|When Saturday Comes #6|
Written by wessex_exile on Sunday, 19th Sep 2021 13:48
After over a month of absence, the U’s finally make a welcome return to the JobServe for a home league fixture. Sutton seem to have quickly got over their Covid-19/ injury crisis/ international call-up woes, fielding a team the following Tuesday that was strong enough to push Cardiff City hard in a narrow 3-2 defeat to the Championship side. But enough of that, I haven’t seen the outcome of the EFL investigation, but I don’t doubt the decision has either already been or will be rubber-stamped. Gamesmanship – maybe, but I hope at least the EFL are now a bit more alert to the fact that some might think they can treat them like chumps when it suits their purpose? Still – it’s great to be back home isn’t it!
Meanwhile, on the ground, UN forces launched Operation Morthor, a military offensive against mercenary forces serving the State of Katanga, which had seceded from Congo at the start of the Congo crisis. Into the midst of this operation were thrust “A” Company of the Irish army 35th Battalion, 155 men under the command of Commandant Pat Quinlan. “A” Company were ordered to hold Jadotville, a small mining town comprising a few scattered properties, no defensive perimeter, bisected by a public road, and of no obvious strategic value.
On the morning of Wednesday 13th September 1961, whilst most of the Irish troops were at mass, a combined estimated force of 3-5,000 attacked the town, a force comprising mostly Katangese soldiers and local settlers, but supported by many Belgian, French, German and Rhodesian mercenaries, mostly veterans of the Algerian War. The surprise offensive might have worked too, but for the vigilance of Private Billy Ready on sentry duty, who fired a warning shot to alert his comrades.
Five days of battle followed, with wave after wave of attacks from the besieging forces repelled by “A” Company, armed mostly with just personal firearms and a small number of water-cooled Vickers machine guns and 60mm mortars. Unable to break out of the siege, UN forces attempted to get relief to “A” Company on a number of occasions, all to little or no avail. After refusing one invitation to surrender, and with no ammunition or food left and very little drinkable water, Quinlan finally surrendered on Sunday 17th September. Although several Irishmen were wounded (including Private Ready), Quinlan did not lose a single man in the conflict. The Katangese were not so fortunate, with an estimated 300 killed (including 30 mercenaries) and up to 1,000 wounded.
[b]”[i]We will hold out until our last bullet is spent. Could do with some whiskey.[/i]”[/b]
The following day Hammarskjöld was en route to Congo to try and negotiate a ceasefire with the Katangese troops under Moise Tshombe when his Douglas DC-6 airliner crashed in Northern Rhodesia. All on board perished, in circumstances that are still unclear. A 1962 Rhodesian investigation concluded it was pilot error, while a subsequent UN investigation could not positively identify what the cause was, though there was compelling evidence to suggest the plane had been shot down. A CIA report was more definitive, claiming the plane had been shot down, and that the KGB were responsible.
“A” Company were held as prisoners-of-war, bargaining chips by the Katangese government in an attempt to extort beneficial terms for a ceasefire from the UN. The men were eventually released about a month after capture. The entire incident had been a huge embarrassment to the United Nations. So much so that the Irish Defence Forces’ leadership did not overtly acknowledge the battle, even perhaps ashamed that Quinlan had been forced to surrender an impossible situation. The derogatory term “Jadotville Jack” was often used as a term of derision about the Irish Defence Forces following the battle.
Quinlan died in 1997, still with an implied black mark against his name. Dubbed the Irish Thermopylae, not one veteran of the Siege of Jadotville were decorated for their courage against overwhelming odds, and it would take until 2004 before an inquiry finally ‘cleared’ Quinlan and “A” Company of soldierly misconduct allegations. A year later a commemorative stone recognising “A” Company was erected at Custume Barracks in Athlone, and in 2017 as one of his last public office actions, former Taoiseach Enda Kenny unveiled a plaque commemorating Pat Quinlan in his native County Kerry.
[b]Closer to home[/b]
Closer to home for me, my tickets arrived this morning for the U’s trip to the County Ground next Saturday – which remarkably (for me) will be my first football trip of the season – can’t bloody wait. My Spireite mate is coming with me for a beer awayday, and we’re hoping the Merlin will allow us to use just one of their many TVs to watch Chesterfield at home to Torquay at 5.20pm on BT Sport. All of this means if I don’t manage a blog next Saturday, you know why 😊.
Much of the credit for this success should go to then co-owner Bruce Winfield, who alongside fellow majority shareholder Susan Carter managed to attract significant investment in the club, allowing Evans to build the team to gain promotion. Sadly, Winfield died from cancer in March 2011, just 19 days before Evans clinched promotion to the football league. Three days before his death, and against doctor’s orders, Winfield signed himself out of the hospice to go and watch Crawley play AFC Wimbledon, stating “[i]well, what’s the worst thing that can happen?[/i]” – respect Bruce, and Crawley won 3-1.
