On Saturday 10th May 1992 Colchester United beat Witton Albion in the FA Trophy Final at Wembley Stadium in front of a crowd of 32,254 containing an estimated 20,000 Colchester United fans. Simon Crow writes about the 30th anniversary of Colchester United’s Boys of ’92 reunion.
The U’s 3-1 victory, on their first ever visit to Wembley in the club’s history, came at the end of a season which saw them clinch promotion back to the Football League from the GM Vauxhall Conference on the final day of a campaign the like of which the town had never seen before.
30 years to the day later, the Conference and Cup winning team were back together in the Town Hall’s Moot Hall for The Boys of ’92 anniversary reunion dinner for a night of memories, and one or two tears of joy.
The reunion was the brainchild of lifelong U’s supporter Steve Green who wasn’t willing to let this landmark anniversary go by uncelebrated.
I’ll let Steve tell you how it all came about:
“I was approached by Roy McDonough in January asking me if I knew of a restaurant or bar in Colchester where the 1992 non-league double winning squad could meet up for an informal reunion. I suggested a couple of places but it got me thinking that something more deserving of their achievements would be a better idea. I reached out to Ray Hollingsworth who was a major sponsor of Colchester United during the late 80’s and early 90’s, for support, who in turn reached out to super fan Sir Bob Russell, and the three of us met at the The Old Siege House to discuss how a proper celebration might work. Francis Ponder was the Colchester Gazette’s sports editor during the years we were looking to celebrate and he got wind of the meeting and joined us, so we had our own Gang of Four. Jeff Dewing, who owns Cloudfm, made a significant financial donation which enabled us to aim higher in terms of venue hire, quality of catering, audio visual support and giveaways etc. It was quite stressful and time consuming but I think what transpired was befitting of the incredible journey we were taken on back in 1992.”
Together they booked the Moot Hall, organised audio-visual equipment and lighting with the help of Steve’s son Ben, catering from The Old Siege House Restaurant which included, unusually for the Town Hall, draught lager. Well you can’t hold a football event without the lager flowing freely!
In the culmination of a remarkable feat to track down and contact all the Colchester United Boys of ’92, on the night almost all the squad attended. Player Manager ‘Big Roy’ McDonough, American striker Mike ‘The Big Yank’ Masters and World Cup hero Mark Kinsella jetted in from Spain, New York and Dublin respectively. They were joined by Nicky Smith, Jason Cook, Steve Restarick, Paul Abrahams, Tony English, Scott Barrett, Paul Roberts, Dave Martin, James Goodwin, and Steve McGavin. Only Eamon Collins, Gary Bennett, Martin Grainger, Ian Stewart and Julian Dart (Hazel) were missing.
After gathering in the Mayor’s Parlour they took it in turns to enter the Moot Hall’s one by one to take the stage where they were introduced by Peter Sleigh, the club’s matchday announcer. They were met with cheers and applause from the delighted fans before eventually taking their seats at the top table.
Steve and the team had kindly seated Paul Dundas and myself as outgoing Leader of the Council and outgoing Council Cabinet member respectively, with Mayor of Colchester Cllr Robert Davidson and James Bowbridge, the club’s chairman back in 1992. I introduced myself to James saying that even though we’d spoken a few times 30 years ago I didn’t expect him to remember me. He replied “Wasn’t it you that went to prison?” Err, no. Not guilty guv.
In pride of place on our table was the match ball from that historic Wembley final. Across the room from us sat the town’s ex MP Sir Bob Russell, and at a nearby table was former Chief Executive Marie Partner, just a couple of the many familiar faces that night, some of whom I hadn’t seen in many years.
Throughout the evening a big screen treated us to a video of every goal the U’s scored during that never to be forgotten second, and final, season in the Conference, including one of the most iconic moments in Colchester United’s history when goalkeeper Scott Barrett scored a goal that established him in U’s folklore.
In a crunch top-of-the table clash at Adams Park, Barrett’s long punt bounced, sailed over the head of Wycombe keeper Paul Hyde into the net to give the U’s a last gasp 2-1 victory over promotion rivals Wycombe Wanderers.
Other entertainment included a lively and fun Q&A session with players and fans, and an auction of U’s memorabilia followed by a £1000 donation to the Red Cross Ukrainian Appeal.
The lager continued to flow for the rest of the night but sadly it was all over far too quickly. But it was truly a night to remember as we relived such happy memories created by The Boys of ’92 team three decades ago. It seems like they only happened yestererday.
I’ll let Big Roy have the last word:
“The whole night was emotional and also magnificent, great seeing how well my old teammates looked, also watching the true supporters mixing side by side with the players they watched and idolised, that’s what the game is all about, Steve Green, Jeff Dewing, Ben Green, Peter Sleigh, Sir Bob Russell and Ray Hollingsworth all take a bow.“