When I was asked to look after the first team as a Caretaker Manager on 1 February 2011, I agreed to help the club on a short-term basis. It became evident that due to the necessity of paying up contracts from the previous regime, it was impossible financially to appoint another manager. The priority was then to ensure the club remained in this division, which we achieved with a game to spare. When I was then asked to continue as First Team Manager and combine that role with being the Director of Football, I accepted after much soul searching and with some reluctance. However, I was persuaded that it was the best decision for the club as we needed to reduce the playing budget, impose an individual wage ceiling to prevent excess spending, develop the young players from our youth policy and change the culture of the First Team. The Board felt that I was the best person to undertake these tasks. I understood what needed to be done and was willing to do what was required for the club. Just as importantly, it remained impossible for the club to fund an external management team. I stated at the time that I did not see my long term future as the manager but that I would fulfill the role whilst it was in the best interest of the club. I also started to implement a vision for the club and create structures that would transcend any individual manager. I believe this infrastructure, in which our scouting and recruitment in particular can be developed still further, is crucial for the long term success of the club.
The philosophy, ethos and standards that underpin this vision are far more important than any individual. The club has always been my only concern. I never sought this job and only agreed to combine this position with my primary role for the benefit of the club. I have never considered wanting to be a manager elsewhere and I always wanted to stay at this club beyond being the First Team Manager. Therefore the key decision has always been the timing of splitting my roles and appointing a First Team Head Coach. The Board and I have been in constant dialogue regarding the implementation of this structure since I agreed to take the manager’s job and I started a formal process to determine the right person for this role some time ago.
We have constantly assessed the situation and understand the short term requirements of a First Team Manager to win football matches. Last season we set high standards. With a reduced budget and a far younger squad, we finished ninth in the league despite horrendous injuries. More importantly the finances were stabilised and the philosophy of the club now permeates from the First Team downwards rather than the youth development scheme upwards. This season expectations have grown with new signings and the club celebrating its centenary year. Despite us having the youngest squad in the league, I believe our results have been unacceptably poor.
In recent weeks, while attending meetings about the proposed new stadium, watching our Centre of Excellence and managing the daily activities of the Trust I have had cause to consider the future which has shown me that it is the big picture which is important. I cannot afford to lose my perspective. When the First Team fails to win football matches, implementing the long term vision for the club becomes very difficult and almost impossible to combine with the short-term demands of first team management.
This situation has crystallised for me since the first week of the season. If first team results and performances fail to meet expectations, it cannot be allowed to de-rail the long term project for the club. Ensuring continuity, defending the principles and values of the club, demanding high standards and seeing through the vision of community, youth development and financial stability is more crucial than the day to day management of the first team. Therefore I see my role more important to the club as the Director of Football than as First Team Manager. There are many things right about the football structure within the club, most notably our brilliant youth scheme. Short term issues cannot be allowed to jeopardise the long term vision that will define the future of our club.
In assessing candidates, we have completed extensive background work and conducted a thorough and professional process. The Board has already refined the football infrastructure with clearly defined roles, responsibilities and lines of reporting. In appointing Richard Money, we have identified a man who ticks all of our boxes and shares our vision for the way forward. He has a track record in management, experience in this league, knowledge and experience in developing young players, has worked previously in this structure and brings a myriad of qualities to the role. Most importantly, he will strengthen the club and is the right appointment to work within our structure and to focus on the development and future success of the first team squad.
Richard’s role will be hands on. He will have sole responsibility for the First Team and the fact that he is such an accomplished and experienced coach was a major consideration in this appointment.
We would only have made this change if the right person, who fitted every aspect of our profile for this role, was available. Once we identified Richard as the right man for the job it became obvious that it was the right decision for the club, making it the right time to split my roles. Richard will focus solely on First Team affairs whilst my remit will encompass all football matters at the club.
I will explain more about our new structure in the future. The most important thing now is to welcome Richard, help him to settle in and build on our win at Barrow. Nolan Keeley, who has been fantastic in working tirelessly with our young players and the first team squad, will revert to a role as Development Coach, responsible for our 18-21 year old youth graduates. This is crucial to ensure the continued production line of scholars into our First Team. Nolan will also assist Richard with coaching duties alongside our existing support staff. I would like to place on record my thanks to Nolan for his help and support. He is an unsung hero, operating quietly behind the scenes, but his contribution within the youth scheme and the development of our young players over the last six years, as well as his work with the first team, should not be underestimated.
Finally, I have been heartened by the fantastic backing of our fans since I became manager and in particular, the last six weeks. It is easy to support the club when things are going well on the pitch but our supporters have been fantastic in showing their loyalty, knowledge and understanding of what we are trying to achieve through thick and thin. All I have ever wanted is what is best for Cambridge United and this decision will enable me to most effectively ensure that we implement a vision for the future so that each of you are proud of the club we all support and we can achieve the success we all crave.
There have been many difficult moments and tough tests in the last 20 months, especially when we faced relegation in 2010/11. We have successfully negotiated these challenges and many others. The club has made huge progress and will continue to do so as long as we stick together, back the long term vision for the club and remain "United in Endeavour".