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14 March 2015

Jez Says 14th March

The moment that directors, staff, players and fans shared together last Saturday at around 4.55pm summed up what football means to people and what football does to people.  It was just a goal, just a point.  But everyone knew what it meant and what it symbolised.  There is no other industry where a single moment can unite people so spectacularly and create such emotion.  The previous Tuesday was the other end of the spectrum but to appreciate the highs, you have to handle the lows.  It is easy to support anything when it's successful, when it's going well.  The real test comes when there is adversity, when things get tough.  That's when everyone shows their true colours.  

Well, on Saturday, our fans outperformed even their recent level of support.  The empathy in the stadium for our players since the Manchester United match has been even more incredible than the atmosphere that night.  Real support.  The second half at Shrewsbury reached new heights.  It was a refusal to give up, a defiance against the odds, a resilience and relentlessness for the club that transferred onto the pitch and dragged the players forward, despite no reward for attack after attack, corner after corner, chance after chance.  Everyone's reward came in the last few seconds of stoppage time.  It was celebrated wildly in the directors box, in the technical area, on the pitch and in the stand.  Cambridge UNITED.  Richard assembled the players in a huddle in front of the supporters after the final whistle before the staff and players paid tribute to our loyal fans.  We all appreciate the fortunate position that life within football brings.  We are paid to do something we love.  We also appreciate the huge responsibility that it brings in representing a group of supporters, a club, a city.  We do so with great pride and we know that we've been a source of great pride to everyone involved with CUFC over the last twenty months in particular.  But even last season there were testing times that we came through.  We went into the play-offs on the back of four straight losses.  But everyone kept believing and stayed together.  We need to put right a few home results in the next four days and reward your patience.  It started on Saturday; we will do everything we can to carry that on this afternoon and Tuesday.  Then, if we can finish the season in the right way, we can look at our first season back in the Football League with some satisfaction, many lessons learnt, better for the experience and be ready to progress again.

We also appreciate that watching football is not cheap, especially taking into account travel, overnight accommodation, food and drink.  That can erode budgets for other essential day to day expenditure.  Therefore, we have been working with a company to try to find a method of saving money for fans in their everyday lives as well as specifically when they are supporting CUFC.  We are also always looking at ways in which we can engage with fans and work together for the benefit of the club.  We feel that a scheme that we launching today does just that.  Details about Fan Offers can be found on the website, in the programme, around the stadium and in the local press.  We will also be sending details to every supporter on our database.  Please take the time to find out about it.  Not only will it save you money, but if a high percentage of our support base were to participate, then it would be a "game changer" in terms of an income generator for the club.

Talking about fan participation, then you had to be here on Sunday to appreciate how good an atmosphere was created for the Varsity Football Match.  There were over 1350 spectators in the Main Stand, the lyrics of some songs would have even made a few in the NRE blush, the antipathy between the two great seats of learning was occasionally interspersed with some good humour but the noise and excitement remained constant throughout the afternoon.  Oxford won on penalties.  Last year it had been Cambridge by the same method of victory.  The last time the game was played at the R Costings Abbey Stadium, the Dark Blues also prevailed after spot kicks decided the result.  However, more importantly, both sets of players produced a fast paced, entertaining, committed and hard fought contest.  

This is the second season that we have been involved with the Cambridge University team.  We are really proud of this association and we were equally proud to host such a prestigious fixture, with distinguished guests such as the Vice Chancellor of the University.  But almost more importantly, I was really proud of the team.  They performed above their level in the first half and showed huge character, determination, endeavour and skill to almost take the prize.  But in some ways, the result of a penalty shoot out was irrelevant.  The team had lost nine players from the previous season and subsequently they had lost every game in a league that had become the wrong level for the standard of their team.  Where the likes of Bath, Loughborough, Cardiff etc recruit sportsmen, Cambridge recruit academics.  Some are good at football.  Occasionally, through good fortune, they form a group that punch way above their weight.  That's what had happened over the last few years, culminating in promotion to the highest national level of university football and multiple Varsity victories.  This season has been about transition, and losing.  But they were not losers on Sunday.  In any match, if you compete then three results are possible.  If you don't compete, only one result is inevitable.  They competed, they did themselves, their families, their university and our city proud.  And, as one of the more observant players noted, it didn't say winners or losers on the medals!

Professional sport is about winning.  But sport is about competing.  That is what we instil into all our young players and the thousands of youngsters who participate every year in sporting activities organised by the club and our community trust.  Sport teaches so many life skills.  It encourages so many good qualities and it helps to create a healthy lifestyle.  In the next few weeks we will show the value of professional football within our community through our Kick it Out Campaign, a Healthy Eating Campaign and an expanded youth development programme which will eventually encompass courses for boys and girls, from 18 months to 16 years old, at 15 venues throughout Cambridge and the surrounding area.

We are proud that our football club adopts this philosophy at every level, from the chairman down.  Our players fully participate in every community initiative and while stories rarely hit the press, such as our scholars regularly visiting care homes, old peoples homes and night shelters, these activities have become part of the fabric of our club.

Finally, we held a shareholders meeting on Monday which I am sure will have been well documented and discussed on message boards.  I will give you my summary on Tuesday.

Enjoy the game.


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