BWB

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

"Banter with Burns" 

8 November 2019

So glad we don’t have the troubles of
VAR to worry about. Utterly delighted that we don’t have to worry and moan
about playing 2 games in 2 days, especially when the fixtures haven’t exactly
been hidden to the world and there will be probably be a shed load of money on
the table to ease the blow.

Life is much simpler in League Two. All
we have to worry about is our dear old U’s, and to be honest, there’s presently
very little to worry about at the moment in my view. The club is on a high with
the league form really good and Old Trafford on the horizon. Winning at
Mansfield was very sweet indeed and although I could not go, all of the
feedback I have received has been ultra positive. Mansfield is a tough place to
win at. They have some very well paid players on their books to help with their
current promotion attempt. Comley’s goal looked great on the highlights and
having Stevenson alongside him at the moment has really clicked for the U’s. No
surprises then that we sought postponement of the Bradford game because you
need to have your best players available all of the time for the league games and
Comley is definitely one of those.

You could also include his fellow
international Luke Gambin in that bracket. We all know how good he is from when
he’s played against us in the past and I don’t think it will be too long before
he’s starting.

Adding to the feel good factor this
week is the news that Harry Pell and Diaz Wright are back kicking a ball in
anger after injury. A big boost to the squad whilst also keeping the players
honest and focussed.

Our only knock back this week was the
hugely disappointing decision not to show our Old Trafford trip on TV. Let’s
not beat about the bush, it all comes down to money, advertising and
sponsorship in the nice and chummy environment that is the top of the English
footballing pyramid. The U’s will just have to show what they’re missing out on
by giving Ole’s men one hell of a game.

Which is what they’ll also do
tomorrow against Coventry I’m sure. Perhaps one of the toughest 1st
round ties drawn out of the cloth bag, but their away record is average at best
so I fully expect the U’s to beat them. That’ll take us to Tuesday, and I know
all of the talk is about how many tickets Ipswich have sold, and how relatively
few we have sold. For me, I have no interest in the competition design, but I
do have interest in our team. I want to see them play a game of football, do well,
build confidence, win and progress in every competition possible. Tuesday is no
different and I hope that many of us will think the same and lend their
support.

And finally, with ticket details for Manchester
United on the horizon, the CUSA can help coach you there and back, so please
have a look at www.cusa.co.uk for all of
the details and updates. 

Thanks for your support and good luck
U’s

1 November 2019

Manchester United away is some reward for an excellent U’s cup campaign littered with terrific results and wonderful performances. It will be a night to remember. The CUSA will be running coaches for as many fans that need our help to get to Old Trafford, and we’ll announce details via our website and social media just as soon as we have made our decisions

It caps what has been a hugely positive week for the U’s and their supporters. The brilliant comeback against Newport last Saturday providing the catalyst to one of the greatest nights of football we have ever seen from the team we love and support. An incredible and exciting game, and a gargantuan achievement for the U’s as they continue to fly the League Two flag in the Carabao Cup. 

It is not lost on me that only a week ago I was bemoaning a perceived lack of application from some of the players after a dismal couple of games. Well, they have smashed that comment well and truly out of the park by playing some of
their very best football. It has always been within them and I still believe that on our day we can beat anyone. I said that same on Tuesday night. 

Playing Crawley held no fears for me despite our rubbish record there. Backed by a wonderful set of fans there was only going to be one winner and I think the players believed that too. Crawley work very hard but they don’t have the quality on the pitch and bench that the U’s have. I could list every single player and detail how well they played and what they did for the team.  They should be rightly proud of their performances and look to carry that feeling through into the next game, and the next and so on.

There are some massive bread and butter league games to play, not least at Mansfield tomorrow, then the FA Cup next weekend against Coventry, and then even the cup game against Ipswich. Loads of football for the U’s to play and the fans to enjoy, and if I am honest, I am totally behind the rallying call from Robbie Cowling this week. The glory games are fantastic, but we also want to progress in other competitions too, so wouldn’t it be great to give the players the same backing against Coventry and Ipswich, especially as we are at home, regardless of the cost in one competition and the bad press of the other? Totally understanding of course if fans simply cannot afford it.

Good luck tomorrow U’s and safe journey all. And to you, the fans, thanks for your outstanding  support this week

25 October 2019

There are far more important things to worry about in football other than the U's have a terrible game of football. There is a headline almost every day on the subject of either racist or offensive behaviour. It's all very worrying and deeply wrong, and it quite simply has to stop. That said, I really don't know if you can completely, because who is to know what is in the mind of each person coming through the turnstiles week on week.

Education falls on the deaf ears of these individuals it seems. All we can do, as football fans and supporters of Colchester United, is to ensure that if we witness anything of this nature, then it must be reported. Either to a person in authority, or by using your phone. It's easy to do, and if you need information, please get in contact with either CUFC or CUSA and we'll direct you.

