Imagine the scenario: You’ve left school at 16, and walked into your dream job. You only have to work for half a day, get free entry into a football match every weekend, and you get paid a very handsome salary for the trouble. This job is the only thing you’ve ever wanted to do, and it becomes all you live for. However, by the time you reach the age of 35, you’re no longer able to this job, and you have to give it up. This job is all you’ve ever known, so what are you going to do now?

This scenario is a very sombre reality for thousands of former professional footballers and for a long time has simply existed, with barely a thought for how the last generation of footballing idols are now filling their time. That is, until recently, when former Bradford City and Hull City star Dean Windass dramatically confessed to the world that he has suffered from depression ever since hanging up his boots two years ago, and has twice attempted to commit suicide since the start of the year as he struggles to come to terms with life after football.

In an incredibly candid interview with The People, the 42-year-old, who had a reputation of being something of a hard man during his career, confessed to “crying every day for two years since retiring” and feeling “in a hole that I honestly didn’t know how to get out of.” In the interview, Windass also confessed to turning to alcohol and having a fling with ‘a girl from the pub’ which ultimately ended his 18-year marriage. He also admitted the sudden death of his father last April and the death of fellow professional Gary Speed in November had also affected him and left him feeling he had no way out.

Windass says there are hundreds of footballers in the same boat, and wants the Football Association and the Professional Footballers Association to do more to help, and also highlights the fact that because professional footballers commit their futures to the game at such a young age, many retire and have a hard time finding work due to a lack of qualifications and other working skills. “There is nothing to get up for in the morning. I do my run in the morning but at midday, what do you do? I think fuck it; I’m going to go for a pint.”

As a fan myself, I have the utmost respect for Windass for being so open and honest about the struggles that he has been facing. For him to open up like this shows a real strength of character, and I think it is fantastic that he is being so candid about how is he feeling. He was an inspirational character for whatever club he was at in his playing days, and I genuinely hope that his strength and courage in speaking out about his depression will open the door so that both he and other former professionals facing similar struggles are able to get the help they need to get their lives back on track.

 

Words by Bruce Halling

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So here we are again at the start of a fresh term all raring to go both academically and in your sport, right? Erm, whilst I’m sure we all start with the best of intentions in the New Year, them moment you step onto those training pitches on a freezing cold Monday evening is never a good one. Still, we’ve all got leagues to win and Derby Day too so there’s no letting up just yet.

Away from the bubble of University sport there has been plenty to talk about so far in this New Year. A big talking point at the moment is the outburst of information relating to depression in sport in the wake of Gary Speed’s tragic death. With the recent release of Freddie Flintoff’s ‘Depression in Sport’ it really highlights to the public the susceptibility of sports stars to these mental breakdown’s that you would not necessarily associate with someone earning money through their dream job. However, the pressures that all sportsmen are under is immense and I for one think it’s fantastic that sport is becoming ever more candid in exposing these realities to a naïve public which is otherwise ill-informed on such issues. I would highly recommend Bruce Halling’s article below for a more insightful look into the effects of depression from a man that it wouldn’t necessarily be expected.

Back out on the playing fields/courts and British tennis is back in the news again. When I say British tennis, obviously I mean Andy Murray’s quest for his first Grand Slam title in the Australian Open, although the other 5 British competitors did get some coverage after all being knocked out in the first round! As for Murray though, he has brought in the expertise of a new coach Ivan Lendl on a rather part-time basis. Now it seems to me that all Murray ever uses a coach for is to vent his somewhat pent up anger when playing like a classic Brit and folding to the pressure, however Lendl (known in his playing days for his ruthlessness) can hopefully bring an edge to Murray’s game to finally get him over the finish line. Anyway, the hard court is always his best shot so let’s keep our fingers crossed and see.

I can’t finish without mentioning the start to the most hectic part of the football season; the January transfer window. With inflated player prices and keen buyers with innumerable blank cheques in the pockets this annual circus is always a fun time for me and may be even more so with QPR’s new owners being openly willing to splash the cash, although it could be somewhat misguided with, at one point, talks of buying Wayne Bridge and his heft £90k a week salary. Still, anything to wind John Terry up, right?

