Whitton United 5 Coggeshall Town 4

The Eastern Counties First Division is the tenth tier of English football, just a few seats, some floodlights and a half-time plate of sandwiches for the opposition committee separates it  from the clubs that play on a piece of waste ground and use jumpers for goalposts, well  almost.  But that doesn’t mean clubs at this level don’t have history; Whitton United have been going since 1926 and Coggeshall Town since 1878, the same year as mighty, illustrious Ipswich Town, former League Champions, FA Cup, UEFA Cup and Texaco Cup winners.

It says in the match programme that a Whitton team existed in the late 1800’s, back when Whitton was a small village a mile or more outside Ipswich.  But between the World Wars Ipswich Corporation, as it was then, began to build the Whitton estate providing much needed,  good quality, rented housing for working class people.  Whitton is now a part of Ipswich, and if supporters in the Eastern Counties league did sing (with the notable exception of Wivenhoe Town’s they tend not to) they could chant “Small club in Ipswich, You’re just a small club in Ipswich” without fear of contradiction.

Whitton United is a rare thing in the Eastern Counties League, a team representing a truly urban area, and more than that it might be said to represent a large council estate.  The contrast with Coggeshall therefore is on the face of it quite stark.  Coggeshall, with its National Trust owned medieval buildings and its vineyard and ley lines is positively poncey by comparison.  The other big difference is that Coggeshall Town are being bankrolled; there are stories of players attracted from beyond Essex on the promise of big appearance money.  The realisation of this is shown in their relative league positions with Coggeshall currently top of the table, where they have been virtually all season, whilst Whitton are merely near the top of the bottom half of the table, albeit on a roll of five consecutive victories.

The King George V Fields ground is outside the Whitton estate next to the main road out of town towards the A14 and Stowmarket.   A third of the pitch is overlooked by a large heap of rubble that was once the concrete floor of the Tooks bakery (aka bread factory), formerly the club’s neighbour. Behind one goal there is no accommodation for spectators whatsoever, just a stretch of grass from the goal net to a very big fence, with the road beyond.   There is a stand on each of the other three sides; two of them resembling country bus shelters, one of which is labelled ‘The Shed’; whilst downhill, behind the other goal is a pre- fabricated, metal stand containing the requisite number of seats for the club to play in the Eastern Counties Premier League. should the need arise.  The changing rooms have a wonderful green and white striped tin roof.

It’s a grey, blustery afternoon with a constant threat of rain, but the two teams in their striped kits, Whitton in green and white and Coggeshall in red and black stand out through the gloom and offer the promise of excitement.  I wander around the perimeter rail before the game kicks off and a bloke on his way to one of those ‘bus shelters’ and carrying a couple of pints of beer says hello; “ We need a good result today after last week” he says.  I have no idea what either team did last week, but I agree because it would be churlish and a bit weird not to do so and I’m not one to start an argument with someone I don’t really know.  To begin with, the promise of a good game is all there  as the ball bounces awkwardly on the soft pitch and is buffeted by the wind, producing a scrappy match with neither team looking much good.  Despite kicking up the not inconsiderable slope and against the wind however, Coggeshall gradually start to look the stronger team.

I walk round the back of the dugouts and towards the end of the ground where the only spectators are those in passing cars and buses who are probably surprised to find themselves watching a football match, albeit for a few fleeting seconds only.  One or two beep their car horns as they drive by.  Coggeshall are kicking towards the goal at this end and it doesn’t take long before they score, a close range tap-in from Scarlett, despite claims of offside from Whitton.  Somewhat bizarrely Coggeshall’s number four is booked in the aftermath and from what I can make of what referee Mr Pope seems to be saying, it is because he egged on the Whitton players in their offside protests. ‘You started it’ I think I hear the Pope say as if scolding Martin Luther.  The same player is then spoken to again by his holiness and told to concentrate just on the football by the Coggeshall coach; “I only said bad luck baldy” the player opines after Whitton’s follicly challenged centre-half concedes a free-kick on the edge of his own penalty area.

I drift back towards the Whitton bench having had enough of the Essex club’s manager’s questioning of Mr Pope and decide to briefly compare and contrast him with the Whitton manager.  I conclude that the Whitton man mostly complains to himself and to the bench in a sort of audible internal dialogue.  The results of the comparison fit with my own pre-conceived ideas of Ipswich and Essex people.  Happily for Whitton however, my move into their half coincides with a couple of attacks down the left, one of which results in a free-kick and ends with an unexpected, but not completely undeserved equaliser from Bell.

