|When Saturday Comes #20|
Written by wessex_exile on Saturday, 1st Jan 2022 16:45
Finally, When Saturday Comes…and the U’s (for now at least) have a match to play. Mind you, I’m writing this on Friday afternoon, so there’s still time yet for yet another Covid/ injury postponement, I guess. I certainly hope not, as I’m planning on heading over to Crawley for this one. Mind you, now that the EFL have decreed there will be no on the day testing to eliminate the possibility of last-minute cancellations, I think I’ll defer buying a train ticket until this evening. Needless to say, a repeat of our last visit to Broadfield (The People’s Pension Stadium under the terms of a sponsorship deal) would do very nicely indeed.
Maxwell will be sentenced in due course, but for the crimes she’s already been convicted of faces up to 65 years in prison. I’d like to think she’ll never see another day of freedom and die in prison, but the wealthy always seem to have a way of dodging these things, so let’s see. She also faces more time in court, fighting two perjury charges related to her 2016 deposition in the Giuffre case. Commentators have observed that Maxwell now faces a difficult decision, keep schtum and spend the rest of her days behind bars, or start naming names of others involved for a reduced sentence. I’d imagine there are more than a few wealthy depraved old men out there currently shaking like a sh’tting dog.
In a related matter, the BBC has apologised for broadcasting an interview with Epstein’s lawyer Alan Dershowitz following the Maxwell verdict. Despite also being cited as an offender in the Giuffre case, and only introducing him as a “constitutional lawyer” without mentioning his connection to Epstein, the BBC have since admitted that he was not “[i]a suitable person to interview as an impartial analyst[/i]” and that the interview “[i]did not meet the BBC’s editorial standards[/i]”.
In a retweet that really should have won them the internet for the day, the Sunday Sport hilariously responded…
Inevitably we’ve slipped a few places in the table as a result, to within 3pts of the relegation zone. If there is a silver lining, we do have a significantly better goal difference than the four below us, and of course games in hand over pretty much everyone around us. Obviously, games in hand mean jack if you don’t win them, give me the points any day of the week and twice on Sundays. Crawley are in a very similar position, 3pts ahead of the U’s and also just 20 games played. What will be more galling to the Red Devils was they were on quite a good run prior to the Covid disruption, so fingers-crossed the hiatus has messed that up for them.
As for who emerges blinking into the sunlight from the Col U squad mini-lockdown remains to be seen, but chances are it won’t include Brendan Sarpong Wiredu even if he’s fit and raring to go. With strong rumours he’s off in the January transfer window – front-runners currently reported to be Nottingham Forest – there’s no way that he’ll be put at risk of injury this close to what should be a pretty big money deal. Quite how big is moot, and no doubt Charlton Athletic (who wanted a first dibs buy-back option) will get a decent sell-on slice, but whatever the return is, I’ve no doubt it’ll go someway to improving the club finances.
As most have been clamouring for throughout most of the first half of the season, transfer rumours also suggest that we are about to spend some of the cup run and TV money on a striker. Perhaps not the big name some might have been hoping for, but the current name in the frame appears to be 6’ 3” striker Ryan Loft at Scunthorpe for a rumoured fee of £50k.
Opinions are mixed on the Iron Bru messageboard (https://www.iron-bru.co.uk/forums/topic/loft-to-colchester/ ), some bemoaning it’s a pittance to receive, his recent improved form but frustrating inconsistency, but also suggesting he should be aiming his sights higher at League 1 level. If the sale of Loft to the U’s goes ahead, Scunthorpe have the dual problem of being one of eight clubs under a transfer embargo at the moment, after taking advantage of an EFL Monitored Loan to see them through the financial impact of Covid last season (remember, Robbie’s ‘kicking the can down the road’ analogy). One of the general principles of the loan is that it couldn’t be used to fund transfer fees or wages, so whoever Scunthorpe replace Loft with, they’ll have to be free transfers.
[b]One year on, and just as relevant…[/b]
Away is a bit more hit and miss, with six victories, three draws and seven defeats, and we have to go back to 2008 at the Valley for our last New Years Day victory on the road. In fact, from 2008 onwards it’s kind of been all about the “C’s”, playing Cambridge United once, Charlton Athletic twice and of course tomorrow’s opponents Crawley Town three times. Only MK Dons mess up that pattern, but they mess up everything…
Our record victory was our very first New Years Day match, beating Barry 6-1 at Layer Road in 1938, matched closely by a 1977 5-0 home win over Newport County. Honourable mention must also go to a comprehensive 4-2 victory at Gresty Road in 1972. At the other end of the spectrum, Jim Smith presided over a 1975 4-1 battering at Charlton Athletic, and there have been a couple of 3-0 defeats also – the Scunthorpe game at Layer Road mentioned above, and of course most recently at Broadfield against Crawley in 2013.