So the best of luck to you all with the latest of your fresh starts and I hope you’re all building up to the inevitable thrashing of UEA come Derby Day!

In this week’s State of Affairs explains why you should be a Colchester United fan. This article also features in the current issue of the Rabbit. 

Colchester United are a professional football team, competing in League 1, who play their home games at Weston Homes Community Stadium in Colchester. So, just a standard lower league team then, you might think. Well, this year, for the first time, The Rabbit have gained access to press conferences and home games at Colchester United.

This allows us to comprehensively cover the U’s and bring you all the news and updates from the team. So, the question here is why should you care? Firstly, unlike the Goliaths of the premiership, lower league football brings out the passion of the game that simply can’t be bought, no matter how many millions you throw at it.

Colchester United has been an established club within the football league for over 5 decades, and over that time have developed passionate rivalries that always deliver entertaining football. Even in non-rivalry games the atmosphere is great, as any Col U fan will tell you!

The U’s are a competitive and exciting team to follow, with players such as last year’s leading scorer Ian Henderson, young star midfielder Anthony Wordsworth and defensive stalwart Magnus Okuonghae providing the thrills for U’s fans. Most importantly, it’s not hard to follow! With the comprehensive coverage the Rabbit will provide through the newspaper and online, as well as the student discount on already very reasonably priced game ticket prices, why not give the U’s a shot? 

Colchester United are not Manchester United. They aren’t Arsenal either, nor Chelsea, nor Tottenham or even Blackburn. No, what they are is your local team now you are here at the University of Essex, and they are a team that you can, and should, be proud of.




Colchester’s fans were in good spirit before their encounter on Saturday, and hopes were high as in form MK Dons visited the Weston Homes Community Stadium. There were two changes to the squad that last faced Crewe, with Tom Eastman being given his home debut in place of the suspended Magnus Okuonghae, and recent addition to the squad Casey Thomas sat on the bench in favour of Anthony Wordsworth. Captain Kem Izzet was riding the bench once again.

The game started off well for the home side as they dominated possession and opportunities on goal in the early part of the game, but the hosts couldn’t convert and saw a number of chances go to waste. The deadlock was broken after 23 minutes however, as Lloyd James’ saw his cross guided into the far corner of the net with a deft head from Matt Heath.

After having a strong command of the game in the first 35 minutes nevertheless, John Ward’s side saw their grip on the game loosen when the visitors equalised in the 37th minute. Charlie MacDonald converted an easy tap in from Daniel Powell’s pass across the goalmouth and in a strong period of play, Tom Flanagan then put the Dons on top going into the half, with another easy goal scored close to the end of added time.

The U’s came out flat once again the second half, looking complacent and uncoordinated both in defence and in attack. Despite this, the home side went close a few times, the best opportunity coming when Andy Bond beat the offside trap, only to blast the ball high over the bar in a 1-on-1 with the keeper.

The last 15 minutes of the game were the most damaging for the home side. MacDonald popped up again and knocked in the visitors third after some shoddy defending left him an open net in the 74th minute, then Stephen Gleeson’s curling shot from the edge of the box made it 4-1 in the 87th minute, and the rout was completed when Jabbo Ibehre tapped in yet another easy goal for MK Dons deep into injury time, wrapping up a 5-1 victory for Karl Robinson’s side.

Post-game, John Ward admitted the result was ‘tough to take’. Speaking of how the team should go forward from here, Ward said that it was now a question of ‘professionalism’ and ‘taking it on the chin’. Indeed, whilst there is no doubt there is reason to be disappointed with the result, the U’s will need to learn from this and move on quickly if they are to rebound next week when they visit Carlisle.

Colchester now sit 14th in the League 1 table with 23 points from 18 games.

Follow @_adambond on twitter for all your Colchester United updates 

In this week’s State of Affairs, I examine The U’s chances this weekend against MK Dons.

