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U's Jamboree Due at Portman Road?

U's Jamboree Due at Portman Road?

Commentary: Tradition would be shelved, sure, but a possible Colchester ground-share with Ipswich Town could banish Robson`s only negative legacy.

Time was when Ipswich Town were a bigger club than their friends Colchester United, who were just a short trip down the A12 but a lot further down the league pyramid.

In fact, the distance in 1978 was far enough to ensure that there had not really been time to develop any rivalry.

That year, roused by the scent of a fresh UEFA Cup glory on the European stage, Sleepy Suffolk trully awoke, while United were yo-yoing fruitlessly at the basement of the Football League, between the old Third and Fourth Division.

It was around that time, recalls then Town manager, Sir Bobby Robson, in his autobiography, that Ipswich`s Portman Road discovered it's now famously limp matchday mood.

"We really have got a load of zombies out there," Robson told chairman, John Cobbold. "We`re playing fantastic football. They need to get behind us. It`s the best football this town has seen in its life."

But that was then, and this is now. Ipswich stare down the barrel of relegation`s gunfight, while Colchester continue to dance the light fandango in upper reaches of the Championship.

Earlier in the season, the long-served ambivalence toward any rivalry between the sides was evident, particularly as the January`s East Anglian derby parked itself into view.

Last Friday, however, when the BBC broke the news that Colchester plan to use Ipswich Town`s ground in the event of promotion to the Premiership, you can bet they were listening.

Colchester chief executive, Marie Partner: "If it should happen and we get promoted there would have to be serious discussions around the table because unfortunately Layer Road and its old facility does not fit Premiership criteria."

"We`d have to look at alternatives but we won`t make noises about it until we look like we`re moving back to the play-offs and it is a possibility.

"Obviously you put a contingency plan in place. It`s something that`s been loosely discussed a couple of months ago and would be something that Ipswich would have to think about - but commercially it`s not ideal."

Football fans usually object to the practice sharing a stadium with local rivals out hand, although the U`s home Layer Road (capacity 6,210) would, in its current state, be unfit for top-flight purpose on many counts.

Marie again: "One prime example of how the ground does not reach the criteria is the press facilities.

"In the Premiership you have to make 150 spaces available on the half-way line. We went from six to 20 this season and had to lose some of our seats which belonged to season ticket holders and that was difficult enough.

"Other issues include dressing room dimensions and car-park sizes - we fall short in so many areas.

"We`ve managed to get away with it this season and that's been pretty tough because the clubs that have come down here have found it completely different. For directors and delegates that are used to style and comfort it's been a bit of a culture shock."

United, who plan to leave the affectionately named Layer Drome for their new Community stadium by the start of the 2008/9 season, would have to consider the requirement for seating in all Premiership grounds, brought in following the 1989 Hillsborough disaster.

It is a gauntlet of 'ifs` and 'buts`, although the notion that Colchester may ground-share with Ipswich in the near feature need not be dismissed, even if it now looks unlikely, following last weekend`s loss to promotion-hopefuls Derby.

Colchester are still looking up, less than one full season after gaining promotion from League One.

Marie concluded: "We`ve thoroughly enjoyed this season. I've been here 20 years and there's a huge leap from League One to the Championship and an even bigger one to the Premiership.

"But we feel like we're in the Premiership at the moment, because we've known the hard and the bad times - but every time we succeed it makes you hungry to make that next stage."

For any Ipswich fan dreading this moment - the time where their 30,000-seater 'library` may be invaded by Essex`s tribe of Romans - just remember how much money could be pocketed from a potential share.

Sceptics should also recall how the two Milanese sides - Inter and AC - continue to live, and loath, together year-on-year.

Stranger things have happened, as Bobby Robson might say. Colchester fans could even lend the Tractor Boys some atmosphere.

Marie Partner quotations sourced from BBC Sport website

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

Date:Monday March 5 2007
Time: 8:36AM

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