COLCHESTER UTD 1997-98
LEAGUE TWO PLAY-OFF WINNERS
DAVID GREGORY had never taken a penalty before Colchester United qualified for the play-offs hoping to make it third time lucky for promotion.
The U’s returned to the Football League in 1992 and spent three seasons rebuilding before reaching the play-offs in 1996, losing in the semi finals to Plymouth Argyle.
The season afterwards they reached the Football League Trophy Final but missed out on the play-offs by a single point.
Twelve months on they were ready to make a big push and, after missing out on automatic promotion on the final day, they faced Barnet for the right to play at Wembley.
Barnet won the first game at Underhill 1-0 but Colchester won the second leg 3-1 thanks to a double from Gregory, one of which came from the penalty spot, and another from David Greene.
In the final, Gregory, now Colchester’s communications manager, was called on to take a 22nd minute penalty against Torquay United which he calmly dispatched and that proved enough to claim promotion.
“That semi-final was the first one I’d ever taken,” he says.“I cannot remember if it was Aaron Skelton or Paul Buckle who had taken our previous penalty, but they had missed it.
“I just said ‘I am taking the next one’ and then we didn’t get one until we reached the play-off semi finals, but I hadn't forgotten and took it.
“It was only on the final day of the season that we didn’t go up automatically. We won the last game at Doncaster but Lincoln had to lose and they didn’t.
“We were always behind Lincoln so it was in the back of our minds that we were going to be in the play-offs.
“We were were confident going into them. We had been to Wembley the season before and that had been our day out in the sun.When we got to the final against Torquay we didn’t view it as a sight-seeing visit.
“We went there for the occasion the first time and to do a job the second time.”
1. Robert Bates: Lives in the Colchester area and is working locally.
2. Nicky Haydon: Dropped into non league football and eventually became player-assistant manager of Wivenhoe Town. He is now working in the City of London.
3. Dave Rainford: A midfielder who works as a school teacher at Barking Abbey School. His daughter, Molly, was a finalist on Britain’s Got Talent in 2012.
4. Gavin Armitage: He is still based in the Colchester area and has been the director of a maintenance company in Maldon, Essex.
5. Paul Dyer: Lives in Stanway, and has run a number of pubs in the town. He served 23 years on the U’s back room staff and later scouted for QPR.
6. Richard Wilkins: Midfielder who has managed Bury Town since 2000 and is head of football at West Suffolk College in the town.
7. Aaron Skelton: Utility player lives in Bournemouth and works as a site manager for a building company.
8. Steve Forbes: He dropped into non league football after struggling with injury problems and his whereabouts are unknown.
9. Garrett Caldwell: Americanborn Canadian goalkeeper became a teacher and teaches Middle School humanities at Newark Academy in Greater New York City.
10. Mark Sale: Striker who was diagnosed with Hodgkin Lymphoma, went onto become youth team coach at Burton Albion and football development officer for East Staffordshire Borough Council.
11. Carl Emberson: Goalkeeper ran his own soccer school in Spain until being appointed Bristol Rovers goalkeeping coach. He is now Luton Town’s first team development coach.
12. Peter Cawley: Defender who was assistant manager to Tony Adams at Wycombe and is now a London taxi driver.
13. David Gregory: Midfielder who has been the U’s communications & PR officer since retiring through injury.
14. Paul Abrahams: The winger had a spell coaching at Dagenham & Redbridge. He is now manager of Brantham Athletic in the Eastern Counties League.
15. Brian Owen: He has been a coach, physio and scout since retiring from playing in 1973 and is the U’s chief scout.
16. Geoff Harrop: Academy manager at Torquay United after working for Rushden & Diamonds and Northampton Town.
17. Joe Dunne: Defender stayed on at the club and worked his way up from youth team coach and is now first team manager.
18. Tony Adcock: Former striker is living in Chelmsford, Essex and is
working for a car dealership in the town.
19. Simon Betts: Living in the Ipswich area and has been a policeman for the last five years after working as a builder for a local company.
20. Tony Lock: Still working and living in the Essex area after finishing his career in non-league football with Grays Athletic.
21. Micky Cook: U’s legend became community officer and then director of youth football at the club until 2004. He is now director of football at Colne Community College in Brightlingsea.
22. Steve Wignall: Went on to manage Stevenage Borough, Doncaster Rovers and Southend. Then became a successful property developer and now runs his own business in North Wales.
23. Steve Whitton: He managed the U’s, then became a partner in an ink cartridges business. He is now involved in a property business in Marbella, Spain.
24. Karl Duguid: A defender who was appointed player-coach by Joe Dunne and hung up his boots in at the end iof this season.
25. Paul Buckle: Managed Torquay , Bristol Rovers and Luton. Now lives in the United States where he is technical director of the Met Oval soccer complex in New York City.
26. Scott Stamps: Back living in his native West Midlands and working around the Smetwick area.
27. Ian Hathaway: He settled in Andover where he has worked as a postman and also managed Hampshire Division Two side Broughton.
28. David Greene: Republic of Ireland U21 international is living in his native Luton and been a chauffeur with his own business DMG Limousines since 2001.