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

"Banter with Burns" 

21 September 2018

These are really happy times to be a U’s supporter. The players are keeping their feet on the ground though, and so will we of course, but long may it last.

It’s clear that the U’s can’t afford any slack games. The decimation of Crewe was brilliant but probably a one off. League Two “standard” must be respected, as Cambridge proved last Saturday. If they had taken their chances, or to be more precise, if Jabo had taken his chances, then it could have been very different.

Dillon kept them at bay though and I am sure that John McGreal will have challenged his defence about the relative ease that Joe Dunne’s men entered our penalty area. To be honest I feel that we missed the destructive nous that Tom Lapslie provides when we’re under the cosh like that.

Still, when they missed the target, we hit it, and in style too. I was delighted for Frank Nouble after his 1st U’s goal. Cheerio left back and a wonderful finish from the big man. I really hope that this confidence boost will help both himself and the team.

It says a lot about our team when they can still notch up 3 goals and a clean sheet when they are perhaps not at their finest. Even better when they can do it in front of an ever growing U’s home support which is nice to see.

The U’s have a pretty decent record at Oldham and it would be great to extend that tomorrow, before a nice little home double against 2 other form teams in Bury and Yeovil. Oh the joys of a Tuesday night game again! Hopefully I was a little hasty in calling the Crewe game a one off?

I managed to make the U’s U23 game v Charlton on Monday night. In fairness, it had more of an U18 feel to it for the U’s. Plenty of teenage talent up against the more experienced Addicks lads boasting the occasional international and Champions League player. Not a bad plan really and many of the U’s lads did well in their 1st win of the season. Andre Hasanally stood out with a good goal and assist, whilst at the back, Paul Rooney, Ollie Kensdale and Chris Forino all look like future and potential understudies to the incumbent centre halves.

So plenty to feel good about at the U’s this week. Let's keep it going

Good luck and safe journey to all those off to Lancashire tomorrow, and good luck also to the local teams in FA Cup action this weekend.

14 September 2018

I’m looking forward to the team announcement tomorrow. The excitement and anticipation of not knowing which players will be selected purely because the FA may have sent a last minute email suspending a player for the game. I’m surprised that FIFA haven’t thought of it already, to along with their other plans to “liven” up the game, such as having 6 goals on the pitch to make scoring easier. Surely “in play” suspensions without any warning or reason must be future of football. You heard it here first folks!

The Luke Prosser story is very poor work from the officialdom. Ludicrous mistaken identity is one thing, but sending an email as late as the Wednesday afternoon saying sorry Colchester United, the referee has made a little error,  you can’t play your captain and key player in the next game, is just plain stupid. Maybe the person employed to type such emails doesn’t work Mondays or Tuesdays? The FA must have forgotten to pay their phone bill too.

Thankfully, on the whole, it did not affect the U’s performance at sodden Tranmere. To be fair we weren’t at our finest in the 1st half. Maybe feeling hard done by and we did switch off badly for their goal. A few half time messages from the gaffer and suspended skipper, and they were out early for a team huddle and a much improved 2nd half. Definitely well worth the point, and it could have been more had the referee shown some rare love for Luke Norris after he was hauled down in the box.

After a long and rainy journey for the fans it would brilliant to see the player fight back as they did. The new season spirit and feeling remains intact and it will take them nicely into the Cambridge United game tomorrow afternoon. Save some money. Get your tickets today rather than tomorrow. It’s a local derby and should be a real cracker. It’ll also be good to see Joe Dunne again. U’s legend, top guy and hopefully a successful manager for years to come.

Finally a word of praise for Diaz Wright after his 90 minutes last Saturday. A few nervous moments, and that’s to be expected, but overall he worked incredibly hard in midfield covering for Lapslie and Comley. He played well and I suspect that the U’s fans will be seeing much more of him this season.

Good luck tomorrow U’s. No last minute emails please, and as always, thanks for your support

7 September 2018

Our Harry Pell was given hell at Cheltenham. Poor chap, I’m not sure that their former talisman deserved the attention that came his way on and off the pitch. By football standards it was relatively minor, but Harry had the last laugh with the vital 3rd goal from the spot. And it was vital because the U’s were under considerable pressure in the 2nd half.

Harry almost had the 1st laugh too as he rose from his prone position and grabbed hold of the ball ahead of Norris for opening spot kick. Memories of Guthrie mucking it up and going against orders last season sprung to mind, but thankfully the adrenalin waned. All 3 U’s goals from dead balls. When was the last time that happened?