Since the end of October, Colchester United have been in good form, with convincing wins against Notts County and Crewe Alexandria, both of which saw the U’s net 4 goals, and a solid draw away at good competition in Tranmere. John Ward’s side have played in a creative and confident fashion the likes of which were lacking during the first 3 months of the league year, and fans will hope that form should continue in the coming weeks.

As reported by the club’s website today, in light of the tough upcoming schedule facing the team, Ward believes these upcoming fixtures will say a lot about the squad. Given the positive performances John’s men have delivered recently, there’s no reason to think why the good form shouldn’t continue, but they will have a job on their hands with MK Dons this Saturday.

Last time the teams met in March, MK Dons prevailed 3-1 thanks to an impressive hat-trick from Sam Baldock. Whilst Baldock has moved onto West Ham since, the Dons are still dangerous opposition. They sit 4th in the table and are coming off a streak of some good form of their own, including an emphatic 6-0 victory in the FA cup last weekend (over the mighty Nantwich Town no less!)

Karl Robinson’s side look like one of the premier teams in League 1, and a little help from a footballing legend probably helps to give them an edge as well. Whilst I’m not entirely convinced by the whole ‘they beat us last time so we want to show them we can beat them’ theory, the U’s will be wanting to show they can make a real run at the playoffs this year by performing at the Weston Homes Community Stadium on Saturday.

If the team want to impress and show that they can compete with the big boys, they need to start getting points from big games – particularly at home as they are this weekend. With the foundations of a strong team in players such as Magnus Okhuonghae and Anthony Wordsworth playing so well of late, Ward’s side have the ability to contend with the likes of MK Dons if only they can bring it to the pitch on the day.

I agree with John Ward. The U’s didn’t get a single point from high-flyers Charlton, Huddersfield, Sheffield Wednesday and Sheffield United in their fixtures so far this season. Whether Colchester come out of this game with 23,24 or 26 points will tell us a lot.

Follow @_adambond on twitter for updates on Colchester United

Saturday’s game was a quiet one for both sides, but will undoubtedly be a result John Ward’s side will have left Prenton Park happy with. There was just one change to the starting lineup from last week’s 4-2 victory over Notts County, that being Ashley Vincent in for the injured Steven Gillespie, with new boy Casey Thomas sat on the bench.

The early part of the game was dominated by Les Parry’s side, who had a number of chances that were scuppered by U’s keeper Ben Williams. The chance of the half however fell to Ash Taylor who could have put Rovers ahead in the 26th minute, but his header from deep in the penalty area bounced harmlessly over the bar, missing what looked like an easy goal.

Colchester played a better game in the 2nd half, the best chance coming from Michail Antonio. In an impressive solo effort on the 74th minute, Anotonio beat 3 players before hitting a shot that was creeping inside the bottom left corner before Owain fon Williams got a hand to it.

In a more even half, the U’s had Ben Williams to thank after his heroics denied a number of efforts from Rovers striker Adam McGurk to keep the game goalless, giving the away side a vital away point against tough opposition.

Post game, Ward spoke of his contentedness with the result –

“We scored four goals in beating Notts County last week but I’m probably happier with this result, performance and effort from my team.”

After denying Tranmere a goal from their 15 chances, Ben Williams said he believes the team has what it takes to reach the playoffs this season, even though the team could be viewed as “gate-crashing the party”, a challenge that would not be out of the question now that Ward’s side sit only 5 points behind 6th place.

Colchester United now sit 11th in the League 1 table with 23 points from 17 games.

Follow @_adambond on twitter for all your Colchester United updates 

Per the official Colchester United website, it was announced this morning that the U’s have signed Swansea City striker Casey Thomas on a 2 month loan deal. The 20 year old has played little football in his time at Swansea, making only 2 senior squad appearances for the Swans, and so he is keen to get some experience.

“It’s important I try and get some Football League games under my belt at my age. I’ve had spells on loan at Newport and Port Talbot, so this is the next step for me.”