Half-time arrives with scores all square and I indulge in a pounds worth of tea and a warm in the clubhouse, although I have to be let in because the door only seems to open from the inside.  I return to pitch side too late for the re-start, but haven’t missed anything and take up a spot in the seats behind the goal.  It starts to rain.

With the wind at their backs and playing down the slope it seems like it might be easier for Coggeshall in the second half and gradually, as in the first half they begin to dominate the attacking play, but without really making any decent chances to score; then, a break down the left, a through ball and a goal for Whitton by Percy (sadly his surname not his first name).   It’s a bit of a surprise but the game returns to its previous pattern and with about fifteen minutes left, after some more Coggeshall domination the ball is crossed low, blocked and partly cleared before the Coggeshall substitute Guthmy coolly places the ball in the middle of the goal to equalise.  Now it really looks like Coggeshall will go on to win and that’s what the bloke behind me tells his children when they ask.

The good thing about football however is that is totally unpredictable, which is why all these ‘sports betting companies’ (bookies) advertise relentlessly to part mugs with their money.  Proof of football’s unpredictably arrived within just a minute or two as a deep cross from a corner was headed in at the far post by Griggs to put Whitton ahead again and then within minutes of that a through ball saw  Cheetham brought down in the box resulting in a penalty which gave Whitton a 4-2 lead. The rain had now eased and I stepped out of the stand so that I didn’t have to peer through a goal net and another bigger net placed across the front of the stand to protect inattentive spectators from stray footballs that might inadvertently smack them in the chops when they were looking at their mobile phones rather than the game; serves ‘em right I say.  Barely had I done this and with about six minutes left Whitton scored yet again with Cheetham ‘converting’ a cross by the beautifully named Franco Mallardo.

Surely that was it, 5-2 with just five minutes left? But no, Coggeshall rightly decided that the game wasn’t over until his holiness Mr Pope says so, and just as I would never leave a game before the final whistle, so the ‘Seedgrowers’ , for that is what their nickname is, continued to try and win the match.  And it was a good job they did or this report would be over already.  First, continuing the ecclesiastical surname theme started by the referee, Monk made it 5-3 with a fine half volley from the edge of the penalty area,  and a short while later he then crossed the ball for Nwachuku to smack a fourth goal high in to the Whitton United net.  There was still enough time for a free kick on the edge of the penalty area to be sent over the Whitton cross bar, but finally Mr Pope whistled Amen and the game was over.

It had been a most entertaining game, even if some of the defending had at times been hard to spot, and in difficult conditions on an awkward slopey pitch the players of both teams had given their all.  I was surprised therefore and disappointed that at the end no one clapped or cheered as the two teams left the pitch; but no one booed either, so it was one up on Portman Road I guess.   The 5-4 score line alone deserved some appreciation, but there was nothing, not a cough, not a wheeze, not even a tiny chortle. Everyone just filed away into the car park.   To an extent, at this level of football the result doesn’t matter as much as the fact that the two clubs are still there each week to play; this is perhaps true more for a real community club like Whitton United than a club like Coggeshall Town which has been adopted by someone with spare cash like a mini Roman Abramovich.

There was apparently only a crowd of 57 at this match, which is disappointing for a Saturday when Ipswich Town are not playing, and looking about there were very few people under thirty there.  A football match where you can drink in sight of the pitch should be a massive draw and at £6.00 entrance fee it provides good value for money compared to the £40 Norwich City wanted from IpswichTown fans to get into Carrow Road the following day.

Eastern Counties League Football should be the model for sustainable football, so I urge you, support your local team, it’s friendly, it’s funny, it’s fun, it is well worth it.  I had a lovely time.  Thank you Whitton United.

Colchester 1 Wycombe 0

Remaining true to my fictional new year’s resolution to ‘get out more’, I return for the second dull Tuesday night in a row to the Weston Homes Out In The Middle of Nowhere Community Stadium for a second helping of Colchester United in the competition properly known at Football League Division Four.

Two pints of Adnams Old Ale in The Bricklayers Arms and a speeding, top-deck, bus ride that’s worth £2.50 of anyone’s money are the prelude to the shock of arriving at the stadium.  There’s a queue at the turnstiles because tonight’s the night the U’s play Wycombe Wanderers, their meanest, nastiest foe who once, long ago in 1991  pipped the U’s to promotion by scoring more goals. The rotters.  Like last week a steward asks if he can look in my bag, of course he can, but I tell him he probably won’t see much because its a navy blue bag and it’s awfully dark out here.  He peers down perfunctorily and fondles the bottom of the bag just a little before turning away, perhaps a tad embarrassed.

