BRIAN Waller has been watching Colchester United for nearly 60 years.

In the first instalment of a two-part feature, he takes a fascinating look back at watching the U’s in the 1960s and 1970s.

MY first memory of Colchester United games when I look at the team line-ups in books was probably from the 1961/62 season, when my neighbours took me to games at Layer Road.

I can certainly recall a match in late 1961 when the U’s trailed Bradford City 1-0 but then bounced back to win the game 9-1.

On target that date was Bobby Hunt who got four goals, Martyn King who had the nickname of Noddy, as I believe when he missed a chance, he kept nodding his head, but that day he was more successful, as he got four goals too. The other goal came from Bobby Hill.

Not that I can remember the football, as I was only ten, but just as the situation is now, we had no football then as the big freeze of 1962/63 was around at the time when I went from the Kingsford Junior school to the Grammar School in that summer.

I saw the Colchester match on 22nd December 1962 being abandoned when we were 2-0 down away at Coventry City and we did not play another match until 16th February 1963, a gap of about two months. In those days most our players were bought in from other clubs and only a very few produced by our own.

I must admit one of my favourite players at that time was Bobby Hunt who I assume must have had some youth background in Colchester.

We were his first club where he began his career with the U’s and he scored 81 goals for the club in 149 games.

In 1964 he went to Northampton Town after leaving us with other games played for Millwall, Ipswich Town, Charlton Athletic and Reading before drifting to the non-league scene.

Many years later, it was a great privilege to meet him again and chat to him as we sat on the Shuttle Bus back to Shrub End as he was in the seat next to me and I told him that he was one of my early day heroes and we reminisced about the old days.

Another favourite of that era was Peter Wright whose only league club was Colchester United who first played for the team in 1951 until 1964.

He made 427 appearances for the club scoring 90 goals for the club.

He is commemorated by a statue in the housing estate built on the old ground in Layer Road. In later years his son and grandson also played for U’s teams.

In the late 1960s I was regularly watching U’s youth team games over at the Garrison ground and I recall one such squad had about six Steves in the team.

One of my favourite from that team was Steve Leslie who made his first-team debut against Grimsby Town in 1971. He was to have a very productive time in the midfield.

He played 434 games in a 13 year spell with the club and scored 40 goals before playing in the non league.

I do recall seeing him training Ipswich Town youth players a few years ago but I did meet him recently. When the U’s under-23s needed some match action and a friendly was played at Shrub End against Tower Hamlets.

On a cold and very windy day, there were just two spectators watching, me being one of them, when a third person arrived, spotting a game in action as he drove past the ground.

We got chatting, he then said he had coached teams and then said he had played for the U’s. Embarrassingly I had to ask who he was.

Steve Leslie he said, the one I use to watch and admired, sadly I had not recognised him, but I have met him since at games, and now I know who he is.

Also around that time Micky Cook had come through from the youth team and by October 1969 was on the subs bench for the first team.

In those days you only had one.

By November he was beginning to be a regular in the team. Now the season of 1970/71 was to be a very memorable one for the club.

However whilst the U’s had the great occasion in August 1971 of winning the Watney Cup on penalties after a 4-4 draw, the real quality of the 1970-71 season was our magnificent FA Cup run.

After home wins over non league Ringmer 3-0, Cambridge United 3-0, Barnet away 1-0, the U’s had to travel to Rochdale after the home team had knocked out higher league Coventry City the round before.

A crowd of 12,321 were at Spotland to see the U’s take the lead with a goal by Ray Crawford. However the home team then led 3-1, before Colchester missed a penalty before scoring two late goals through Brian Lewis and Dave Simmons.

I recall going to the match on a special train and two buses were laid on to take us to the ground but one broke down. Luckily I was on the other one that made it to the ground, and I still have the bus tickets somewhere to prove I went.

On returning to the train station after the game, some of our fans had left early and thought we had lost, but we drew 3-3.

I remember on the Monday lunchtime several of us at work were crowded around my radio to hear that we had drawn Leeds United at Layer Road in the fifth round. In those days replays were quick and on Monday 25th January 1971, a total of 11,205 spectators packed into the ground to see us win 5-0.

Sadly my star man at the time Micky Cook did not make the team for the replay and he was only on the bench for that game, as he was also for the defeat of the mighty Leeds when we won 3-2.

In a superb spell at the club spanning 15 years, he made 614 appearances and scored 21 goals.