And what about that Norris free kick? Ronaldo who? You have to say a big well done to the players for battling for the precious win away from home. They worked hard and got the result that they deserved. Have we got a U’s team this season that are going to strive harder for consistency and goals? I certainly think that we are heading that way.

Tranmere will be a massive test, as well as a long journey for the travelling U’s. Made even harder of course with Lapslie out for several weeks and a few others warming the treatment table. The squad will need a depth of quality to cover injuries but by the sounds of his post match comments I think that John McGreal was hoping for a few more positives from the Checkatrade defeat on Tuesday. A kick up the backside to a few of the fringe and younger players that he expects more if they are to get close to the starting XI.

I had to miss the Southampton game rather than boycott it. The competition remains an unpopular one with fans and I can understand the reasons as to why. Pity though in that more support could help the team to progress. You only have to look back to the FA Cup debacle last season to realise the impact of having just one stand open. From the winning becomes a habit cliché, lets hope that we can still beat Cambridge and Southend in this group to carry on the good work.

Best of luck tomorrow U’s and a safe journey to all going to support them. Don’t forget the big local derby with Cambridge here next Saturday. Get your tickets early folks!

31 August 2018

We're off to Cheltenham again tomorrow and the U's will be seeking better fortune this time around following their penalty demise a few weeks ago. Harry Pell will enjoy his old chums again and perhaps will not enjoy so much the welcome from his former supporters. A nice little goal will help silence them please Harry.

Last week was a set back and this Saturday and next, being tough away games, will test our mettle. Several fans have said to me that it is not so much the new signings that have given everyone a boost, it’s that they sense a stronger resolve and desire to succeed this season. There is no denying that it has gone pretty well on the pitch so far, and they deserve a lot of credit. Where the U’s have struggled in the past is living with the hype, getting themselves up on cloud 9, attracting more supporters to watch and then shooting themselves in the foot.

To a degree this was the case against Northampton. Big old side the Cobblers and I think one or two of our lads struggled with the physicality. It was disappointing, especially because as I say, there were fresh faces in the stadium, but this “new” U’s now has a chance to show that they can evolve from the peaks and troughs that have haunted us in the past by getting right back on track this next fortnight.

So what do you think of the match day programme giveaway? Hope you’re enjoying it. It’s something new and a bit ground breaking. Tongue in cheek, but pity that John McGreal didn’t have time to glance at the Northampton supporters article. They love their two centre halves, but weren’t afraid to tell that world that they were rubbish against quick footed forwards. The trap was set and poor Frank Nouble had to aerially battle a couple of giants for much of the game.

The U’s looked great when they changed formation and personnel. We should have created and scored more overall and at key moments our touch or pass went astray. I’ll keep beating the Norris drum of course and if his header had gone in I think I could have been confident that a start would be his at Cheltenham, where our 1st away win of the season should be forthcoming hopefully.

It may only be August but hanging onto the coat tails of Lincoln City is already a must.

Good luck tomorrow U’s and thanks to those fans who are travelling. Don’t forget we have Southampton U21 here on Tuesday night in the old Checkatrade, and well done to the U’s for securing another England international. Might need some buses for that one!

24 August 2018

Are you also still bouncing from the 6 (six) goal demolition of Crewe? What a truly wonderful game of football for the U’s fans. Discount the fact that the Crewe players are going to reimburse their fans. They weren’t rubbish. The U’s were just out of this world.

Mansfield was a real tough 90 minutes for our lads and I was impressed that the same XI still had power left in the tank for Tuesday. The Stags are promotion favourites and have banged in a few goals already. I think their fans and players were expecting to turn the U’s over, but there is more steel in our guys this season and they clearly forgot about Sammie Szmodics, our fox in the box.

The draw was very much deserved after the work our players put in on the pitch. Luke Prosser and Tom Lapslie were top of the lot in a U’s class room full of A star performers, and another point away from home was brilliant. A quick word of praise for the U’s away support. Good numbers and in fine voice.

Back to the goal fest and it’s hard to put into words just how complete a performance that was. Our foot was firmly on the gas for the majority of the game, and Crewe only got a sniff of Dillon’s goal when we bothered to change gear. Brennan was really impressive. Harry and Tom dominated the midfield and even our defenders are getting in on the goal action. The race for top scorer come the end of the season is wide open.

Nouble v Mandron v Norris. Where do you place your bet for leading man tomorrow? I can see now why Newport played big Frank out wide. Ball at feet he can work up a real head of steam. Deceptively quick and  so I am not sure if he the most comfortable being a target man? Given first dibs he has yet to score so I think he might be given a break in place of Norris, if he recovers from the cheap Crewe shot in the back. He looks a real Number 9 – hence the shirt, and with an eye for goal already, I like him and hope he carries on doing well.