Into the ground and I immediately meet my next door neighbour, who explains that she is here to see her son take penalties at half time with the Coggeshall Under 15’s team; I’ll look out for that I tell her.  I meet her husband in the toilet who’s here for the same reason, although he’s in the toilet to have a piddle, like me.

After the usual modern age twee ‘sporting’ nonesense of handshakes and standing in a line, the game kicks off.  The teams are made up of the usual collection of young men with serious yet silly haircuts and Colchester once again field ex Ipswich prodigy Owen Garvan – Hurrah!  Wycombe meanwhile have a star in their midst , a star the size of a planet, Adebayo Akinfenwa who apparently weighs 16 stone.   Mr Akinfenwa’s football career spans a century, albeit the 21st one and he is a Football League legend who has also won medals in the Premier League, the Welsh Premier League; with Barry Town;  he is enormous, absolutely vast.  It might be an exaggeration to say he is worth the entrance money alone, but you get a lot for your money with Ade.  He doesn’t run so much as waddle about the pitch, but he knows where to be and when. He’s always in the right place at the right time, but when you’re as big as him it’s difficult not to be.  Ade is apparently known as ‘The Beast,’ but he seemed like a very lovely man indeed, playing as he did with a smile on his face despite being called a ‘fat bastard’ by those Col U wags behind the goal.  Far from being a beast Ade is the sort of bloke you’d happily invite round for afternoon tea and a plate of fancies with your mum. You wouldn’t want to invite a ‘beast’ round for that would you, they might leave something nasty in your downstairs toilet, and as Kevin Keegan might say, no ones a fan of that.

Inspired by Ade, as anyone would be, the Wycombe fans are in good voice and have a drum, which they bang, or one of them does.  Sensibly, those Wycombe fans who want to stand up do so at the back of the stand where they can see over the heads of those who prefer to sit. It looks a very neat and tidy arrangement, they’re not daft in Buckinghamshire.  Wycombe start well and whilst the Col U fans also have a drum they have no rhythm yet and their unco-ordinated shouts produce a hollow echo off the tin roof and walls.

Colchester send a shot past the post and the U’s fans offer a double salvo of “Fuck Off Wycombe!” but it somehow doesn’t quite sound quite right, saying that to an innocuous town in the home counties; you wouldn’t say that to Gerrards Cross now would you, so why Wycombe.  Things are getting nasty, well kind of, and Wycombe’s Will de Havilland is booked for not controlling his elbow well enough in the vicinity of someone else’s face.  I imagine the referee asking his name and saying “Really? de Havilland? What like her in Gone With The Wind?”

Moments later the U’s are in front and no one looks more surprised than the goalscorer George Elokobi whose spectacular effort from 2o odd yards arcs delightfully into the top corner; it might have been a cross originally though, there’s no knowing from where I’m sat. The U’s fans rise as one and a man in a beanie hat in front of me stands purposefully as if to address the players, and slowly stabs both his temples with his forefingers. Odd.

The U’s are in full flow and Brindley sends the ball low across the face of goal, like you do.  Then at the other end Akinfenwa literally squashes Brindley, who has to be shaken back into shape by the physio. Mascot Eddie the Eagle then helps referee Mr Kettle to ensure the ball is placed accurately in the little ‘D’ for a corner kick.  The scoreboard fleetingly advises us to kit ourselves out 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at cufc retail, and by the look of a few people around me they have done just that.  Unimpressed, Olivia de Havilland shoves a Col U player and a bit later does it again, she is substituted at half-time.

The game is what you might call ‘attritional’.  A Wycombe player with a a hair cut which is part Marge Simpson part skinhead gets in to a good position, but then sends his cross far over everyone’s head, before scratching his own as if unable to fully comprehend what just happened.   Then U’s Lapslie has a free-kick awarded against him. “What about the foul earlier?” cries an angry, plaintiff voice. Indeed , what about it. Eh, Mr Kettle?  ” Oh sorry, you’re absolutely right, my mistake”. But no,  Mr Kettle didn’t say a word to his accuser; how cool is that?