[b]Match of the Day
[i]Match of the Day[/i] for WSC20 is back to the random match selector, as we go back nearly 20 years to a Wednesday evening League Cup first round fixture at Highfield Road (the League Cup sponsored by Worthington at the time). Not quite our last visit to Highfield Road, that would come two years later in the fourth round of Parky’s 2003/04 FA Cup run, but it was certainly my first and only visit to Highfield Road.
Although Highfield Road was eventually demolished and redeveloped for housing in 2005, the tale of Coventry City’s move to a new home is an ongoing and sorry one to say the least. The new ground should have been ready for the 2001/02 season, but a combination of relegation, financial problems, withdrawal of both financiers and contractors, and not least England’s failure to land the 2006 World Cup competition required significant downsizing of the previous very ambitious plans for the new stadium.
Originally sponsored by local car manufacturer Jaguar, they pulled out before the stadium had even been opened, to eventually be replaced by Ricoh. Construction delays forced Coventry City to play their first three matches of the 2005/06 season away from home, eventually opening their doors on 20th August 2005 against QPR. The previous financial constraints meant that Coventry City did not own the stadium and had to pay rent to stadium managers Arena Coventry Limited, always a very difficult relationship, and further complicated when Wasps Rugby Club became the lease holder in 2012, and effectively therefore Coventry City’s landlord. This relationship was further strained with abrasive London-based Hedge Fund SISU in control of Coventry City.
By 2013 Coventry City had had enough and announced contingency plans to move out of the Ricoh for the upcoming 2013/14, promoting petitions sent to all 72 Football League clubs urging them to reconsider. Eventually, and with the club facing administration at the time, ACL offered to let Coventry City remain rent-free, at least until they were no longer in administration. However, things were so toxic by then the offer was rejected, and Coventry started the 2013/14 season ground-sharing at Sixfields. In August 2014 an uneasy agreement was reached to allow Coventry City to return to the Ricoh, with none other than Frank Nouble scoring the only goal in a 1-0 victory in front of 27,306.
And still the unease continued – in 2016 news broke that Coventry City were looking at a groundshare arrangement with Coventry Rugby Club, a concept eventually buried by the rugby club who confirmed there would be no deal whilst SISU remained in charge. In 2019 talks between SISU and Wasps over a new lease broke down, and out went Coventry City again, this time to groundshare at St Andrews, eventually returning at the start of this season. Still though they haven’t settled and have already announced plans to co-develop a new stadium in partnership with the University of Warwick.
All in all then, and with the benefit of hindsight, Coventry City fans must be wondering whether they should have ever left Highfield Road in the first place – a city centre venue famed for its hostile intimidating atmosphere. Still, not something for Steve Whitton to worry about as the U’s lined up:
This was of course a bit of a home-coming for Steve Whitton, after spending the first five years of his professional career at Coventry City. At the time, Coventry City were a First Division side, and although struggling to break into the play-off zone, still had players of a calibre such as the G-Men Gary Caldwell, Gary McSheffrey and player-manager Gary McCallister available. They also had David Pipe on the bench too – not a big name to me then, but someone who many years later I’d watch tear Brennan Dickenson a new one at Newport County, in a face-off that the Geneva Convention should have had something to say about.
I drove up for this game, and after a bit of a struggle trying to find street-parking anywhere within walking distance of the ground, I eventually took my place amongst quite a sizeable (and definitely vocal) following of what must have been 2-300 of the faithful from Essex in an otherwise poor crowd of just over 6,000. Before the match a respectful silence was observed for the first anniversary of the Twin Towers attack, a moment also commemorated on the front cover of a remarkably slim programme.
Good job I got there in time too, because 14 seconds after kick-off the U’s were 1-0 down. A calamitous rash challenge from Alan White was easily evaded by Dean Gordon, who racing away swung in a perfect cross for Gary McSheffrey to volley into essentially an empty net. Not the best of starts, and with their tails up Coventry continued to press and show why they were a division above the U’s. After 15 minutes player-manager McAllister demonstrated his class by curling in a 20-yard free kick, awarded for a soft foul by Pat Baldwin pulling the shirt of captain John Eustace.
And that, I thought, was that – we didn’t look likely to be able to get back into the game, and far more likely to completely fold and concede a hatful. But the U’s rallied, and having already gone close with a swivelled shot from Micky Stockwell that the Sky Blues ‘keeper Fabien Debec did well to stop, started to get a foothold in the game. I wouldn’t say we were dominating, but certainly holding our own without really carving out any clear-cut chances. We weren’t helped on occasion by officials who seemed to be struggling with the ‘you can’t be offside from a throw-in’ rule, but it would be wrong to suggest that was the only reason we were losing.
