Last Saturday, around 5.15pm, I made my way down to the tunnel area to see Shaun. I hadn't seen him before the game because despite leaving home at 8am, I had arrived at the stadium five minutes before kick-off and took my seat as the game kicked off. Almost seven hours of navigating an array of abandoned vehicles on the M25, M4 and M5.
So, its 5.15pm. We've lost, we are bottom of the league with no wins in seven games and just three points. And the music blaring out from the Plymouth dressing room? "Things can only get better". Laugh or cry? The definition of irony? Knowing footballers, probably not! So, let's put it down to unfortunate coincidence. But, it perfectly summed up my day and our situation.
Five hours on the way home, interspersed with phone calls to the most trusted absentees, and that feeling changes somewhat to "things will get better" and Shaun's words to me, "we have to make things get better". And that's the point. We've put ourselves in a position that no-one associated, in any capacity, with Cambridge United wants to be in. Only the people capable associated with Cambridge United can do anything about it. No-one else will help us.
The good news is that we can. This group of players, led by this group of staff, can win football matches in League Two. Everyone knows their responsibility. It is our collective responsibility to win football matches for you, our supporters. That's professional football. And whilst now is not the time to point fingers or abdicate our responsibility, however big or small, it is the time for every one of us to play our part. The players know their responsibility but they will be hurting more than any of us at the moment. They are the ones privileged to represent the club, our supporters, and are paid to win football matches for Cambridge United. Being a professional footballer is a privileged job, a fantastic lifestyle and the dream of almost every boy growing up. But for those of us who have never crossed the white line and had to perform in front of the public glare, they should also have our massive respect. They have mine. And they need our support. They have mine.
Let's remember, players are not robots. They are human beings. Young men who are desperate to win, desperate to do well, desperate to make you and their families proud. They don't need us when they are winning and full of confidence. Of course we will cheer goals and wins. But when they really need us, and that's every single one of us, is now. When we haven't won. When we need a win. So let's all play our part. We all want "them" to perform this afternoon but as soon as we use that word, we are abdicating our own responsibility to support them, in every way possible. So the narrative should be "we" have to perform. Then we all take responsibility for the outcome. And if we create a partisan, supportive environment for our players and a noisy, intimidating atmosphere for our visitors, it will make the result we all want so much more likely.
This isn't a criticism. Our support is superb. But it is saying that while we will all demand a big performance from the players today, we should be challenging ourselves for a big performance as well. The loudest, most positive, best, hardest working, most committed effort we can muster. Everything we want the players to give us, let's give them. That connection will get us out of this situation and if that can become an unbreakable bond, it will take us onto even greater things.
Everything might go perfectly, but it might not. We might score the first goal, but we might not. Let's not rely on something we can't control to decide how loud, how supportive, how positive we will be. Let's control that ourselves so we make it happen, regardless of what happens in the game. The reason we are all here, and the reason you all pay your money every week, is that we all love Cambridge United. And today is all about Cambridge United and only about Cambridge United. It's not about individual preferences we might have for any player, it's about showing absolute, unconditional support from the minute these players get on the pitch for the warm up until the second the final whistle is blown. You can help decide the music that is played on the tannoy after the game and we, the non-football staff, can lead that process to show Shaun, the staff and the players our support, belief and faith this week. We have and we will continue to do so.
Dave Doggett, our Chairman, is a brilliant example to us all. He's a fan who's the Chairman, not a Chairman who says he's a fan. But in both roles he comes into his own when things get tough. He's always positive, always optimistic, always supportive. And he never forgets that to get the best out of anyone, it's usually through encouragement.
Finally, two important things to highlight. One is Grosvenor's planning application for Trumpington that will facilitate the development of this stadium. I cannot stress enough the importance of every single person associated with Cambridge United in this process. Please check your emails, the website and the local press over the next few weeks and take the time required to positively affect this outcome. Again, we all have a responsibility, however big or small, to make this happen. It will define our future. This is the moment to galvanise support.
And last but not least, I would like to congratulate Louie Rolph on his incredible achievements at the Paralympics in Rio. On Sunday, his family and friends watched him and two team-mates break the world record (twice) and win gold in the team cycling sprint at a specially organized event in the Cambs Glass Lounge. Louie has Cerebral Palsy and his achievement should be an inspiration to us all. It was a privilege that our club, through the initiative of his physio Richard Luddington, should host this event and that I could enjoy this special moment with his family and friends at Cambridge United. Louie lives on Newmarket Road. This is about community. That's what our club is all about.
If you knew the challenges that Louie has faced and overcome to achieve this incredible feat, it puts into perspective our challenge of winning a football match with so many talented players.
Let's face the challenge before us right now with courage and unity, let's use all our energy to support our football club and our players, and let's enjoy the emotional rollercoaster. Mad isn't it, but that's why we love football!
United in Endeavour,