Capacity crowds will be backing the U's

CAPACITY crowds are likely to be commonplace at Layer Road next season, if Colchester United can round off a successful campaign with promotion to the Championship.

By Carl Marston

CAPACITY crowds are likely to be commonplace at Layer Road next season, if Colchester United can round off a successful campaign with promotion to the Championship.

U's supporters have snapped up all the remaining available tickets for the club's last two fixtures of the season, at home to Rotherham this Saturday, and at Yeovil on the final day.

A capacity crowd is therefore assured for the visit of the Millers, who are trying to stave off relegation, while U's fans were quick to buy up their allocation of 1,600 tickets for the trip to Huish Park on May 6.

“Our support has been fantastic all season, not just now. You would expect a couple of capacity crowds for the final two matches,” explained manager Phil Parkinson.

“I think it all proves that the club really needs to move to a new stadium. The support is there.

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“Layer Road would be full most weeks, if we won promotion, but we are capable of attracting even more support and bigger crowds.

“The current interest in the club is an indicator that we need the new stadium,” added Parkinson.

The U's are hoping to move to a new stadium, on the Cuckoo Farm site to the north of the town, to coincide with the start of the 2007-08 campaign, or at least during the course of that campaign.

Chief executive Marie Partner echoed the sentiments of manager Parkinson, revealing that she expects the number of season ticket holders to rise to between 3,000 and 4,000 for next term.

“The interest is there. The timing is also important, with the stage we have reached for the new stadium coinciding with the success of the team on the pitch. They go hand-in-hand,” said Mrs Partner.

“There's no reason why we can't be ambitious and have a Championship team when we move to the new ground. The stadium is on course. It should be ready in time for the Christmas of 2007, if not the start of the season.

“I don't think people will be too concerned when we move, so long as we do. The main thing is that they will get to see the main structure going up next summer.

“The proof is in the pudding, and I think we have shown that there is a big demand for tickets to watch Colchester United. Beforehand, some people have questioned whether we need a 10,000 all-seater stadium, but I think we've proved that we do.

“If we do get into the Championship, then I would envisage about 4,000 season ticket holders for next season. Then there's a lot of big clubs who would be visiting, bringing their own fans, so I would expect capacity crowds most weeks.

“Even if we miss out on promotion, I would still be very disappointed if we didn't attract at least 3,000 season ticket holders for next season,” added Mrs Partner.

It promises to be a thrilling, but nerve-wracking, last couple of weekends of the regular season. The U's have a lot of work still to do if they are to win promotion, but at least they are in control of their own destiny.

Parkinson's men will be joining the likes of Ipswich Town, Norwich City and Sunderland in the Championship next season, if they can win their last two games against Rotherham and Yeovil.

They are currently one point clear of third-placed Brentford, who have a superior goal difference, and three points clear of fourth-placed Huddersfield.

Both of these rivals are at home to relegation candidates this Saturday, with the Bees hosting Hartlepool and the Terriers entertaining Yeovil.

Meanwhile, Ipswich Town loanee Billy Clarke has returned to training this week, after missing the trip to Bournemouth with a tweaked hamstring.

The Irish teenager has made six appearances, two of them in the starting line-up, since his loan move from Portman Road.

But he might find it difficult forcing his way back into the starting line-up for the visit of Rotherham, not least because his replacement, Scott Vernon, scored the winner at Dean Court in a 2-1 victory. Blackpool loanee Vernon could resume his partnership with leading scorer Chris Iwelumo this weekend.

Fellow striker Richard Garcia was set to undergo an exploratory operation yesterday on an injured knee that he hyper-extended during the LDV Vans Trophy southern area final first leg at Swansea on March 7.

Triallist Solomon Pinnock, from Dulwich Hamlet, netted in the U's Reserves 1-1 draw at MK Dons' second string on Tuesday. It was Pinnock's second goal in two appearances for the Reserves.

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