BWB

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

"Banter with Burns"

21 April 2022

In amongst the warm applause given by the couple of thousand U’s fans at the final whistle on Monday, there was also a collective sigh of relief that, with a few games to go, survival in League Two had been confirmed. It all sounds like an achievement, and in face of a disastrous drop to the National League, it probably is, but next season, at this time of year, I want the then several thousand to be letting out a raucous cheer when the referee blows time on games. All meaning that the U’s are then fighting hard at the top end of the table and not living on nerves near the bottom.

 

Much has to change before then and there will be an important summer ahead for the owner, the yet to be confirmed management team, those in charge of recruitment and the players who are staying on. There is also important work to do off the pitch to make the match day experience an all-round better time for the fans. At Exeter last Friday, their set up for home and away supporters is a world away from what the U’s offer, and to be fair, what many other League Two clubs can offer. It would make a massive difference if that gap could be shortened.

 

The changes have already begun it seems with our Performance Director moving on. There are also sponsorship changes with the same kind benefactor now covering both kits, which therefore hopefully means new designs and colour schemes. I would dearly love stripes again, and an away shirt that stood out from the rest.

 

Lots of work to do then, after of course making sure we do not drift off over these last 3 games. Bradford looked like they had already been dusting off their passports much to the anger of a disgruntled Mark Hughes. The U’s won though, not because the opposition fell over, but because we worked hard and played well. There was much to be pleased about from the U’s, especially the 3 goals. Brendan Wiredu was back to his rampaging best, Cole Skuse had his standard typical dominant 90 minutes and Freddie was rewarded for his tireless running with a sublime goal. It was a real team effort and I am pleased for them.

 

Exeter was a tough gig as predicted. A packed home crowd creating a terrific atmosphere and a very confident and proficient opposition. The U’s saw precious little of the ball, and when they did, they could not keep it for long. Painful for the travelling U’s fans to watch, although to be honest, I was pretty impressed to see so many there. Probably painful for the U’s players too because it must have been an awful game to play in. The message was clear from the changing room after the game, in that they must do better.

 

All in all, apart from the tough football on show, the 3am alarm clock was worth the day out. The roads there and back were a lot better than expected, and the company of those with on the coach was friendly and excellent as usual. Our drivers, Peter and Andy from Roman Coaches were top notch as always, and thanks to them and the roads, I was able to enjoy a few ales before the game because we arrived in good time.

 

Hoping now that the trip to Newport County on yet another Friday night (thanks again to those in charge) is also as pleasant. It may well be job done for the U’s, but we cannot now roll over and let other teams with something to play for, tickle our tummies whilst cruising to victory. I personally think that Monday’s confidence plus the release of stress in the players’ minds will help them enjoy the remaining games, and by enjoyment, I mean play to their highest standards possible. Let’s hope so.

 

 

Best of luck U’s and for those U’s fans up for braving the roads heading west again, I salute you all

14 April 2022

Happy Easter to all of the wonderful Colchester United supporters out there, and indeed to all of the local footy fans that might be taking in good few games this weekend. For the U’s, our Bank Holiday weekend starts tomorrow with an unwelcome 1pm kick off at Exeter City. Travelling to the South West is never the most pleasant of prospects given previous experiences when it has clashed with holiday time, and it’s a Friday too, so our trip to Barrow obviously comes back to haunt me. I will be keeping my fingers firmly crossed that fortune is on our side this time.

 

So huge ironic thanks to our hosts for wanting the early gig, and to those who agreed to it. The hardy U’s fans will grin and bear it as usual, and by all accounts will be there in decent numbers. My fear at the moment is that it bears all of the hallmarks of being a difficult game for our lads. An almost sold out ground for the home fans, a promotion chasing team well in form and pressure on us after slipping up at home last Saturday. I truly and sincerely hope that we can burst their bubble and deliver one of our very best away performances.

 

Sadly, the U’s delivered one of their very worst home performances a week ago against Stevenage. The list of negative adjectives that I can think of to describe it would stretch a fair distance. The officials decided not to give us our fair share of any 50/50 decisions, and whilst just one of them in our favour might have kick started us into life, the men in charge were not responsible for one of our flattest games of football so far this season. Hugely disappointing.

 

To be fair, one or two of the players tried to get his team mates going. Cole Skuse for example, but it was all in vain. All so very frustrating, especially at home where I am sure that there were several new faces in the crowd checking out their local EFL team for either the first time or for the first time in a good while.

