Simon Court reports from The Blues' tour to Pinatar & La Manga
The Blues set off from Gatwick to southern Spain last week as they looked ahead to a season defining Lent term. Currently sitting in the relegation zone of the BUCS Premiership South but with four league games left to play, in addition to Cup ties and the big one against Oxford, the light Blues still have it all to play for. With the tour already having a much sharper professional focus in recent years, CUAFC stepped it up again with the addition of Cambridge United’s Director of Football, Jez George, who generously left the Us at the extremely busy New Year period to coach the Blues.
Jez’s presence meant that CUAFC continued to benefit immensely from their newly established partnership with Cambridge United. With former coach Che Wilson departing at the end of last season, leaving a sizeable hole to fill, the committee worked hard over the summer to bring Jez onboard.
His experience in coaching, management and directing alongside his passion for football and determination to achieve results has given CUAFC a chance of staying up in an extremely competitive league. The partnership with CUFC has the club not only indebted to Jez but a number of other individuals, not least Matt Joseph whose ability on the training ground has produced dividends on the pitch for both the Blues and the Falcons, and Graham Daniels whose powers of persuasion helped kick-start the relationship. The commitment that Jez and co have shown to CUAFC is emblematic of the role that Cambridge United has within the city’s wider community and the club’s desire to have a broad positive football based impact, through the thriving Youth and Community Trust.
The first stop on tour was the recently completed Pinatar Arena, where the Blues were able to exploit the excellent facilities alongside Belgian Pro League teams Cercle Brugge KSV and KV Mechelen, in addition to the German Bundesliga side TSG 1899 Hoffenheim. In their first game against Pinatar FC the light Blues looked a little rusty after the long Christmas break, dying away in the latter stages of the game to lose 3-0. However, there was plenty of promise for the rest of the tour, particularly with the arrival of Jez George and his assistant, the ex-Blues striker Danny Kerrigan. With ‘ice baths’ enforced by Fit Again Sports Therapy physio, Rich Luddington, and a specially constructed diet plan issued by Jez, the squad slotted seamlessly into the professional atmosphere at the next stop, the famous La Manga Club. Here the Blues were privileged to able to watch and train alongside Standard Liege, European giants Borussia Dortmund and the German U17s.
One of the most significant elements that Jez has brought to the team this year has been his tactical coaching and using the La Manga facilities to great affect the Blues were able to take a lot of his experience and wisdom on board in a short space of time. Shape and organisation has become of fundamental importance to having a successful season and building a platform to allow the match winners within the squad to positively affect games. Jez and Danny were able to identify and provide solutions to areas of weakness defensively as well as providing patterns of play to help the squad in more advanced areas of the pitch. In the final match of the season the Blues came up against weak opposition but were able to use the match to implement the principles established by the coaches throughout the week coming out with a clean sheet in an 8-0 win.
Cambridge University Association Football Club would like to take this opportunity to express their gratitude to Jez for his continued commitment and hope that it is the beginnings of a longstanding and mutually beneficial relationship with Cambridge United Football Club.