‘Meeting the opposition’ – Colchester United F.C

‘Meeting the opposition’ – Colchester United F.C

Ahead of Tuesday night’s League Two encounter at the JobServe Community Stadium between Colchester United and Tranmere Rovers, I spoke to @TheLatestColU. They gave me an insight into all on and off pitch matters at The U’s whilst giving me their pre-match thoughts, amongst other subjects.

How long have you been a Colchester United fan and how did you first come across the club?

I’ve been a fan for as long as I can remember really. I’m 20 now and I’ve been going since around 2007. Unfortunately that season was the year after our highest league finish ever (10th in the Championship) and we got relegated, and I can’t remember much from that or following seasons either. My memories of Colchester United are really only clear from about 2009 onwards. 

The highest and lowest moments that stand out during that time?

Last season has got to be up there, an amazing run in the Carabao Cup knocking out 2 Premier League teams and being there for the club’s first ever trip to Old Trafford. It ended in disappointment losing in the playoff semi-finals, but overall it was successful and unfortunately it’s been downhill since then. I began by thinking the lowest point was being relegated from League One in 2016, but the last few months has seen us drop to 22nd in League Two with 10 games left and in the unlikely scenario we get relegated, that would be the club’s worst moment for 30 years and in my lifetime – the last time we found ourselves relegated to non league. 

Random fact about the club?

Colchester are one of only four clubs to win a trophy called the Watney Cup. The competition ran shortly between 1970 and 1973 and was played between the teams who had scored the most goals in the top four divisions of English football. The U’s beat West Brom on penalties and won the trophy in 1971 after a 4-4 draw.

What were your expectations going into the season and what are they now when the campaign’s coming to an end?

At the start of the season, the expectation of the fans and the players was to compete for the playoffs and hopefully go one better than last season and get promoted. Unfortunately since December we have gone on an abysmal run of form that has seen us drop from the edge of the playoffs to being dragged into a relegation battle with rivals Southend. It’s very disappointing to see our season go this way, with so many talented players unable to reach the levels of last season and I believe many still have the potential to play at the top of League Two at the very least. 

Who is the manager of Colchester United, how long has he been in this role and what are your thoughts on him?

Wayne Brown is currently the interim head coach and has been the boss for 7 games up until now following the departure of Steve Ball. I think it’s expected, but not necessarily favoured by the fans that he will be appointed permanently at some point, unless we continue to drop dangerously close to the relegation zone. A former player during one of our most successful seasons as a club in the Championship, I think Wayne is liked a lot more than the previous coach Steve Ball because he has more experience and has been more successful as a manager at non league and feeder club Maldon and Tiptree, but he still isn’t the ideal man that the fans want to see in charge.

Who owns the club and what are your thoughts on them?

Robbie Cowling is the owner and chairman. A successful businessman, his decisions to ensure the club stay alive during the pandemic and aims for the club to become sustainable for the future clearly have the best intentions financially for the club. However recently, and especially this season and the position we are currently in, he has received a lot of criticism for his footballing decisions. Many fans are frustrated with constant internal appointments and the hiring of a director of football – who was very disliked as a manager and contributed towards our relegation to League One 5 years ago. 

Your team’s danger men?

Being on a run of just 1 win in the last 20 games, it’s tough to pick out someone who will be a threat. And to add insult to injury, for the next few games two of our best performers last season are out on international duty with Callum Harriott with Guyana and Kwame Poku for Ghana’s B Team. I would’ve chosen Harriott if he was available. If I had to choose someone though then it would be Frank Nouble. His goalscoring record isn’t the best, but he is hard working and is often a handful for defenders. 

It was at Colchester United that Tranmere’s ‘Tequila’ chant was first sung, two years to the day funnily enough that this fixture will be played. Rovers won that game 2-0. If you can remember it, what were your thoughts on the performances of both sides and are you a fan of the chant?

I think I just about remember that game only because of the chant itself! After that a few fans tried to adopt it but didn’t last long. We had sung it a few years before for a player we had on loan from Portsmouth where they had created a song for him, but he didn’t play much and I don’t think it was heard again after that.

How do you see the game panning out? (Score prediction).

Everything points towards a comfortable Tranmere win, after losing to Port Vale at the weekend and failing to score against Grimsby and Salford City before that I can’t see us winning. The only hope we really have is that we are much better at home and it wasn’t that long ago we picked up a fortunate win over Carlisle. But I’ll be honest and unbiased and say a 2-0 win for Tranmere.

What eleven do you think your gaffer will select?

Unlike the previous few years where the club has stuck to a certain formation, since Wayne Brown has stepped in as interim head coach things have seemed to have become a little bit more flexible so it’s difficult to predict the lineup at the moment, especially during a bad run of form. But this is what I’m going to say, in a 4-2-3-1 formation: George – Welch-Hayes, Eastman, Smith, Clampin – Pell, Wiredu – Cowan-Hall, Brown, Senior – Nouble

Thoughts on Tranmere? The club in general.

I must admit, Tranmere are in a group of quite a few clubs that I don’t know a lot about. You’re clearly a big club for League Two and were very unfortunate to go down last season because of the circumstances. You do look like you could be on your way back to League One though where I’m sure your fans believe is where you belong! Best of luck for the rest of the season. 

Thoughts on Colchester United’s winter transfer business?

In the first team there were 4 incomings in January and 3 departures. The three of the two who left (Luke Norris and Luke Gambin) weren’t necessarily crucial players for us and the main motivation was probably to get some earners off the wage bill. The other was Cohen Bramall, who was probably our best player last season and sad to see him go to Lincoln. Two of the incomings have done well so far and both we had last season. Frank Nouble has returned as a striker this time (he was always on the wing before) and although not being a great goalscorer, is a signing that the club and fans needed during a tough period. Brendan Wiredu has joined permanently from Charlton after having a brief spell on loan at the start of last season and has arguably been our best player over the last couple of months. Loan signings Josh Doherty and Aramide Oteh on the other hand haven’t really hit the ground running, both are being used as backups at the moment.

Shamal George played for Tranmere, on a loan term deal, throughout the 2018/19 promotion season to League One. He now plays his football at the JobServe Community Stadium. Thoughts on him?

When he first came in back in the summer, everyone including him knew he would be second choice to Dean Gerken. But at a couple of points during the season Dean has picked up injuries and has given Shamal a chance to prove himself. He has done very well in those games and it looks like he will be number 1 for the remainder of the season. During this bad run of form, he has been one of the few players who has impressed. Both keepers I think have a mistake in them and aren’t the best at handling but Shamal is younger and his distribution is much better than Gerken so he looks a good prospect.

Shamal George played a part in Tranmere’s promotion to League One in the 2018/19 campaign, he’s now impressing in Essex.

Thank you very much for reading,

Stay safe,

Ethan Hoijord

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