 

I hate to use the old cliché that a “reaction” is needed tomorrow, and indeed on Easter Monday when Bradford City are here, because they are professional sportsmen and so they should be playing to at the very least a minimum standard that they can manage. Several were below minimum last Saturday, which was strange and I really don’t know why.

 

Anyway, onward to Exeter City we go, still looking for points to ensure our safety. I will happily take the long journey back to Essex if we have snaffled at least a point from the game. That would be a tremendous effort I reckon. Given the nature of the table though, the U’s are only 3 points behind Bradford City at the moment and they are in the heady heights of 15th. Scunthorpe could of course do us all a favour and do what we failed to do against Stevenage when they host them on Monday. I have always loved Scunthorpe, so good luck guys!

 

With a fair wind and friendly traffic, we will get to enjoy one of the finest pre-match fan experiences around down in Devon tomorrow. I will have to make sure that hold onto the coat tails of one or two as they dash off the coach to head for the excellent Real Ale and Cider bar. Their Fan Zone will also be very popular too I suspect. It may just make up for our early alarm clocks.

 

Finally now, I think it is always important to finish off the season on a high. If a complacent foot was taken off the gas pedal last week, then someone needs to strap it back on. This season has again been difficult and even though the 8 point gap is currently not bad, fans will not enjoy or tolerate a poor finale. We want to be looking forward to a better next season on the back of a strong end, so please U’s let try to make that happen?

 

 

Safe journey all, have a great weekend and good luck U’s

7 April 2022

It may not have been the tastiest game of the football the U’s have ever played, yet the victory at Harrogate was certainly sweet enough to send the very many Colchester fans home happy. The lure of a “new ground” certainly brought out a good few faces I had not seen in a while away from home and in some sense, it felt like a form of reunion party.

 

So a sweet victory for our boys, but a sour taste in the mouth of the Harrogate gaffer who did not hold back in expressing his views on our football team. Perhaps if their centre forward had displayed the courage to shoot in the opening minutes rather than passing to his perplexed team mate, then maybe the outcome would have been different.

 

The difference for me though was our excellent spine throughout our team. From Shamal in goal, throughout Eastman and Chambers, through to Skuse and then to dear Freddie doing the hard yards up front. Tactics are not always pretty, but they are certainly proving effective in grinding out the 3 points. At Harrogate I thought Luke Chambers was outstanding. With our ability to hold possession diminishing too often for my liking, more waves of pressure went crashing against the Luke and Tom barrier than most normal defences could manage. They were more than capable of dealing with the flood warnings.

 

I will always give a special mention to Freddie and it was great that he could celebrate his 50th U’s goal with a special finish, but my man of the match was Cole Skuse. For some U’s fans he is not at the top of their favourites list. Fair enough, but it depends what you are expecting. Harrogate was a prime example of what his job description includes. Break up every bit of rubbish that comes anywhere near him, track runners and tackle them hard, and then get his foot on the ball and get it moving forward to team mates, who have much younger legs than his good self. A sort of older and taller Tom Lapslie.

 

In what has been a very challenging season for the U’s and their fans, with another relegation battle being played out, it will soon be time for Player of the Season votes, and whilst some fans might scoff at the notion, there are a good few who have busted a gut all season for the team and deserve to be nominated. I have to say that Mr Skuse will certainly feature in my deliberations.

 

Well done to the footy fans who have now scratched Harrogate Town off their list of grounds visited with the U’s. Quite an unusual little stadium and almost out of place in the surroundings of lovely residential properties. I expect that the challenge of hosting League football must be considerable for the owners. It was nice to have a choice of standing locations. It was also nice to not have a factory produced pie. Chicken, with shortcrust pastry, peas and gravy, was very tasty and it was a very tough decision to walk past the catering staff at the end of the game as they were offering them 3 for £1. I tried to suck my gut in and ignore them. Not easy on both counts.

 

So the U’s are nearly there. Still work to do though and although it might upset a local derby next season, I really want us to be beat Stevenage tomorrow afternoon. I can imagine that they will throw everything at us in desperation. Let that be the challenge that the U’s can counter by bundling loads of pressure on them up front. Freddie and the free scoring Noah Chilvers could have a productive afternoon, and I would like nothing better.

 

I finish with a reminder that we travel to Exeter City on next Friday for a 1pm kick off. Sadly something they requested early on. Sadly not very helpful for the travelling U’s, but to help we have already declared that pyjamas will be allowed on the coach.

 

Wishing you all a very happy weekend. Good luck U’s and thanks again for all of your support