"IT'S 2021 for God's sake - we should be moving on from that."

Hayden Mullins hit the nail on the head with his telling assessment of the depressing incident that overshadowed Colchester United's fine win at the Dunes Hotel Stadium, on Friday night.

In the aftermath of the U's magnificent 3-2 triumph at Barrow, the U's head coach should have been answering questions from the media on his team's superb away performance.

Instead, he was having to issue his response to something that has no place in society, let alone in a football stadium - racism.

The fact that Colchester goalkeeper Shamal George should have to inform referee Simon Mather of alleged racist abuse being directed towards him by members of the home crowd behind the goal he was defending is as desperately sad, as it is completely shameful.

So too was the fact that a message should have to be relayed to the whole stadium over the Barrow public address system shortly afterwards that a complaint had been made and that such racist behaviour would not be tolerated.

At the time, you rather had to pinch yourself to acknowledge that you were still in the present day and not in some 1970s timewarp, where such backward attitudes and behaviour were sadly all too prevalent both in the game and in wider culture.

That this should have had happened in a League Two game now was demoralising, to say the least.

Such alleged behaviour, it seems, came from a very small minority of the home crowd, the majority of whom applauded the players taking the knee before the game and the PA announcement that came later, following the incident.

But any such comments coming from one individual are already too much; it is not welcome anywhere near a football stadium.

It was another unwelcome reminder that such toxic attitudes still exist in the present day and that much work still needs to be done to eradicate them.


Sadly, though, we should not be surprised; barely a week earlier, England's black players had been subjected to vile racist abuse in their World Cup qualifier in Hungary.

A few weeks earlier, England trio Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka were subjected to horrific racist abuse online, following their penalty shootout misses in the Euro 2020 final.

Shamal George deserves immense credit for the way in which he calmly dealt with a very difficult situation, one that he should not have had to contend with.

It is hard to comprehend how difficult it must have been for a professional footballer to deal with such an incident during a match, or frankly at any time.

George showed real class and for the young keeper to perform in the composed and professional manner in which he did spoke volumes for his character and maturity.

The U's fine win, in which he played his part, must have felt all the more sweeter come the final whistle after what had happened earlier.

The post-match rhetoric from some of U's players on social media was about getting one over the racists but ultimately, Colchester let their football do the talking.

George and his colleagues will have no doubt have been boosted to by the support of U's fans both in the ground and online, many of whom rallied around them in their united disgust of what had happened.

The U's goalkeeper's focus will now be on attempting to help Colchester follow up their fine win at Barrow with a home victory over Crawley Town, next Saturday.

But while he is doing so, Barrow will lead a 'thorough investigation' into the alleged incident.

The Bluebirds have vowed to take "the strongest action possible" against anyone found guilty of racism.

The hope is that any perpetrators will be duly punished and the stance taken will play some part in helping to educate and eradicate, for racism has no place in football.

It is 2021, after all.