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

"Banter with Burns"

29 May 2020

Please do not think ill of me, for I have also been to the county of Durham. Admittedly the happy events did not occur during “lockdown”, so I am not in trouble. Nor did I choose to visit a castle – at least I don’t think my favourite watering hole was called that? You have probably guessed that like many a U’s fan, I must confess visiting Hartlepool United a few times and I also make no apologies for doing so. The local brew is always tasty, and I will never forget the time Alan White was sent off there whilst my mate was in the loo. It took him nearly to the final whistle to realise he was missing!


Ah, the happy days of football, which I can just about still remember. Hope that I can recall what to do during the 90 minutes when this is all over and we can sit together on our plastic seats to watch the U’s play.


Quite when that will be is unknown of course. Quite when the U’s will hopefully/maybe have a few playoff games to undertake is another matter. The League One messy bun fight rumbles on and until those waters clear a bit, the next steps and decisions are all held up which means that although our lads could well be back in training very soon, they could be scratching their heads about any potential game time.


I wonder if the “released” lads will also be back at Florence Park? Appreciate that call may not be down to them to make, but what an advantage it would be to have them around for promotion shoot out.


At lot of eyes will have been on the Bundesliga and their re-start. It will have a knock-on effect to the Premier League and ultimately to our level for when and how the games are played. Full contact training has been given the green light at the top and this will be welcome news to Tom Lapslie who must be licking his lips at the prospect of again being able to slide tackle anyone other than his cat (if he has one). He must be like a coiled spring at the moment, eager to savagely fell anyone who gets in his way at Sainsbury’s.


Not that any of his victims would potentially make a meal of it in the “new world” by the sounds of it. Did I read this week that the German League has seen less of the rolling around the floor and screaming like a banshee, as they are behind closed doors, with no fans to play up to? Is the game better without us? Only joking, that’ll never happen.


Let’s all keep our fingers crossed that there will be some more positive news very soon. It will mean a lot to many a fan to have the chance of supporting the U’s again – even if it is only down the length of an internet cable. Please look after yourselves and thanks as always for your continued support of the U’s

15 May 2020

You may have seen one or two players, football club owners or even supporters in the last 24 hours or so, walking up and down the streets of Colchester with their “End is Nigh” sandwich boards begrudgingly wrapped around them.

It seems like the feeling is that the curtailed seasons for League One and League Two will have firm lines drawn under them imminently. In the grand scheme of things, with good people still passing away or falling ill around the country, scrubbing off a few football matches hardly seems very important, but for football fans, and in particular U’s fans and everyone associated with the football club we support, this will be extremely sad news.

You could say that all the hard work behind the scenes and on the pitch, in an effort to win promotion, has all been in vain. For the fans, perhaps all the time and expense laid out to support the team we love has been wasted. If the axe does fall, then these will probably be the immediate reactions. In time though views may change. Personally, my overriding feelings would be to then focus on making sure that the U’s are still around when the time comes to go again, that they can establish a good squad of players to compete strongly, and of course to see that all of the U’s “family” of supporters are back in the stands cheering the lads on. Back to some sort of normality.

Sadly, the truth is that with the perceived costs of even playing behind closed doors escalating daily, at our level I doubt that there is anyway the clubs could have afforded them. Certainly, no kind benefactor or governing body of the game, was going to step in and help financially, and to be honest you also must wonder how keen some of the players would have understandably been to play on.

We therefore seem to back to the massive disparity between the “haves” and the “have nots” of our great game. At our level, playing football is a livelihood, whilst in the Premier League, I would say it is more of lifestyle. Consider that 1400 players are out of contract in July and salary caps are being talked about, our lads simply cannot afford to take their health for granted.

So, if the curtain falls, so the arguments over promotion and relegation begin. Some clubs will be penalised, some clubs will benefit, and rest simply will not care I suppose, depending on what method is concocted. I fear that whatever calculation is used, it will not help the U’s.

Let’s look on the bright side, maybe none of this will come to pass. Perhaps a master plan to finish the season at whatever date will be laid out in front of us this weekend. Clutching at straws, possibly, but like many of you I am just desperate for some positive news. To finish on a positive note though, please try and support if you can the top work that the U’s Football in the Community are doing. Simply search for CUFITC through Just Giving, look for their Coronavirus Appeal and offer what you can.