At number 12 Wycombe have a player rejoicing under the name of Paris Cowan-Hall.  Paris, now there’s an exotic name for a footballer, but his double-barrelled surname perhaps suggests Patrician parents who benefitted from a classical education.  In Greek legend Paris was a bit like a stereotypical Premier League footballer; he was ‘one for the ladies’  having a fling with a nymph called Oenone before getting Aphrodite, Hera and Athena to get their kit off and then eloping with Helen who was already married to Menelaus king of Sparta; all of which resulted in the Trojan Wars and that big horse and everything.   Just thought you’d like to know in case they ask a question on University Challenge .

On the cusp of half time and the U’s keeper tries to look busy as he taps the soles of his boots on the goal posts and swigs from a bottle, even though he is only seconds away from a nice cup of half-time tea.  Sadly I am more than seconds from my half-time tea and spend so long in the not very long queue that I only return to the stand in time to see the Coggeshall Under 15’s leave the field, having presumeably scored all their penalties against the hapless Eddie the Eagle.  I’ll lie to the neighbours.

There’s just time to enjoy Pulp’s Mis-shapes over the tannoy before the action recommences. An early boot into touch sees a wonderfully disinterested looking ballboy in a bobble hat take an age to return the ball to a Wycombe player who seems to curb his impatience because the lad is so very small and looks so much like he’d rather be elsewhere.  I like to think that his dad was right chuffed to get young Tommy in as a ball-boy, but actually Tommy is day-dreaming about trying on his sister’s dresses or doing ballet.

Moving on and U’s earn an obvious corner . “Corner!” shouts a reedy voice behind me as if challenging Mr Kettle not to give it. Again Mr Kettle stays calm.  The game rolls on and Colchester have the ascendency, doing most of the attacking and doing it with a fair lick of pace. This is in contrast to Wycombe who seem restricted to move at the same pace as big Ade, after all, they wouldn’t want to leave him behind.  He nevertheless wins quite a few headers and  defies physics for one final moment in injury time and  has one cleared off the goal line.  The Wycombe fans have been silenced largely, although with 1o minutes to go they had raised a few “Come on Wycombe” chants to save face.

Responding to a prompt from the scoreboard the U’s fans get behind the U’s once more to carry their team over the winning line on a wave of vocal encouragement.  A fine win for the U’s and a most enjoyable evening for which credit must also go to the vanquished team and in particular Ade Akinfenwa, what a great bloke and worth a hundred Premier League players; by weight alone.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ipswich Town 1 Leeds United 1

If this was 1973, what a fixture this would be, and it was, but Leeds won back then, nil to three, in front of a crowd of 27,513.

Dirty Leeds.   Northern bastards.   Tetley bittermen.  They never won anything fairly said Brian Clough; cheats the lot of ‘em. They should have put their medals in the bin.    And this is why you have to love a fixture against Leeds United today.  The weight of such history can’t be lifted and why would you want it to be.

Everybody hated Leeds United in 1973 and, if we have an opinion, a lot of us still do.  In these times of image and branding, Leeds United still retains a strong hold on the minds of supporters because of what they were forty years ago.  That all white home kit, that so 1970’s curvy LU badge, the garters on the socks and those players, Bremner, Lorimer, Norman ‘bite ya legs’ Hunter, ‘Sniffer’ Clarke , Gray, Madeley, Jones, Reaney and Cooper.  That Leeds United defines a time and place, the nasty early 1970’s of IRA bombs, the three day week, power cuts, industrial unrest, Baader Meinhof,  tank tops, platform shoes, Chicory Tip and the Wombles.  Leeds United with all their nastiness were a reflection of the age; a footballcentric Clockwork Orange.   In their stark white kit they were the ruthless professionals who replaced the likes of the homely Matthews and Finney; Leeds United was the monolithic new Arndale Centre that swept away the Victorian streets, and the teased coiffure and the feather cut that usurped the plastered down Brylcreemed pates of the 1950’s for ever.   Efficient, impressive, modern, but ugly and lacking a soul.

Of course in Ipswich we never had an Arndale Centre; we had the Greyfriars Shopping Centre but the locals ignored it and didn’t go there, and only moaned about it, so a bit like Ipswich Town today really.

And then there were the Leeds supporters; how the Sunday papers loved the stories of smashed up trains and pubs and bovver booted rampages through the streets, but Manchester United and Chelsea and West Ham supporters were no different, they were all a bit lairy back then, that was the fan culture before ‘fan culture’ existed, before it was labelled, sanitised, branded by TV as the theme for betting adverts and the larky back drop to Super Sundays.  Leeds supporters have a bad reputation still, their coaches were parked right outside the away stand today so they could befoul as few as possible of the streets of Ipswich with their short vowels and bile and phlegm.   Because they sing continuously whatever the score, Leeds United fans are an oddity in Ipswich, the locals don’t understand and stare cow-eyed, mouths agape.  Ipswich Town is a football club where most of the crowd have forgotten or have simply never known how to support their team.  In Ipswich people don’t seem to know that showing support by shouting and singing is actually what they should be doing.  They think they should just sit quietly, not cause a fuss.  It makes a difference.  How else are the players going to know if anyone really cares about the result, there’s got to be more to the beautiful  game played well than just a win bonus, especially when your ordinary weekly wage is so bloody vast in the first place.