Our paths would first cross in 2012, drawing 1-1 at the JobServe (Weston Homes as it was then). It would take nine more matches before we’d finally record a victory over the Sussex bogey side, winning 3-1 at home almost exactly four years ago under John McGreal. It seemed the worm had turned, and we’d go on to win the next two encounters as well, including a Szmodics-inspired Boxing Day 2-0 victory at the Broadfield Stadium. But that was it, three league victories in quick succession are the only ones out of 16 attempts.
[b]Match of the Day
WSC06 is a special for the occasion, dipping into the archive to take a look at without doubt our most significant match against Crawley Town, away in the 4th round of the League Cup back in 2019. It had been an eventful journey to this point too. Next weeks’ opponents Swindon Town were the first to fall, crashing out 3-0 in the first round in a match that if I’m honest, there were the better in for much of, but hey – who’s complaining.
A sterner test awaited in the second round, away at Premier League Crystal Palace, but the U’s rode their luck at times, defended when they needed to, and on more than a few occasions to the match to Palace. Come the penalty shoot-out, up stepped brave young Noah Chilvers to confidently hammer the U’s into the 3rd Round, and a home fixture against Tottenham Hotspur. That match may well feature in a blog one day, so I won’t go into too much detail, suffice to say after another spirited performance, increasingly putting the megastars of Spurs under pressure as the match wore on, it was diminutive Tom Lapslie who would score the penalty shoot-out winner to set up Crawley in the 4th Round.
And so I found myself on the train over to Crawley for the evening fixture. Having already exhausted all possibilities of getting back to North Wiltshire post-match, particularly given the possibility of penalties for a third successive time, I’d booked myself into the local Ramada for the night. Needless to say, tickets for the match were in high demand, with an estimate 1,800 U’s fans making the journey, including six more of my extended family – time for a family gathering and some pre-match beers in the Railway.
The U’s lined up:
The significant connection for this match was of course Maltese Luke, who had played on loan at Crawley Town the previous season, and who I had the misfortune of watching tear us apart on New Year’s Day, scoring both goals in a dreadful 2-0 defeat. This time, fortunately, Luke Gambin was on our side, though he started on the bench. Crawley also fielded Dannie Bulman, still playing at the tender age of 40, and at the time the oldest active player in the EFL. Of the usual U’s regulars that season, Brendan Wiredu and Theo Robinson were cup-tied.
Pre-match refreshments on board, we headed down to join the U’s faithful on the unimaginatively named but packed-out KR-L Terrace. Given generally the U’s support might best be described as small but vocal at away matches, it must be some kind of record that we were partly responsible for both Crawley’s record attendances that season, 2,636 in the league, 5,612 in the League Cup.
The match started brightly, with both teams getting the ball down early and passing it around, with no apparent nerves on show for what was a big occasion for both sides – the opportunity for a rare Quarter-Final draw in the League Cup. In truth, Crawley were probably having the better of it, and nearly took the lead in the 10th minute, Gerken doing well to save a curling 25-yard strike from Tarryn Allarakhia (apparently a former U’s academy player, though I didn’t know that at the time). However, just as we seemed to be getting more into the game, veteran Dannie Bulman threw back the years, surged forward and from outside the box blasted an absolute rocket past Dean into the net. Reminiscent of Halford’s goal against Sheffield Wednesday, I honestly can’t remember a goal struck with such power.
It remained to be seen how the U’s would respond to that set back, but we didn’t have to wait long – straight from kick-off in fact. The ball broke to Big Frank out on the left (take note Hayden), who twisting and turning his marker inside out floated a delightful chip over straight onto the head of Chuck Norris, who made no mistake to immediately wipe out Crawley’s opener. And now ths shoe was on the other foot, and most of the remainder of the first half, roared on by the U’s faithful, the U’s had Crawley on the back foot. Norris nearly made it two, with a deft flick which clipped the bar, and just before half-time Ben Stevenson fired in a 25-yarder which might have troubled goalkeeper Luyambula if it hadn’t been straight at him.
Into the second half, and the U’s picked up just where they’d left off, and now it just seemed to be a matter of not if but when would we take the lead. It didn’t take long, when on 53 minutes Norris was fouled by Dallison just outside the box. Up stepped Cohen Bramall to curl a wicked shot over both the wall and the despairing dive of the Luyambula – only to strike the bar and rebound off the back of the unfortunate goalkeeper and into the net for an own goal of comedic proportions…and the away support erupted!