Look after yourselves U’s fans and I hope you have a really good week

8 May 2020

This week, I have resorted to adding a Coach Simulator game to my iPhone. For two reasons really, firstly being because I love driving and at least now I can get behind the wheel of something each day, and also because I miss going on the coach to away games so hopefully Level 39 will involve taking a bunch of U’s fans off to Valley Parade! On a serious note though, let’s spare a thought for the real coach companies, who are also in need of desperate and urgent assistance at the moment.

I hope that you are all keeping safe and well, with your football withdrawal symptoms just about under control. Although it’s not quite the same, it looks like there will be some live German football to watch on the old telly box soon. It might help to a degree. As for football over here, well the struggle goes on between the two agendas of the Premier League and EFL it seems with the latter’s future sadly very much in the hands of the former.

It feels like football is in for a massive shake up in this country and as I suggested a few weeks ago, it is turning out to be a complete financial bun fight with those that “have” doing all they can to protect their own interests from those who “have not”. Let’s hope that the wider view is considered eventually. Interesting to see that Gordon Taylor, who I actually thought had left the PFA, suggesting that games could be played with shorter halves. Personally, I cannot see that happening. Who would decide the number of safe minutes in each half? If you’re going to do that, then keep your social distancing and the time players are out in the open, by having all of the remaining games brought to a conclusion with a penalty shoot-out. The U’s are top notch at those. Come on Deano!

You may have already read this week that former Liverpool CEO, and now EFL Chairman, Rick Parry has made some strong comments on how he sees things ahead. I loved the fact that he has not held back with his thoughts on the “evil” parachute payments and the estimated £200m gap in the budgets of the EFL clubs during this crisis, which by happy coincidence I think is just one Kane or Pogba. Sounds like a few home truths are coming out.

My comedy moment of the week came from certain “Premier” quotes about how unfair it would be to be relegated to the Championship if they had to play out their remaining fixtures at neutral grounds. Good luck with that one and I wish them all the best placating the resulting angry Leeds supporters

With so much going on, all we can really do as U’s fans is read the updates, sit back and watch as the big decisions are made above us. All whilst keeping our fingers crossed for Robbie Cowling and everyone at the U’s, at the same time as looking after your good selves of course. Football is by far not the only thing to worry about at the moment, but boy do I miss it. Keep safe boys and girls 

1 May 2020

Desperate for some cheery “Banter” this week, but alas there is not much along those lines when it comes to the world of football at the moment sorry. Obviously in my own little dream world, the U’s trounced Forest Green Rovers last Saturday afternoon to secure third place, so avoiding the dreaded play offs. You guessed it, Tom Eastman scored the last three goals of a double figure victory, so propelling himself to top scorer for the season. Why are all the best centre halves, frustrated centre forwards?

If you were there, then the scenes at the final whistle will certainly live long in your memory. Players, managers, stewards and even the odd member of the constabulary being lifted high on shoulders in celebration. Fair to say that many a pint of ale was consumed that night!

Back to the grim reality of the real world and really I need to pay tribute to some mighty fine U’s players who sadly will not be seeing another U’s contract in front of them, unless a miracle occurs. Not forgetting all of the younger departees of course, including Cameron James and Louis Dunne, both of whom I loved to watch play. Real talents both and I hope they find some fantastic football opportunities out of all this turmoil.

Unless said miracle occurs, then it is without doubt that Luke, Frank, Brandon and Ryan will be lapped up by some lucky clubs elsewhere. Top professionals who have given so much for the U’s and the fans. It’s so hard and painful to lose them like this, but this is another painful example, as if we needed more, of how the pandemic is going to utterly change the face of football in this country for such a long time.

It’s all about survival. Survival of the football club as a whole and in that we trust Robbie and his colleagues, and survival of these top players who hopefully can get an advantage over others by being at the front of the out of contract queue.

