U’s and me: The day I got left behind by the Colchester United team-coach

Ex-U's boss George Burley, who was in charge of the U's back in 1994

Ex-U's boss George Burley, who was in charge of the U's back in 1994

The recent tale of stranded Gillingham keeper Stuart Nelson, who was left behind by his Gills team-mates at Colchester United last week, after playing a starring role in a penalty shoot-out win over the U’s, brought back memories of my own experiences of being left high-and-dry.

It was back during George Burley’s short era as U’s boss, from the summer of 1994 to Boxing Day of that same year, when the U’s team-coach left without me after a game.

I occasionally travelled with the team in those days, on the long away trips, and one such excursion took me to Devon with Burley’s boys for a Division Three fixture at Torquay United, on Saturday, September 17, 1994.

The U’s were held to a 3-3 draw by the Gulls, despite goals from Tony Dennis, Steve Whitton and Steve Brown. I had filed my usual match report immediately after the game, to the old Green ‘Un newspaper, and had lingered to get some post-match reaction.

But by the time I had exited Plainmoor, there was no sign of the team-coach. It had vanished!


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I panicked. I didn’t have enough money to book into a hotel, or buy a train ticket, and I was getting desperate – I even walked to the nearby fish-and-chip shop, where I knew the U’s would be picking up their post-match food.

There was no sign. But, just when I was giving up all hope (nearly an hour had passed by), the U’s team-coach reappeared, as if by magic.

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Apparently, physio Brian Owen had noted my absence, and the driver had turned around to pick me up.

Now that’s good service for you!

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