On the hour mark Luke Norris was taken off injured, replaced by Callum Harriott. This brough big Frank back into a more central role, which somewhat stifled our attacking threat to a degree. Stifled but not eradicated however, and Courtney Senior nearly made it 3-1 fired over from a well-worked move with Poku, when he really should have done better (sounds familiar?).
Gambin was introduced with just over 15 minutes to go, I’m sure in an attempt by McGreal to protect our lead. He went one better, and combining well with Frank up the middle, and following a deft pass from Harriott, swivelled on a sixpence to drill the ball high into the net, sparking delirium amongst the U’s faithful both on and off the pitch. We had further chances as well, from both Lapslie and Comley, but to his credit unlucky goalkeeper Luyambula saved well. It didn’t matter though, the match finished 3-1, we celebrated like mad people and the U’s were in the hat for the League Cup Quarter-Final.
[b]Crawley Town 1 (Dannie Bulman 20’) Colchester United 3 (Luke Norris 22’; Michael Luyambula 53’og; Luke Gambin 79’)[/b]
Just under two months later, our reward from the draw was Manchester United at Old Trafford, with over 5,000 U’s packing out the away end. The U’s performed valiantly, holding the Premier League giants 0-0 at half-time, mostly through a doggedly defensive performance. Into the second half, the U’s actually started to take the game to Man U, but three goals in quick succession left the U’s playing for pride – and there was a lot of that that night.
For those who weren’t there, enjoy the Crawley highlights.
Up the U’s
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Blogs by wessex_exile
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When Saturday Comes #11 by wessex_exile
This blog is a little earlier than usual, to give me and Alfie time to load up the car and sally forth for our first awayday of the season together, on the road to Vale Park – “[i]He who would valiant be, 'gainst all disaster, let him in constancy follow the Master[/i]”. Not quite sure who the master is in that analogy, but let’s hope it’s Hayden Mullins on Saturday. All being well, I’m looking forward to catching up with fellow U’sual boarders ([b]Noah[/b], [b]Durham[/b] maybe?, anyone else) when I get there. I won’t be meeting up with Clampin (Covid) or Judge (calf injury) who will miss out on making the trip, nor of course Tchamadeu (see below).
When Saturday Comes #10 by wessex_exile
So here we are again, still looking for that elusive first home league win of the season, only this time against high-flying (and recently non-league) Harrogate Town. That isn’t meant to be in any way disrespectful for Harrogate Town, they should be applauded for what they have achieved so far, but it is nevertheless a measure of how far our stock has fallen in recent years that we find ourselves in this situation. I have no doubt that today will be a difficult game, but it’ll be even more so if Hayden Mullins doesn’t take anything from recent performances and realise that what he’s trying just doesn’t seem to be working – he simply has to change things around. Whether he will or not remains to be seen – maybe he will, maybe won’t and the old guard will finally come good? I guess we’ll know one way or another by 5pm.
When Saturday Comes #9 by wessex_exile
After the complete horror-show that was U’s v Salford last Saturday, we find ourselves desperately clinging on to our away form like a drowning man to a lifebuoy…and I have no doubt Tranmere will be seriously stamping on our fingers in that regard. As a Friday night kick-off, I can look forward to the live match stream, which I was fortunately spared for the Salford game (it sounded bad enough). Swings and roundabouts though, if this hadn’t been rearranged to a Friday night, I may well have joined my Tranmere mate Chris and his family for the weekend – Prenton Park is always a good visit for an awayday, so safe travelling and good luck to [b]Durham[/b] and the rest of the U’s faithful who make the trip.
When Saturday Comes #8 by wessex_exile
I’ve gone back through my archive, and the last football match I attended before last Saturday at the County Ground was U’s at Cheltenham on 29th February 2020 (and covered in LfW11) – In other words a 574 day wait. Others have mentioned about finding other things to do, losing their love for live football, things like that, and certainly my bank balance has appreciated the break from costly awaydays for the best (worst) part of 18 months. If I’m honest, I was slightly worried that I would go the same way, that the attraction would fade after so long, but I needn’t have been. As a result, it’ll be a slightly different format to this [i]When Saturday Comes[/i] blog.
When Saturday Comes #7 by wessex_exile
Well that didn’t go as planned at all – after a stirring battling performance full of grit, character and togetherness with the small band of travelling supporters at Barrow, the U’s then finally returned back to the JobServe and completely failed to turn up against bogey side Crawley. They weren’t the only ones either, Hayden Mullins was absent as well, and we have since learned he has Covid-19 and will also miss tomorrow’s game at Swindon too – I know we all wish Hayden a speedy recovery. Fortunately, I won’t be missing the match, with tickets arriving last weekend – first live game for best part of 18 months, and I can’t bloody wait!