Date: 4th October 2008 at 2:58pm
Written by:

There are lots of clichés in football. “Early doors” we got in there and “at the end of the day” we`ve won and it was “a real six-pointer, Ron.”

There`s a saying which is coming up even more often at the moment on the Col U message board. “England syndrome.”

What do they mean by “England syndrome”, has Kit Symons developed a snazzy ‘Dutch acshent`? Nope. Do all our best players get injured just before key games? Yes but we don`t enter tournaments so we limp along.

What they`re referring to in the wide gulf between the team`s performances away from home and in front of their own fans.

Compare England last few games: Czech Republic at Wembley then Andorra and Croatia away. A draw and two wins – the 4-1 win in Zagreb was by and England team almost unrecognisable from the usual mediocrity we`ve all become accustomed to.

Colchester`s last three results: lost 3-0 to MK Dons; beat Tranmere 4-3 away; lost 1-0 to Leicester. Who was that team in the middle fixture? Compared to the eleven players who gave a limp, lacklustre performance in defeat to the Dons it was like comparing Ann Widdicombe to Scarlett Johansson.

The common denominator? A new home and pressure from the stands.

I know what you`re thinking: “Pressure from the stands? Boo-hoo. I`d love to have that ‘pressure` and that not counting the compensation of getting several grand a week for kicking a ball.” – and you`re right. Mine is not to excuse – just to explain.

England`s players may not be the world-beaters some England fans would like to think but they`re a lot better than some of their performances at home. Drawing with Macedonia? They`re certainly better than that.

Colchester`s squad may not quite walk to promotion, as some seemed to be expecting in pre-season, but they`re surely better than 3-0 defeats at home – to anyone, let alone a team that`s come up from the division below, whilst we`ve come down from the division above.

Medi Elito may not be Theo Walcott (at least not yet, give the lad time!) and though we call him ‘Rio` Pat Baldwin doesn`t quite play like his more illustrious namesake – but what does this tell you?

No matter how big the name, how famous the player, how big the pay packet – players are affected by the crowd.


This should be a bit of a no-brainer really – otherwise why would we bother with the chants and songs? Why would everyone make such a big deal out of playing away from home? Why was everyone so convinced our successful season in the Championship was down to the ‘cramped conditions` at Layer Road and “the fans are right up close to the pitch, Clive?”?

We`re past masters at it. The ‘loudest fans in the league` at Layer Road were every bit the clichéd ’12th man` in our home games. If anyone should know about the affect the crowd has, it should be us, U`s fans.

But it works both ways. As well as cheering the players on to greater things, to just one more lung-busting run – there can be a negative effect too.

Playing in a shiny new stadium; paid for (in part) by the town; with a wedge of cash stumped up by your boss`s-boss; having just been relegated; therefore being one of the favourites for promotion; being expected to play not only winning football but the sort of football to put the bums on the seats to not only win promotion but justify your existence to the town and said boss`s-boss? (breathe?) That`s pressure.

Yes they`re paid well to put up with the pressure but how does money affect you? When you`re walking up the stairs with a mug of tea, you verily skip along, no? When you do the same walk holding an expensive vase, your wife`s favourite plate or carrying whatever it is that`s precious to you – suddenly your feet are the size of an atlas and you`ve completely forgotten how to walk: “One foot in front of the? whoops!”

Or when you`ve money riding on a game: a sporting bet with a mate for the next round of drinks and suddenly the prowess of Eritrean forward on Sky 3 becomes of vital importance. Make that potential winnings of a few hundred quid on a World Cup Qualifiers accumulator and you`re cursing the Danish goalie for letting in a last-minute equaliser.

Money helps, no doubt – but it doesn`t take the pressure and the expectation away. If anything it can make it worse.

Hopefully by now you`ll have got what I`m driving at. The players, more than ever, need your support. Not your snide comments, quips to your mates or jeers. If you must boo, save it for the end of the game when your negativity won`t ensure the result that, deep down, both you and the victim of your taunts want desperately to avoid.

Let`s try and recover just a fraction of that Layer Road spirit. The first win at Cuckoo Farm can`t be far away – this could be it today! Once that`s out of the way, more wins will follow, confidence will build and suddenly we`ll be laughing at the bad old days of boos and jeers.

Best foot forward people. All together now: United! United! United!