In Ipswich, the club’s fan base was built up in the 1970’s, probably reaching its zenith in 1975 as Town epically overcame Leeds United in a third replay to reach their first ever FA Cup semi-final.  (None of this penalty shoot-out bollocks back then; it’s like the FA just wants to get the whole thing over and done with now, roll on the close season.) Courtesy of Bobby Robson the team was ridiculously good for a small provincial town.  Ever since Robson departed in 1982 the Town have at best been middling, and when Roy Keane became manager they became virtually unwatchable.  Those fans from the 1970’s have stayed loyal to the Town however, but people don’t age disgracefully in Ipswich and the silent silver-haired majority in Churchman’s now look on impassively, saving themselves in case they have to boo at the end.  The young fans have no role model to follow and like when they see monkeys shagging at the zoo, pre-pubescent boys turn to their dads and ask what the Leeds fans are doing.  “Just watch the game son” is the likely reply.

Misunderstanding their past Leeds United wore white shorts and yellow jerseys today and there was no stylised LU to be seen on the club crest, or garters on their socks.  But to be fair, it is no longer 1973; thank the time space continuum for that, but I imagined how it was and I think the Leeds fans did too.  Pantomime villains they may be, but it would be a crappy pantomime without Leeds United, as it sadly often is at Portman Road when your best days are Behind You!

Footnote : Had Bobby Robson not died in 2009, the day of this Leeds game would have been his 84th birthday.  Consequently, in the 84th minute of the match there was a minute’s applause for Sir Bobby; a sort of birthday greeting sent out by Town fans to beyond the grave; the idea apparently of local radio person Mark Murphy see tweet @MarkGlennMurphy.   An awkwardly sentimental idea, because people don’t really have birthdays once they’re dead, it is also flawed because, as my wife pointed out to me, if it is to be repeated after Saturday 18th February 2023, games will have to routinely start going into extra-time; I’m not sure the Football League would agree to that, but you never know.    If anyone thought Sir Alf Ramsey was deserving of the same sort of post mortem birthday greeting then I regret to tell you that  that particular funeral barge has already sailed because he was born in 1920 and so would already require at best Manchester United style time added-on but more probably, that hard-to-sanction extra time.

Oh, and finally, if you are at all intrigued by the Leeds United of the 1970’s and haven’t already read it then be sure to buy, borrow or steal (depending on lifestyle choice) a copy of ‘The Damned Utd’ by David Peace, it is an excellent novel and one of the very best books about football.

Colchester United 2 Crawley Town 3

Emerging from Colchester station I crossed through a queue of cars and coughed a little at the  fumes left hanging in the evening air. It was cool, it was mid- February, man. Valentines day and my wife had stayed in with Adrian Rabiot and Marco Verrati.  A hoarding announced that a brick brutalist building (if that is possible), former offices overlooking the railway,  is being converted into flats, Station Court it will be called, what a lovely name, only one down from Station Mews. I felt a little sick, it may have been those fumes, but was more likely the two Greggs sausage rolls eaten on the train from Ipswich. Note to self, never buy a Greggs sausage roll again, they only cost a pound each for a reason.

The Bricklayers Arms is a satisfyingly short walk from Colchester station and with a pint of Adnams Old Ale for £3.65 I sat down at a round table to sup and read. I was one corner of a triangle with two empty chairs, no one asked if they were free, the pub wasn’t that busy.  I am reading a book entitled ‘The Numbers Game – Why Everything You Know About Football Is Wrong’ and soon I am going to catch a bus to see Colchester United play Crawley Town in what I call Football League Division Four.  I am not a football obsessive though, in fact I hate the bloody game and later I am going to write a fucking blog about it.

