Football: Fan's Eye View / U's driven round the bend: No 54 - Colchester United

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IT takes a special kind of irony to be able to survive as a Colchester United supporter. You don't need it to cope with an early exit from the FA Cup at the hands of Sutton United. The tabloids would have us believe this was a giantkilling surprise, but to the Colchester United supporter this comes in the category of 'predictable'. What you must learn to cope with is fortune's more outrageous shots on target.

A few weeks ago, on the same night, Colchester United and Norwich City achieved remarkable results. Norwich beat Bayern Munich, arguably one of the world's greatest sides, while Colchester conceded seven (count 'em) goals to a Darlington side who had scored only seven goals in all their League matches so far and had yet to register a League win. The irony was that the current Norwich manager, Mike Walker, had previously been sacked as inadequate by Colchester.

It had been a remarkable decision, not just because Walker was a well-liked and respected figure among the fans, but because we were top of the table at the time. The chairman, Jonathan Crisp, replaced Walker with a character named Roger Brown, whose previous experience was running a small factory and managing an unsuccessful non-League side.

Brown predicted he would take us from the Fourth to the First in four seasons and he invented a new way of taking a corner. All the players would huddle together in a bunch and then, as the kick was taken, they would burst off in all directions. It was devilishly cunning and, as far as I can remember, did not result in a single goal.

Brown's prediction about promotion unsurprisingly failed to come true, unlike Crisp's boast that he would take us out of the Fourth Division: the following season we plunged into the Vauxhall Conference.

I used to enjoy the cry of one particularly tortured supporter during those years of struggle who, at a suitably depressing point in the game, would cry out: 'It's a nightmare.' Wit from the terraces is sometimes all you have to sustain you through the bleak Saturday afternoons.

Years ago, during a prolonged goal famine, when we had conceded our fourth goal of the match, our 'striker' was regaled with the shout: 'It's called 'scoring goals', Froggatt.'

When people ask why we continue to watch such a team the inevitable answer is: 'Well, someone has to do it.' But supporting Colchester United does have its compensations, like Scott Barrett, our sadly missed goalie, scoring from a drop-kick against arch-rivals Wycombe. And the same goalie joining the strikers in the last seconds of a cup tie and making the equaliser.

We recently supplied the pub quiz question, 'Who scored a hat-trick against three different goalkeepers in the same match?' Needless to say, the goalkeepers were ours and the striker was not.

Three years ago we enjoyed what I have to admit was dangerously close to a successful season. We blasted our way out of the Vauxhall Conference and won the FA Trophy at Wembley. Heady days indeed.

The architect of that success was our current player-manager, Roy McDonough. Roy, who on the field sometimes bears an uncanny resemblance to Basil Fawlty, is simultaneously our salvation and our downfall.

The son-in-law of the chairman, so unlikely to be sacked, Roy is still playing remarkably well, is controlling his tendency to tonguelash anything resembling a match official and is approaching 100 League goals and 500 League appearances.

This season he has overseen the 5-2 away defeat of Wycombe, taken us to within a whisker of the top of the Third and recently, in games against three of the Football League's worst sides, watched our goalkeeper retrieve the ball from the back of the net 14 times.

We are Colchester United supporters, but are we downhearted?

Of course we bloody are.

Pete Barrett, Software engineer