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JEZ SAYS

7 November 2015

Programme Notes: Chief Executive Jez Says

Richard Money was trending on twitter this week, such was the interest in the announcement made on Monday and the achievements during his time at the club.  Richard will rightly have a special place in the club's history.  He led the club back into the Football League, overachieving with a shrewdly assembled squad, for which Ben Strang's contribution should also be remembered.  The FA Trophy victory at Wembley, our first ever national cup win, was memorable enough until it was eclipsed by our return visit and that game changing win against Gateshead.  So many of Richard's team selections that season came off, so many decisions worked; in every big game, he seemed to have the Midas touch.  However, the contribution of the coaching staff around him should not be overlooked.  A framed picture of these staff, taken into the dressing room at Wembley while Richard was busy fulfilling his press commitments, was presented to Greg Reid at his final game of his own illustrious career at Cambridge United last Friday.  

It's a reminder of the team behind the team and the team behind Richard.  I was honoured to be photographed alongside Greg, Boudj Boukersi, Guy Watts, Alan Neilson, Matt Walker and Martin Davies, all men who put their heart and soul into the club. 

Richard was rightly acclaimed this week, but those in the background, some of whom have left the club, also deserve a mention when those achievements are placed in the annals of the club's history.  For example, the club doctor, Boudj, taking time off work (unpaid) to administer injections for a couple of players to get them through the first leg of the semi-final at Halifax.  Our GK coach, Martin Davies, working with six different goalkeepers that year - from Chris Maxwell, to Jason Brown, to John Sullivan, to Benji Siegrist, to Will Norris, to Adam Smith, and helping them all keep clean sheets.  And everyone's role in helping us to change the decision of the Football Conference to sign a goalkeeper on loan after the deadline.  And Matt Walker brilliantly handling the ridiculously long two week gap between the semi-final second leg and the final to ensure the players were all going into the final with the right balance of work and rest.  That was crucial on a hot day, on the lush Wembley turf, against an expansive team who aimed to dominate possession.  Not one of our players went down with cramp - a real testimony to Matt's ability and the application of his knowledge. 

That game will be remembered for the goals immediately after half time, Ian's injury and the heroic defending to maintain the lead and see out the game.  But I will remember it for Richard's bold decision to start with a back three, so that we could match them with three in midfield and still play two up front.  I will also remember it for his decision at half time to make a substitution, change to a 4-4-1-1 and playing Ryan in the "hole".  Before the opposition had been able to react, we were 2-0 up and the game was ours.  But I will also remember the contribution of the unsung team in the background.

Another of those teams in the background are our board of directors.  At that time, and certainly in the twelve months previously, without them all putting their hands in their pockets on numerous occasions and underwriting losses, we wouldn't have been a football club, let alone one at Wembley.  Without Dave mobilising a legion of volunteers so tirelessly and so brilliantly off the pitch, we wouldn't have been able to invest any reasonable resource onto the team to even make promotion a possibility.  We could only overachieve because the budget was competitive.  If it had continued at the levels of the two previous years, we simply could not have signed the players that catapulted the club back into the Football League.

One change that we made in 2012, on Richard's arrival, was to structure the football department differently so that he was the only incoming appointment as Head Coach and the support staff were all in situ and would remain beyond the Head Coach's tenure.  Nothing changed in this respect when the structure altered in October last year and Richard's role formally changed to that of Football Manager in May this year.  Therefore, whereas previously (pre 2011), the entire staff left with a manager and complete instability ensued, the entire staff just continue doing their jobs.  That means we don't lose our recruitment information, our analysis data, our sports science provision or our scouting networks.  We only lose one man.  So our team of staff, led by Joe for this week in training and today's game, and also comprising of Mark Bonner, Matt Walker, Boudj Bourkersi, Martin Davies, Marc Tracy, James Clark-Reed, Will Stenner and George Buckley, remains intact.

And that's Cambridge United; a team.  Beyond the parameters of the first team, that philosophy is prevalent everywhere.  And having been so effectively instigated by Dave, the entire club is now truly a team, encompassing directors, staff, players and supporters.  We now meet regularly with CFU, the Supporters Club and the Endeavour Club to ensure meaningful dialogue and a greater understanding of our future plans.  We are unique in that our club and trust are inextricably linked so that we maximise resource to deliver the best possible programme of youth and community activities to the citizens of our city and surrounding areas.  Danny Kerrigan, our Trust Manager, is fully integrated in the club and Graham Daniels, our Trust Chairman, sits on the club board.  Every strand of this club works together.

Even when ball 30 was drawn out after ball 28 last January, the result off the pitch preceded the result on the pitch, because we ensured that revenue was maximised through innovative ticketing schemes, commercial opportunities and hospitality, without resorting to charging extortionate prices to watch the game.  This commercial operation was led brilliantly by Liz Slack, on only her first week at the club, and her team are now taking our commercial operation, particularly conferencing, hospitality and functions, to a new level.  And they would be the first to admit that it's only possible through improved facilities.  And revolutionising these rooms was only possible because of the building project coordinated and managed by Dave and Colin, but involving a plethora of contractors and suppliers, all playing their part in helping the club.

And that's Cambridge United.  From our humble beginnings, through the hardest times and in moments of real triumph, we will always be United in Endeavour.

Quite rightly the early part of this week was devoted to paying tribute to the man who led the players to the notable successes of the last three years.  Then, quite rightly we've refused to comment on anything other than supporting our fantastic team of coaching staff to prepare the most important team at the club for today's game; our first team.  And I know that you will support the staff and players even more vociferously today than usual because you will recognise that you're even more important today than at any stage of the season to date.

Next week will be the right time to talk about what comes next.  All we can say now is that we will ensure a thorough, professional and rigorous process is completed in a timely manner.  Today is about paying our respect to Richard but to also highlight the talent, the hard working and committed talent, that remains at the club on and off the pitch.

And finally, talking about the future, congratulations to our youth team on their progress through the first round of the FA Youth Cup on Wednesday against Hayes & Yeading.  They will now meet Stevenage in the next round, again at the Abbey Stadium.  My highlight of the evening wasn't something that would have been obvious to the spectators.  It wasn't Jordan Brown's hat-trick but a substitute appearance by Josh Burniston, his first minutes on the pitch since after thankfully escaping a car accident with no more than injuries, which prevented him from playing football for five months.  His attitude, hard work and perseverance have ensured that he's returned as quickly as possible and come back mentally stronger from an unwanted set-back.  I have great respect for him and his positive mindset.

Thank you again for your magnificent support this season.  But the last word is for Richard Money: thank you again for everything you achieved with our football club over the last three years.

 

Jez   

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