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9 August 2016


In tonight’s match day programme notes, Cambridge United CEO Jez George discusses the upcoming #FootballFamilyDay fundraising event for Shaun Whiter and Joey Abbs on Sunday 9th October.

Read Jez’s full programme column here and find out how you can support the event.

Tonight I have great pleasure in welcoming Joey Abbs to the Cambs Glass Stadium.  You will have read what happened to Joey, and his friend Shaun, last month.  Through no fault of their own, they both sustained terrible injuries in an incident where the perpetrator will now be dealt with in court.  In Shaun's case, they are life changing injuries.  From looking forward to a season with Newmarket Town and getting married to his fiancée, Charlotte, his life has been turned upside down.  His injuries were so severe that both his legs have been amputated at the knee.  I've had the privilege to meet Shaun now on a few occasions and the way in which he has handled the situation with such positivity is extremely humbling.  He is a class individual and an extremely determined young man.  I have no doubts whatsoever that he will walk down the aisle next summer, that he will use his disability in a positive way to help others and that he will compete in the 2020 Paralympics.  All three are targets that Shaun has spoken eloquently about.

Joey will be well known to all supporters and participants of local football.  He was about to embark on another season with Soham Town Rangers before this terrible incident occurred.  It is easy to forget that Joey has also sustained terrible injuries to his left leg and in a different way, for different reasons, he needs our support as much as Shaun.  The Abbs family are well known throughout local football through Joey's dad, Dave, and brother Mark, so it's fantastic to see the strength of feeling, unity and support that has emanated from their wider "football family".  It shows football at its best; a force for good.  And it shows what a strong community and camaraderie that exists within the "football family".  As in any family, at a time of difficulty for any individual, everyone else pulls together to help.  Joey is a great lad, who I am pleased to have been able to get to know in the last few weeks despite the regretful circumstances.  He is also a really talented player, whom I would liken in style to Chris Waddle, which is an appropriate comparison bearing in mind our opponents tonight.  Joey won't mind that comparison by the way!

You will have read our statements in the press about these two outstanding young men and Cambridge United's commitment to support them both.  In the future, that will take many guises.  In the short term, the most practical way in which we can help is raising as much money as possible for them.  And at the same time, by organising a big event that Shaun and Joey can both attend, it is another opportunity for a public display of solidarity within the world of local football.  It will give them both a focus and we want to make it a day they both remember.  That's why it's important that whilst we can galvanise support and use our position as the professional club in the city to host, organise and drive this event, we also need to recognise that it's not our day.  It's Shaun's and Joey's.

Therefore, it is very important that we involve the most pivotal local football clubs for them both and enable local players, friends of Shaun and Joey, to actively participate.  Hence the format of the day and the choice of clubs.  Cambridge City, Soham Town Rangers, Newmarket Town and Fulbourn Institute will all provide teams in a four team tournament with the aim of raising money and entertaining the crowd with some good football.  Most importantly though, it is local players being given the opportunity to help two local footballers.  Our job is to add value, create a family friendly environment including activities for kids, the opportunity for corporate fundraising within the Mundipharma Community Stand, the company for whom Joey works, and involve our players and staff.  And to fill the stadium!  Every penny raised will go to Shaun and Joey.  

I know from speaking to a number of our players and staff, that what happened to Shaun and Joey has struck a chord with everyone and has affected everyone.  Now we have the opportunity to positively affect the lives of Shaun and Joey by raising a huge amount of money.  Is filling the stadium too ambitious?  Not if you have seen the groundswell of support in the last few weeks, not just within the local football family, but the local community at large and the football family across the whole country.

You can support the event by buying a ticket online, or if you cannot attend on Sunday 9 October, please make a donation.  We will really ramp up the publicity around #FamilyFootballDay because it's important to everyone at Cambridge United and we will do everything we can to make it a big success.

Cambridge United prides itself on being a good neighbour, a massive asset to the community and in this situation, we want to lead the way in bringing the entire local football family together.

Back to this evening, and our opponents bring back memories for me of standing in the NRE and watching in almost disbelief as Sheffield Wednesday, including Chris Waddle, were dismantled 4-0 in the FA Cup.  That result is part of Cambridge United folklore.  Let's hope tonight can provide another memorable cup tie.

Enjoy the game.


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