As published in the Essex County Standard/Colchester Gazette and copied here with their kind permission

"Banter with Burns"

26 June 2020

The toughest defeats to take are those that involve fine margins. When you know that with so much on the line, with a real opportunity of promotion, you find yourselves falling short. Sadly, over the two legs against Exeter City, with a Wembley shoot out begging, the U’s just missed the chance and came out second best.


The wave of disappointment from Monday still surrounds the U’s fans, and whilst a barren Wembley Stadium may not have been the most memorable of finales, when you know how close the U’s were, it is still gutting.


It was not for want of trying though. Our football club had to work their socks off and fork out significant sums of money just to get the two games on. It would be good not to forget that. A gamble that simply could not be refused. Four players, not knowing of their next job in football, put that job on the line by agreeing to help the team, putting their bodies in harm’s way. I am predominantly thinking of our skipper Luke Prosser, his battle with Bowman and way that he threw himself in front of a shot late in the game on Monday.


Appreciating that it was the same for both teams, our players did all that they could to overcome the rustiness of a 3-month layoff. Many of them stood out for me, and whilst a few others worked as hard as they could, I do feel that if they were all at their level best in terms of match fitness then our team would have easily been more than a match for Exeter, and certainly decent favourites against Northampton.


Personally, I am loathed to point fingers at individual mistakes and misjudgements over the two games. Football is a matter of opinions and mine will differ from yours. A few things are certain though. Cohen Bramall is an exciting prospect, lightening quick over the grass and utterly proficient with a dead ball. The U’s will badly miss Prosser, Nouble, Jackson, and the goals of Theo Robinson. The former 3, unless something amazing happens and we see them in a U’s shirt again, have been outstanding players for us over many games and will not be forgotten. For my other certainty, and although but for their keeper he could have won us the game late on, the young Kwame Poku has a big second season ahead of him. Perhaps a little raw still but very talented, let’s hope he continues to do more of the top stuff he did against Exeter and others last season.


Overall, to make the play offs, to overcome both Palace and Spurs, not reserve teams I hasten to add, and then to thwart Manchester United for 45 minutes at Old Trafford, I think it is fair to say that last season was a very good one. Promotion would have been the royal icing on the cake.


I feel sorry for the supporters who were also so desperate to make League One. The U’s has some incredible fans who have given so much in terms of time and money, and I know it is greatly appreciated by the football club. With more of your commitment and help then next season can be ours for the taking. How that new season will look, which clubs will barely survive, and when will we be allowed back in the stadium to support them properly, is yet to be known, but it is already clear that football behind closed doors is really rubbish, so let’s hope that it’s very soon. In the meantime, thank you so much for all of your support of the U’s and please stay safe and secure until all of this is over.


Up the U’s!

18 June 2020

Step one of the three steps to League One is upon us. You may well be thinking of the famous song by Eddie Cochran, and why not? Promotion will be “heavenly” and some of our players are Gods in the eyes of many U’s supporters for what they have brought us in the season so far.


This evening at 5.15pm, we have our team Colchester United in the play offs, pitting themselves against perhaps the toughest team out of the other three in my opinion. Overcome Exeter after 180 minutes of football and Wembley awaits for the one game shoot out to join Swindon, Crewe and Plymouth in the third tier next season. It’s truly incredible to take in the fact that after all the stresses and strains we have all faced, at varying levels, since the lockdown of ourselves and football started, we now have the opportunity of supporting the U’s these next few days. It’s means a shed load to the fans and I know we’ll all be counting down the hours to kick off.


The real down side is that we can’t be there in person, and with that in mind please remember to avoid the stadium at all costs later, because if there’s the slightest risk then the U’s will get in heap of trouble and it will cost them even more money than they have already paid out. I imagine that the hoops the club has had to jump through just to get this game on have been numerous, and you can bet that there will be penalties from the EFL if fans even try to go up for a simple glimpse of their heroes after the game. Players have been kept in “bubbles” which has thankfully kept them void of positive tests so let’s keep it that way.


So how are we all supporting the lads on? You may have groomed yourself for a cardboard cut out in the stands, keeping your eyes peeled on the TV to catch a glimpse of yourself behind one of U’s players in shot? Or maybe you prefer the radio option and the astute football wisdom from your favourite commentators? As many will support in a multi-tasking, socially distanced way, I suspect that there’ll also be a few managing a laptop or phone in one hand, a Balti pie in the other, whilst still trying to concentrate on the action. Best not get the pie and smart device mixed up is my advice.


Many of us have been second guessing the U’s line up for tonight. What an absolute bonus it is to have the likes of Prosser, Nouble, Jackson and Robinson available. This speaks volumes for the make up of these players and in fact our whole squad, that they want to help and play out their part this season. I feel there’s a real togetherness on the pitch. Let’s hope that can use that to play some of their very best football and win. Personally, I would not dare to try and predict John McGreal’s thinking. He’s seen them work hard for just a few weeks in the build-up, and he’ll make up his mind from there.


So looking forward to this, and of course next Monday. The best team over the two legs will be worthy winners and let it be us. The very best of luck to John and the team for this week, and thanks to you for your fantastic support, wherever and however you will be giving it.


Up the U’s!

12 June 2020

And finally, the U’s have their play-off game confirmed by the EFL. Plenty of fist clenching and moaning around L1 and L2 following the decision, but that’s not our concern. It feels like an age since this debate first started. It’s also an age since the U’s played a game of course. Hard to believe that it was way back on the 7th March up at Carlisle where we secured the magical 3 points that gave us the leg up in the table that we needed. It was a fine performance too and how indebted we now are to the teenage Poku for his 2 goals that day.


Northampton losing at home and Port Vale only drawing at Cheltenham that day has given the U’s their chance and I’m sure they will do all that they can to grab it with both hands. Just think that by the end of June we could be winning at Wembley and planning for League One football next season. How big a reward that would be for the fans who have supported the team through thick and thin this season and more, and gave the players such tremendous support at Old Trafford?


They may not be at the same level as some of our peers in terms of numbers, but without doubt the U’s do have such a keen and devoted fan base. How exciting that would be to see that increase on the back of promotion? We will need them more than ever once the restrictions are relaxed and we can all start to enjoy live football in the flesh again.


So, what of these 2 upcoming battles with Exeter City, and who can or who will play? If the world was a normal place now, we could have all been planning an extended weekend away in Devon for the 2nd leg. That would have been a bit special. Personally, I am very happy playing at home first. Both teams are evenly matched and they’ll both be a bit rusty, but I fancy the U’s to take the advantage next Thursday and then thwart and counterattack in the re-match. We cannot afford to work our way into the game and that’s where it may be difficult for the players, without none of the normal pre-season friendlies to get them up to speed, but it sounds like training has been top notch so that’s great news.


We certainly have the players to be successful these next weeks but will said team sheets include the names of the 4 “released” 1st teamers or even a certain Mr Robinson, there’s the question? I wonder if John McGreal will try to keep that news a closely guarded secret for as long as possible as the mind games with Exeter begin. “League Two mind games” – we are sounding more like the Premiership every day!


Hopefully between now and the big day there will be more news on how and where we can watch and enjoy seeing our players again. Although she doesn’t know it yet, my fall-back position is sticking my nose up against the outside lounge window of a friend and beg that she does not need pull the curtains or call the Police.


Thanks for your support and don’t forget to dust off your blue and whites