Archive for November, 2008

All Change

29 November, 2008

img_0772_webA strange week in which people are coming and going.  We’ve broken another loan player and have sent Lee Hills back to the Palace.  In his place we welcome Mark Tierney from Shrewsbury and we’ve added some depth between the sticks with Jimmy Walker from West Ham.  Clearly the big news is the departure of Marie Partner.  21 years of age was always significant for the fairer sex and it seems that our Chief Executive didn’t want her tenure at the club to exceed that either.  The timing is strange – part way into a season in our new stadium and just as she enters into a process of discussion with supporters about the matchday experience.  Hopefully that process will continue.  Rumours abound of course but let’s wait and see.

img_0413_webIt was good to see the response from the playing side today with a win away at Northampton in the rearranged fixture.  While Neil Kelly was describing the descending fog and reassuring listeners that the game would reach its conclusion safely someone in the BBC Essex office thought it might be funny to add a snow report to the weather forecast.  I’m beginning to wonder about the motives of local radio.  They did give us second half coverage and a poor quality interview with the departing Chief Exec., but they allowed listeners to phone in earlier in the day and complain that there was too much sport on the station on a Saturday afternon.  Whatever next – the Saturday afternoon ‘play for today’.  Actually we do get that sometimes and we’ve had to suffer too many tragedies, comedies and farces of late.  What’s been in short supply are ‘thrillers’.

img_0418_webIt seems that despite my view of his footballing skills Clive Platt is on something of a run.  Two goals and an assist in 3 games in 8 days.  It sounds good, but for me it means that the service he’s getting has improved.  Make the passes so acurate that he can’t miss.  That’s the spirit.  Things are looking up.  More importantly we have had consecutive wins for the first time in … living memory.  Well, we do get accused of having short memories at times.  68 games is an awful long time, and there have been some awful performances which  made that feel like years.  Think about it – it was another division, we lived at Layer Road and the starting line ups featured just 4 players who were present in both eras.  One thing that’s stayed the same is that those games in April 2007 were against Southend and Leeds and they are still with us.

Game 09 – Yeovil

25 November, 2008

img_1247_webAnother away loss at Peterborough at the weekend and judging by the sound of it on local radio we had our chances but blew them.  The new boy Easter (on loan in time for Christmas) made an impressive start by all accounts and we were expecting something positive to happen.  He’s got speed that’s for sure but the best thing is that the ball sticks to him when it hits him.  He knows how to trap it, head, neck, chest, body, legs, feet.  Contrast that with Plattypus who doesn’t know where the ball will end up after it comes to him (I concede that he scored our only goal at Posh with a great header).  That’s what makes it difficult to play alongside him.  Which side is the ball going to bounce, slide, glance, fall?  And how hard?  There are too many choices involved and even Sheringham last season couldn’t cope with that.

img_1254_webHaving said that, by some miracle there seemed to be a bit of a partnership evolving between Easter and Platt and that’s what brought us the goal tonight.  Fortunately Easter was given the responsibility of finishing an awkward and high pass and he got on top of it.  The other bit of teamwork that was evident was as the other end – Coyne and Baldwin, the pairing that I’m sure George Williams was hoping to develop, except for the injury problems.  The partnership between Yeates and the ball continued as normal, but sadly his teammates were rarely invited to the ball and for the most part he lost it in a crowd of opposing players that he tried to beat three times in succession.  I may have exaggerated that, but I’m sure it describes my frustration at how Yeates fails to spot the easy passes.  I wish I knew what happened on the day of the Carlisle game. I’m sure he has a twin brother who plays better than him.

img_1246_webWell, it was a bitterly cold evening and I take my hat off (perhaps I should say ‘take my gloves off’)  to the Glovers supporters from Somerset.  About 50 of them perhaps and a dozen who kept up some chanting throughout a dire game.  To come all the way from Yeovil on a cold Tuesday evening in late November and being treated to that performance by their team.  Well,  I wish them a safe journey home.  True football supporters.   It was poor turnout from the home support as well tonight.  The lights at the back of the stands didn’t seem to be in operation tonight and I wonder if that helped the stewards to overlook the standing fans in E8?

img_1222_webThe appearance of the drummer brought some atmosphere back into the event.  It helped that Yeovil had brought one too and for  while it seemed like there might be a drum competition.  In the end the fact that we all felt sorry for the away fans led to a bit of a duet between the two drummers.  It wasn’t pretty but it took the mind off what little was happening on the pitch most of the time.  Talking of music – the players entered to the sound of ‘Simply the best’.  What can you say?  Rather ambitious even if you are trying to motiviate the team.  Another candidate for consultation with the fans I suggest.  Actually it was preceded by ‘Right Here, Right Now’ and maybe that would have been a better choice.