Into the second half Whitts subbed Odunsi for Pinault to try and stiffen up the midfield, and whilst it kind of worked, still we weren’t really carving out any decent chances. It was turning into a bit of a battle off the pitch too, with a solitary Coventry City supporter inviting the lairier elements of our following to come and join him on the other side of the netting separating us – an invitation our own were keen to try and take up, though thwarted by said netting…and eventually the stewards.
As the half wore on, our efforts to try and get back into the game grew more and more frantic, inevitably leaving gaps at the back as a result. Dean Morgan was replaced by livewire Lloyd Opara, which briefly made a difference – only to be countered shortly after by the introduction of David Pipe. Eventually, with six minutes to go a gap in the U’s defence was exploited, with that man Pipe swinging in a peach of a cross for Lee Mills to make no mistake with a far-post header. And that was that, we’d made a valiant effort, and the 3-0 score line was a little harsh, but still it was the right result and the U’s departed the Worthington Cup.
[b]Coventry City 3 (Gary McSheffrey 1’; Gary McAllister 15’; Lee Mills 83’) Colchester United 0[/b]
As if that wasn’t bad enough, this game was the start of a run of six successive defeats through September and into October for Steve Whitton’s U’s, by the end of which we found ourselves in the relegation zone. Steady improvement from there through to nearly Christmas saw the U’s climb back up to lower mid-table, and whilst there was still some ups and downs to come, an excellent run through February to April saw the U’s finish in a respectable 12th place.
I’ll be more than happy with a repeat of that in 2022, so Happy New Year everyone, and fingers-crossed I’ll see some of you somewhere on our travels before the end of the season.
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When Monday Comes #37 by wessex_exile
[i]When Saturday Comes[/i] and we reach the end of a topsy-turvy season, much of which hasn’t been that much fun if I’m honest, though latterly considerably improved under Wayne Brown. If I can, I always like to do the first and last game of the season, but sadly a trip to Hartlepool just wasn’t on the cards, not if I actually wanted to get home again tonight, so I had to console myself with a pretty enjoyable trip to the JobServe last weekend – not quite the victory the U’s deserved over Walsall, but a great day out anyway. I know it’ll be too late for the Player of the Year awards, but wouldn’t it be nice to see a Freddie Sears hat-trick this afternoon to round off the season.
When Saturday Comes #36 by wessex_exile
[i]When Saturday Comes[/i] tomorrow, and I will be on a train heading over to God’s own county for my last U’s game of the season. That should have been last Friday’s trip to the Principality, but as posted elsewhere I was more than happy to be pre-booked to dog-sit Emma’s collie Reggie that night and had to be content with one of Nadine’s ‘downstreams’ on iFollow. Given both the performance and the result, whilst I was sorry to miss it in person, I was more than happy with how Friday night turned out in the end. Tomorrow will be a gathering of the clans for us, with at the last count at least 8, possibly more, of the family gathering for the match. Ironically, I’ll see them all again on Bank Holiday Monday for a family birthday, but I’ll be driving over for that one.
When Saturday Comes #35 by wessex_exile
[i]When Saturday Comes[/i] and the U’s have already given us a fantastic start to the weekend, with a stirring and well-deserved 2-1 victory at promotion-chasing Newport County. Yes, the Exiles had lost the previous three at home and are looking like they are going to bottle their chance for the play-offs, and yes with the U’s now safe technically we had little to play for, but don’t take anything away from this performance. If Wayne Brown is still being ‘interviewed’ for the full-time role as Colchester United manager, then last night was the equivalent of having an excellent incisive question of your own lined up for the interview panel.
When Saturday Comes #34 by wessex_exile
[i]When Saturday Comes[/i] and our Easter Bank Holiday programme is already underway, following a dismal 2-0 defeat at St James’ Park yesterday. It’s not so much the result that galls, in truth deep down I suspect we all thought it was going to be a difficult trip to get anything out of, it was the manner of that defeat. To say the U’s were lacklustre is a massive understatement – and it wasn’t as if it was down to Exeter City simply outplaying us, I didn’t think they were all that to be honest. I can cope with defeat, heaven knows the U’s have given me enough practice in recent years, but to go down without a whimper, relying on Man of the Match Sham to keep it from becoming a cricket score against an average Exeter City, was just dreadful.
When Saturday Comes #33 by wessex_exile
[i]When Saturday Comes[/i] and there was a time, not too long ago, when today’s game against the charmless Steve Evans and Stevenage was looking like it might be a relegation 6-pointer. Whilst we’re not out of the woods quite yet, back-to-back victories over Tranmere Rovers and Harrogate mean we go into this game knowing even if we were to slip up against Stevenage, we’ll still be 8pts plus goal difference ahead of them, and only five games left to play. Still, let’s not dwell on negatives, because three wins on the bounce will be the confidence-booster we’ll need ahead of the tough trip on Good Friday to St James’ Park.