U's chairman reflects on 2014.
Colchester United chairman Robbie Cowling looks back at the past twelve months for the U's - and what comes next.
This is a time of year when we look back on the year that is about to end and we look forward to the New Year which is soon to begin.
Not too many of you will think that 2014 was a vintage year, because the first team spent so much of it at the wrong end of League One.
However, we achieved a lot of good things in 2014 that we should be very proud of and these were achievements that bode well for the sustainable future of Colchester United.
I am sure you are aware of the club's desire to promote its youth and the substantial investment that continues to be made in our academy.
There is no doubt that we witnessed the benefits of our youth policy in 2014 with the youth team winning their League, the Southern Alliance Cup and the National Alliance Cup.
A remarkable seven players from that youth team have signed professionally for us, five have already played for the first team and the other two boys have both featured on the bench. One of them has even gone on to win a full international cap and score on his debut.
This season we have rubber stamped our EPPP Category 2 status and we can finally compete on level terms with Ipswich, Norwich, West Ham, Tottenham, Arsenal and Charlton for the abundance of talent that exists in our region.
Some of those clubs might still have better facilities than us but none have a better pathway to becoming a professional footballer.
With regards to the first team I would like to thank Joe Dunne for what he achieved for us in 2014.
I asked Joe to achieve three things for me last season which were; keep us in League One, reduce the budget to comply with the league salary capping rules and introduce the youth.
Joe achieved all three of those and I will always be grateful for what he did for Colchester United during his time in charge.
Going forward we were very lucky to have someone as capable as Tony Humes available to us when Joe moved on.
Tony has already achieved so much for Colchester United in the five years he has been in charge of our youth academy and I have no doubt that he will be a very successful first team manager.
Sadly, he has to work within the same budgetary constraints that have kept us at the foot of League One for the past two seasons, but Tony is a very capable manager and, as with all of my previous managers, I will give him plenty of time and support.
Off the pitch, the club is going from strength to strength.
Tim Waddington and his staff have made our stadium one of the most successful venues in Colchester, both in terms of a community facility and also in terms of providing financial support to the football club.
In 2014, we had the stadium full and rocking when we hosted the Elton John concert and on most days of the week there is any number of events taking place from large business conferences to small community gatherings.
If you are undecided about how to see in the New Year, then please come to our event on the 31st December because it will be a great evening and it’s another way of supporting your football club.
In 2015, I think we would all like to extend our FA Cup run a bit further and to start climbing the league table.
In the longer term I still aim to take Colchester back into the Championship, but neither getting there or staying there will be easy when our support base is currently more akin to League Two levels. However, I am, as always, very grateful to those of you who do come to support us.
So, that is the challenge we face and one that I am sure we can achieve given enough time and the right strategy.
Personally, I have lots of patience and determination so the time bit is not an issue.
I also believe our strategy of building our future through our youth policy is the only one that is viable for a club of our size.
So please enjoy the Boxing Day game and the rest of your Christmas and New Year.