There has been inevitable media speculation in the last two weeks regarding our first team plans for next season. Let me be perfectly clear - we do not and will not discuss private contractual business in the public domain. It would be disrespectful to our staff and players. It lacks dignity. Our plans will be announced once the season has been completed and every issue under discussion has been resolved. Please do not read anything into the process. We are simply following best practice and acting in a professional manner.
One year ago to the day we were playing FC Halifax Town in the second leg of our play off semi final. A 2-0 win gave us another opportunity to gain promotion back to the Football League and, as we all recall so gratefully, it was mission accomplished at Wembley against Gateshead. We should also recall two other periods of time. Firstly, we had lost our previous five matches before those two crucial wins, without even scoring a goal. And secondly, does anyone remember the last three months of the previous season? I doubt it! We were scrambling for points to stay up. But after a summer of (mostly) shrewd recruitment, we started the following campaign with twelve straight home wins and sixteen games without defeat. That's football and the beauty of sport, particularly football. Things change quickly.
I will try not to repeat too many of the words that will be written elsewhere today but it would be wrong not to thank all of the players who have contributed so much to the club, some over 12 months and many over the last two years. Every facet of the football is geared around supporting the players because they will always be the defining factor for the success of every football club. You can have the best business plan, the best finances, the best commercial operation, the best academy, the best youth development scheme, the best community programme and the best supporters but ultimately, it all depends on what happens on the pitch. So whatever we have achieved over the last six months in enhancing our "off pitch" team and however much progress we make towards a sustainable, financially strong business, the efforts of the players in securing promotion to the Football League and a replay at Old Trafford has achieved funding that will now underpin the whole operation.
In my view, more importantly than anything has been the way this group of players have conducted themselves on and off the pitch. They really have bought into the ethos, values and culture of the club. That can be eroded when a large number of players arrive mid season, when the groups grows too big or when there is a reliance on loan players. When you can create and maintain a core of players that have been through a thorough recruitment process, then you have a chance of success. I am sure that, regardless of the result, you will show your appreciation to our players this afternoon. In doing so, and celebrating the achievements of the class of 2013/14/15, we should also remember the contributions of others no longer at the club such as our two goal hero twelve months ago today, Delano Sam-Yorke, and the likes of Luke Berry, Adam Cunnington, Tom Bonner and Kevin Roberts. Football is a transient industry. Players move on, teams evolve but fans remain. It is also appropriate, therefore, that our staff and players should show their appreciation to you for your incredible support throughout the season. At home, our attendances have surpassed all expectations. Away, your vocal backing has been sensational. Thank you.
The finances of the club, secured by the FA Cup run, give us the first chance in over a decade to make the right business decisions rather than simply fighting to survive. That means that you will see some changes and improvements to the facilities when you next visit the Abbey Stadium, hopefully in July. In addition, we are investing in the pitch, changing rooms and training ground. That will make a big difference to the football department moving forward.
The playing budget next season will be dictated by the strength of our business and the funds we can generate next season, not subsidised by last season's FA Cup windfall. That has been used for three purposes: eradicate the cash-flow deficit that has continued to put pressure on the business, improve facilities with some capital expenditure projects and lock some money away for the stadium redevelopment. News of that will follow shortly. As will the new kit launch.
The decision to scrap the early bird discounted season tickets was not one taken lightly but one that had to be made for the continued growth of the club. This price was set in March 2013 when we were in the Football Conference and desperate for money to cover a lack of funds over the summer. Both situations have now changed. In addition, we have frozen, or in some cases reduced, the full price of the season ticket, which discounts the advance match day prices by approximately 25% or the equivalent of six matches. We have also provided the facility to pay over five months rather than in one instalment at no extra cost. And finally, and perhaps most importantly, we remain one of the cheapest clubs to watch at home in this league, both for season ticket holders and walk up supporters. That is something that we will strive to maintain and continue to liaise with supporter groups, as we did extensively with CFU prior to this announcement. We appreciate your support and will never take it for granted. However, we also have a club to build so that we can bring to you the success we all want. That balance is the basis of every decision we make.
Before ending with a tribute to our opponents today, I would like to pay tribute to a real Cambridge United legend, Chris Turner. He served the club with distinction as a player and manager, being the architect of the team that was taken through the leagues by John Beck in the late eighties and early nineties. In both capacities, he epitomised the spirit, commitment, work ethic and loyalty that continues to underpin the values of our club more than twenty years later. We send Lynn and his family our condolences and I am sure that applause will reverberate around the stadium for the 60 seconds that we can show our appreciation of his contribution to Cambridge United. He was a great man, has played a massive part in our history and will be sorely missed.
Finally, I would like to congratulate Ben Robinson and his board, Jimmy Floyd Hasselbank and his staff, as well as the players and supporters of Burton Albion on their promotion to League One for the first time in their history. I watched the documentary on Sky Sports this week with interest. As well as Jimmy doing a tremendous job and with a fantastic management career ahead of him, the way in which Burton's success has been achieved resonates with our philosophy. They are the epitome of stability. Ben has been chairman for two spells totalling over 20 years and, in that time, he has appointed just a handful of managers. Since promotion to the Football League in 2008/09, they have gone from strength to strength each year, culminating in their fantastic achievement this season. They have our respect, admiration and sincere congratulations.
Enjoy the game, enjoy the break, keep the faith and 2015/16 can be another special season.