Matchday Experience

22 November, 2008

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So the club are entering into dialogue with a few fans about the ‘matchday experience’. It seems that some fans are surprised by this? The message board on the club website often sees disgruntled supporters airing their views, especially when the match results are not favourable. It’s amazing how little the fans have to talk about when a club is successful. I hope the club get something valuable out of consulting with a small group of supporters. The real problem is that there aren’t enough of us in the ground each week. It doesn’t take much to work out how to address that. £££

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Atmosphere . That’s the thing that’s missing. At the Carlisle game there was an atmosphere and it was catching. All three stands with home supporters got into the spirit of things. True, it took a couple of home goals to spark it all off, but once the fuse had been lit then there was no stopping things. Even in the deserted North Stand we heard some evidence of life after Layer Road. The away fans have always been able to create an atmosphere because they are all squeezed together down in the South. It always used to be that home fans preferred to gather behind one of the goals. Even at Layer Road, in the days before segregation and lock-ins, the Layer Road end was the home patch. Why no more? Let’s hit back from the other end at Cuckoo Farm. We need to fill the North Stand. Let’s be honest. E8 isn’t the best example of a crowd gathering. It’s just a handful of stood-up supporters getting antagonised by a few stewards. Barside it aint. Barside was so very Layer Road. Barside is gone. Move on up. Let’s liven up the North End. The faithful can taunt the travelling fans from there just as easily. The message board suggests that quite a few in E8 would be happy to transfer their season tickets to the North. It would be a foolish club that sought to make any profit from that or even penalise those who wanted to make the move. Make it so!
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How about the prices? The faithful will always cough up the dosh sadly. I count myself in that. I like to watch this level of football. There are a large number however who just can’t afford to finance the lavish lifestyle of those who should be entertaining us. The club has listened to the fans once before on the pricing issue. Why not again? At the moment the club have to make it attractive to people who might be thinking of coming along if there’s nothing else to do. Let’s face it, there’s Christmas shopping to compete with for the next month as well. We’ve got three home games before then. We need a reason to celebrate. Let’s start the season of goodwill early and make some outrageous offers to the missing fans. I know it might hurt those who have already shelled out for season tickets, but that’s almost hard luck on us – how about rewarding us next season with a suitable discount for having shown the loyalty in the first place?

I’ll finish this with a picture of a full North Stand. OK it was the Under 19 international, but that’s what it needs to look like all the time. I’m sure the players will respond in their performances if there’s a welcoming support from that end. The trouble is that things have to happen in the right order. You can’t expect the fans to get excited first while the players aren’t performing, or part with hard earned cash before the club makes an effort. If you want something Colchester United then give something.

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Under 19 International

18 November, 2008

img_1227_webA great fixture to test the whole infrastructure at, and around, the new stadium at Cuckoo Farm.  England v Germany in an under-19 international friendly.  As expected the kick-off was delayed, but only by 10 minutes due mainly I think to the fact that this was an unfamiliar evening kick-off time at 7pm.  But, then, we have to remember these were kids we were watching so they needed to finish early to get home to bed.  The worst of the traffic seemed to be coming off the A12 the Crown roundabout and trying to work its way through the business park.  It had been slow going round the northern bypass on the A12 but I think that was caused by a broken down car.

The main difference on the walking route to the stadium was the appearance of flag sellers, who didn’t seem to be doing much trade.  In fact they were still trying to sell them later as we left the ground after the match.

The announcement of the German team sounded like a premiership line-up, full of foreign names, but on this occasion not surprising.  The home team got some loud cheers and that was an encouraging start.

img_1225_webShortly after the start the ground was evidently full (official attendance 9,692 – a record for Cuckoo Farm) and there was a constant buzz around the ground in between the periods of excitement on the pitch.  Was this because the average age of the crowd was significantly lower, or just that everyone was so excited at being part of this show?  I’m not sure but the buzz continued throughout the whole game and there were regular chants from all four corners of the stadium with the accompanying klaxon calls.  A few people tried to start off ‘Mexican waves’ in different stands but all they got for their efforts was a ‘cuckoo flap’ that didn’t get much further than the short distance the England keeper could kick the ball.  Maybe they should pick their moment better, like when there’s a break in play and people just might have their attention elsewhere than on the game.

img_1241_webIt was pleasing to see a good team performance and just for the record England beat Germany 1-0.  Our very own Lee Hills (well, almost our own – he’s on loan of course) put in a solid performance at left back and it’s to be hoped that he can continue this in the next few club games.  The game was generally played in a good spirit, by the home team anyway, and I think most of the crowd missed the fact that one of the Germans was sent off near the end after getting a second yellow card.  The ref nearly missed it too, but the German management were too clever for themselves with the way they tried to first of all deal with a fake injury to the player at the touchline and then secondly they tried to substitute him.  All of this drew attention to him and the officials spotted the blunder and he was allowed to walk off gracefully into the tunnel – without a red card being shown!

img_1231_webAll in all a pleasant evening, albeit a bit cold in the stands with the wind chill factor having an effect on older knees.  Now we know what it’s like to have a full house, and I guess we will probably have to wait for the Southend game next year to hear what it’s like for an important fixture that means something to home faithful, and just as important a full North Stand!

