U's lacking Community spirit
The Community Stadium has offered few home comforts for John Ward but trying to win over the Colchester fans is the least of his worries in the face of a diminishing budget.
Bournemouth ｜ Brentford ｜ Bury ｜ Carlisle
Colchester ｜ Coventry ｜ Crawley ｜ Crewe
Doncaster ｜ Hartlepool ｜ Leyton Orient ｜ MK Dons
Notts County ｜ Oldham ｜ Portsmouth ｜ Preston
Scunthorpe ｜ Sheff Utd ｜ Shrewsbury ｜ Stevenage
Swindon ｜ Tranmere ｜ Walsall ｜ Yeovil
John Ward has provided great continuity after Paul Lambert and Aidy Boothroyd both used the club as a stepping stone to land bigger jobs. Three successive mid-table finishes haven't been particularly well-received, but it's merely in-keeping with tradition - the U's have finished between 8th and 18th at this level in 11 of the past 14 seasons. Robbie Cowling controls the purse strings but his present mission is to achieve long-term sustainability rather than entertaining any fanciful ambitions.
Ward has the full support of Cowling and the respect of his players but he seems to be fighting a losing battle in his attempts to win over the fans. The U's were beaten just four times on home soil last term but three of those defeats triggered dogs abuse from the stands, prompting MK Dons boss Karl Robinson to register his disgust at what he heard from the opposition dugout. It's a situation that can only undermine his efforts to get the club punching above its weight.
In a society that craves instant gratification, there's a low tolerance threshold for sustainability when it takes on the guise of stagnation, and Colchester continue to pay a heavy price for their two-year Championship adventure and the ambition it induced. The penultimate season at Layer Road set a new benchmark for the club ahead of the move to a shiny new stadium but the reality of League One mediocrity in a venue that's usually two-thirds empty falls a long way short of what most fans imagined it would be.
The U's were gearing up for a play-off charge when they stunned Charlton in March but they could win only two of their final 13 matches and Ward has made no secret of where he apportions most of the blame. Strikers Kayode Odejayi and Steven Gillespie have been offloaded in the summer as the manager cuts his cloth to meet a playing budget that is diminishing by £300,000 each year. Replacements have been found in players at the opposite ends of their careers, Clinton Morrison and Freddie Sears entrusted with goalscoring responsibilities this time around.
Freddie Sears (West Ham), Clinton Morrison (Sheff Wed), Marcus Bean (Brentford).
Kayode Odejayi (Rotherham), Steven Gillespie (Fleetwood), Ashley Vincent (Port Vale), Lloyd James (Leyton Orient), Ben Williams (Hibernian), Martin Rowlands (released).
- @Daniel_Shack It still wouldn't be the least edible cuisine I've had inside a football ground. Long live the Fire Pie of Gigg Lane, Bury. — 4 hours 10 min ago
- Doesn't change the fact that anything can happen in the play-offs but purely on their numbers, the price is a good one. — 5 hours 38 min ago
- Won nine out of 10 after today, but I'm going back 20-odd matches. They've been matching Luton stride for stride since Christmas. — 5 hours 39 min ago
- Not sure if I'm late to the party with this one but Halifax look a tidy bet for promotion at 10/3. Smashing it to pieces on my ratings. — 5 hours 46 min ago
- I really don't believe that St Mirren v Hibs is trending alongside the new Superman film and a fire in a safari park. http://t.co/Up1vcCA4Fr — 6 hours 3 min ago