Cambridge United’s Stadium Manager Ian Darler has paid credit to the outstanding voluntary work this year, which has provided the Abbey Stadium with a new lease of life.
A special Christmas lunch was held by Darler, alongside his long serving colleague Mick Brown (Assistant Groundsman) and Fans Elected Director Dave Matthew-Jones in the 8build Lounge yesterday afternoon and saw all those involved across the year, including members of CFU, receive a thank you on behalf of the club.
Describing the huge contribution, Ian said: “The amount of activity that has been provided by the volunteers across the course of the year, both in terms of labour and products that they have donated to the club has been simply outstanding.
“The camaraderie between them all, I think I described it earlier in the year as being in the middle of both “Last of the Summer Wine” and “Dad’s Army”, but it’s matured to a point now where you can probably chuck in “Only Fools and Horses” as well!
“There is never a dull moment and the sheer enjoyment brought by some of these people, who a lot of them were retired and fossilising, has brought out a real change in their character as well as in mine.
“It’s been a win-win situation for the club, and I personally can’t thank them enough because it’s well noticed that the Abbey across the years is becoming a tired old lady and both Mick (Brown) and I were under pressure to maintain it in order to meet the correct safety certificates.
“But the discounted deals for supplies and the free labour has honestly helped to give the old girl a new lease of life.”
Discussing the specific areas in which the volunteers have made an immeasurable impact, Darler added: “We are quite fortunate that some of the guys and girls we have here, are talented with real technical skills.
“We’ve got a former employee of Marshalls who used to deal with planes at a top end spec, and the benefits of having him has been brilliant for some of the technical jobs that Mick and I used to have to do. We also have an expert in carpentry, plumbing and an electrician.
“We have expertise in maintenance that we can hand over when it comes to the smaller hands-on repair jobs. And then we have the army of painters, and it’s got to a point whereby if you stand still for long enough they’ll paint you as well!”
The long-serving groundsman admits as well as the positive impact made on the club physically, it’s also helped him personally to maintain his high enthusiasm levels to come to work in what is his 40th year with the U’s.
He said: “This has really turned the clock back 40 years for me!
“When I started at Cambridge United, I wondered what sort of place I had walked into at first. At 19 years old, walking into a club with blokes aged 50-70 and the stories they used to tell you to get you working really was an education but it was brilliant.
“And it’s the same now because the enjoyment that these people provide in terms of entertainment, and the goodwill factor has been amazing. It’s a shame the whole country isn’t like that, as it seems all doom and gloom in the news. But these people have really picked the place up for me, and regardless of what takes place on and off the pitch they crack on. They are a really important part of the team.”
And finally whilst he equally admires the input made by all involved, Ian singles out the work of Cambridge United’s very own Picasso in the form of Alan Burge for his contribution with a brush, literally all over the Abbey!
“We realised over the course of the 12 months that Alan will only paint in amber. The downside of that is that when you go around the ground now, you will see sploshes of amber paint on the floor, and he’s got a jacket that is now more amber than it was blue.
“So myself and Dave Matthew-Jones decided we would fix a vote for him to win an award, but the prize was that we put five litres of amber paint in a beer box. His little face lit up when he was given that at the volunteers dinner, thinking he’d got 24 beers but what he’d actually got was the amber paint which was obviously a contract for the next 12 months.”