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

"Banter with Burns" 

21 February 2020

The chance of watching the U’s play at a “new ground” will
appeal to many fans tomorrow. The opportunity to scratch Salford City off the
list will in some cases override need to go after the disappointment suffered
on recent outings to the likes of Cambridge and Port Vale. Let us all hope that
the extra support on show from the fans will be a boost to the team, because
let’s face it, they need it. Much like the fans need the players to give them a
boost of course. We do not want to endure another “nearly” end to the season.

I have to confess that last Saturday I was taken on a

birthday treat to my second sporting love, rugby, so I missed out on what
several fans have told me, in that it was one of our worst performances in
years. If it’s any consolation, the rugby wasn’t much better viewing thanks to
Storm Dennis. I’ve seen the goals we conceded and they weren’t good watching.
Much like the Grimsby defeat, from being a picture of defensive solidity most
of the season, we now look very open, and in my view that’s an issue for the
whole team, because I am afraid that one or two of our players are often
wasteful in possession, poor in the tackle and slow to help out in our own

These failings are easy to gloss over when the team is on a
high and playing with confidence, but when the U’s are under the cosh, they
stick out like a sore thumb.

John McGreal is apparently considering changes to try and
avoid a drop out of the play offs. We shall wait and see tomorrow afternoon.
Maybe that is why a few players were involved on Monday night against Coventry
U23’s. An entertaining 4-4 draw thanks to some iffy defending from both teams
really. Luke Norris scored two in what looked an easy game for him. Michael
Fernandes came off the bench to score his own brace, and in my view he should
definitely be on the coach to Salford. He looked hungry and positive during his
brief yet productive stint on the pitch, and he stood out when compared to
others on show.

Our team need a result at Salford. They need to get their
smiles back and relieve the pressure a bit. Let’s try to help them do that.
Good luck U’s and if you’re off to support them, may I wish you a safe journey.

14 February 2020

The U’s simply cannot afford to give away any more brilliant
opportunities for points this season if they want to challenge for an automatic
promotion spot, which I still think they have in their power to achieve, or at
the very least secure a play-off position, which I think should be our bare
minimum ambition at this stage of the season.

However well Grimsby played on Tuesday night, and in

fairness they were impressive, our players are experienced enough to manage

winning positions to the final whistle. Unfortunately, the 3 goals we conceded
were not our finest hour by any means and have made for some very painful
viewing on social media this week. That final goal would have had John McGreal
pulling his hair out if he had any left of course, poor chap. For me the first
goal was just as bad with 4 players standing off allowing the shot. Perhaps the
U’s were just beaten by the better team on the night?

The U’s are themselves better than that last game. They showed us how well they can play and control the game against Plymouth, where

they put on one of their best performances of the season to date. We’ve all
seen the highlights to prove it to ourselves once again. Bringing Stevenson in
worked brilliantly. He combined really well with Robinson and the wide
attackers, it was a joy to watch.

It can work again at Port Vale tomorrow. They are a team in

form and the U’s will have to be at their very best to get a result, but given
the state of the table where the top 4 now have a gap below them, they simply
must come away with something.

In our consistently, inconsistent week, if you were at both

games you will have disappointingly witnessed similar behaviour from the
officials. Against Plymouth, it would appear that as yet the referee had not
reached the page in the Laws of the Game which talks about playing advantage.
Hope he does his homework before the next time we have him. And against
Grimsby, despite having excellent views of both incidents, he failed to spot
flailing arms well away from where they should be. The foul on Prosser that
lead to their second goal for example, and of course the fine save to prevent
an early U’s goal. Blatant and obvious for me.

Anyway back to matters we can control so good luck to the U’s

tomorrow. It’s been a bit snowy and wet up there so I hope the fans have a
safe journey.

7 February 2020

A shrewd betting man would probably be placing huge sums of money on the U’s playing promotion rivals Plymouth off the park tomorrow afternoon, winning the game handsomely, and then playing host to lower table Grimsby on Tuesday night, and having a really tough time of things.

For as long as I can remember, our beloved U’s, more often than not each season, struggle to overcome teams who are either fighting for points or struggling for survival. The type of team who chase and nibble at everything. Call it tradition, habit or fate if you wish, I just long for it to end. Cambridge was no different to a few others we’ve had recently. Strangely flat in a very winnable game and that’s a real shame because the U’s fans were there in vast numbers to support them.

I know it would be stupid to assume that the U’s should be winning each and every game, but they cannot afford many more “gift horses” being left in the stable of disappointment if we are going to achieve promotion this season. I thought that Cohen Bramall looked the brightest of the bunch and I was pleased for Norris and his fine header but that’s about all in my view.