Game 08 – Walsall

15 November, 2008

img_1201_webAnother new boy started today, Lee Hills, and captain Dean Hammond was back in the team to add a bit of drive and enthusiasm in the centre of the park.  Unfortunately that’s about the sum total of the good news for this game.  Once again it wasn’t our worst performance by any stretch of the imagination but it was clear, to the fans anyway, that from the start the Us couldn’t cope with the away team’s tactics of closing us down with at least two players every time we got the ball.  It was a slow start to the game anyway and I think the autumn colours on the trees were moving faster than the action.   It wasn’t a surprise when Walsall got their opening goal against a static Us defence.

img_1207_webOn the team front it was a case of ringing the changes yet again.  Johnny White in central defence, Jacko back in midfield and a starting line-up that included 4 players who weren’t in the starting eleven for the last home league game when we thrashed Carlisle (just mentioning that match lifts my spirits a little, I just wish there were more).  Coyne managed an appearance midweek in the Essex Senior Cup against Aveley (wow!) but couldn’t fit a home league match into his busy schedule before jetting off to join the Australian national team.  What’s going on there?  We daren’t risk his fitness for international duty so we don’t give him a game?  To be fair we do have a fair crop of injuries to contend with at the moment and the squad has been far from settled since the beginning of the season.  It’s no wonder the lads have difficulty passing to each other – they havn’t a clue who is going to be on the end of a pass.  Actually since the Carlisle match they’ve forgotten how to do the most basic of things and it’s almost time to bring out the junior coaching manual – the one that starts with ‘this is the ball’.  Two things struck me about their performance today.  Why does White always bang the ball in the air up the right wing to no-one in particular?  he did every time he got the ball and we lost posssession every time.  Secondly, how many headers by our players actually went to another one of our payers?  Hardly any.  I think it’s about time they started practising ‘head tennis’ in training.  Get them used to finding a team mate with their noggin.

On the subject of away tactics it was probably the most blatant display of time wasting I’ve ever seen.  When their number 19 was about to be subbed twenty minutes before the end the first team coach (John Schofield) spoke to him cose to the halfway line (where the substitution was about to take place and while the fourth official was getting his numbers right on the display board) and sent him off towards the Us penalty area.  He sprinted about 30 yeards away, turned back and saw his number was up.  Then he trudged back to the substitution point.  I know it goes on when a team is in the lead, but it doesn’t make it right and this was so blatant I’m surprised the officials didn’t spot it.  Come to think of it there wasn’t a card shown in this game at all.  That’s how tame it was.

img_1212_webThe real business of the day never got started.  Where was the chanting? There was not a single bit of singing from the home fans throughout the whole game, unless you count booing as singing. True, there wasn’t anything to sing about, but it was a full half hour before I heard any singing – and that was the away fans who lasted about 10 seconds before sitting down and shutting up.  Something strange was happening in E8.  The back 4 rows were empty.  I’m not sure if it was a mass protest by the former Barside to stay away from one game, or if it turns out they are all juveniles after all and took advantage of the ‘kids for free’ offer to sit in the North stand.  Probably most likely that the stewards were trying to claim that as ‘sitting down’ territory.  Mind you it looked like the stewards were standing in the seating section and sitting on the steps.  Aren’t they supposed to set an example?

img_1203_webWell, today saw a first.  The first time the a ball has left the ground.  Five minutes into the second half, White, with his bandaged (damaged?) head, attempted yet another ‘hoof’ up the right wing and scooped it over E5.   What odds on a Yeates free kick reaching the A12?  On a positive note I have to admit that Colchester did spend most of the game in the Walsall half of the field.  It’s just that they had no idea what to do with the ball once they got there.  Too many crosses into the hands of the keeper, or beyond our own forwards – not that they would have known what to do if they had got it.  I was surprised to hear the BBC West Midlands radio commentator at the end giving his summary to the folks back home – “It was all Colchester” he said.  He saw the same game as us then.  But it doesn’t get you a result.

A full stadium is expected for the next game.  Sadly it’s the Under 19 international on Tuesday and not a home first team match.  We’ll find out what an atmosphere feels like.