There were only two other people on the top deck of the bus to Layer Road (£2.50 return fare), or the Weston Homes Out In The Middle of Nowhere Community Stadium as I believe it is more properly known.  Lonely and scared I spoke to them; one was an occasional  Crawley Town follower who only began to take an interest when they were drawn against Manchester United in the FA Cup; he knew nothing about their players but nevertheless liked the club and wore the scarf, he was like a reverse Manchester United fan, I thought he was laudable.  His companion was in IT and had worked for Ipswich Town (haha ITIT) during the George Burley and David Sheepshanks era, but left disillusioned by the budget cutting Marcus Evans. What is Marcus Evans up to at Ipswich?

Having resisted the temptation to buy a cuddly Eddie the Eagle mascot in the club shop I queued for what must have been seconds to get into the stadium where I immediately met a lady steward I know, we hugged; I felt blessed, all football supporters should get a hug from a steward I thought (if they want one) , a sort of apology for that frisking and request to look in your bag.

After urinating in a slightly smelly and drafty room of shiny steel troughs and breeze blocks I sat down in time to hear the stadium announcer tell us that Owen Garvan would be wearing the two little ducks shirt; although he actually said twenty-two.  Owen Garvan played for Ipswich Town, I am an Ipswich season ticket holder, Roy Keane sent Owen Garvan away to Crystal Palace, I liked Owen Garvan, I hate Roy Keane.

The Jam’s A Town Called Malice played on the public address, was it a reference to Colchester or Crawley?  The ‘real’ Eddie the Eagle mascot did a Mick Jagger impression to a Rolling Stones tune and the scoreboard advertised a night out at the stadium to see the Rollin’ Clones, a tribute act .  I wondered if it would be possible to clone Keith Richards or has his DNA been irreparably damaged like his face.

Yay, the game had started.  George Elokobi was playing for Colchester and looked a different shape to when I had last seen him play for Braintree Town; was he slimmer or was he wearing a truss?  For one moment the floodlights refelected so brightly off the head of Crawley’s Kaby Djalo  I thought he was sporting a Davy lamp, he wasn’t.  A Colchester player jumped at a Crawley man, falling over him as he followed the trajectory of the ball; free-kick to Crawley, “e’s given it the uvverway” moaned the bloke in front of me expounding his ongoing critique of the referee Lee Collins.   As United’s Dickenson vainly tried to manoeuvre around the Crawley full-back and ran the ball into touch, another concerned Colcestrian desperately called out  ” ‘elp ‘im” .  But Colchester were doing alright, striking at the very heart of the Crawley defence and after 18 minutes Johnstone scored, shooting beneath ‘keeper Morris and all was well.

Having seen the joy that a goal can provide, five minutes on and Crawley Town got one too, a corner being diverted into the net from very close range by a man called Smith.  That popular beat combo The Cure and their frontman Robert Smith were from  Crawley. I hoped it was a relative at least. The scoreboard declared Barry’s 50 year love for Joan because it was Valentine’s day, but her joy was likely dented nine minutes later as a high cross was headed back to Smiffy and he volleyed the ball unsympathetically into the Colchester net.  The natives were no longer happy . ” The trouble with this now is…” said a bloke behind me,  but trailed off frustratingly; what was the trouble with this, apart from the obvious?

Half time. Cup of tea for a pound and a check of the half time results, then back for more.  Smith again, this time low and at an angle from 20 yards, 3-1 to Crawley.  Smith 23,34,52 (HAT) read the scoreboard and Smith was worth his hat, although he deigned to wear it. Unless you were a fan of the 1946 New Towns Act and its subsequent sport related spin-off things were not looking good, although another bloke behind me insisted on encouraging the U’s by repeatedly yelling ” Come on U’s, you’re all over them”, but he might have been being ironic, it was hard to say.   Another spectator was obsessed with Crawley Town having been a non-league side only recently, as if that meant they would be forever inferior. There’s never a psychologist about when you need one.  Personally I was now struggling with the smell of the after-shave or scent of the man in front of me who I thought, for a man in his seventies, had very, very  neatly coiffured hair; I surmised he had a post match Valetine’s date with a lady who liked smelly old men.

The ninety minutes became 98 minutes because the referee had made a spectacle of himself by hurting his  leg  and eventually being substituted, and Colchester pulled a goal back.  The locals emitted some throaty growls of encouragement , reviving memories of the Layer Road roar, but they couldn’t turn the tide of progress and Britain’s reputedly oldest town was unable to gain parity with one of Britain’s new towns.

Romans and Ancient Britons 2  Planned Post-War Utopia 3

I caught the bus, I caught the train, I walked home to my wife and her memories of Adrian Rabiot the pre-Raphaelite Parisian and Michaelangelo’s Paulo Verratti.