Thousands celebrate U's promotion

THOUSANDS of Colchester United fans braved last night's damp conditions to give their victorious heroes a rousing reception as they toured the town's streets.

By Roddy Ashworth

THOUSANDS of Colchester United fans braved last night's damp conditions to give their victorious heroes a rousing reception as they toured the town's streets.

On an open-topped double-decker bus, the squad which beat all the odds to win promotion set off from their Layer Road home to bathe in their well-deserved glory.

The team were cheered on by crowds of blue-and-white clad fans, many of whom waved East Anglian Daily Times victory banners as their stars passed by.

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The U's won through to the second tier of the football league for the first time in their history on Saturday after a nail-biting contest against Yeovil.

Although they drew 0-0 at Huish Park, the result was enough to see them propelled from League One into the dizzy heights of the Championship.

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This will see them face big-name sides such as Sunderland, Wolverhampton Wanderers, Derby County and Birmingham City.

It will also see a new round of East Anglian derbies, with Phil Parkinson's boys taking on the might of both Ipswich Town and Norwich City.

Yesterday the U's were saluted through their home town before attending a special civic reception in the Mayor's Parlour.

There the current mayor Terry Sutton - also associate director of the club - welcomed them with open arms.

Before they arrived, Mr Sutton stood on the first floor balcony facing the sea of blue and white flags and led the crowd in United chants.

He was later joined by the town's MP, Bob Russell.

“Who needs Mourinho, we've got Phil Parkinson!” shouted the ecstatic fans along with the mayor before the team's bus arrived in the packed High Street.

The waiting supporters erupted in a rapturous explosion of applause, whistles, cheers and hooting as the players waved, danced and shouted back at them.

The victory parade began at 7pm at Layer Road, and moved along Butt Road, Head Street, the High Street, Queen Street, Osborne Street, St John's Street, back along Head Street and finished outside the town hall at around 7.40pm where the majority of fans were waiting.

Outside, in the town's High Street, Layer Road barmaid Lea Finch, from Kelvedon, said: “I couldn't go to the match on Saturday - I was absolutely gutted. We thought we'd be in the play-offs so had booked tickets for something else.

“I had to have a complete news blackout. I turned everything off, it was so tense. When I turned the TV on at 4.45pm I was a nervous wreck for five minutes, till I heard the score. Then I burst into tears.”

Graham McAndrew, of Hamilton Road, Wivenhoe, said the atmosphere at yesterday's celebrations was fantastic.

“I think it's tremendous,” he said. “The U's have done us proud. I've been a fan since I was 10 years old, and I'm 50 now.

“I think they shouldn't build a 10,000 capacity new stadium - they should build a 15,000 capacity one.

“I am sure we are going to have a great season.”

Mr McAndrew's wife, Sally, said she had been at the weekend's crunch match.

“I couldn't watch half of it. But the atmosphere was superb and intense.

“Everyone was stunned and couldn't believe it. Even now, I don't think people can quite believe the fact we're in the Championship.”

Alex Alvarez, 14, from Highwoods, said he first thought Colchester United would go up when he saw them play Nottingham Forest on his birthday.

“After seeing that match I knew they would do well,” he said. “They played really well.

“I'm going to get a season ticket now. I really want to see them play West Bromwich Albion and the other teams coming down from the Premiership.”

Colchester United started the season badly, finding themselves in the relegation places before going on to set a club record run of undefeated games.

They also had a stunning FA Cup run, which led to them momentarily taking the lead against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge before the Premiership giants knocked them out.

Now, with the promotion into the Championship, it is estimated the team could help bring in as much as £10 million into the local economy, with supporters from all over the country flocking to their 6,200 capacity home ground at Layer Road.

And soon the victorious U's hope to move into a new community stadium in north Colchester with a capacity for crowds of up to 10,000.

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