Jez Says - 25th October
I thought that I would use my notes today to promote some forthcoming events organised by CUFC in the coming months.
Next week are the school holidays. That means that our football and community operation goes into overdrive. The number of activities is incredible. Over 2000 youngsters will participate in football courses delivered by our coaches of organised by our staff.
On Monday we are hosting shadow squad games against Boston United Academy at every age group and a Community Match Morning at Comberton Village College. On Friday, the shadow squads host Southend United in every age group and we are staging a Community Match Morning at Bury St Edmunds.
On Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, we will have over 350 of our Regional Development Centre players participating in internal small sided matches at Witchford, Hinchingbrooke and Linton.
On Wednesday, Martin Davies and Will Norris are coaching over 50 budding young goalkeepers at Comberton Village College, whilst Marc Tracy has organised an U14 & U15 festival in the London SoccerDome.
All week we have a multi-sport course at Comberton Village College and soccer schools at Swavesey and Melbourn Village Colleges. The latter has a special guest star on Tuesday and Thursday afternoon, with Luke Chadwick taking a Masterclass, where he will be demonstrating and coaching his repertoire of skills.
Finally, if that isn't enough, our academy have a series of fixtures at various age groups and some of the older players will be fully utilising their week off school by training with the scholars.
It is fantastic when you look at the number of players involved. We have great plans for 2015 to expand our outreach even further, introduce some exciting new initiatives and opportunities for local youngsters and start to build a real structure for girls football. We hope to introduce the players in our new Girls Centre of Excellence to you at a game soon and we will be working tirelessly next year to develop a pathway that replicates the scheme in place for the boys.
Whilst we are talking about numbers, this weekend represents the end of our first term of work in schools, where we deliver PPA, after school clubs, lunchtime clubs and breakfast clubs as well as supporting the schools with a number of projects. Immediately after the October Half Term, we will be working in 47 local primary schools; an amazing number. That means that over 1000 children come into contact with CUFC during their school day every week. Luke Harradine continues he do an excellent job in developing this aspect of our business and really growing our reputation within schools. We will take that total to over 50 by the end of November. One way in which we have been able to achieve such a rapid increase is through funding we've received from the Football League Trust. Promotion doesn't only mean everything to the supporters, first team football department and the academy. It also provides a huge number of funding opportunities for the Community Trust.
And if that isn't enough, we are starting even younger now with boys and girls aged between 18 months and 5 years old at Soccer Tots that we hold every Saturday morning in Cambourne. Two new courses start in November, at Bottisham and Swavesey, with another planned in Melbourn.
Ashton Glass was featured a few weeks ago as our first Soccer Tot to progress into a Regional Development Centre and last Sunday, I watched in amazement as another 6 year old was playing for our U9 academy team!
Many of these youngsters will be attending a match at the R Costings Abbey Stadium for the first time, filling up half of the South Stand and that end of the Main Stand. They are the future; whether that will be as a supporter of player, and we need to give them as many opportunities as possible to enjoy live football. We want CUFC to be me their team. To that end, we have plans to expand these opportunities beyond our own players in 2015 that I will outline in future notes.
My job at the moment isn't to work our what needs changing; I know that. It's to work out how, and when. I totally subscribe to the "evolution" not "revolution" theory but equally, sometimes evolution needs to be accelerated.
We can't let the club stand still. There are many challenges, many things that we must do better and many ways in which we can improve the club. They will soon become evident as staff are appointed, processes are implemented and change becomes visible. I know the saying "Rome wasn't built in a day" but it doesn't say anything about it not being built in a few months!
Less words in this column will indicate the time pressures. The lack of comment on football will indicate the change in emphasis at the moment in my working week. But as we grow the structure, define roles and responsibilities, introduce processes and procedures, modernise, rationalise and start to create some momentum, I will be able to divide my time across the whole business. And the single most important part of the business is our football department.
Hence at the moment, still going to matches in the evening to watch potential signings for January or next summer, occasionally going further afield for the same purpose and making sure that I'm in constant contact with Ben and Richard. The next few weeks is also pivotal for the academy with their performance plan due to be submitted to the Football League next month and an audit to come in December. We couldn't have a better man leading the process and Mark will be the first to say that he couldn't have a better staff to support him.
Finally, if you are ever feeling a bit fed up or stressed, I have found the perfect antidote for you. Just spend an hour at Clare College Sports Ground, Bentley Road, Cambridge, CB2 8AW on a Sunday morning from 11am. You will see a group of talented, respectful, hard working, technically brilliant and humble youngsters, with a massive smile on their faces, playing football with a freedom, intensity, maturity and skill that makes it a pleasure to watch. And gives you real encouragement for the future and pride in our club. That hasn't been created overnight. But when you think how far we've come in eight years, against all the odds, it shows that anything can be achieved with enough desire, determination and drive, as long as everyone believes in the vision. It is up to us to articulate that vision to you as often as possible in the months and years ahead regarding every aspect of the club, not just the academy. We will.
"United in Endeavour" is on every one of the 700+ pages in our academy performance plan. It defines the academy and defines our club.
Finally, a plug for a forthcoming fixture against Norwich City's U21's on Tuesday 11th November, 7pm kick off, at the R Costings Abbey Stadium. We have organised a series of fixtures for our best young players to have the opportunity of playing against top opposition and against some of the best players in their position for their age in the country. It is also important, now the youth team play at the training ground, and the development team usually do likewise, for our youngsters to experience playing under lights, in our stadium and in front of a crowd. It's crucial for their development. We can sort out the opposition, the lights and the stadium. We need some help with the crowd! We must do better than 62, the number of paying spectators against Crystal Palace. If you ask them, they'll tell you that it was a great spectacle and how well our young players competed in a 1-1 draw. And you will always get the odd star player from the opposition. For example, Andy Johnson gave our defenders a great education with his knowledge and movement. I'll tell you what... For Norwich, we will make the admission price "pay what you want". All money to the trust, watch a brilliant game for whatever you think it's worth! We might even let you make the decision on the way out!
Enjoy today's game. Then see you on the 11th.