COLCHESTER United have been involved in plenty of bizarre incidents, over the years.

In the second part of a three-part Gazette series, Sir Bob Russell takes a look at some of the U's more unusual football trivia.


IT is bad enough for any player to be sent off, doubly so if they are making their debut!

Colchester United have the dubious distinction of possibly having had more players dismissed on their debut than any other club in the Football League – a total of eight!

The trend was started in August 1980 by Nigel Crouch followed in subsequent seasons by David Barnett, Christian Hyslop, Stephen Hunt, Ian Henderson, Daniel Pappoe, Will Packwood and Sean Murray.

Hyslop’s dismissal at Northampton Town was later rescinded on appeal.

Crouch’s dismissal came in the 44th minute after he took exception to a strong challenge from future England international and Premier League manager Steve Bruce, who was playing for Gillingham in a League Cup first round first leg at Layer Road.

Bruce got a yellow card for his foul and the game ended 1-1.


Supporters are notorious for wanting a memento of the former ground when their club moves to a new stadium.

But perhaps the only time a Member of Parliament has done this was in July 2008 when Colchester United moved from their homely ground at Layer Road to the somewhat soul-less Community Stadium the other side of town next to the A12.

I had been following the U’s for more than 50 years at this point, having watched my first game aged ten in 1956.

The club sold off much of the memorabilia at an auction, including a large frame containing black and white press photographs of the three goals which Fourth Division Colchester scored in 1971 (in the fifth round of the FA Cup) against the then all-conquering Leeds United to win 3-2.

It was arguably the greatest upset in the history of the FA Cup, for this was not a weakened Leeds side as so often happens nowadays when top clubs play teams from a lower division.

The framed photographs had been displayed prominently in the vice-presidents’ lounge for 35 years or so, but were not taken to the new stadium.

I was appalled by this, and objected at the auction – but I decided to bid. I bought the framed photographs for £400 (plus Value Added Tax) and later presented it for permanent display in the National Football Museum.

I also bought two square metres of the penalty spot area at the Layer Road end (£8 plus VAT), and personally re-laid it in front of my constituency office in Wimpole Road (Magdalen Hall) where a plaque was unveiled by former U’s players Peter Wright (voted by fans as the club’s number one player in the 20th century) and Bobby Hunt who (60 years later) still holds the club goal-scoring record of 38 goals in a season (1960-61). Both were Colchester born.

I lovingly watered, cut and rolled the hallowed turf for the next seven years until I ceased being MP, in 2015. The turf is still there, but much neglected.

I had been directly involved in getting the new stadium built, something acknowledged by then Football League chairman Lord Mawhinney when he performed the official opening – observing that “not only do you have an MP who supports the club, he has even bought turf from the old ground.”

Other items which I bought at auction were more than 200 drinks glasses from one of the bars (for just £2 plus VAT for the lot!), which I donated to three community centres in the town; and a special “Pride of Anglia” trophy presented to the club only the previous year by ITV Anglia.

This commemorated that for the 2006-07 season, for the first and only time, the top club of the four in the East of England was Colchester United – finishing in the Championship ahead of Ipswich, Norwich and Southend.

The auction price was £10. I still have this trophy.

Layer Road was owned by Colchester Borough Council, as is the Community Stadium.

When the demolition firm moved in I arranged with them for a distinctive wooden safety frame above the players’ tunnel to be salvaged, my intention being to re-use it as a feature above the entrance to a proposed side extension at the former church hall in Wimpole Road where my constituency office was located.

This did not happen, however, and this piece of Colchester’s Layer Road heritage dating back to before the Second World War is still awaiting a new home.

I am grateful to Graeson Laitt, renowned Colchester United statistician, and Francis Ponder, former Gazette Sports Writer, for their assistance with my memory in writing this compilation.