Colchester United finished the 20/21 season with ten points from the final five games, steering clear of the threat of relegation out of the league.
Following the final game at the weekend, Chairman Robbie Cowling has issued the following statement:
Phew, that was nerve racking. I’m so pleased that we have avoided the drop and like many of you, I have been following the games of those teams around us in the last few weeks hoping they drop points so that we finish above them. Wishing misfortune on others is such a shameful thing to do so I’m really pleased that we ultimately survived because of what we did and not because of what others failed to do.
Now we are safe, at the expense of Southend and Grimsby, I genuinely hope that those clubs bounce back into the league as soon as possible. It has been a crazy year to be running a football club in League Two where we have been facing the usual jeopardy of relegation out of the league against a backdrop of decision making that affects the livelihoods of our staff, the health and safety of our staff and our fans, (amidst a killer virus), whilst all of the time ensuring that our clubs could pay all of their bills and avoid bankruptcy.
I claimed previously that I would look back on the decisions I took this season regarding how I managed the club’s finances during the pandemic as being either my best as Chairman, if we stayed up, or my worst if we went down. Well, we’ve stayed up and to be honest those choices don’t feel great whereas had we been relegated, they sure would have felt horrendous. I guess it’s because the impact if we had gone down would have been felt immediately but the true value of those decisions may take some time to be appreciated now we’ve survived.
I can’t describe any part of the last four months as fun. Maybe describing it as death by 1,000 cuts would be more accurate. However, what has felt like a very unsuccessful campaign has actually ticked more boxes for me than previous campaigns which may have felt much more successful as we worked our way through those seasons. For example, where we finished eighth a couple of seasons ago, we didn’t get promoted or even reach the Play-Offs and we didn’t have a great cup run or launch the careers of any of our youngsters either. Whereas this season, we may have gone nowhere near challenging for promotion and haven’t advanced through a single round of any cups but we have witnessed some remarkable breakthroughs from our youngsters.
Just some examples are:
- Noah Chilvers didn’t just break into the first team but become a nailed on first teamer with the third most appearances.
- Junior Tchamadeu made eleven appearances of which three were at just sixteen years of age.
- Ryan Clampin went from being a potential professional footballer to a professional footballer with loads of potential.
- Shamal George has staked a real claim to be first choice goalkeeper having kept six clean sheets.
- Brendan Wiredu, who may not have come through the Academy but who was attracted to us because of it, has been a complete revelation and a major factor in keeping us in the league.
I think our young players have been a credit to us and I expect them to have great seasons ahead of them as they build on the experiences they have gained this season under such intense circumstances.
My biggest regret has been the churn of first team coaches during the season. Steve Ball and Wayne Brown are excellent coaches who are Colchester United through and through. They have invested years of hard work into their coaching careers and their opportunities came at a time when everything was stacked against them. I should have set things up better for them so they could have succeeded but as it is, I feel I set them up to fail. It was not intentional of course, but with hindsight it was inevitable. However, they too would have learned a lot from those experiences - I’m determined to keep them both at the club and would not hesitate to give either of them another chance as first team coach in the future.
That leads me on to Hayden Mullins and Paul Tisdale who have been remarkable and have worked brilliantly together. It may have been for just five short weeks but it was eight intense games and they won twelve much needed points. What they have managed to do in a very short period of time is to get an immediate reaction from the players. How much of that was Hayden or Paul I don’t know but they are both strong, calm characters and they worked very well together so I guess it was the combination of the two of them.
Hayden gave up a job at Watford to join us for what has been a difficult season for the club to say the very least. He has remained calm and supportive although there must have been days when he must have wondered what he had let himself in for. Thanks Hayden, I am very grateful.
Paul has a big reputation in the game and I can confirm that it is well deserved. You would expect someone who has managed 750 league games to be knowledgeable and good at what they do but the way he thinks about the game and has used his experiences to evolve his methods is very inspiring. Coming to Colchester United could have been risky for Paul but he was always confident that he could help us and so it proved. Thanks Paul, I am very grateful to you too.
First of all, I must mention the brilliant work that my staff have been doing at the stadium this season. So much work went into preparing the stadium for fans and although that work wasn’t fully utilised this past season, our current plan is to stick with our seasonal permits and social distancing measure for the 2021/22 season. This seems to be the most sensible approach for the time being at least but more details will follow once we know more ourselves.
The stadium’s part in the vaccination should be something we are all very proud of. Tim and Sean in particular have been working crazy times to facilitate the NHS and I’m sure many of you will have had your jabs at the stadium and been impressed with the process. I know many of those involved are volunteers and they deserve a big thank you from all of us.
I must say a big thanks to David Gregory too, who has been travelling to all of the away games even at the most dangerous of times. His contributions all season have been first class.
We will be taking the unusual step of keeping all of our playing kits the same for the forthcoming season. I know many of you have bought the shirts to support the club and then not had a chance to wear them and I won’t lie to you, the club also has loads of unsold shirts too because we have not sold anywhere near the same levels as normal.
Almost Last But Not Least:
Football is like no other business in that everyone seems to have their opinions on how they can do a better job than those that are in charge and I appreciate that the objectives I set for Colchester United are not always aligned to those of every supporter of the club. The same can be said for almost every decision anyone makes within a football club, from how much we spend on players to what we charge for a cup of tea. All of us within the game understand things will go wrong from time to time and that we will get criticism when it does. We are not opposed to criticism and we do not think we are perfect. Quite the opposite.
However, the manner in which an increasing number of supporters choose to voice their opinions and vent their anger when we don’t run the club as perfectly as they think they can has reached unacceptable levels. It’s been known for years that low ability people do not possess the skills needed to recognise their own incompetence but today’s media platforms have given them a platform where they can find others of a similar ilk to reinforce their high opinion of themselves and their contempt for others. This often results in levels of abuse that are totally unacceptable and I will happily ban such individuals from our stadium.
It’s sadly ironic that those getting the most abuse are those that care the most about the club and work the hardest for it.
I would like to think things will improve and I will never need to ban someone from attending the club they love to support, but I don’t hold out a lot of hope that they will. It’s a human trait which is known as the Dunning-Kruger effect and is clearly being amplified by social media. I do however have a favourite speech on the subject of critics, which I would like to share. It was part of Theodore Roosevelt’s Citizenship in a Republic speech which he gave 111 years ago in 1910.
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
It could of course be claimed that it’s me that suffers from the Dunning-Kruger effect, whereby I’m incompetent and have too high an opinion of myself. That could of course be right but I do at least put myself in the arena. Although maybe that’s just further proof of how stupid I am.
I hope you can enjoy the additional freedoms in the warmer weather as a result of the brilliant vaccination programme and the sacrifices we all made in lockdown. Thank you once again for supporting the club. I know it’s been a hard season for you too and I do hope we can give you a better one when we return.