Jez Says- 29th March
I am sure that everyone connected with Cambridge United who was at Wembley Stadium on Sunday will have felt a great pride in winning our first cup competition for almost half a century and the manner in which we won the FA Trophy. We won in style, playing some great football, but just as importantly, we were respectful, humble and behaved with dignity throughout. It was a day for the chairman and directors, all of whom either give their time and/or money to the club without any recompense except for the opportunity to enjoy once in a lifetime moments like Sunday. It was a day for the staff and players, who have all worked tremendously hard all season and really deserved the opportunity to showcase their skills at the national stadium and create memories that will live with them forever. And it was a day for you, our loyal and passionate fans. In some small way, it was a chance to repay some of the unstinting backing you have given the team this season and through the really tough times as we have tried to turn the club around in the last three years. For me personally, that was particularly in the last three months of 2010/11 as, with a team full of youngsters, we defied the odds to stay in this league. We all know that 2014 hasn't started as well as 2013 finished, but your support has risen to a new level and as the old saying goes, in adversity people show their true colours. Well you certainly have and without a doubt they have been black and amber! The pride you must have felt as Ian Miller lifted the cup in the Royal Box is a moment to savour and remember. As always, Richard is looking at further challenges ahead rather than basking in the win and stated that we must use the win as a springboard for promotion. He is right. We need to create momentum, hopefully a good number of the 11,000+ members of the amber nation can be enticed back on a weekly basis to the R Costings Abbey Stadium and we all know what the team needs to do. Promotion remains our aim and we now have the chance to use the FA Trophy to help us achieve that ultimate goal.
As I stood in the technical area during much of the celebrations it was a source of great pride for me to consider what has been achieved in the last three years. We are such a different club now compared to our last Wembley visit, there has been a massive culture shift in the boardroom and football department, progress has been made improving every facet of the club and we couldn't have a better group of professional players to represent our club and all of the youngsters within our development pyramid. We really do have some fantastic characters, who are brilliant role models and superb ambassadors for our club. Most importantly, Sunday showed how Cambridge United has the ability to make so many people happy and affect their lives in such a positive way.
We had been looking at ways in which we could raise funds for the trust over several months and you will by now hopefully have read or listened to our plans surrounding Mission 676.
This club can affect as many people with practical initiatives through sport, recreation and education in 2014/15 and beyond as were congregated in Wembley Stadium on Sunday. Think for a moment about those less fortunate than us. Think of those citizens within our community, within our city, who weren't able to enjoy those memorable scenes. Think about how we could help them.
Richard said Sunday could be a springboard for the club to win promotion. It can also be the springboard for the club, through our trust, to make a real difference to our community. We will be able to see something as tangible as the FA Trophy. It will be real lives that our football club can affect. And that is something that should make us just as proud as seeing our club winning silverware at Wembley.
Now is the moment. It is a once in a lifetime opportunity. We've just won a cup for the first time in 46 years and a national cup competition for the first time in our history. We hope to create even more history by returning to the Football League, emulating the achievement of 1970. Now we have to start making a real mark within our community.
The club can achieve just as much off the pitch. Over the last eight years, whilst we have been outside the Football League, we have run a youth system minus any funding. That equates to a total of over £2,000,000! Yet we play this country’s best academies every week, being the match for many, we participate in tournaments against Europe's elite, even winning some, and we had three hone grown players in our starting XI at Wembley. Remarkably, incredibly and almost ridiculously, this youth scheme has not only survived these eight years but it has grown and flourished. When we lost the play off finals in 2008 and 2009, I never imagined that we could have survived so long without promotion. When we did the last walk in 2010, I never imagined that we could have survived so long without the rules changing. But here we are in 2014, with neither yet to happen, and we are stronger now than ever. Financially, the youth scheme is now truly self-financing. It is a £600,000 turnover business that breaks even. It is a solid, financial model. No one outside our football club will understand how we've done it but we have earned the respect of Premier League clubs for not just running a proper youth scheme as a small club in the Football Conference with good players but in doing so against all the odds. It is a source of pride to us all that we can rub shoulders with the biggest clubs in this country at youth level. We are also proud of the way in which our players conduct themselves and develop as people who will play a full role in the community as they grow up into adults. It is why it is so important that our first team players are now excellent role models who buy into this culture. The whole football operation shares the same philosophy.
This is why we created the trust in 2011 - to deliver these core values into our community, at every conceivable level. In the last three years, the trust has ensured the development of our excellence pathway. But we want to do so much more. And now is the time to grab this opportunity.
But we need your help. I am doing the easy bit. I am going to visit all 18 English Premier League clubs, starting at Newcastle United the day after we play at Gateshead and finishing at Norwich City on the day of a Gala Fundraising Dinner. My challenge is to walk 26 marathons in 26 days. That's a total of 676 miles, more than 50% further than I have ever attempted previously. Your challenge is to raise as much money as possible. That will allow the trust to deliver as many charitable projects within the community in 2014/15 and beyond. The more money we raise, the more people we can help.
How can you raise money? Simple. Sponsor me £1p per mile. That is £6.76. If every fan at Wembley donated that amount, with gift aid applied to those funds, we would raise almost £100,000. Just think how many people we could help with those funds over 12 months. Obviously, anyone can sponsor me for more, but I would ask that not only could you donate £6.76 to help our club make a greater contribution within the local community but ask other people you know to do the same. This is not about football. It's not about our youth scheme. It's about Cambridge United, through our trust, achieving its aim of positively affecting the lives of over 10,000 people in 2014/15 and each year thereafter. That would be a real lasting legacy of our FA Trophy win.
In further notes, I will talk about other ways in which you can help and local companies who have given their support through their CSR commitment. However, we are absolutely delighted that our core sponsors and partners, Mick George Skips, ERMS, R Costings and Grosvenor, have all backed this project.
Dave Doggett has a vision for this club. It is that we are one, from top to bottom, all working together for a common purpose. The trust is simply the arm of the club that can implement this vision of Cambridge United being truly at the centre of our community.
2014 could be a pivotal year in our history. The FA Trophy has been won and we are still aiming to achieve the ultimate prize of promotion to the Football League. Then there is a potential planning application for the stadium and sporting village. Let's add to that a fundraising project that can exceed all expectations and raise sufficient funds to make our city proud of our club. We are in a powerful position. Wembley has created an economy of scale that we must utilise to make a difference for good. 11,000 x £6.76 plus 20% = £89,232. Please help make it happen.
Enjoy the game.