Friday 11 July 2008

Colchester United-Layer Road

I'm not entirely sure when I'd previously been to Layer Road, home of Colchester United . But I do recall I've had three visits here; twice with Millwall, and once with Leyton Orient. Much the opposite of what you'd expect, I actually witnessed more trouble at the O's game than the two Millwall ones! All of these were in the early nineties. I do remember Layer Road being a tight, almost ramshackle ground, with wooden terracing at the Layer Road end! This was eventually concreted over, though i'm not sure how recently. Which must be safer, but does take away some of the character.

The last First Team match at Layer Road was at the end of last season, on 26th April 2008,when Stoke City beat the hosts 1-0. This brought to a close over one hundred years of football here, having been opened way back in 1907. Soon the ground will be demolished. But it's still practically intact, though the floodlight pylons have already been removed. When the Dulwich Hamlet Youth Team were invited to play here in a 'behind closed doors' friendly I couldn't miss the opportunity to be one of the last ever people to snap this old ground. In case you're wondering Colchester fielded a different team each half, and were much fitter, and bigger than our boys. We went in only one down in the break, but finished up losing 7-0!

Due to the fact the ground was empty while the game was in progress, and aware that it wouldn't be much longer before Layer Road was no more, I took far more snaps than I would usually have done. Please bear with me in this indulgence!

So here we go...probably the last ever 'tour' of Layer Road:

An ordinary street sign, in a soon-to-be just another
ordinary road.

How long before this is taken down, and speed cameras
put in its place?

Walking up Layer Road you see their old 'megastore'!

I loved the old fashioned signage here.

The 'For Sale' sign is already up.

The last competitive game must have been this Reserve
Team 'local derby'.

I entered the ground through this entrance, open behind
the main stand. Before we go inside I'm going to walk you
to the end of here.

Just before this, on the wall on the left, is a long list of
names. Obviously contributors to some sort of fundraising,
but it didn't say what exactly.

Yes you do have to queue at half time, but by non-league
standards these are luxury! ;-)

Not quite William Hills!

The back of the old terrace, further along.

What a lovely 'homely' garden shed. I wonder what it was
used for, & where it will end up? Please, not on a bonfire.
i'm sure there are plenty of U's fans who would love it to grace
their back garden.

These steps lead up to behind the goal.
But we're not going there yet.

So I retrace my steps back behind here & to the changing

There can't be too many fans who've been in here!

The old fashioned communal bath, converted
into showers.

The Dulwich Hamlet Youth Team manager Ian Neal
stopsin the tunnel for me.

And then takes his place in the away team dugout.

Out of the tunnel, looking left clockwise, our first sight of
the main stand.

A quick glance back, before continuing. We'll get a better
look here soon.

Past the seats was a covered terrace. Amazing to think this
was English Second Division football last season. (That's
PROPER Second Division, for any young whippersnappers
looking in. League Two is the Fourth Division!)

But already the weeds grow, as decay begins. Which will only
be stopped by demolition.

Old 'disused' terracing. judging by the cables, one of the
floodlight pylons was here.

Our first glimpse of their 'Clock End' Highbury it's not!
But i do like it when lettering is incorporated into modern,
plastic seating. So much nicer on the eye, for surely not much
more money.

This is the clock!

Looking across, behind the goal.

Back to the main stand....

And along the far side.

A view from the far corner.

And along the far side terrace.

Looking back to the Clock End, from the side terrace.

And across the pitch, further up.

Glancing back down the terrace, from the far end of it.

The old floodlight bulbs in a heap. In this spot there was a
small temporary stand to accomodate less than 200 away

Tradional old fashioned iron turnstiles.

The terrace behind the far goal, at the Layer Road end.
This was the terrace that was once made out of wooden planks!

Looking out behind it, from the top of the exit.

Back across the far side terracing.

And down to the side where we began.

From the corner the final bit of terracing. His camera's better
than mine, by the way. His son was playing for us.

A final glance behind the goal.

And back to the main stand, this was the disabled enclosure.

Looking up to the control room.

And this is presumably the press area.

Another angle.

With the 'posh seats' in the centre.

With the television gantry up above

And so, back to our away team dugout where our tour of
the late, maybe not great, but an important part of lower
professional football heritage, Layer Road ground began.

A couple of shots from the the first half, against the

And the stronger, second half Reds.

With the team photo at the end!

LAYER ROAD 1907-2008 RIP


Dan said...

Great set of photos, been to many games at the old Layer Road. Had a great atmosphere. Good to see it from so many camera angles, only used to seeing it from the old 'barside' terrace, which is the view which now shows the old floodlights above. RIP layer road, onwards and upwards, Western Homes Community Stadium, lets hope we can fill it some time this season!

WilliWycombe said...

Only been to Layer Road as an away fan (Wycombe) so you can imagine it was pretty tasty! I was lucky enough to attend a 1-0 win and a cracking 2-2 draw on a Tuesday night. There were probably only around 3,500 fans there but the atmosphere was electrifying. It's a shame grounds like this are being consigned to history but I suppose in the modern era people expect a more comfortable setting. RIP Layer Road.

Great site by the way! You seem to have toured the Home Counties but never been to Mill Meadow, home of Chalfont St. Peter AFC. Or Beaconsfield SYCOB's (possibly now defunct) old ground. You're not missing much!

Chris Reed said...

Thanks for the memories. I am 75 now but was born and brought up in Colchester and was a regular fan of the U's. I will always treasure memories of our FA cup run which ended 5-0 at Blackpool. I still have a photo of the U's football team of that time. I live in Scotland now but still look for the U's result every week. I am celebrating today as we have just beat Brentford 4-1 and will not be relegated.

Ralph said...

Love the website and particularly the piece on Layer Road (before it was demolished). Lots of detail and care went into it.
I’m so pleased and grateful you took the photos as I never did get many in all the years I watched the U’s there, starting in 1985 as a 13 year-old.

Layer Road was ramshackle, run-down and basic in almost every way but the atmosphere, smells, proximity to the pitch and feel of the place were wonderful and I miss it terribly.
I go to the new stadium (with my children) and love the U’s as much as ever but the Community Stadium is soul-less and in the middle of no-where.
Such a shame the grounds like Layer Road are disappearing in the name of ‘progress’.