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

"Banter with Burns" 

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.