So where did we get to? Since my last appearance on WAGU, Colchester United have installed an invisible rollercoaster at the Weston Homes Community Stadium. No, not literally – but it’s the best metaphor I can get out of Joe Dunne’s reign in Colchester.
Following from a reasonably positive start to life after John Ward (who is now working some sort of wonders in Bristol), dangerously the press and fans of the club started to tout the team as play-off contenders. There was obviously only one way this was going to end. And so it did.
This positive start was followed by nine consecutive defeats – yes, nine – and “play-off contenders” quickly became “relegation certainties”. The run appeared to stem from a defeat to local rivals Chelmsford City (though in terms of league position, not rivals at all) in the FA Cup. Not a particularly pleasant way to kick off your bad run.
What was the reason for the slump? Probably it was the team showing what it really was again – the new manager ‘bounce’ had moved away from the real issue, that the team was lacking drive and personnel compared to some other clubs in the division.
Usually when relegation threatens, the way to deal with this is delve into the loan and free-agent market and sign as many experienced, wise heads as possible. But this is Colchester. So things were done differently. Yep, instead a wealth of under-21 players were brought in, either on loan or permanently.
In the short-term, this solved nothing. Although goal-machine (or as close to a goal-machine as Colchester have got) Jabo Ibehre signed a permanent deal from MK Dons, the goals were going in one end and not the other.
Since January performances have now perked up a bit. Freddie Sears (remember him?) has finally started booting in goals along with Ibehre, and a few other signings appear to have made the grade – Drey Wright was brought in from Crystal Palace to shore up the defence, while local-boy Mark Cousins has been replaced in goal by Sam Walker.
The Young Ones have also started to create a bit more and gel the team together. Gavin Massey has also come into form at the right time. Consequently, as of now, the club sits five points above the relegation zone. Safety?
Not yet. This is a club that has a bit of a habit of throwing away leads, none more so than a two goal cushion against financially stricken Coventry being thrown away two weeks ago. So I’m taking nothing for granted and my money is staying in my pocket. So reluctantly… fingers crossed?
If this relatively young team can stave off relegation this season, there is a potential for a good springboard for next season if some of the loan signings can be kept on. But I’m not going to say ‘play-off contenders’ because I know what will happen…
Away from the field of play, a small tribute to previous manager Dick Graham. Graham was at the helm of Colchester United for perhaps one of the greatest cup shocks of all time – a victory for the then non-league team against the mighty Leeds United of Don Revie in the FA Cup in 1971. It was a result that put Colchester on the map, and not just for its Roman history. He was one of the most renowned managers of the club and will never be forgotten, particularly after being inducted into the club’s hall of fame.
Written by Tom Smee, We Are Going Up’s Colchester United Blogger
Tom tweets at @OmNomTom