U’s and me: Belief that Colchester United’s doubters will be proved wrong, yet again

Before even a ball has been kicked, Colchester United are always dismissed as relegation fodder by the national bookmakers and football tipsters. It has been like that since time began, or at least since the late 1990s!

More often than not, ever since the U’s secured promotion to the third tier in 1998, via the play-offs and under the stewardship of Steve Wignall, the Essex club have been predicted seasons of struggle, regardless of who is in charge or what division they are competing in.

And only once have they failed to prove the bookmakers wrong – the year they were relegated from the Championship in 2007-08.

Even when Phil Parkinson’s class of 2005-06 famously won promotion to the second tier, for the first time in the U’s history, the Layer Road outfit had been written off by most the previous July.

This season is no different, as seen through the eyes of all the major betting outlets, including Ladbrokes, Paddy Power, Betfair, Sky Bet and William Hill.

I suppose it can only be expected, given that Joe Dunne’s side have fended off relegation by the skin of their teeth in the past two seasons.

It required a last day win at distant Carlisle to keep them in League One two years ago, and a surprise 4-1 home win over already-promoted Brentford to avoid the drop on the penultimate weekend of last term.

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But whereas in previous years the U’s have been consigned to bottom four predictions, this year they have been written off as potential basement dwellers.

They are the rank outsiders of all 24 clubs, vying for that dubious accolade with Crewe Alexandra, who also struggled to fend off relegation last year.

In terms of winning the League One title in 2014-15, the U’s are rated rock bottom, with most bookmakers quoting a generous 80-1 or 66-1.

Crewe are down with them, while Port Vale and newly-promoted Rochdale are also in the bottom four.

At the other end of the table, Sheffield United are hot favourites to lift the League One title, with Preston and Bristol City their likely challengers.

But, as we all know, football can be difficult to predict, especially outside the Premier League.

Last season, I predicted that the U’s would finish in mid-table, 10th to be precise. A little over-optimistic, but 16th was still a satisfactory finish.

Much will hinge on the fitness of key striker Freddie Sears. If Sears can stay fit, then he should be able to score the goals necessary to keep the U’s afloat – he netted 12 during an injury-plagued campaign last year.

The U’s defence was solid last term, and I see no reason why that can’t again be the case, despite the loss of full-backs Brian Wilson, Ryan Dickson and loanee Alex Wynter over the summer.

Hopefully, Sean Clohessy and Ben Gordon will prove capable deputies, while at the other end of the pitch, ex-Braintree Town hot shot Dan Holman will be hoping to make the grade in the Football League.

Even more crucially, Dunne will be eager for his youthful talent to continue to blossom, especially midfielder Alex Gilbey and attackers Macauley Bonne and Sammie Szmodics.

So don’t despair – I believe the U’s will again prove their doubters wrong, and stay in League One for an eighth successive season.

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