So what about the current season then? Robbie says to avoid fake news. Wise move, there seems to be so many opinions flying around and as we all clamour for information it can be hard to tell fact from fiction. League Two will certainly not be decided by rock, paper, scissors nor will the final games be played out using Subbuteo despite what you may have read. However, you will have seen the news from FIFA, UEFA and some of the other European leagues this week. Not overly warming for U’s fans, but to honest I am only interested in the fate of the U’s and with that I back Robbie to fight our corner for the best possible outcome.

It’s been a week of tough decisions in amongst all of the other toughness we all feel either at work or at home. My very best wishes to you all, especially those fans who have either lost loved ones or are looking after family and friends in these difficult times. We will get through this and football will return.

24 April 2020

Anyone else kind of forgotten what a football actually looks like? I’m thinking it maybe was round in shape, or perhaps did it look like an egg? I must be losing it big time if I am seriously confusing two of my most loved sports. Sounds like it must be time to get one out of the boot of my car and start banging it around my flat, such are my withdrawal symptoms. I will worry about the damage to the windows and telly later.

In other news, my made-up end to the season saw us wallop Walsall last Saturday courtesy of a brace from Big Frank, a beauty from Theo and a collector’s item from Lapslie. The U’s just need to sneak a 1-0 against FGR in the season finale tomorrow to secure the 3rd automatic promotion place. What might have been, and what a day and night of celebrations that could have been?

On a serious note, it is becoming increasingly likely that U’s fans will not be seeing any sort of round object being kicked around in anger by our heroes any time soon. With the National League clubs voting this week to cancel their current season, with a decision still to be made whether to void the results entirely or use the current standings for promotion and relegation, there’s every chance I suppose that the EFL could copy this route at some point. In grassroots football, one of the FA options is that final places are decided on a points per game average. Sadly this would not be to the U’s benefit.

It does sound like the League Two clubs had a positive video chat this week however. Clearly they want to play out the season to a finish but there are just so many issues in the way that need deep consideration. Health being the most important one of course. So how do you keep the players safe, let alone everyone else who needs to be there for even a behind closed doors game of footy? Should football take precedence with testing over those clearly more in need? And as for players playing with face masks, I don’t think so.

Money, or the lack of it, will also be a major catalyst in the final decision without doubt. With budgets and cashflow forecasts already thrown out of the window, which is the best way forward to actually secure the financial viability of football clubs this year or even more frighteningly, next year? Robbie Cowling has made it clear that many clubs may not survive this and that’s terrifying to think about.

To end on a positive note, I read this week that the Northern Gateway plans are out for public comment. You will already be aware of the nearly completed, fantastic looking Sports Park, and the new home for the Colchester Rugby Club on the other side of the A12. I am really hoping that the developers plans for the areas around the U’s will be of benefit to the football club in the future.

Stay safe and well footy fans, and please continue to look after each other, and ultimately the outstanding NHS

17 April 2020

Good news U’s fans, we thumped Oldham Athletic on Easter Monday courtesy of a Tom Eastman hat trick (making a late claim for leading scorer), so now we head to Walsall tomorrow knowing that if we beat them too, we only need to pick up 3 points in the final home game against Forest Green to secure 3rd place and an automatic promotion place. Now this may be me fantasising slightly for obvious reasons, and it well be a sign that I am going just a little stir crazy with the lockdown coupled with a lack of the U’s, but who cares. Anything to lighten the mood.


Some of you have already managed to get the U’s promoted through one of the many football games being played to relieve the boredom. Well done and thanks if you have. Hope you were able to keep hold of the finances and your best players whilst doing so. In our current reality both of these areas have been in the football news this week with agreement on players wage deferrals being reached to ease the burden on clubs, despite claims that several will not survive insolvency when all this is over anyway. Spare a thought for the players too, especially some of our U’s lads who may not be paid as much as some fans think they are.


With no end in sight to the football hiatus, with contracts or possible transfers up for negotiation over the next few months, it is going to be a painful time for some of our blue and white heroes.


The mixed messages concerning football continue to circulate from various sources, with claims on one hand that our current season may have to be left unfinished, yet elsewhere it has been calculated that just 56 days will be needed, so that’s just a little bit positive. Football behind closed doors for the rest of this year has also been mooted. Crikey, how rubbish would that be for the supporters, players and owners?


