Birmingham's East Anglian hoodoo
In a week where both Liam Chilvers and Neil Danns will have returned to Layer Road like ghosts from the past, two annoyingly enduring futures of Colchester United`s whirlwind season in the Championship are defiantly buried for good.
As the roller coaster rolls on into February, we finally wave goodbye to all the transfer window`s white noise, and dissolve a niggling sense of self-doubt following last Tuesday`s 1-0 victory (over promotion-chasers Preston) that produced a first win in 2007.
One factor that continues to bite at the psyche, as Birmingham come to town today, is what a colleague recently called 'the curse of the ex`. With the return of affable Scouser Dannsy comes former goal-poacher, Rowan Vine - both might be selected to help City break the hoodoo that engulfs our fortress of a ground.
While football`s very fabric is always riddled with superstition - an integral part of the game`s rich and entertaining tapestry - the away side`s dismal record down in East Anglia during recent weeks makes particular demand on the attention. Steve Bruce`s team have lost to Ipswich (1 - 0) and Southend (1-3) during consecutive league fixtures, giving rise to a theory that there will never be a better time to face them.
A personal suspicion is that this game offers us a chance to see the soccer seesaw in action, thus ruling out a draw. Either Colchester will add another impressive scalp to that spike of sharp-shooters, or Birmingham will react to recent losses by schooling United in the art of keep-ball and clinical finishing.
Preston tried the latter, failing because of the U`s willingness to combine physical prowess with fancy footwork in equal measure. A narrow win, it evoked an ornate beauty about this division, whose cockfight character compels the watcher to argue that any one side really is capable of overturning another.
That`s fine, unless you happen to be a manager. Only five of the 24 men responsible for rallying their troops on a Saturday have been in the job for longer than a year. A stark fact, it confirms that clubs are constantly fretting about what goes on upstairs in the Premiership.
Birmingham manager Bruce is actually the longest serving Championship boss - appointed in December 2001 - despite the fact that he faced the sack last autumn. The whole season is a marathon, not a sprint, so his continued tenure in the Midlands is as much a triumph for common sense as it is morals.
Not that stability is always king, which is why Colchester`s Geraint Williams sensibly took his players to Spain for some well-earned rest and relaxation a fortnight ago.
Since then Reading, who knocked today`s opposition out of the F. A. Cup, have acquired Greg Halford, whose departure is well-documented elsewhere in these pages. Sometimes, the fewer words you use, the more you say, and Halford was a player who let his football do the talking.
United tend to follow suit, although would be wise to recall the words of Hamilton Hoult before kick-off to ensure victory, "Nothing worthwhile comes easily. Half effort does not produce half results. It produces no result."
The autocue directed United to lose against Preston, but the cast decided it was better to adlib when under the stadium lights, and so caused Layer Road to rock like an evangelical church once more. Oh, Col U, may you always be in vogue!
Atricle reproduced with kind permission of Colchester United FC