Really hope that they’ve had a good chat and think this week, and that John McGreal is considering one or two changes to sharpen the players’ minds a bit because beating 3rd placed Plymouth, who have 2 games in hand over us, is so important and will be a massive statement similar to the Swindon win. They are very well supported away from home so I really hope that there will be many blue and white newbies or part timers coming along to do their bit.

I wonder how long it will be before we see a 442 formation again? Robinson and Norris clearly enjoyed it for our last home game, and whilst it would also require a ponder over the positions and personnel behind them, in my view the U’s look so much better when they’re on the front foot.

Lots to think about then and 90 minutes to put behind us of course, but before you place your couple of quid exactly the same way as the aforementioned shrewd individual, I’m banking on 6 points between now and this time next week, so be warned.

Best of luck U’s and many thanks to all of you coming along to support them

31 January 2020

It’s been a damn fine week for all things U’s related. To
play 16 league games without being defeated, appreciating there are probably
more draws in there than there really should be, speaks volumes for the efforts
and resilience of the players and staff. It has been no mean feat and should
not be underestimated

There are also 16 games left to play for the U’s in League
Two, all over the next 3 months. Time will go quickly, the matches will come
thick and fast, and before the fans know it, the fate of the U’s will be decided.
If this is to be our promotion season, then the players will need help getting
there. It’s not a full blown “Delia” moment but I am kind of asking for any
part time, casual or former supporters, to do what they can to make it happen
from the stands starting with another massive game when Plymouth come to town
next Saturday. Many supported the team at Old Trafford. Think of the thousands
who will travel to Wembley if we make the play offs. I’m not knocking the
occasional fan, all I’m hoping for is for them to become less occasional, or
even regular, over these few remaining home games please. 

Back to the football, and to get a point at Exeter was a
brilliant achievement. They are the real deal this season and do not give up
points at home very often. Personally I would give anything for a top three
finish, so by keeping the current incumbents reined in, it really helps. That’s
what Tuesday’s terrific comeback against leaders Swindon was also so crucial.
They are a very good team without doubt but our formation shift and attacking
threat in the final 20 minutes was simply too much for them. I’m really pleased
for Theo Robinson and Luke Norris and I thought they linked up really well

The win would have been out of our hands much earlier but
for the goalkeeping ability of Dean Gerken who made a string of top notch saves
on Tuesday night. In amongst all of the tricks and skills of our attackers, the
man with the gloves is often forgotten, but I really think that Dean is probably
the signing of the season. Whilst I don’t doubt the qualities of the excellent
Ethan Ross or even Sam Walker before him, Dean is on another level and provides
the U’s with a warm comfort blanket of surety between the sticks.

Cambridge tomorrow and they are another team currently
struggling for form. Let’s hope that the U’s can play like they have this last
week and come away with the 3 points. Need to keep the top three within reach
please. Good luck U’s and thanks to all of you for your current and hopefully
future support

24 January 2020

Round Two of our top of the back to back top of the table promotion clashes takes the U's to Exeter City tomorrow. A really hard encounter for us and it will take something special from the U's to further extend their unbeaten run I think. The third and final round brings the current leaders Swindon Town to Colchester. A tough old week then and a real test of where the U's really are after the missed opportunities against the teams at the lower end of the table.


The first of the threesome brought Bradford City to town on Tuesday night and fair to say that they would have been chuffed to bits with their point. They came for the draw at worst, or to catch us on the break at best. On the plus side I thought the U's were more like their old selves, very good in virtually every aspect of their football apart from their finishing. We boast a vast range of attacking talent so it can only be a matter of time before the floodgates open again, and we start to turn the draws into wins.


I am really pleased to have Theo Robinson back. Harriett has all of the tricks and skills to unlock defences, plus an eye for goal from miles out as he proved in style last Saturday. A fit again Senior can only be a good thing too.


There is one young U's attacker I've failed to mention so far, and that's Kwame Poku. Only 18 years of age and playing so well that he is keeping far more experienced players on the bench. Personally I think he's been great. His movement and work rate is rare for someone of his age, and for me, he's got far more of a football brain than many. I love the fact that despite his size he’s not afraid to mix it with the opposition and when he does get knocked off the ball, he’s always right back in the fight to get him back. A good future awaits I hope.


Hats off to the U’s fans able to travel westward tomorrow to support the team. It is so important to help the team when time and money allows. Although not as vast in numbers as others in League Two, unless Old Trafford is on the menu, I have a lot of time for our supporters. The U’s will really need them over the next few weeks when we have a lot of home games plus the short trip to Cambridge. We’re back in the play offs and with your support and a few goals of course, I want us to stay there.


Good luck U’s and thanks again for your tremendous support