Bittersweet Symphony (Champions Edition) – Imps 0-3 Colchester

Courtesy Graham Burrell

It’s been over 48 hours since I last penned anything for the site. For those who don’t know, I now work with the Priory Academies delivering alternative media content on a Friday afternoon and that, coupled with yesterday’s game, kept me off the computer.

When I got home last night, despite having witnessed a Lincoln City team lift the first Football League title in 43 years, despite having been able to sing ‘Champions’, or whatever Spanish sounding equivilant we felt was required, I was still seething with anger. Football, it’s a funny old game, isn’t it? I poured myself a glass of Pepsi Max Cherry and watched the first series of Line of Duty. That’s rock and roll for you right there.

There should have been a carnival atmosphere. The final day of the season should have brought sunshine, singing and celebration. In the main, that was the case I guess. To soak up the atmosphere Dad and I went not just in our usual Wetherspoons haunt, but also the Golden Cross before heading to the ground. Having seen a planning application to turn it into flats had been turned down, we both felt we wanted to show solidarity to a good, traditional English boozer.

Sheltering from the rain on the High Street

Once we hit the fan zone there was an air of celebration, but the intermittent showers seemed to dampen any atmosphere. I envisaged sunshine, singing and celebration and got showers and subdued joy. Of course, there were the really touching moment I shared with people. Andy Townsend almost had me in tears; here’s a man who has followed the Imps since the day he slipped out of the womb and when he sees what’s happening he, like me, thinks of ghosts of fans who can’t be with us.

Weather aside, it was a nice morning. No pressure, no need for a win and eyes on everywhere else. So many people said the result didn’t matter and although I said on the podcast it did, I wasn’t worried like most home matches. Despite the rain, I enjoyed the morning. I liked the celebratory programme, the gold cover and the names of fans who had passed inside. I bought a ‘champions’ scarf from the club shop, turned my nose up at the groups hawking their illegitimate wares in the High Street and gave faces I’ve been seeing for years hugs, handshakes or whatever else was appropriate.

Heading into the ground it began to feel really special, the 617’s display always adds something to the incredible atmosphere and when Chris Wray, who I’m sure was worse for wear, came and gave me a hug, I found that celebration within me. Having not partaken of alcohol I enjoyed it all with clarity, but also with restraint. Since I’ve no been drinking at game I’ve found myself a little more grounded, perhaps that’s my personality as much as anything.

I’ve been seeing this duo at the ground for two decades now

The teams came out, the guard of honour was formed and the display cards went up. This was it; the champions were here. This was our time, our Doncaster ’76, our lifetime memories. Whatever happened for 90 minutes, we were about to witness the sort of history nobody could ever take away from us.

We certainly witnesses something in the 45 minutes, perhaps it was history. I certainly won’t forget it!

For the first fifteen minutes I thought we looked the better side. They’d come to attack us and that left gaps we could expose. It had the makings of a great encounter, especially with them needing something from it. Trevor Kettle, a referee I usually associate with over-zealousness, had a calming influence on a game that threatened to boil over. He could have sent one of their lads off early on, two bad challenges in succession gave him a decision to make; he made the right one and kept it as eleven against eleven.

Slowly but surely their urgency began to show and their skill players got on the ball. Sammie Szmodics is one I’ve talked about before and naturally, he impressed me. I really liked Courtney Senior as well, he was tricky and direct whenever he had the ball. They began to get a bit of possession and I nipped down to the loo with the scores 0-0.

By the time I got back, it was 1-0, I took my seat to see a Neal Eardley free-kick zip over before it was quickly 2-0. The following 20 minutes could have seen them go in 5-0 up at half time as we fumbled our way through 25 minutes of misplaced passes, bad decisions and ineptitude. It was the worst period of football I’ve seen from this side, worse than when we lost 4-1 to Crewe and definitely worse than anything we’ve seen this season.

courtesy Graham Burrell
courtesy Graham Burrell

Danny talks about not reaching our levels, we didn’t reach Notts County’s levels yesterday. Hell, we didn’t reach the levels my eight-year-old nephew reaches when he lines up against me on FIFA.

25 minutes of truly terrible football from a team who won the league three matches ago, earned promotion five matches ago and have been top of the pile almost all of the season. A team with the highest number of their players voted into the Team of the Year by their peers, a team winning their third trophy in as many seasons and lifting a Football League title for the first time in 43 years and only the second time in 66 years.

