Ahead of tonight’s match with Lincoln City at the Abbey Stadium, you can read Jez George’s message within tonight’s match day programme in advance here.
As Paul announced earlier today, after almost 12 years in four different roles - Head of Youth, First Team Manager, Director of Football and CEO - and after much soul searching, I believe the time is right for me to step down from my latest all-consuming role and leave Cambridge United.
I do so confident in the future of Cambridge United as I know the Club is a very different place to the one I joined more than a decade ago. I am very proud of the small part I have helped to play in this transformation, along with countless others.
Football is obviously all about results. We can sometimes forget both the challenging times in the Conference and also the success on the pitch in recent years. We are now established back in the Football League and can be ambitious for the future.
The cornerstone of Cambridge United though over our recent history has, of course, been the generosity of a small number of individuals who effectively bankrolled the Club through the tough times outside the Football League to help us get to this point. Without Paul Barry, Dave Doggett, Renford Sargent, Eddie Clark, Terry Baker - and of course CFU - we would not be here.
I understand some people may ask 'why leave now?'. You could argue there is never a "right" time, especially after more than 11 years. But, just as when I decided unilaterally to step down as First Team Manager, to hand over the reins to Richard Money (with some effect!), I know that it is the right time for me and the Club. With Dave Doggett's departure, it feels like the end of one chapter and with Paul Barry becoming the outright owner, it feels like the start of another. I have known Paul for a long time. He has black and amber in his blood and the Club could not be in better hands going forward.
The last few months have been difficult for me personally in coming to this decision. In truth, I have been considering whether the time had come to step down from my latest role for a while. 12 years in any job is a long time for anyone but especially in football.
The Club also has a very talented, hardworking and motivated team of staff who will help carry the work forward day to day. Key staff in senior roles have been embedded in the Club over the last twelve months, which has also been crucial in the timing of my decision.
I knew on my return from Australia that it was the right thing to do for all parties. I felt that it was also right to be respectful to Paul, and the Club, in waiting to make any public comment until his takeover was completed. The future of the Club under his leadership and ownership is obviously what matters most.
I have always tried to do my best, I will always love Cambridge United and I will always help the Club in any way I can in the future.
Finally, a few words of thanks - to Dave Doggett for giving me the opportunity to become CEO in October 2014 and his backing throughout his time at the Club, to the Board for their advice and guidance, to the players (past & present) for their professionalism and commitment, to all the current and previous staff for their friendship and dedication, and to the fans for their loyalty and support through thick and thin. I would also like to thank a number of people who have been the source of constant personal encouragement for me. They know who they are. And a special mention for Tom Pell, who joined the Club with me all those years ago and continues to develop our young players, now with the Youth Team.
And I also want to highlight a few more individuals if I may.
Three players who have left Cambridge United this season have played a massive part in my time at the Club, and I thank them for everything. Josh Coulson, Will Norris and Luke Berry are all top class, players and people. Josh and Will have already been back to the Club. But Luke also deserves everyone's respect for what he gave to Cambridge United, from an 18 year old saving the Club from relegation when we were struggling in the Conference, to so many memorable moments and crucial goals. I hope that will be acknowledged on 3rd March, when he returns to the Abbey Stadium, where he covered literally every blade of grass, so many times over, with such aplomb. He deserves it.
I must also mention two current players; Harrison Dunk and Greg Taylor. If the Club pays a transfer fee for another thousand players, they will never get as much value for money as we've had from "H". We signed him from Bromley in 2011, on the recommendation of a scout called Steve Carpenter, and quite simply he's been a great asset to CUFC; a brilliant player and a brilliant lad. Ridiculously brave and committed. Ditto Greg Taylor. Unbelievably professional and resilient, a fantastic character who continues to give everything for the Club, in a variety of positions, having overcome numerous set-backs and challenges. He is priceless. They were also both part of that magical squad, with so many other players to remember with fondness, that won twice at Wembley and took Manchester United back to Old Trafford.
Finally, there are some unsung heroes, talented and valued colleagues that I have worked with closely over such an extended period. So, a big thank you to Mark Bonner, Matt Walker, Marc Tracy, Ben Strang, Jonny Martin, Jake Hammond & Gareth Daniels for their incredible work ethic and loyalty over five+ years.
But the biggest unsung hero of them all is someone that no-one will know; Nigel Hurrell, part-time Academy coach for 12+ years, but so much more than that. He has worked thousands of hours, driven thousands of miles, coached thousands of sessions and matches, helped hundreds of young players and made scores of staff smile, laugh and cry with laughter. He always does anything asked of him, drives anywhere, coaches any age group and during the wilderness years of the Conference, did as much as anyone to keep the Academy alive. So, a massive thank you, 'Old Partner'!
It has been a genuine privilege to have served Cambridge United over the last 12 years. We have had our ups and downs - and there will no doubt be many more in the future - but we have got to this point by sticking together, by putting the Club first above everything else, and staying united and living our motto, "United in Endeavour". I know we will continue to do that in the future, which can be brighter still for this great Club.
The match day programme will be available around the ground for £3, with tickets available online at cufcdirect.com, or from the ticket office right up to kick off.