Last Fan Standing?
So, both Chairman Robbie Cowling and now manager Aidy Boothroyd have thrown the gauntlet down for Colchester fans this week, saying they`re needed in numbers at the ground as the season hits a high-water mark. As someone famous in Norwich once said: where are you?
Once is chance, twice is coincidence - three times theoretically makes it back-page news. Chairman Robbie Cowling and boss Aidy Boothroyd were followed swiftly by Colchester striker Kevin Lisbie this week in a heartfelt hat-trick of pleas for greater matchday support.
These well-intended appeals were warm-hearted meaning that, while avoiding what cynics could decode as cold cash-register PR exercise, they fail to hit the wholly passionate heights of Delia Smith`s infamously drunken croons amid an ultimately doomed Norwich City relegation campaign of 2005. In a very different, promotion-fighting, context, the statements coming from the U`s trio are certainly a sober equivalent, with an almost psychological red-letter edge about them.
Before last Tuesday`s exciting three-each with Brentford, Cowling talked desperately of doing everything "get us over the line," while Boothroyd evoked the town`s historically traditional image of an ingrained siege-mentality as he told his squad to fetch tin hats in Thursday`s pre-Wycombe press-call. Such subtext, spelt-out for fans in Smith`s words across the other side of East Anglia five years ago, is quite clear: where are you?
A manager as openly ambitious and progressive as the urbane Boothroyd, a stridently self-confessed candidate for future England manager and also spare-time student in the behavioural science of neurolinguistics, will not object to accidentally stoking the fire surrounding a fabled importance afforded to the terrace-dwelling Twelfth Man. Not when his side are sixth in League One, promotion to the Championship still possible with nine games remaining, but perilously lodged within the cul-de-sac of a five-game winless run.
He addresses the attendance problem - obscured by Colchester current 5,499 average (55 percent of the 10,000 stadium capacity) for this term, actually higher than the 5,466 of a halcyon 2005/6 - in this week`s Essex County Standard. "We have to give the people that turn up some wins and they have to tell their friends. We have been in the top six all season and there are plenty of seats - they can buy three or four if they want a lie down! But bring more people. This club hasn`t always been in the top-flight and we aren`t doing well at the moment, we`re doing alright. More people need to be coming through the door."
It`s not as if supporters could easily accuse the manager of being too cavalier in expressing a need for increased fanpower, even if the proudest of followers might consider such remarks a personal attack on their judgement over which games they purchase the right to attend. After all, elsewhere at press conference within the last 48 hours, Boothroyd was acutely mindful that the economic recession has reduced numbers while admitting at the same time the U`s have endured less-than-attractive results recently against some very unglamorous opponents.
Some generally uninspiring form is reflected in the stat that, at four of the last six home games (including, in mitigation, one on Sky), less than 4,000 people have shown up. Perhaps, however, such facts were never success-dependant, because it was revealed back in August that the average United acolyte chooses to attend just six home matches over ten months. It seems even boasting, as Colchester presently do, the second-best home form in the division is not enough to prize the slouches from sofas, nor pounds from their pockets.
Aidy Boothroyd`s imperatively upbeat outlook amid the results blip says the U`s are still upwardly-mobile, rather than suffering a dead-cat bounce; that the squad this season has not withered away after a barnstorming 7-1 breakout on the opening day is testament to both his work as a bringer of stability post-Paul Lambert and also the squad`s character and resilience in itself. For Boothroyd, relative nervousness from the faithful about squandering advantages is symptomatic of increased expectancy, augured by possible success.
Bristling with enthusiasm, he told the official club website on Thursday: "That`s a nice place to be. I`m looking forward to it; I`m looking forward to Saturday`s [Wycombe] game. Things happen in a season like this - it`s never plain sailing. We`re in a really good position. It`s exciting, I think; exciting for you watching it, for me watching it and working in it and for the players, because they are a part of it and for the loyal fans that come out and support us.". Throw in the good omen that this high-water mark stage ushers in fixtures against sides all directly above the U`s - Millwall, Charlton Athletic and Swindon - and the whole crusade for promotion suddenly sparkles potentially anew.
The surprise loan transfer of Birmingham City defender Franck Queudrude was an action adding gravitas to Boothroyd`s ever-optimistically spoken intent - a signing that will work to reward the fair-weather fans and perhaps tempt those preferring to stay at home. "We need the crowd," said Kevin Lisbie after Tuesday`s fightback, underscoring points already stressed by Cowling and the boss before him. "Once we had got back from 2-1 I thought from then on they were excellent and they did help us."
Lisbie, remember, also represented Colchester at their old home, the air-tight Layer Road which, in case any floating U`s fan needed reminding, was afforded such reverence and latter-day significance for United because it acted as an amplifier that translated the will of every strained nerve and sinew of those watching straight back onto the pitch.
"We all know the fans are out there, it`s just a matter of getting them to the ground. It`s time for every U`s fan to become a supporter," summarised Simon Spurgeon in his excellent analysis of Colchester`s fortunes in a column yesterday for the Standard. Well, what are you waiting for?
Woody Should Leave Critics Speechless
Throughout Tuesday`s Brentford visit, a man sat directly behind in the Family Enclosure smugly repeated cries of "worthless" as a supposedly clever pun to replace midfielder Anthony Wordsworth`s real name each time he won possession.
This continued until, that is, the youngster grabbed his eighth goal of the season just before the break to level proceedings. "See, I told you he was good, didn`t I?" the man smirked, turning to his jubilant son.
It`s just a pity that Wordsworth`s fine form has yet to silence such banal criticism. This guy would have been better left speechless. Or maybe that should read wordless.
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