As they trooped off the field, they were booed.

I don’t know what your experience was. I don’t know if you heard the booing, but there was plenty around me. It wasn’t everyone, not by a long shot, but for a few seconds it was the loudest noise I could hear. I did also hear someone kicking off about it as well, which pleased me. Elsewhere in the Coop one of what I refer to as ‘the Market Rasen lot’ heard booing and ended up almost coming to blows with one ‘supporter’ who allegedly asked ‘what are you going to do about it?’ when taken to task.

courtesy Graham Burrell

The football had been poor, no denying that. I heard plenty about the home form being awful since Christmas too, but it’s not so awful we dropped off the top spot is it? I heard people complaining they drive long distances and deserve better football. Here’s an idea…. stop coming. I know of several die-hard Imps, unable to afford a season ticket who didn’t get one yesterday.

My fanzine seller, Mike Downs, couldn’t get an ST as he was travelling round Australia for half the season. he turned up yesterday, sold the fanzine and then waited outside the ground, hoping to get in at the end to see the presentation. He wouldn’t have booed and, in my opinion, he deserved to see it more than idiots who booed.

I even heard of fans walking out at half time. 

Not only that, but the 617s display paper began to get thrown onto the pitch, the club had to ask fans to stop, but I watched it carrying on. The referee couldn’t deduct points from the club, but he could have stopped the game and it could have cost us, yet I watched kids (some being allowed by the parents) keep doing it after the game kicked off. Again, is this what we attract now? A petulant defiance? Do you think the 617, their volunteers and organisers will be allowed to do another display after that? It left me feeling really jaded at half time, not just because of the result by the realisation that 45 minutes had turned some of the 9,800 crowd inter what I tend to term as utter morons. 



  1. 4 games without a goal is a problem. It could be down to a number of issues 2 games were difficult away games,but our attack has dried up.

  2. Gary, in some ways you could also argue the players also left early? It wasn’t the performance I expected from a group of players who were Champions but I suppose you can’t win L2 with a six point gap without being consistent over 46 games. I am sure many Notts County fans would swap places!

  3. Agree with most of that Gary. Yesterday the overall experience depended on whether you could separate the “truly terrible football” of the first half from the celebrations and trophy presentation for winning the league i.e. the game itself from afterwards. Most of us couldn’t and that took the shine off it, and it looked like Danny was having the same problem. Three nil down at home at half time could have been six or seven – two great blocks from Bostwick, a missed open goal, and they hit the post twice. Too many players off their game to mention, passing the ball out of play, giving it away, conceding awful goals. And don’t tell me the result didn’t matter – it mattered to Colchester, it mattered to Danny Cowley and it mattered to the fans – it just looked a game too far for the players. Simon Barnes wrote that nothing in sport really matters, its just that you have to pretend it does, otherwise there is no point. Yesterday we were asked to pretend that it didn’t matter. The 617 uplifted the mood when Newport scored and there was something to give back to their fans “three nil up and it means **** all” but that was pretending too, it did mean something and it did matter. Danny knew it post match, the crowd knew it too – so no pitch invasion, no staying as long as possible in the TP – just home as soon as the lads paraded the trophy. Two other things – I have no problem with fans booing “truly terrible football” – they pay their money and have an opinion like everyone else. Finally, those of us that were lucky enough to get a Stacey West ticket and travelled from Scotland on a 600 mile round trip can decide for ourselves whether to bother coming thanks. Personally I was proud to have been there for Graham Taylor’s team and I was proud to have been there with the nearest and dearest yesterday, including the kids from Aberdeen. Keep up the good work and good luck with the Blogging Awards

    • That’s the great thing about the intelligent commentary on this site, I agree with Gary AND totally respect your opinion too, even if it is at times contrary to my own. All You Need is Love x

  4. I left the game 15 minutes from the end because I was sick of the drivel on the pitch from the Lincoln players who were not playing like champions and haven’t played like champions for far too many games this season especially in the last 3 games. I go to the games having PAID for my season ticket, having PAID to be entertained and then to celebrate. There was nothing to celebrate yesterday, we celebrated winning the second division last week and yesterday we were short changed! Don’t tell me it’s a long season, my work takes 47 weeks per year like most peoples. City should have nailed those last 3 games and a good deal of the draws they played in thus giving out a real message to the teams in League 1.But no, couldn’t be arsed, minds on beaches in the sun. NOT GOOD ENOUGH AND IM ANNOYED AND NOT IMPRESSED. I hope they show more consistent application next season, we will see….

