly not as much as most other sections in the ground.

The new badge stands for E8 this week.

Up the junction

13 September, 2008

On paper it looked a dead cert.   Crewe only had one win in the league to their credit so far (as did the U’s!), and the position of their manager was looking dodgy before the game.  We certainly have a way of making things difficult for ourselves.  Already we have the sinking feeling and we are supposed to be one of the favourites to bounce back into the Championship.  A few places off the bottom once again.  The train is rolling backwards.

The worst part of it all was the fact that BBC Essex chose to send a ‘new voice’ up there to cover the game and then decided that the home game at Southend was more interesting to broadcast for the second half.  I guess the results proved this to be a successful strategy but it does show that even your local media will only ‘sing when we’re winning’.  To add insult to injury they have to add in a bit of music every so often, presumably to keep non-footie fans happy.  It just doesn’t work.  The end result is that they will lose both audiences.  Neither will purchase the subscription to the online commentaries, which I suspect is one of the motivations for this.   On this occasion I transferred my allegiance to Sky Sports and watched Essex win the second division Pro40 cricket title.

Gilly seems to want to play as few games as possible this season.  With injuries and now a dismissal to his credit you’d be forgiven for thinking that as leading goalscorer he’s giving the rest of the team the chance to catch up – mind you with 3 goals in competitive matches it’s not much to aim at.  I challenge him to set the target much, much, much higher – please!

Looking at the League table and seeing Millwall in the top places makes you realise we did get quite a remarkable win at The New Den in the paint pot trophy recently.  Well, we have to use something to build up the enthusiasm for the upcoming matches, especially as MK Dons have just been promoted and we don’t want to be seen to be swapping places with them over the course of two seasons – or is that just negative thinking?  Come on lads – give us something to cheer about.

The Beautiful Game

6 September, 2008

What a wonderful few days for football. The sagas played out on transfer deadline day and beyond may yet prove to be the events that saved the wonderful game. In particular I’m referring to the Manchester City, Robinho and Berbatov transfers, Curbishley’s resignation and the farce that is still bubbling away beneath the surface at Newcastle.

For me the issue at stake here is ‘loyalty‘. Surely then any footballer who accepts a transfer to another club is being disloyal. I think the argument on this point ends there, except that you do have to take account of other factors that may make life hell for the poor little millionaires as they attempt to ply their trade. Personality clashes with the managers, training ground fights with fellow players, the media pressure of being followed everywhere, the choice of hairstyle and clothes, the kiss and tell stories, the WAGs. It just makes life hell for them and I guess they have to move on to keep their agents employed.

I suppose we have Jimmy Hill to thank to some extent. Campaigning for the abolition of the maximum wage of £20 a week (yes, really!) for footballers all those years ago was an early indication that money is more important than the joy of soccer, and that footballers have employment rights. The Bosman ruling just had to happen eventually and loyalty was blown right out of the window.

Now we have a word to rhyme with loyalty – Royalty. The Abu Dhabi United Group were looking to buy a football club. Any football club. To make them the best team in the world. They have the resources (oil in this case) and therefore enough money to do just what they want. So before the ink is dry on their own contract they snatch Robinho from Chelsea. That made me laugh. Even funnier was the fact that they couldn’t tempt Berbatov across the city of Manchester with a few extra millions. Spurs were ready to do the deal, apparently Berbatov still mistakenly believes that United are going to be the best team in the world. I have news for all of them. All over the UK on Saturday afternoon (in fact most Saturday afternoons) there were chants of ” …. by far the greatest team, the world has ever seen”. None of these were singing about the Manchester clubs, or indeed any of the premier league. Such is the loyalty being shown by football fans all over the country that we still believe our own club is the place to be. The place where eventually all our dreams will come true.

I have to accept that Layer Road was hardly the place where all our wildest dreams were going to come true but we did make it to 10th in the Championship at the first attempt. If a few other games had swung the other way then who knows? If the unthinkable had happened it would have been disastrous for Colchester United as we know it. We have to earn our place in the elite of football, but I’m not sure that I want them to be ‘up there’ while commerce runs the show. I’d rather see teams compete on footballing ability.

I see that Sir Alan Sugar is predicting that this latest phase in football will eventually blow out when the rich kids get fed up with their toys. I certainly hope so. I’m already bored of them and I’m really excited by the possibility a round of huge FA punishments being handed out to the ‘big four’ when they go into administration. Manchester United v Leeds, Chelsea v Liverpool, Arsenal v Manchester City – great League One matches in about 5 years from now.

Who is to blame? It doesn’t matter really since money is at the root of it all. We are told that significant amounts of the money being ploughed into the game is being used for youth development and other such schemes. What a load of cobblers. Manchester City’s assistant coach has this week confirmed that the new money they have found will effectively kill the future opportunities for their youth players. Arsenal have been developing the youth of other countries for years while stifling the youth of England. Anyway, money being spent at grass roots doesn’t do any good really. If someone has talent and they have the desire to play the beautiful game they will find a way through. We want to watch people playing football for the love of the game, not because it’s the road to fortune.

Take a look at this article. It doesn’t take much imagination (premier league supporters may have to work at this) to replace American football with real football (Association Football – soccer) and to translate husband to wife, and daughter to son if necessary. The sentiments are exactly the same. My wife is therefore a real football hero in the sense described in that account. How many real football fans out there need to acknowledge the same?

Please give us back our beautiful game.

More Cup Football

2 September, 2008

Resorted to a combination of occasional radio updates (BBC Essex) and text snippets on the ‘match centre’ via Football365.com for this Football League Trophy match. Is this a cup worth getting excited about? Well yes, since we got to the final a few years back (1997) and enjoyed a Wembley visit – even though we didn’t enjoy the result. It’s supposed to be a chance for the two lower leagues to earn some more revenue from the extra games but in reality I reckon they make a loss with very low attendances (2,456 tonight). The early rounds are also used to give a few players some much needed match practice, unless of course you get through to the later rounds when it becomes a matter of pride that you’re on a cup run and suddenly it’s as important as any other competition.

It does have the advantage of adding some extra rivalry to the league matches as there’s a good chance of playing teams from your own division. Of course there’s also the extra fun of watching Leeds United playing for a trophy that they clearly think is beneath them. In its early days this trophy was won by current Premier League clubs Wigan, Bolton and Stoke, so it hasn’t done them any harm.

It’s getting a bit like cricket now in a way. They have 20, 40 and 50 over competitions and 4 day games mixed up throughout the summer. We’ve already had League Cup, League One and Trophy matches (in our 7 games to date), with the FA Cup to come in November. Maybe they could do a Twenty20 here and make the Trophy into a 6-a-side competition of 2 x 20 minutes and played on a regional league basis, with a finals day at Wembley. Then it really would be a fitness test for bit-part players. Actually I can see some specialist 6-a-side players evolving. We’ve got several players who only make an effort for part of the game anyway – it would suit them down to the ground. I’m sure every club has got some of these too.

So, another first round away cup win, with a clean sheet. Exactly the same as in the League Cup. That was a Tuesday night as well.