Hopefully the punishments will start to become much stronger than a ban from football in the future and this might help.

Our own punishment was last Saturday against bottom of the table Morecambe. We have to move on from the game, and we could gloss over it by talking about the improved performance at Crewe and the deserved point, but it has been a long, long since I have seen a U's team collectively play so poorly. Only perhaps Dean Gerken could be excused the blame 

If the U's are to have serious promotion ambitions this season, then as well as parking all of their thoughts of cup glory, then they need to find a way of halting these "down times" when they think they stick on the cruise control and have an easy game. It is so frustrating for the fans when you see players seemingly not giving their all, and whilst that is an accusation that cannot be thrown of all of them, I was upset to see one or two walking or jogging around the pitch. The Morecambe players were running and sprinting, and they can be congratulated for an well played game and for finding our Achilles heel - complacency.

Our players are so much better than a week ago and they will need to prove it in style in front of their home fans tomorrow. Hopefully the fact that they shut out the league leaders will give them confidence. Personally though I don't think keeping clean sheets is our main problem, it's at the other end, where John McGreal should be considering his options.

They should all be fighting for a starting place against Crawley next Tuesday shouldn't they? That game seems a long way off at the moment but what a special night it will be for the fans. A word of advice if you are travelling down by car. Crawley and the M23 is beset by roadworks, so best to plan your journey and parking well in advance, and look out for motorway closures on the way home. We have 6 coaches heading down there with seats still available if you would like us to take the strain.

Best of luck to the U's over the next important week of football, and as always thanks for your loyal and excellent support

18 October 2019

Disappointingly, episode one of the Crawley experience did not go to plan. On a wet afternoon in Sussex, the U’s fell away in the second half with a Jekyll and Hyde performance. Hopefully, with lessons learned about what we must not do against them, the next encounter will be a more successful affair. With a major trophy quarter final place up the grabs, it should sharpen the minds of the one or two players who occasionally drift away during a game. 

Will it be too early for a fit again Callum Harriott? We all know what he can do when he is 100% and you have to think that if he’s even close to that then he has to be included in the squad at least. Yet more competition for John McGreal to manage, and whilst it is a selection headache, it is also a major issue for players because if they are being picked on merit then they all know that they cannot give a fraction off their best. I often find it fascinating seeing how players respond to pressure on complacency. 

Several understudies were on show during the Essex Senior Cup defeat at Heybridge on Tuesday. Have to say well done to U’s legend Karl Duguid and his team for playing so well. For all of the skills and trickery that the U’s had on show, it sadly failed to click properly in the final third. Harriott played the first half and looked hungry and reasonably sharp. 

After a poor week by recent standards, the U’s need to bounce back in confident style against bottom placed Morecambe tomorrow. Taking a lesson from the recent Stevenage game, we know the mental and physical challenges we need to overcome. I wonder if the gaffer might choose some different cards to play this week, giving one or two aces the chance to impress and retain their place ahead of the Tuesday trip to Crewe at the other end of League Two.

It’s a big week for the U’s. They’ll need to keep the confidence high ahead of the cup and with 6 points on offer in a tight table, they’ll need to work hard to keep pace with the top positions. Hope you’re looking forward to it U’s fans. Thanks for your support as always.

11 October 2019

The clamour for cup tickets has gripped the U’s fans this week. It sounds like there will be a very strong turn out of Colchester people at Crawley cheering the lads on during one of their biggest games for many a year. That’s fantastic news and further to that I am also very pleased that we are already into our 5th coach for the trip.

It should be a cracking evening and just imagine actually winning the game and the potential opponents in the next round. Maybe only then will the U’s get the national plaudits that it deserves after removing 2 Premiership sides from the cup already. I do feel that, would this have been the FA Cup, then the attention would have been much greater. Perhaps that’s the way to do it? A little bit under the radar, much like some of the top players we have at the club, when the mind boggles as to why they haven’t been snaffled up for the Leagues above.

I said last week that the U’s would need a degree of grunt against Stevenage last Saturday, and they certainly did. It’s always a difficult affair when the U’s have to play a bottom dwelling team. That said, not so many seasons ago, we would have been soundly beaten after a dour 90 minute performance in these sort of games. That is why, even after such a poor first half, the comeback and end result was a real plus for me 

If I'm honest, I'm not sure that starting Nouble, Norris and Robinson worked as planned. Stevenage were retaining the ball too easily for my liking because at times it looked liked we had four up front, including the exciting Poku, leaving loads of space behind them for only Stevenson and Comley to look after. On the positive side, the double substitution breathed new life into the team just at the right time and that helped Frank effectively win us the game.

3 points, thank you very much and now the U's are knocking on the door of the play off places ahead of Crawley Part One tomorrow afternoon.