  5. It was all a bit weird at times – but then some people are weird! I suppose that it was different in different parts of the ground, but around where I was in upper 5 co-op, the boos I heard were ironic and people were laughing at it as they went downstairs for a beer. I also think that although the paper throwing was a pain, it was messing around rather than a nasty edge. It was if the crowd didn’t care that much and they just wanted a celebration at the end- but were a bit annoyed that we were going to get anti-climax number 2. The celebration at the end though was heartfelt and real. And I agree that we have Newport to thank for lifting a few people who needed a cause at the end. UTI

  6. The Colchester player took an age, but it was inevitable, and the third goal went in. I looked at Seán sitting next to me. He’d been talking about the game all week, and had travelled hundreds of miles to be there. He was in bits, floods of tears cascading his cheeks. Inconsolable.

    Did he boo them off at half time?

    DID HE F*CK. He’s only seven but clearly has a higher level of emotional maturity than the boo’ers. By the middle of the second half, he had rallied. On his feet, trying to lead a chant in the Stacey West, and getting a ripple of applause for doing do. Practically the last to leave the ground, rinsing every last moment out of his day.

    Don’t worry, the future’s bright – he’ll be there cheering on the imps long after you and I have left this mortal coil. And long, long after the boo’ers have moved on…

    • Hey Liverpool! I sat next to you. I didn’t get the chance to tell you but your son was a joy to behold! The future is bright with fans like you and Sean.

  7. I went into the game yesterday actually feeling emotionally exhausted having ridden the supporters roller coaster ride. I was very frustrated and angry at how the day became such an anti climax due to the poor performance, the guys are deservedly Champions and bar a couple of players, they could not raise their game to finally give us a win at Sincil Bank! I was actually beating myself up for feeling so angry however, I realised that I was not on my own when I heard Danny and Nicky’s thoughts about the performance, they were unhappy people. I could imagine that it will be a long summer for them as they will be itching to get started again and get that performance out of the system, the team need to be playing for something. Personally, I cannot wait for it all to start again.

  8. Great article Gary. Can’t help thinking how much a psychological spur it is to have something to play for. Yes they are professionals, top notch at that, but they are human. Guaranteeing the championship early must have had an effect. So pleased Newport got in the play-offs to avoid feeling our performance contributed to a skewed league outcome. Poor performance? Yes but I didn’t care. We are winners! That’s what I want first and foremost. I even enjoyed John Beck days! Are there big decisions to make for Danny and Nicky? Of course. The opportunities are there now though to respond to the new challenge. I’m happy. It’s not happened many times in my 60+ years of supporting the team. Up the Imps!

  9. As a Colchester fan I really enjoyed this nuanced report. And I wish the proper English pub you started the day in a long and prosperous future. Despite the disappointment that came with the game in Morecambe, I think it was an important performance by Colchester. The football has been really good at times this season, (Courtney Senior IS fun to watch) yet some of the fans (younger ones mostly) would like John McGreal to be sacked. Older fans I think tend to be gentler, and McGreal is a thoughtful and courteous man and I hope he’s allowed to continue. I think players like playing for him.
    We’ll lose Szmodics and I guess Frankie Kent too (blond central defender who was captain yesterday), but it’s important that footballers see Colchester players go on to bigger and better things, or we’ll have trouble attracting young talent. We took 12 points off you and MK Dons, but not enough off anyone else. I guess if Newport had not scored that goal then Exeter would have been really questioning your players’ attitude yesterday, but we were pretty lively in that first half, with some good touches at speed.

    It seems that the Colchester fans behaved well yesterday (I wasn’t at the game but watched it on tv), and I’m glad about that. We go into the summer in much better shape than it looked like nine days ago.

    As I say, nice to read such a thoughtful piece, and I wish you good luck in the league above. I’ll be interested (genuinely) whether Ipswich turn out to be any better than we are, so I’ll be back to read your report on that one!

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