Cup Fallout: Missing The 12th Man
Raise The Spirit Of Layer Road Because We Can`t Turn The Table Upside Down
- FA Cup Fallout - Colchester 1 Peterborough 3
It`s probably taking a casual line to argue that Colchester United`s FA Cup crash at the hands of Peterborough yesterday now allows them to concentrate on doing well in the Championship. That old consolation doesn`t hold much weight when you are 23rd and there are 24 sides in the division.
So far, after a weakened of shocks, joy and heartache in the world`s oldest knock-out competition, all Colchester have to look forward to in 2008 is a relegation amid the charge that the 'Mark II` version of Geraint Williams` team only ever turn up for the biggest of games.
For the sum total of 25 points mustered this season, of which 18 have come from six wins, the U`s can list three creditable victories against Watford, West Bromwich Albion and Charlton, all top-six teams.
So, either one accepts that Colchester only raise their game for the big-guns or, as seems likelier, they display a truer reflection the famed Layer Road fighting spirit when the intangible force of pressure is lifted.
Without a doubt, the ghost of last season bares a heavy burden on the current crop of players, of whom yesterday`s U`s lone scorer in a 3-1 defeat, Teddy Sheringham, was one of nine additions forced upon the squad last summer. Today, the only way Colchester United would stand a remote chance of repeating the heroics of last season`s highest-ever 10th placing is if someone happened to accidently turn the standings upside down.
Shovel the harrowing statistics on the page in any way you like - try highlighting that the season`s one clean sheet to date sits in the book as far back as October, for example - but stating the obvious from the outside club will not inspire a rise up the table`s greasy pole.
Stridently shouting such clues in the direction of the detectives is not the way to help solve the crime.
Of course, this sort of dramatic slide in form, especially juxtaposed with last season`s light-show, invites the punter to make a decision - after all, the cost of an annual pass to Colchester`s auditorium, at nearly £400, represents a large piece of what would otherwise presumably be disposable income.
That choice is not necessarily just one of conventional support. In the modern world, where con-tricks constantly ooze from within our TV screens or trough our letter boxes, it is apparently one of blame. The preference is for who is to 'blame` for an unprecedented slide. The manager Williams, for not being tactically adventurous enough? Karl Duguid, the skipper whose long-service to the club may be about to end if he transfers? The owner, Robbie Cowling, for not injecting enough cash?
In truth, it is too early for this kind of inquest, and a personal suspicion is that each of the above are either partly to blame, or not at all, if only because Williams, Duguid and Cowling do not all become unfit for their purpose over such a short period.
While the line of conversation buzzing around Colchester`s pubs and clubs currently shows a plaintive discontentment for the backroom staff, it would be insane even consider sacking a man so recently touted as a possible manager of the year during 2006/7. With 20 games to go, the great escape may still be on.
The only bone of contention with any value is one which argues that Williams must prove his nous in the buy-sell market after inheriting a team with winning make-up after Phil Parkinson`s shock departure in the wake of the 2006 League One promotion.
What is more outstandingly noticeable on an Essex matchday in 2008 than at any other time during the past couple of years is a lack of support from those terraces - in fact, the boys in stripes fear, instead of relish, playing in front of their own fans.
Yes, they are professionals. Yes, they get paid a relative ransom compared to the man on the Clapham Omnibus. Yet, the insulting barbs being directed at some of the players are neither amusing nor accurate; they resound because the silent majority have turned mute in the stadium just when the team needs them the most.
Zero to Hero is one of football`s favourite and more favourable scripts, so any genuine U's supporter should not allow plot-scribblers to pen Colchester`s colourful Championship story as a sad reversal of that fabled formula.
From Heroes To Zeroes is not the caption most writers would want to pick as the heading of that first fresh chapter when United`s new stadium at Cuckoo Farm is due to open in August.