We were almost through the door of the EFL Trophy group stage on Tuesday night. Could have and probably should have won it in normal time, and the penalty shoot out was sadly a bridge too far for us on this occasion. The U's played well though against the Spurs youngsters and if they avoid defeat at home against Ipswich on 12th November then it will be happy days.

Lot to happen on the pitch before then though, and to start things off a nice little psychological advantage tomorrow would be brilliant. Good luck U's, thanks for your support and I hope you all having a fantastic weekend.

4 October 2019

Who would you pick for your U’s player of the season so far? We are almost a quarter of the way through the league campaign so there is plenty of evidence to sift through. Perhaps not be guided by the majority of the home man of the match awards, as they tend to focus on the players in the lower half of the team sheet, being the exciting attackers that they are.

I wonder if Dean Gerken would feature in your thinking? He certainly would in mine, even at the expense of my usual favourites, the two Tom’s. The defensive line are so often overlooked when it comes to the praise and glory. Dean could be also be up for “deal of the season” after the U’s beckoned him in to fill the unsettled keeper position left vacant by the departing Gilmartin and Barnes. 

Our former youth team glove man has made a massive difference to the U’s. You can sense it from the stands and you can see it in the eyes of his team mates. A string of excellent saves, not least the point saving efforts at Macclesfield last week, and the odd penalty shoot out heroics too. The recent “to me, to you” moment with Tom Eastman can be easily excused if Deano can help propel us to where we want to be at the end of the season.

He will certainly need to be at his very best again tomorrow. The U’s have learnt with pain several times in the past that a wounded and under estimated Stevenage can be very annoying opponents. Winless and bottom of the table they may be, they will come to frustrate and that can be our Achilles heel at times. Our team selection will be important because I think we’ll need more than skill to beat them. A fair slice of grunt will be needed too I reckon.

I have seen a few suggestions this week intimating that, for various plausible reasons, the fans should stand down on the banter with our former striker within their ranks. I think you know who I mean. Nice idea, but you can predict that he will probably be up and close and personal in front of S1 at some point in the game, so the temptation will too high I suspect. 

Focussing on our players is always a winner for me. Although who that will be is a matter for John McGreal who has been quoted this week as saying that he probably has too many players in his squad to keep happy. A test of his managerial skills it will certainly be.

Good luck tomorrow U’s and thanks for your support, and don’t forget that if you can get over the cup competition, the U’s have another chance to beat Spurs again next Tuesday! That’s got to be worth seeing.

27 September 2019

I could not be prouder of Colchester United than I am right now. Being a supporter for about 40 years has brought its fair share of ups and downs, and nothing will top the Wembley victories and the promotion party at Yeovil, but last Tuesday was all about the new era and the creation of new memories and histories to cherish for a lifetime. 

It’s not over the top at all. The U’s were brilliant against Spurs and because they wanted it more, they defeated one of the best teams in Europe. The stadium was buzzing, our fans were out of this world, and the U’s players were quite simple breath taking. Credit is due to everyone at the U’s from Robbie Cowling downwards. You have to have a water tight game plan and work your backside off when you know that possession of the football will be rare for 90 minutes, and they executed that perfectly. 

Until my dying day I will always be a fan of Tom Eastman. The U’s best kept secret ever in my opinion. He was quite incredible alongside his excellent buddy at the back, Luke Prosser, who many a U’s fan mistakenly thought would be out of the picture this season. Behind them and perhaps the best acquisition of the summer, is Dean Gerken. Excusing the comical blip against Orient last Saturday, he has been an absolute rock in goal. You build a top team from the back and these guys are the bricks and cement for the U’s.

Re-enforced by the hard work of Jackson and Bramall, and the shield of steel that was Lapslie, Comley and Stevenson, and whatever Spurs attempted to throw at them was doomed to fail. The troubled Premiership side only had 4 shots on target all game. That’s how well the U’s did. 

Could we have sneaked the win in normal time rather than rely on our confidence at spot kicks? Towards the end it was looking that way. As Spurs pushed forward in desperation and committed numbers, Senior made some good breaks into the space left behind. He’s a threat going forward that’s clear, and one day the final execution of what he develops will succeed more times than not.

The reward for one of the best U’s performances I’ll ever witness, is sadly not one of glamour ties of the last 16 with all due respect to Crawley Town. That said, what an opportunity for us to make the League Cup Quarter Finals. Play as well and work as hard as we have done against those Premiership teams, and Crawley will be blown away. What a night of football that will be and I can’t wait 

Wait we must though because the importance of Division Two must come back into focus. You may recall that we just about got through to the 3 points last Saturday. I do so wish the U’s could game manage a bit more and not leave us to destroy our finger nails in nervousness. It’s back to earth with a bump and a chance to progress into the play offs with a good result at Macclesfield. Hopefully our guys will be well rested after Tuesday and do the business.

Thanks as always for your support of the U’s. Good luck and safe journeys to everyone tomorrow.