Originally brought to Swansea as a winger, Thomas could provide the depth that Colchester desperately need in both central and wide attacking positions (a subject I discussed yesterday). However, with his only experience coming in limited playing time with Swansea, with Welsh sides Newport and Port Talbot and a handful of international appearances with Welsh youth teams, it remains to be seen how effective a player he can be at this level.

John Ward will certainly hope he can make a contribution however with Steven Gillespie out for an indefinite period, as well as Michail Antonio’s last game of his impressive loan spell being tomorrow’s encounter at Tranmere. Nonetheless, if Thomas is to make an impact he most certainly is going to have to impress quickly given his short spell at Weston Homes Community Stadium.

Follow @_adambond on twitter for all your Colchester United updates 

In a weekly column that will usually be published on Thursdays, The State of Affairs will examine current debates, issues and news regarding Colchester United. This week, I discuss formations.

Despite limited use thus far this season, it seems that Colchester United seem a more comfortable and creative side when playing a 4-4-2 formation, as demonstrated last weekend in the 4-2 victory over Notts County.  Of course there are many factors that go into the performance of a team aside from tactics, but from viewing the team’s play it is hard to deny that the team look a more fluid and dangerous side going forward. However, there is good reason why this formation has been utilised little, and good reason why that looks to be the case going forward.

John Ward’s more familiar formation this season has featured 3 central midfielders, 2 wide attackers and 1 central striker – a 4-5-1 or 4-3-3 formation.  With talented wingers, a deep core of central midfielders and a lack of depth up front, this formation suits well the squad that Ward has had at his disposal. The problem here however has been a lack of attacking prowess. On the other hand, playing the 4-4-2 brings a problem in that it highlights the holes, and fails to shows the strengths, of the squad on the whole.

With the group of talented midfielders at his disposal, the 4-4-2 presents a tricky task for Ward in deciding who’s names make the team sheet. Last weekend it was Anthony Wordsworth and Andy Bond who got the start in the centre of midfield. Captain Kem Izzet sat on the bench alongside Lloyd James, and not in the squad was John Joe O’Toole. Arguably, all 5 of these players could be starting in the league. Whilst this is a good problem to have, particularly when injuries predictably take their toll, what Ward will want to avoid is a drop in morale for these players if their playing time should drop.

It lies in stark contrast the situation up front however, with viably only 3 true strikers on the first team in Kayode Odejayi, Steven Gillespie and youngster Craig Arnott, the latter of which is yet to make an appearance for the club. Whilst reports earlier this week give hope to help from the transfer market in that respect, Steven Gillespie’s injury last weekend has only served to highlight further that depth at the position is still thin. Wide players such as last season’s top scorer Ian Henderson can fill the role when required, but given that Michail Antonio’s loan ends soon, he will most likely continue to be utilised on the wing.

What remains to be seen then is what Ward can do come January to help improve the depth up front, including perhaps bringing someone like Antonio back to the club (something he discussed in a press conference this morning), but in the mean time it looks as if his tactical options are limited.

Follow @_adambond on twitter for all your Colchester United updates 

Saturday saw the U’s triumph 4-2 over a tough opponent in Notts County, a game in which John Ward’s side looked confident and possessed the hunger for goals that has been lacking of late.

In a move away from the 4-5-1 formation that has been favoured recently, Steve Gillespie started his first game of the year partnering Kayode Odejayi up front in the 4-4-2 formation the team ended Tuesday’s 1-1 draw against Bournemouth playing. Notably, the odd man out in the centre of midfield was captain Kem Izzet, with Andy Bond and Anthony Wordsworth getting the nod to start.

Michail Antonio gave the home fans hope early on, as a patch of strong attacking play resulted with his shot being narrowly parried over the crossbar on its way to the top left corner of Stuart Nelson’s goal. After starting strong, Gillespie’s game came to an abrupt end when he left the game after 23 minutes due to a hamstring injury. His exit was one of the few points of note during a first half that finished goalless.

It didn’t take long after the break for the deadlock to be broken, as Anthony Wordsworth’s free-kick from just outside the box took a deflection before heading in the left hand side of the goal. Notts County weren’t behind for long however, with Sam Sodje nodding home the equaliser from Jude Sterling’s long throw in the 57th minute.

