Not all about results for U's in 2008

Colchester United correspondent CARL MARSTON looks back over a ground-breaking year for the U's

Carl Marston

Colchester United correspondent CARL MARSTON looks back over a ground-breaking year for the U's

ON the pitch, 2008 was a decidedly poor year for Colchester United, but for once results were not all important.

The U's won just 12 league matches all year, with five of those arriving in the last five weeks. They were relegated from the Championship, and were stuck in the League One relegation zone until only last month.


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United also said goodbye to manager Geraint Williams, who had guided the club to an historic 10th spot in their first ever season in the Championship the previous year.

Williams left by mutual consent in early October, after 10 years of loyal service as a player, coach, assistant, caretaker and manager. He was replaced temporarily by caretaker Kit Symons, and then permanently by Paul Lambert.

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Scotsman Lambert, fresh from two good years as the boss at Wycombe, has already turned the club around in terms of results and performances, to such an extent that they go into 2009 in the top half of the table.

But 2008 will not be remembered for its sad relegation, or for Williams' departure. Instead, it will be forever associated with the U's long-awaited move to a new stadium.

After hosting football for more than 100 years (a home to the Army, the old Colchester Town and then Colchester United), Layer Road was finally closed for good. The U's had played their home games at this famous old ground since their inception in 1937. Visiting teams hated it; everyone connected with Colchester loved it, warts and all.

But for the club to progress, and develop its commercial base, the U's needed a new home. The dream became a reality over the summer, when the club moved to the 10,000 all-seater Weston Homes Community Stadium at Cuckoo Farm, on the edge of town.

The move has had its problems. Season ticket sales were sluggish, with the U's having to revamp their original ticket pricing structure; parking is a problem; the park-and-ride scheme is not ideal; and the team struggled to win at home.

But the tide is turning. Parking fees at the main car park have been halved from £10 to £5; crowds are on the increase, with a record 6,290 attracted to the last home game against Leyton Orient; and the players are beginning to know what it feels like to win in front of their own fans.

It's a shame that the U's could not retain their Championship status, because the Community Stadium would have undoubtedly been close to capacity most weeks, with the likes of Ipswich, Norwich, Charlton and Wolves coming to town.

But at least the structure is in place to host Championship football in the future, whether that be next year or in a few years to come.

2008 was the year when we saw several club stalwarts leave, not least skipper Karl Duguid (after 13 years as a professional) and chief executive Marie Partner (after 21 years on the staff). It was sad to see both leave.

But change is often for the better, and there is the promise of exciting times ahead for Colchester United.

2008 was the year-of-transition. It brought an end to one chapter, and the start of another.

And with the likes of Robbie Cowling (owner and chairman) and manager Lambert at the helm, the future is bright.

Below in factfile

LEAGUE

P 44 W 12 D 11 L 21

CUP

P 8 W 4 D 0 L 4

OVERALL

P 52 W 16 D 11 L 25

HIGHS AND LOWS

Highest position: 22nd in Championship (February)

Lowest position: 23rd in League One (September)

LONGEST RUNS

Without a win: 10 (February/March)

Unbeaten (all competitions): 4 (February)

BEST AND WORST

Biggest win: 5-0 v Carlisle (October 25)

Heaviest defeat: 1-5 v Norwich (March 22) and v Coventry (April 19)

NEW ARRIVALS

Chris Coyne (Luton), Phil Ifil (Tottenham), Dean Hammond (Brighton), Scott Vernon (Blackpool), David Perkins (Rochdale), Matt Heath (Leeds), Matthew Lockwood (Nottingham Forest), Paul Reid (Barnsley), Steven Gillespie (Cheltenham), Sunday-Akanni Wasiu (St Albans), Alan Maybury (free agent)

DEPARTURES

George Elokobi (Wolves), Danny Granville (Leyton Orient), Kevin Watson (Luton), Teddy Sheringham (retired), Aidan Davison (retired), Luke Guttridge (Northampton), Kevin McLeod (Brighton), Adam Virgo (Brighton), Karl Duguid (Plymouth), Kevin Lisbie (Ipswich), Bela Balogh (Real Murcia), Tom Devaux, Tom Webb

LOANS

Izzy McLeod (Charlton), Matt Heath (Leeds), Gary Borrowdale (Coventry City), Sam Williams (Aston Villa), Lee Hills (Crystal Palace), Marc Tierney (Shrewsbury), Jermaine Easter (Plymouth), Jimmy Walker (West Ham)

CROWDS

Biggest home: 6,290 (v Leyton Orient, December 28)

Biggest away: 25,515 (at Norwich, March 22)

Smallest home: 3,214 (v Yeovil, November 25)

Smallest away: 1,577 (at Gillingham, October 7)

PERSONAL HIGHS AND LOWS

MY HIGH: Ironically, this was on New Year's Day! The U's played out of their skin to win 2-1 at Charlton Athletic, thanks to a couple of goals from Kevin Lisbie against his old club. The result lifted the U's off the bottom of the table, and gave all of us hope that relegation might be avoided. This hope did not last long!

LOW: Losing 3-0 at home to MK Dons on September 20, which signalled the end of the road for manager Geraint Williams. United were completely outplayed, and looked all-at-sea at their new Community Stadium. They were just one off the bottom of League One.

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