I think if you know me by now, you will know that I am no lover of the financial disparity that the Premier League brings to the football table in this country. With that I was staggered to read this week that clubs in the top division owe £1.6 billion in outstanding transfer fees to be paid this summer. Anyone got a money tree, or even a money forest to give them please?


On a lighter note, please have a look at how Borussia Monchengladbach are preparing for football with fans, well not real ones actually. For a few quid they will put a head shot of you in your seat to “watch” the game. Great idea, but I am not sure if I would want the other “me “to be sat behind the goal. One stray shot, and I am not naming any U’s player here, could wipe out a good dozen or more loyal fans. I certainly know of a top local printer if it floats the U’s boat at some stage.


Finally from me, whilst my above ramblings are all football related, there are clearly bigger issues we need to continue our focus on. Stay safe, think positive, apply the rules and we’ll get through this together. And when we are able to hug family and friends, and even the wonderful Tom Eastman, again, it will be with our grateful thanks and appreciation to those in the NHS and all healthcare, who are looking after us just when we need it the most.

10 April 2020

Well done for getting through another week U’s fans. Lockdown coupled with no football is no fun at all. Well played if you have been following the important rules keeping us all safe, and if you are thinking of being silly this glorious Easter weekend, please do not.


Mega thanks to all of the U’s fans, and of course everyone else, who are also key workers or volunteers, out there keeping going what is really needed. Sitting in my darkened room working from home is easy compared to the drama and stress that all of the superb guys and gals working in healthcare, retail, public transport and other areas must be facing. We often think that supporting the U’s can be an ordeal at times. In perspective, perhaps we need to think differently when it all kicks off again?


Question is, when will that be? The current season is suspended indefinitely and the powers that be have even suggested that it may never be concluded. All options are technically still open and the situation has been helped by the flexibility granted this week around players contracts and the transfer window. Personally, I still think our season will be played out at some point. It might need some creative thinking, the removal of a cup competition and an extension to next season. Too many variables to even try to formulate a resolution at this point though.


Good news though. FIFA have been playing with the handball rule this week. Good to see that the important issues of the world are on their agenda in the present climate. The new “T Shirt rule” for the, was it shoulder, was it arm problem. What joy! Something else for VAR to get excited about I suppose. Maybe we’ll have “hot spot” soon to see if the ball actually hit the arm in the first place. I love football to bits, but not when it is being ruined in my humble opinion.


In proper good news Harry Pell has almost completed his massive Lego football stadium. It looks amazing on social media and makes me wish that we had Lego like that when I was a kid. Yes, it was around when I was a youngster, I’m not that old! The players, football club and fans are all doing their bit if they can, and that’s just brilliant.


Today as it is Good Friday, we should have been bopping Northampton away, taking 3 points off them and consolidating our position in the play offs with just 3 games to go. I think a Bramall free kick, a Norris volley from 25 yards and a cheeky Robinson lob would have sealed it. What do you think?


Best wishes to you all, keep safe and secure and as much as you can, please have a very Happy Easter

3 April 2020

Let us start with the serious stuff first, a footballing reminder to stay safe, stay at home, help the NHS and save lives. There is nothing else of greater importance. Even our beloved football and the U’s must come second to anything that protects people and their health.

When football eventually opens its doors again, and it will at some point, we want to see our friends and fellow supporters in amongst us. Even the annoying bloke sitting behind you who keeps kicking the back of your seat when the U’s are on the attack. You would definitely want him there, and by all of us following the advice, however hard it may be, the two of you will be back enjoying yourselves in the Jobserve Community Stadium one day.

I would also add that in whatever way was possible, fans should also continue to help each other. Some of the football material on social media has been absolutely amazing. Small things they may be, but together they help no end, especially with the youngsters off school. The football club, the CUFITC and even the U’s players are doing what they can to help. Love the fact that Harry Pell has actually picked up the phone to a few supporters. He is truly a different breed of footballer and that’s fantastic.

These are incredibly tough times, even without football. Perhaps no way near as tough, but imagine working for a Premier League club and being told that they cannot afford all of your wages? The image they portray is that their corridors are swimming with cash. Maybe I am doing them an injustice, or maybe I am not.