FA Cup 1 – Leyton Orient

8 November, 2008

img_1196_webToday saw the return of Danny Granville, one of the many ex-Us players who have left the cub over the last few seasons.  It was amusing to see him greeted with the familiar chant of ‘Who are ya?’.  He had a fairly anonymous game I’m pleased to say.  However, it’s sad to say that most of the Us team today were fairly anonymous too.  There was a period during the first half – probably the last 20 minutes – when the whole game drifted into oblivion.  The weather didn’t help either.  I’ll bet you could have kept drier in most areas of Layer Road during a thunderstorm (except the family ‘enclosure’ of course).  I think there’ll be a lot more of the wet and maybe harder stuff blowing back into the West Stand as the season progresses.

It was good to hear the minute’s silence observed by the whole crowd.  Although it was a moment to reflect on past events across the globe the emerging background noise did remind us of how close the A12 is to the stadium.  That helped to remind us that we still haven’t lost a ball out of the stadium.  There was a lack of spare balls anyway today.

img_1197b_webThe game started well with some nice possession stuff deep into the opponents half and it felt like the ‘new’ team was rolling on.  The crowd played their part and for the first time that I can recall  the North Stand few started a chant that infected both West and East very quickly.  It’s still difficult to get the home crowd in unison (4,600 today).  It usually starts in the corner of one stand and takes a few seconds to spread.  It’s like an audible version of the mexican wave.

Despite the loss (one-nil to the away team in the cup yet again) there was a real positive for the team today.  Goalkeeper Mark Cousins played well, with some safe handling and a sense of urgency near the end.  It was a shame his early kicking wasn’t up to much but I’d always take a clean sheet against some poor kicking any day.

An interesting start to the second half saw the sun and moon make a brief appearance, although this was not a sign of better things to come and normal service was quickly resumed with clouds and floodlights taking over for the rest of the match.

img_1197_webIn the end it was the same old story.  A blown chance to score followed by a quick counter attack, the defence backing off until the opposition plant it in our net.  For the last half hour it was like watching the highlights of the early part of the season, and there weren’t many of those.  Players who were looking good in the past few games returned to their old form and we just lost the plot. In the end the club failed to earn the £20,000 cup win bonus, and I can’t really say Orient deserved it that much.  One thing that’s been getting really annoying over the last few years is the amount of time-wasting that happens after goals.  I know we all do it, but what a difference it could make if the defending team could take the re-start as soon as they are ready themselves.  A team could be level before the first scorer gets his shirt back on!

Well, we do have the consolation of that old favourite saying in the lower divisions ‘we can concentrate on the league and the paint pot trophy now’.

Cherries Pipped

6 November, 2008

trophyAnother 1-0 win in the Paint Pot Trophy.  It’s getting repetitive, since this is the third consecutive result by this scoreline in this competition, but I have to say it’s good match practice for the lads.   Especially good is the fact that the new boy Williams (no relation) scored the winner.  While we haven’t been slow in scoring goals recently we do have some problems up front with injuries and consistency.  As I’ve said here before I’d rather have extra points in the league than a good cup run, but it is something encouraging for us fans to be cheering.

Next on the agenda is another cup match, at home to Leyton Orient on Saturday.  Our first home cup match at Cuckoo Farm and maybe, just maybe another historic FA Cup run is about to start?

Derby Day

1 November, 2008

Favourites today must be Southend as the home team, and also better placed in the league. However Colchester have some good recent form so the odds must be pretty close.  Two early goals from Southend were quite a setback and provided something of a hurdle to overcome. In addition the continual rain didn’t help.  I was listening to the first half on the car radio coming back from London on BBC Essex Medium Wave and heard the Colchester perspective from the familiar voices of Neil Kelly and David Gregory. When I got home I discovered that there were two commentaries available from BBC Essex – the Colchester experience on FM and one MW frequency while Glen Speller and Ben Fryer gave the opposing view on the other MW frequency and on digital.

In the second half I managed to take in both commentaries.  Kelly and Gregory had the edge for me – apart from being biased the right way their broadcast was about 3 seconds ahead of the other one! I could hear the other commentators in the background of each as well.  A great comeback by the Us to take a 3-2 lead but why do players celebrate by taking their shirts off? They know they’ll get booked. It’s irresponsible. Wordsworth will probably accumulate a few more cards and we’ll lose him for a couple of games later in the season.  I wonder if it happens in women’s football as well?

From the commentary it sounded like Colchester didn’t let up for the whole of the second half. What a performance. They’ve earned their sugar cubes today. I was going to say here that ironically the Southend commentary team felt that a draw should be a fair result – and seconds later, in fact in the final seconds of the game (5 minutes into 4 minutes of time added), they got their wish.  A defensive lapse yet again and the scores ended up level at 3-3.

Still, a great match for those who were lucky enough to be there and a great result for us considering table positions, home advantage and the weather conditions.  We’re set up for a fantastic return encounter at Cuckoo Farm in February to sort out ‘the best team in Essex’.