Colchester Change

Colchester Nige Tassell


For Spurs fans, 1961 was a red-letter year. For the same reason, Arsenal supporters will always hold 1971 dear. And, for the poor souls worshipping the blue and white of Colchester United, nothing will probably ever better the 1991-92 season. That was the year that we too did the Double. The only Double that matters. The twin crowns of the Vauxhall Conference and the FA Trophy.

Most of the fans squeezing onto Layer Road’s terraces that season (and squeeze we did, no more so than when bitter rivals Wycombe were in town) had waited a long, long time for these glory days, investing time and money both as man and boy, woman and girl. I hadn’t. I didn’t have this back story studded by decades of disappointment. I was a Johnny-come-lately. It was my last year at university in Colchester, an outsider who nonetheless took full advantage of the generous student discount the club offered to see pretty much every home game that season.

Any guilt I might have felt about experiencing all these twin triumphs without having suffered any of the past pain was eased by the manner of the team’s victories that season. The passing of the years might have re-coloured my memories, but I now recall every home game being a 4-0 victory, the fourth goal always a 30-yard screamer from future Republic of Ireland stalwart Mark Kinsella. That the Conference title was heading to Essex never seemed to be in doubt, even though in the end the U’s only nicked it on goal difference from Martin O’Neill’s Wycombe. (Such a fine margin doubtless infuriated their fans, thus making it even sweeter for us lot.)

The silverware went into the strikingly bare trophy cabinet where, remarkably enough, there was plenty of room for the FA Trophy, soon also to be making the journey up the A12. Cue a sunny Wembley afternoon where, two early goals in, the celebrations started early. Being reduced to ten men in the second half, following a punch right under the referee’s nose, dampened the spirit for a few moments, but then Steve McGavin – the closest the U’s had to a Gazza figure, in both talent and physical stature – danced through the Witton Albion defence to put the seal on a fabulous day and a fabulous season.

Those loyal fans deserved the glory. They’d earned this Wembley sunshine, enduring too many dark, wet, scoreless Tuesday nights in the depths of winter against Scunthorpe or Torquay or Kidderminster. I hadn’t put the time in. Eight months previously, I couldn’t have named a single Colchester player. But I basked in the glory all the same.

Nige Tassell

Nige is a music journalist and author and has written the brilliant Mr Gig.

Mr Gig is available from Waterstones Amazon and available in all good independent bookshops

Follow Nige on Twitter @nigetassell


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