Mandron may well have to wait his turn I reckon. Still no bad thing to have fresh centre forwards on the bench. It’s been a while since the U’s have had that luxury.

So the big question is, can the U’s repeat the feat against the Cobblers? Only one way to find out and that’s to come along to watch and cheer them on. Don’t be surprised if Northampton batten down the hatches and frustrate us. The U’s are a form team and we’ll have to expect that now.

Thanks for your support

17 August 2018

Absolutely wonderful to get off to a winning start to our home league campaign last Saturday, but it was sadly tempered by another League Cup demise at Cheltenham.

I’m slowly falling out of love with cups. It would have been great to make some early running in this competition, and look to carry on the good work into the FA Cup. Forgetting of course the distraction of the cup group thingy where some Premiership youngsters get involved. It was good comeback to make it 2-2 but heart breaking to eventually lose on penalties. A tough way to lose our little unbeaten run.

Tuesdays’ penalty skier was Saturday’s goal scoring sensation. Port Vale simply could not handle Courtney Senior. In fact there only way of handling anyone decent was to dump them on the grass. His goal has been doing the social media rounds this week and if you missed it, please try and find it. Jacksons’ goal was just as good, especially Sammie’s lay off, and it all made for a very good day at the office for players and fans alike. The U’s are an attacking force once again and a fair refection of the game would have seen our winning score line doubled.

The set up looked good against Vale. Different to the previous game, which was still effective, and perhaps this indicates a change in management thinking. The players really liked it too, and as we all know if the players aren’t bought into the game plan, then it’s only going to fail.

They all had great games. Luke Prosser was immense at the back, Harry Pell and Tom Lapslie were both destructive and creative, and Frank Nouble, whilst missing a sitter, showed what a good front man could do for the U’s.

It’s comforting to think that we now have a depth of forwards at the U’s. The pressure is definitely on because only the chaps in form and scoring will get the starts. Nouble could be that man but if he doesn’t hit the net soon, my sneaky feeling is that a fully fit Luke Norris will be the one.

Off to the dangerous Mansfield tomorrow and I’m sure the U’s will have a strong following to cheer them on. Getting a result there would be tremendous. Then it’s back for a home double and if the blue and white shirts can do the business again then August will have been a very good month indeed.

I appreciate it’s way too early in the season to be excited about promotion, but there are encouraging signs at the U’s this season. Thanks for your support as always

10 August 2018

Football almost made it home from Russia during the summer, but the U’s will certainly be at home tomorrow afternoon when Port Vale will hopefully be our first victims of the new league season.

For lovers of the game there has hardly been a gap between our disappointing finale back in May and the new adventure that kicked off at Notts County last Saturday. In amongst it all the U’s have had what looks to be a very productive excursion into the transfer market. Losing Drey Wright for nought was a bitter pill and Sam Walker was always going to leave, albeit he’ll be hoping for more than bench space at Reading.

On the flip side, there is certainly more of an attacking feel to the boys in blue and white with new boys Nouble, Norris and Collins all forward thinking chaps with hopefully goals in their boots. Harry Pell could well be the X factor for us in midfield. Not a player we’ve had in that position for a while, and I believe he’ll do very well.

Keeping our defence intact, especially with Kane signing a new contract, is great news. They were back into the groove in the opening game. The grappling Jon Stead and co rarely had a sniff of our goal such was the strength of our back line. My take on the Kane saga. First up, I am a big admirer. He seems to have different motives compared to other players of his age. Clearly he loves his football and the U’s, and by signing a 2 year deal, when the big move comes a knocking in the not too distant future, and it will for Kane, the U’s have a chance of securing a proper value for him.

It feels so much better at the start of this season, than last, and the point at Notts was a good start. Could have won it deservedly, and Eastman came closest with a beautiful strike that was but an inch too high. Collins looked sharp, Sammie too and Pell was revelling in his declaration that the midfield was his territory and woe betide any opposition player trying to play in it.

The key to our success will be bringing the away game buzz to the home games. Dominate for 90 minutes and to use the old cliché, make it a fortress. I really think that we have the players to do it and I hope that we have the fans to do it too. Promotion will need all of us, hand in hand, pulling in the same direction. Hopefully our numbers will be strong enough to hold up our end of the deal.

Thanks for your support as always and good luck for the season U’s