JOHN Rankin has been a Colchester United supporter for more than 72 years.

The U's season-ticket holder, who sits in S4 at the JobServe Community Stadium, recalls some of his favourite memories in his long time of supporting the club.

MY first match was on a sunny and very cold Boxing Day against Cheltenham - the most exciting 0-0 draw I had ever seen.

Dennis Hillman was on the R wing.

Dad took me. We were helped down to the front by other supporters so that I had a wonderful view of play, standing on what later became Terrace 3.

I have never forgotten that. It was the icing on the cake because I converted Dad to the U’s!

He worked in Chelmsford and so sometimes he took me to see them play but I used to count the trains over the viaduct rather than watch the football.

Frank Soo was their captain – wonderful footballer.

A year or two later, I stood outside Layer Road when the U’s had their first-ever league match against Gillingham away.

Lots of us young ones were there – probably 200 to 300.

There was a lot of cheering when the staff kept coming out to tell us how the match was going. It ended 0-0. Great atmosphere.

One of my most treasured possessions as a Colchester United supporter are the autographs of the team that played against Blackpool in the FA Cup fourth round on February 7, 1948.

They may have lost 5-0 but the home club had the two Stanleys playing for them - Matthews and Mortensen.

Colchester United had already beaten a Huddersfield team riding high in the old division one in the previous round which I was privileged to see along with over 19,000 others at Layer Road, many of them in the trees!

I was ten and had gone on and on to Dad asking him to get the U's autographs for me at Blackpool because he had decided to go to the match.

He said that he would try...little did I think he would be successful.

He did get them, and for both teams! How he did, I shall never know.

He travelled with a friend, ‘Marmalade’ Robertson, an ex-pilot in the War who had a small Auster Plane kept at Boxted.

They flew to Blackpool for the match. It was a bit foggy on the way up and they said that they were relieved to eventually find The Tower!

I've had so many highlights watching the U's!

I'll mention just a few random early ones and only one since Parky’s time since that is comparatively recent history.

I remember the U's teams well from the 1950s.

Percy Ames (marvellous goalkeeper), George Fisher, ‘Foxy’ Fowler, (Digger Kettle and John Harrison), Harry Bearryman, Reg Stewart, Jimmy Elder, Peter Wright, Sammy Mcleod, Ken Plant, Fred Cutting and Vic Keeble, Arthur Turner, Bob Curry before that, and of course Bobby Hunt and Kevin McCurley around that time. Certainly formidable!

The 9-1 Bradford City game in 1961 was absolutely wonderful.

Standing at the Clock End absolutely soaked on a cold winter’s day but feeling so warm after singing our hearts out - especially since we had lost to them a few days before!

We used to walk to Layer Road from Shrub End from where I lived as a boy so later in life, I used to drive and park the car near there.

The first time I had done that for a Tuesday evening match was against Hull City.

It was a cold, foggy night and I remember that on turning into Gladwin Road and seeing the floodlights in the fog, the hair at the nape of my neck tingled with excitement and anticipation.

There was also no doubt a bit of fear and dread, just as there always was (and still is!) whenever I go to see the U’s play.

The one thing I have learned in more than 70 years of following our wonderful club is that Colchester United often do the unexpected, do they not!

On that night, the U’s shipped the first goal and then, just when it looked all over, United netted five times in the next 40 minutes!

Now four from our family are season-ticket holders and Angela, my wife, will make it the fifth next season as she already goes to most matches!

Best wishes and up the U’s!