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U's: Back-street to Front Page

U's: Back-street to Front Page

The credentials of Colchester`s metamorphic rise from the English football`s back-leagues will be examined in front of the Sky cameras tonight against Derby, where promoter George Williams has already tagged them, "victims of their own success."

Sorry, but United`s evolution from plucky challenger to Championship tough nut this season lends itself to the prize-fighting comparisons of Boxing, even if the odds of them recording triumph in the 7:45 bout at Pride Park seem slim.

When Derby last traded blows with Colchester, in front of punters at Layer Road in August, the result pendulum swung the right way. United emerged from a 90 minute mud-fight of scuffling and skill to win 4-3, with vigilante striker Jamie Cureton bagging a hat-trick and a first home win of the campaign.

It led to a fourteen-game unbeaten run on home soil, although those from Britain`s oldest recorded town would probably agree that the subsequent streak echoed more the Marvel comic series than a 12-rounder in the ring.

For, despite clinical statistics, Colchester`s silky football has not always been dictated on their own terms - they`ve got one of the worst away records in the division, having won only three on the road.

Form - neither Derby nor United have won in their last three matches - might become irrelevant during this tie against the Rams, though, as the Essex boys look to provide a battering.

Part of the charm about this fixture will be the off-field clashes, where former Derby players Geraint Williams and Mick Hartford return to the midlands, as U`s manager and assistant respectively. The boss, just known affectionately as George in these parts, was Player of the Year for County during his first season there in 1985-6.

On the battle-field of play, 24-year old striker Craig Fagan will line-up against Colchester, the club for whom he scored 24 times in 84 games. The sod`s law alert is high, as he is yet to open his goal-scoring account for Derby, since arriving in January.

Understandably, too much anticipation and hunger could adversely backfire, which is why Williams has been banging on about success as a negative of late. As he put it last week in his Burnley programme notes: "Talking a good game is one thing, playing it is another."

If results fail to match fervent expectation, pessimism threatens to do what Plymouth did to United in their last away game and win, 3 - 0.

Still, United are an enthralling side, appealing to the spirit of any neutral on two main counts. That old British fascination of championing the underdog is appeased, while society`s modern need for the next sensation - an obsession with finding tomorrow`s news - sees Colchester pasted on the billboard that forms our nation`s collective sporting physique.

As evidence, Colchester appeared on Channel Five`s Football Night this morning - albeit at the ungodly hour of twelve o`clock - and were also the subject of a BBC Sport report in February, which hailed them as the biggest success in the League.

Even the former No. 10 spin-doctor, Alistair Campbell, was forced to admit- having watched his beloved Burnley draw 0-0 in the stands last Saturday - that even he could not have imagined such a web of footballing intrigue.

This happy predicament, spiralling from within the head of every Colchester fan, and now materialising in their laps, asks: are the U`s a mega-team in the making, or merely a provincial side with ideas above their station?

For now, since the journalistic job-description nearly always compels an answer, I`ll leave that as a delicious rhetorical question. Leave it in the hope that tonight`s game provides an indisputably resounding judgement, and not simply supply another disposable opinion from the bandwagon of the media`s travelling circus.


Click here to join in the debate on the club forum.

Writer:Matt_Us
Date:Friday March 2 2007
Time: 8:46AM

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# Team P W D L Pts. GD
C Portsmouth 46 26 9 11 87 39
P Plymouth 46 26 9 11 87 25
P Doncaster 46 25 10 11 85 30
4 Luton 46 20 17 9 77 27
5 Exeter 46 21 8 17 71 19
6 Carlisle 46 18 17 11 71 1
7 Blackpool 46 18 16 12 70 23
8 Colchester 46 19 12 15 69 10
9 Wycombe 46 19 12 15 69 5
10 Stevenage 46 20 7 19 67 4
11 Cambridge 46 19 9 18 66 8
12 Mansfield 46 17 15 14 66 4
13 Accrington 46 17 14 15 65 3
14 Grimsby 46 17 11 18 62 -4
15 Barnet 46 14 15 17 57 -7
16 Notts County 46 16 8 22 56 -22
17 Crewe 46 14 13 19 55 -9
18 Morecambe 46 14 10 22 52 -20
19 Crawley 46 13 12 21 51 -18
20 Yeovil 46 11 17 18 50 -15
21 Cheltenham 46 12 14 20 50 -20
22 Newport 46 12 12 22 48 -22
R Hartlepool 46 11 13 22 46 -21
R Leyton Orient 46 10 6 30 36 -40
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