Jez Says 15th March
Well, what an atmosphere! Tuesday was the sort of night we want to recreate on a regular basis at the R Costings Abbey Stadium. An attendance of over 6,000, great noise from our fans all evening, a game played at a tremendous tempo and a really good performance from our team. The only thing missing was the win but in the context of the season, for once I thought the manner of the performance meant just as much as the number of points we gained. Dave's vision of one club striving for success, united in endeavour, was evident for everyone to see and set standards on and off the pitch that we must all aim to produce on a regular basis. With our league position, a Wembley final and twelve league matches remaining, we have a real opportunity to create some momentum for the remainder of the season. The players know that starts again today but let me promise you that if you can generate the noise, intensity and unbelievable support that you gave us on Tuesday, it will help them immeasurably. We all have a role to play and yours is equally important to anyone else.
Today we also have great pleasure to welcome representatives of the Football Conference, who will be presenting our Trust with a grant for our community football programme. We are rightly proud of our excellence pathway for the most gifted and talented players through our academy and scholarship scheme, but we are equally proud of our development pyramid and the opportunities for players of all ages and abilities within our football community initiatives. We coach over 1500 players every week at various levels and run courses in school holidays with over 500 participants. In the last three years over 7000 children have attended an event run by our trust. That's an incredible number for a club of our size, 1000 more than our crowd on Tuesday. In any given week, 3000 kids benefit directly from coaching by the trust. That is roughly our average crowd. And our stated aim is that we will positively influence the lives of 10,000 youngsters each year. We will talk about how we plan to achieve that ambitious target later this month.
Our trust also backs national campaigns to provide positive messages and use our status as a professional football club in a responsible way. Earlier this season, every first team player visited a local primary school to support anti bullying week. Over 20 primary schools, with a total of approx. 5000 children, benefited from this message being delivered by professional footballers, who can provide such positive role models. We are proud of the type of people who represent this club, across every age group in our academy, our scholarship programme and the first team. We aim to be a hard working, humble, respectful and honest club. To do so, you need those qualities in your staff and players. Then, at every level, the club is represented in the correct manner and one that does justice to the badge and you, our supporters. The character of our players matters to us just as much as their quality. That is why the academy punches way above its weight, that is why our scholars can fly in the face of people's preconceived ideas of young footballers and that is why our first team players willingly make such a contribution to our community work. It is the ethos on which we have built the entire football operation over the last eight years, since it was almost entirely dismantled after relegation to this league. It is the ethos on which our trust was created. It is what will bring sustainable success.
My favourite Alex Ferguson quote is where he discusses what makes a football club. He talks about never being concerned over one first team result, because however good your team is, you can always lose a game. He talks about always striving to build a club, on the right values, from top to bottom because that will always override a single bad result. It will outlast dips in form, it will outlast any player and it will enable a club to be successful over a long period of time, rather than only in the short term. That is what we are aiming to achieve at Cambridge United and we are now some distance into this journey within our youth scheme, which is now in its eighth season, the first team and now the club as a whole.
There is a club AGM on Monday. Those events are usually dominated by financial results, figures and retrospective reporting. Looking backwards only tells half the story. I think that we should look forward. There can be real cause for optimism. We have committed directors, committed staff, committed players, committed volunteers and committed fans. As long as everyone keeps pulling in the same direction, that level of commitment will result in the club having a bright future.
This afternoon will be just as big a test as Tuesday. We all need to perform and create the same level of intensity.
This afternoon is also about respect though. It is our designated "kick it out" game and we have invited a number of groups, plus local mini league and colts clubs, to profile this fantastic campaign. This club believes in the message, which is that discrimination of any kind has no place in society. We wish to be seen as an inclusive football club that is welcoming to every cross section of the community. We also wish to offer opportunities through sport to all cross sections of the community. This vision will be implemented through our trust but represents the core values that I have already highlighted as being the bedrock of our club. You support your team but should always respect your opponent. You compete to the best of your ability but should always respect the game. The same should be applied to any situation.
However much we all want to win, we should never stray away from these ideals. That is why today is so important, and why it is so important that we support this campaign. Football is only a game but it can reinforce the qualities that are important in all walks of life. That is why for every 1000 players in our youth system, whilst maybe only a handful will become professional footballers, we believe that our role is also to help ensure that all 1000 will grow up to be good young people.
Enjoy the game.