Fantasy football - or is it?

COLCHESTER United are now just three points adrift of the play-offs, so now is the ideal time for Carl Marston to take a tongue-in-cheek look at Layer Road hosting games in the Premiership next season.

By Carl Marston

COLCHESTER United are now just three points adrift of the play-offs, so now is the ideal time for Carl Marston to take a tongue-in-cheek look at Layer Road hosting games in the Premiership next season. It's only fantasy, he thinks!

I HAVE been commissioned to write a new sitcom, under the working title of “Welcome to the Layer Dome.”

It is to be a fantasy-based comedy, set at a Premiership football ground sometime in the near future. But I'm encountering some unforeseen problems. Fantasy and reality are becoming blurred.

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I have already written the script. It still needs some polish, but here are some of the best (or worst!) lines:

“Good afternoon, Mr Mourinho, and welcome to the Layer Dome. I trust you had a good journey along the A12. Those road-works can be such a pain. Would you like a tour of our stadium? It will only take a minute.

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“And hello to you, Mr Abramovich! Care for a sandwich? There are some left over from the Arsenal game. Mr Wenger didn't like our prawn sandwiches. He said they reminded him of Old Trafford.

“I'm sorry that we couldn't grant your request for a heli-pad, but we did reserve you a spot in the car park just on the other side of the Garrison. Unfortunately, it's not suitable for helicopters.

“The parachute regiment occasionally drops off the match-ball from one of their helicopters, but we understand that you didn't fancy parachuting into the ground. I'm sure you would have received a terrific welcome from the locals.

“I see that Mr Lampard has mistaken our away dressing room for a boot room. Can you tell him that he's sharing a peg with Mr Drogba.

“Only Mr Carvalho has his own peg. We like Mr Carvahlo. He scored a good goal for us in the FA Cup a few years back.”

That's one of the scenes from the first programme of the first series. Do you think it will take off?

“Layer Dome,” as the players fondly call it, is of course loosely based on a real ground - Layer Road - the humble home of Colchester United, that at a push can accommodate just over 6,000 supporters.

When I first had the idea for a sitcom, back in the early 1990s (actually it was yesterday), Colchester United (the U's) were playing in the Conference. The Premiership was born in 1992, the same year that the U's were promoted back to the Football League.

Since then, the characters have obviously changed, as have the team's fortunes. But the “Layer Dome” hasn't really changed - apart from a few extra seats. The capacity has shrunk, due to health and safety issues, and a lick of paint wouldn't go amiss.

But my fantasy sitcom is in danger of being axed, before it's even been aired. Firstly, there would be no time for a second series, because the real U's are scheduled to leave Layer Road behind and move to a new 10,000 all-seater stadium, by the spring of 2008. Construction should begin in a matter of weeks.

And secondly, reality is beginning to kick in. Suddenly, it doesn't seem quite so unbelievable that little Colchester United, with their tumbledown ground, small squad and small resources, could ever grace the Premiership.

OK, so it's still about as likely as Macclesfield Town winning promotion from League Two this season, or Watford clinching the Premiership title.

But the truth is that the U's, with Geraint Williams at the helm, are now just three points behind the Championship play-off zone. Just three points!

The down-to-earth among us still lower our gaze towards the foot of the table, to note that the U's are now 11 points clear of the relegation zone. The aim is still the same - to finish fourth-from-bottom, and so secure a second season in the second tier of the Football League.

But we can all afford to dream a little. The U's sent their old boss packing on Tuesday night, thrashing Phil Parkinson's woeful Hull City team 5-1 to record their eighth home victory on the spin.

Layer Road remains a Garrison - or should that be Layer Dome? Which brings me back to my fantasy sitcom. Here are a few extracts from the second programme in the series:

“We believe that your club was not happy with their ticket allocation, Sir Alex? Is that true? We did send you just over 1,000 tickets, but you seemed to want more?

“And what's all this talk about Old Trafford accommodating more fans for two matches than we do at Layer Dome all season? You might have a few more seats, but the likes of Rochdale and Stockport were always happy with their allocation.

“I gather that Mr Giggs and Mr Ronaldo are unhappy with the size of our pitch? They say that's it not wide enough for them to practise their old-fashioned wing play. What nonsense. Mr McLeod and Mr Duguid would only be too willing to give them a lesson. They fly up and down our wings every week.

“Enjoy the game, Sir Alex. And I do hope that you're not a bad loser. Mr Mourinho was most upset the previous Saturday. We're still finding bits of prawn sandwich in the away dressing room.

“Mr Carvalho will be given two pegs next season. Who would have thought that our Portuguese friend would score a second goal for us, and the winner this time!”

Remember, this is only a fantasy. But then again…

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