From this point onwards Colchester began to dominate the game, leading to Antonio’s goal in the 65th minute and a top effort from outside the box that whistled into the top right corner by Ian Henderson just after the 70 minute mark. Kayode Odejayi finished the goal-fest a few minutes later by picking up Henderson’s defence splitting pass and taking to around the keeper to put home the U’s 3rd goal in 10 minutes.

During injury time Notts County got themselves a late consolation prize in the form of Ian Hughes’ shot deflecting off of Matt Heath’s right boot into the back of the net, however it was too late for the visitors to salvage anything from the game.

Post-game, John Ward spoke of the way the team responded to changes he made leading up to the game.

“I’m delighted with the way that my team has responded to the whole game. We changed the format slightly, and then we’ve had to change it again with Steven Gillespie coming off.”

Colchester United now sit 12th in the League 1 table with 22 points from 16 games.

Follow @_adambond on twitter for all your Colchester United updates 

On a warm, still day on the Essex University pitches Essex Mens 1st XV welcomed Medway University for the second BUCS league fixture of the season looking to build on their promising win the previous week.  With a slightly depleted team Essex were looking toward some untried Freshers to really step forward and make a claim for cementing a regular first team place in front of new coach Nick Lloyd. After last weeks big win against UCL 2nd XV Essex knew that they would be provided with a sterner challenge from Medway who had come off the back of a win themselves the previous week.

Essex won the toss and chose to kick to the opposition and with some excellent forward play soon had the ball back in their hands. As would prove to be a common theme throughout the game the Essex forwards bullied their way deep into the opposition 22 and were rewarded when they were awarded a penalty in front of the posts for hands in the ruck from the Medway flanker, Jack Marlow duly converted the penalty to give Essex a 3-0 lead within the opening two minutes. No sooner had the game restarted than Medway were to find themselves under their own posts yet again. The Essex pack were really imposing themselves on this game in its early phases and utilised their superior size to the full when driving over flanker Joss Nunn to score the first try of the game, the try was converted by Jack Marlow. The early signs were encouraging for Essex and the game continued in this very one-sided vein for the opening 20 minutes with Essex adding one more score in this period. A simple yet effective backs move with the Essex backline moving the ball swiftly through the hands to the winger Nick York who outpaced his opposite winger on the outside to score in the corner, 15-0 to Essex. This try was a prime example of the forwards dominance creating space for Essex’s ever dangerous back line and was a perfect example of Rugby being made to look simple through perfect execution.  Essex scored once more before half-time, debutant Ashley Clarke-Walkin sprinting in from fully 60 metres after the backline again created an overlap, the try was converted meaning that Essex headed into the break in a comfortable position, leading 22-0.

 

With a solid lead going into the second half the game plan for Essex would have been to build on the foundations that they had laid and continue to assert their dominance over the opposition in the forwards, unfortunately that was not to be. Whether Essex came out expecting the victory was unclear however Medway suddenly seemed to pose a much bigger threat than they had for the duration of the first half. Despite Medway having their inside centre sin-binned for hands in the ruck early on, they were still first to put points on the board, springing on some loose handling by Essex in their own 22 to score in the left-hand corner. What happened next is a rarity in rugby as Essex were shown two yellow cards within the space of 2 minutes, the first of which was a somewhat contentious decision to say the least. With Essex down to 13 men the team showed a brave and resilient streak that will bode them well going towards future games. Essex didn’t concede a point during this 8 minute period with 13 men and in doing so managed to secure that Medway had too much to do going into the final 10 minutes 17 points behind. Medway did manage to get a consolation score meaning the final result was Essex 22- 12 Medway.

The acting captain for the day Adam Atkins had this to say after the game:

“We got off to a great start today and although I’m disappointed with how we played in the second half the boys still showed passion to keep out Medway when we were down to 13 players. If we combine that passion with the attacking rugby we know we’re capable of it should be a good season.”