THE Daily Gazette in Colchester celebrates the 50th anniversary of its launch, later this year.

When the paper was 40 years old, back in 2010, we spoke to former Gazette sports reporter Francis Ponder, who covered Colchester United for 20 years and in 2016, wrote 'Step This Way...Mr Lynam': The Good, the Bad and the Ugly', a book about his time reporting on the U's.

Here is the article, as he takes his trip down memory lane.

COLCHESTER United Football Club have changed beyond recognition since the Gazette first hit the streets, four decades ago.

When the likes of Robin Frost, Derek Drew and Peter Hills were covering the U's in the early Seventies, fans were packing the Layer Road terraces to see Dick Graham's side battle it out in the old division four.

The Gazette has reported on plenty of ups and downs for the U's since that time.

And while the backing of chairman Robbie Cowling and the emergence of the Weston Homes Community Stadium have seen expectations rise among fans, the club's colourful history over the past four decades will always have a part to play in their fabric.

From Graham's Grandads' legendary 3-2 victory over all-conquering Leeds United in the FA Cup in 1971, to keeper Scott Barrett's remarkable winning goal against title rivals Wycombe Wanderers in 1992.

There were the highs of the 1998 division three play-off final win over Torquay United at Wembley and the historic promotion to the second tier in 2006 under Phil Parkinson; the lows of relegation to the GM Vauxhall Conference in 1990 and going back down to League One, where they currently reside, after two halcyon years in the Championship.

Former Gazette reporter Francis Ponder, who covered the U's for 20 years, believes the early Nineties, in particular, were a pivotal time for the club.

"The FA Trophy Final win over Witton Albion in 1992 was a big highlight for me," he said. "It was our first time at Wembley and I never thought I would get to see my team there.

"It capped a wonderful season, because we won the Conference as well.

"We've gone from strength to strength since then and the biggest shame was that we didn't move to a new stadium immediately after that, because the momentum was there.

"A lot of credit has to go to Peter Heard, because as chairman he kept the drive for a new stadium alive and eventually it happened."

In April 2007, Colchester United were on the verge of making the Championship play-offs, for a place alongside English football's elite.

At that stage, they were ranked as one of the country's leading 30 clubs.

It is perhaps hard to imagine that less than 20 years earlier, the Evening Gazette had launched a "Save Our Soccer" campaign, as the U's struggled to retain their league status.

The aforementioned Peter Heard's contribution since 1991 has played a big part in helping Colchester United rise to enjoy the status it has today; a prosperous club with aspirations to return to being a sustainable force in the second tier.

And over the past 40 years, the Gazette has had the privilege of reporting on hundreds of U's stars, too many to mention here.

Some like long-serving Micky Cook, Mike Walker, Tony English and Karl Duguid, have given years of commitment.

Others, such as Roy McDonough, Jamie Cureton and Tony Adcock, have left their own special mark, thanks to the goals they have scored.

Indeed, many favourites have departed the U's to go on to play at the top level - Perry Groves, Mark Kinsella and Tresor Lomana Lua Lua spring to mind.

The Gazette has also reported the views of a plethora of different managers over the years, from Graham's gallantry to the words of present-day U's boss, John Ward.