For football, it’s closer to home that we need to look after, and that is the survival of the U’s. The initial pot of EFL money, proportioned unfairly to League Two I think, may have already been gobbled up in March, so what about April and even May? I have my fingers crossed for Robbie Cowling.

Finally, what saddens me most is that in these hard times, when preventing loss of life should be our main priority, I can see football in this country being ultimately consumed by an utter dog fight for money, because there is such a massive disparity between the “haves” and “have nots”. It has spiralled out of all control for many years. Thankfully those responsible, have now got the task of sorting it all out.

Wishing you all a safe and secure week ahead football fans

27 March 2020

Week two without the U’s, or any football for that matter. If it wasn’t painful enough having to work from home or being in fear of breaching the two metre exclusion zone when venturing out to forage for food, when you have lived and breathed footy for so many years, I must admit that I have gone a bit cold turkey these past few days. I appreciate that many others are in a much worse situation than myself, and I do thank the stars daily that I do not work in the NHS or other areas that involve care or people wellbeing.


Back to the football and a lot of the rumblings this week have been about money and how to conclude the season. I love that fact that Robbie Cowling has been prominent in the national press this week with his nudges on the Premier League cash coffers. That’s where the money is, and this is where we will see their true colours, I think. From the Championship downwards, to even the lower steps of the football pyramid, it feels like the financial impact could see the destruction of many of the building blocks that actually keep the said pyramid upright. Worrying times for football club owners, managers, players and fans alike, so will those with the purse strings actually help or turn a blind eye? Time will tell.


Time does sound like it is coming to an end for some leagues, with talk of the National League and the levels below close to a decision on how and when to conclude their seasons. It must be a nightmare if “exceptional circumstances” are not part of your rule book. I suspect that the majority of clubs will not be overly interested, but for anyone in the up or down areas, the impact could be massive. The same applies to the U’s and how to decide the final League Two table in a way that when the new season starts, we are not looking at something like November for the opening game. That said, personally I can see no reason that Leagues One or Two could not start later and finish later, despite the Euros. If it helps shorten the next season, then there is a much-maligned midweek cup competition that could be shelved temporarily.


Finally, a mix of emotions from me with firstly a big pat on the back for the work that the Col Utd Football in the Community guys and gals have done this week. They are truly worth following and supporting, especially on social media if you can. And on a very sad note, last weekend we lost a fantastic supporter who was devoted to the U’s for so many years. You might remember dear Paul Wright for him thrusting a 50/50 ticket into your hand. He really lived for Colchester United and the home and away games to come will have something missing from them without Paul around.


Take good care of yourselves, stay safe and I hope you have a good week

20 March 2020

I wish I could be waxing lyrical about Harry Pell booming in a 35-yarder last Saturday against Scunthorpe to make it 3-0. I wish I could also be going mushy about Tom Eastman rising like a gazelle at the far post to power home the 4th.


Life without football and the U’s (week one) sucks. Let’s be fair, there will be also be week two and three, and then there could even be months, which is certainly not worth thinking about. It’s not a welcoming thought for fans. I am just so glad that I do not own or run a football club, because the pressure of paying your fixed costs stacked up against the fact that a massive income stream has just been ripped out of your cashflow must be totally frightening.


I like to think that Robbie Cowling has the Colchester United financial ship on a much safer and even keel than the vast majority of our football peer group. That will stand us in good stead but with so much unknown about the future, even a shrewd businessman holding the reigns will start to sweat heavily eventually.


There is a much bigger picture here than the football of course. We all know that and even though for many of us football has been a priority for more years than we can remember, there are other priorities now so best we leave the football rule makers and lawyers to decide how our season is concluded. Hopefully that will not be behind closed doors, where I can partly see some of the  reasons behind doing so, but as many people have said, football is nothing without the fans, and big Frank is not going to hear us scream “Shoot” from behind our laptops.


Personally, with the current football hiatus I have come to realise just how great a role football plays in my life as a supporter and volunteer. I am sure that many of you can relate to that. As sad as these times might be without our favourite sport, at least it does give us the time to get those paint brushes out and dabble with some DIY.


Best wishes to all of the U’s fans and to everyone whose life involves football. Stay safe and keep your pecker up, our great game will be back with us at some point.