One to 1,000 – Carl Marston’s 23 years of memories covering Colchester United

Journalist Carl Marston speaking to Colchester United player John -Joe O'Toole at their new training

Journalist Carl Marston speaking to Colchester United player John -Joe O'Toole at their new training ground in Tiptree.

Colchester United correspondent, Carl Marston, will chalk up his 1,000th game covering the U’s for the East Anglian Daily Times, at Rochdale tomorrow.

Carl Marston was due to get married to fiancee Helen Unwin on the day Colchester United could have b

Carl Marston was due to get married to fiancee Helen Unwin on the day Colchester United could have been involved in the play-off final of 2006. Fortunately, the U's won automatic promotion

The emergence of a beard is not the only change! Here he looks back at his time in the press box.

Back on Saturday, November 21, 1992, I made my debut in the Layer Road press box as a wet-behind-the-ears, but-willing-to-learn young football correspondent.

I didn’t know it at the time, but not only would I out-last Colchester United’s famous old, tumbledown ground, but I’d also still be covering the U’s, 999 games and nearly 23 years later!

I also seem to have come full circle – because having reported on my first U’s game, a home match against Rochdale, I now find myself preparing for the big No. 1,000 at Spotland, the humble home of Rochdale, tomorrow!

Colchester United player Greg Halford speaks to EADT reporter Carl Marston at the Layer Road ground

Colchester United player Greg Halford speaks to EADT reporter Carl Marston at the Layer Road ground in 2005


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It’s as if I planned it, which of course I didn’t.

Much has changed over the years, both off the pitch and on it.

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While my beloved Colchester United have enjoyed two promotions, two Wembley appearances, two seasons in the Championship and a trip to Chelsea, as well as one relegation and a series of FA Cup hic-cups, my own role is much-altered.

Back in the late autumn of 1992, my first priority was sending over copy for the Green ‘Un newspaper (the old Football Star) via the magic of the telephone (and a land-line, not a mobile!).

How the Green U'n looked back on the U's defeat at Bedlington Terriers in 1998

How the Green U'n looked back on the U's defeat at Bedlington Terriers in 1998 - Credit: Archant

Every 10 minutes, I would ring the office to speak to one of the copytakers (most of them formidable ladies, who I dared not cross) and dictate a few paragraphs of worthy copy about the fortunes of Roy McDonough’s Colchester side.

The result, and introduction to my match report, would be phoned over on the final whistle, and the Green ‘Un newspaper would be all done-and-dusted, and ready to be sold in the streets, by early Saturday evening.

After the game, it was a case of noting down a few quotes from a couple of players, and listening to some pearls of wisdom from player-boss McDonough, before writing my report the following day, for Monday’s East Anglian Daily Times.

There were no computers, no Internet connections (the World Wide Web was still in its infancy), and very few mobile phones, at least in the press box.

Carl Marston all on his own, tapping away in the Coventry City press lounge before another Colcheste

Carl Marston all on his own, tapping away in the Coventry City press lounge before another Colchester United away game - Credit: Archant

Speed on 23 years and, 999 games, and it’s all-change at the ‘coal-face’ of football journalism.

Now, instead of watching the game closely with just a few notes to write, and a few phone calls to make, I am suddenly faced with having to update websites, attach photographs to stories, and send a barrage of tweets, via the medium of Twitter, to ‘followers’ all over the world.

There is hardly time to blink, or even sip my coffee. My eyes spend more time looking down, at computers and mobile phones, than they do watching Tony Humes’ current crop of players struggling to come to terms with a League One relegation battle.

But it’s still fun.

And roll on the next 1,000 games, I say.

By then, Colchester United might even be in the Premier League, though I must confess, judging by the goings-on of this season, the Conference might be a safer bet!

So here are some facts and figures, highs and lows, and general observations of my first 999 games as a Colchester United correspondent for the East Anglian Daily Times.

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