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Jez Says - 15th Feb

15 February 2014

Hear from the U's Director of Football

Firstly, I would like to thank every one of the two thousand and seventy five of our supporters who paid their hard earned money and got behind the players so brilliantly from the first to the last minute.  Your support was superb.  There was a real unity of purpose within the stadium; the players giving everything for the fans and the fans giving everything for the players.  That is how it should be.  Everyone may have felt disappointment at the final whistle with the result but that's football.  I will leave it to Richard to analyse the performance publicly so I will just make a more general observation.  You are rarely as good as you think you are when you win and you are rarely as bad as you think you are when you lose.  On Tuesday we were pretty good.  We totally dominated the game both in terms of possession, territory, chances, set plays, in fact every statistic except for the one that matters.  Their goal came from a shot that was twice deflected into the path of their player and apart from one other counter attack, which resulted in Will Norris making a fine save, that was it.  We peppered their goal, our attacking play in the second half was relentless and we missed good chances but that is the beauty and unpredictability of football.  We have created less chances at home and won.  We have dominated games to a far lesser extent at home and won.  We have conceded far more chances to opponents at home and won.  What is happening at the moment happens to almost every team.  We are going through a tough spell.  Things aren't going for us, things aren't falling for us and results have dipped for the first time this season.  But some things haven't changed.  We still have an excellent Head Coach.  We still have excellent players.  We are still doing everything possible to achieve our aim for this season.  And we still have belief.  What we saw and heard on Tuesday evening shows that you still have faith in the players and belief in what we can achieve.  That is crucial.  These moments test everyone.  No-one ever said achieving anything worth achieving was easy.  We all need to hold our nerve and stay true to our beliefs, values and philosophy.  Nothing changes.  We will start winning again and we still have everything to play for this season.

My biggest disappointment on Tuesday, and this section isn't really applicable for those of you reading it in the programme, was the number in the first line of my notes.  I find it depressing that after 12 wins from 13 home league games, a tremendous FA Trophy tie against Luton which provided entertainment that you would find hard to match at any level, an FA Cup replay win against Football League opponents and a narrow defeat against League One opposition, who have since beaten two Premier League clubs, that we cannot attract more than two thousand fans.  We will only be able to maintain progress, keep improving the squad and continue to challenge for promotion by increasing our core support.  This time last season, our crowds dipped to below two thousand.  Cold weather, Champions League ties live on TV, the recession and unfashionable opponents could have been cited as reasons along with our poor league position, poor home performances and poor results.  Whilst we all appreciate the difficult financial climate, Tuesday was 2nd v 3rd.  I also cannot imagine that we could have done much more in the 16 competitive matches that we have played so far at the R Costings Abbey Stadium to persuade our "floating fans" that this team is worth supporting.  We are punching above our weight.  We do not have the finance of the juggernaut above us in the league who's crowds dip to 6500 when they are struggling.  We cannot sign players on £1000+/week.  We cannot pay big transfer fees.  We cannot have a squad who's second XI could compete in this league.  We have to be creative.  We sign players from smaller clubs, we bring through our own players, we search for bargains in the loan market, we can only sign players on free transfers in the January window, we scour the country for young players who will become assets for the club.  We have an infrastructure to ensure that we maximise the effectiveness of each player and we have created a coaching environment, a development culture, that every player buys into.  That's why they all sign for wages less than they might command at other clubs.  They come because they believe in our philosophy.  They know that they will all improve and collectively we will be better than the sum of our individual parts.  In other words, we do the hard yards, on and off the pitch, to give us the best chance of being successful.  But it doesn't give you a devine right to beat anyone.  It doesn't give you a devine right to finish in a certain league position.  We know that.

However, if we are going to move the club forward, keep our best players and continually improve the squad, we will need bigger crowds than last Tuesday.  Otherwise, we will be consigned to this league, at best, for the foreseeable future.  The difference between 3700 v Nuneaton (1st v 2nd) and 2100 v Alfreton (2nd v 3rd) is approximately £20,000.  We have another 9 home games.  If that trend continues, you can do the maths.  And if we are not successful in winning promotion this season, that will be the difference between being able to increase the football budget or having to reduce it for next season. 

We have based everything this season on being sustainable.  We want to be a club that constantly challenges for promotion.  With only one automatic promotion place you can never guarantee promotion.  What you can do though is guarantee challenging every season.  Then you know that it will happen, you just don't know when.  And despite recent results, it could still be this season.  But to achieve this aim, and to get stronger every year, we need to grow revenue and continually improve our finances.  With our limited facilities, we are almost at a ceiling for commercial income that can reasonably be achieved.  The biggest variable, with the greatest scope, is gate receipts.  I know that if you are reading these notes inside the ground today, I am preaching to the converted.  However, to the wider audience online, we need the public of Cambridge as a whole to show in the next three months whether or not they really want a club in the Football League.  We need you NOW.

Today is another massive game.  Our recent result against our opponents this afternoon is fresh in our minds but the prize for winning this tie is greater than putting that right.  A Wembley cup final.  As always we will give everything but regardless of the result, we will conduct ourselves in the right manner.  Win with dignity; lose with dignity.

Keep believing.  If you create the atmosphere you did on Tuesday, it won't be long before you are leaving the ground with "coconuts" ringing in your ears again!

Jez        


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