Date: 11th February 2008 at 3:13pm
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As Preston Prepare To Visit In A Six-Pointer, It`s Time For U`s To Copy Kem By Relishing The Fight. Don`t Be So Coy Colchester, And Give It All You`ve Got!

There`s been an undercurrent of blame as large as the River Colne swirling around North Essex since Colchester United`s loss of key squad members last summer. The league`s loudest fans of 2006-7 were strangely mute inside Fortress Layer Road, but still smarting. Where has the money, and passion, gone, they would rightly think?

Think is the right word, too, because those in Britain`s oldest town were almost silent with despondency and prayer. When the man who helped Colchester reach their highest plane in Scott Vernon did his damndest during the Blackpool visit, and scored twice to sink the club two-nothing, his brace was a strike through the heart of ever U`s follower.

Nobody in Essex wants to be celebrating the last game at Layer Road in May by looking down at their feet, or League One, for that matter. Dean Gerken`s unprintable reaction to conceding twice that December evening at the hands – or should that be feet – of Vernon expressed the common fears of thousands in the stands as well as turned the air blue. It`d be some sick form of satire if Vernon`s goals turn out to be a deadly seal on the season, or that missed key opportunity for a win, especially now that big Scotty is back with the club.

“Nobody in Essex wants to be celebrating the last game at Layer Road in May by looking down at their feet, or League One, for that matter.”

It was a case of stop the presses, then, when owner Robbie Cowling backed manger Geraint Williams to the tune of almost £1 million in the January transfer market. Tonight, as a compatriot put in within this webspace a few weeks back, the U`s are cash rich but time poor. An upturn in fortunes since the turn of the year has impressed both the faithful, and the boss.

Not that the club follows the miserly maxim of counting the pounds and letting the fans take care of themselves, for the U`s are run in a prim and proper fashion, and have just announced record profits. Last season`s highest-ever finish is paying dividends in more ways than one.

It`s something of an irony, as the eye inevitably casts a nervous glass toward tomorrow`s tense relegation affair with Preston, who hover dangerously close to a tap-door which Colchester also occupy, that Colchester`s squad is far biggest now than it was last term and yet results have dipped.

Other denominators have also changed, because the U`s have had unexpected disciplinary problems and injury woe that never dogged them this time last season. So the old saying that it`s quality, not quantity in terms of staff, that matters most.

Are Kevin Lisbie and Clive Platt as good, or better than, Chris Iwelumo and Jamie Cureton were? Probably not, addressing the stats board – what was formally the league`s deadly duo had already celebrated 30 goals (15 each) between them by this point in February 2007. Kev `n` Chris can boast only 17. Still impressive, maybe, but not when the leaking bucket of Colchester`s backline is conceding so many goals.

“It`d be some sick form of satire if Scott Vernon`s goals turn out to be a deadly seal on the season, especially now that he is back with the club.”

Still, it is not for the want of trying that United are unable to reverse the curse which might see them get another much-needed win; Colchester`s last on January the first made it a very happy new year indeed. They need another tonight, and it looks plausible because the newly moulded squad are finally signing up to the Faustian bargain on offer from their quite Welsh boss; he is currently working on the magic formula that will turn fruitless drawn one-point endeavours into a golden winning three.

Bang goes the previous brand of play, that old schoolboy formula of trying to score as many goals as possible, and letting anyone else worry about the defending, in favour of a more measured approach. An upturn since the away win against the Addicts is why those in the nation`s press offices readily delay the doom-and-gloom headlines that many already argued were meant for the U`s last season.

The squad are determined, and enjoy defying popular expectation that the Little Guy really ought to be in a smaller division – it even galvanised them during the 2005/6, unchained their spirits; football in Colchester was played without inhibition last and Jamie Cureton become everyone`s latest baby-faced assassin at the age of 30.

“Does it really help when major talk ahead of the most important run of games persists in focusing on how much of a “false position” the club are in?”

This much we know; but does it really help when major talk ahead of the most important run of games persists in focusing on how much of a “false position” the club are in? “We don’t class it as a relegation battle, we just see ourselves as unfortunate to be in this position,” winger Kevin McLeod is quoted as telling Myfootball writer today. He`s banging the same drum that Kevin Watson began to beat earlier in the season – even new men Dean Hammond and Phil Ifil have adopted the denial.

His summary of the predicament might be fair, but it does not speak of a team addressing the problem directly; only Kem Izzet, who recently declared his love for the mud-slinging affair that presents itself from the bottom-of-the-table quagmire. If the rest of the squad stopped trying to find a wage around the problem, accepting it with Kem`s openness and honesty, then perhaps the fans would fell even more compelled to sing their lungs raw than they already were in the last home game against Sheffield United.

To echo a point made last week, modern footballers are full of modern injustices of the game to the point where Mr. Average has lost all empathy; Colchester`s continued assertion that they are ‘unlucky` as a unit is as hollow as England`s build-up was to the World Cup 2006, although the bubble of hype really did bust in the faces of a nation on the playing fields of Germany. If the U`s fail to deliver on their promise tomorrow – the instance that the next victory is ‘just around the corner` – there`s no reason why anyone should be sweeping the relegation issue under the carpet.

Benjie Goodhart from the Guardian gave a good view of the situation in a recent Blog. “You’re as likely to find clean sheets at Colchester as you are in a boys-only student flat,” a true gag in relation to the U`s lack of a clean sheet for more than 20 matches. He also added that it might be too late for team he called the second-most overachievers in the Championship after Bristol City to perform a Houdini routine, even with a third of the season`s fixtures still to play.

Not too good to go down, was the Goodhart assessment, only good enough to stay up. This column would advise you to reserve judgement on that particular point, as one of the biggest reaming games casts a shadow over Layer Road, until after Preston have left town.


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