Well what an emotional rollercoaster that was. A final day that sums up why we all love football - drama, nerves and finally relief. A Great Escape for the ages and one to match any Hollywood script...
Now we have all had a chance to breathe, I’d like to offer a few reflections on the season, give out some thank you’s and then write a little bit about the summer ahead.
First, a genuine thank you from myself, Mark and Adam to everyone involved with Cambridge United at every level and in every way.
I said after the Oxford game that it is when times are hardest that you have to show resilience, to fight and to stick together. That is what we have all done. Fans. Players. Brilliant volunteers. Loyal and committed sponsors. Talented staff who really care. A Foundation that goes from strength to strength. And a Board whose calm guidance and experience have been invaluable as ever. One Club, United In Endeavour with another season in League One to look forward to.
Hats off to the players and First Team staff. There is no sugar coating that this has been a very tough season at times on the pitch but in the end, doing it the hard way, the players got it over the line and I am sure they would be the first to credit Mark and all the staff for their hard work and leadership. Loyalty matters in football. It cuts both ways. And it can get its rewards.
The nature of the game means that not everyone will be here next year, as a number of the squad are out of contract, but my genuine best wishes to all who might move on over the summer for different reasons. They have all played their part in creating extraordinary memories for the Club over the last three years and will always be welcome back at the Abbey.
At the same time, along with securing our League One status on Sunday, we should not lose sight of the very significant progress by both the Academy and Women’s Team this season. Both have strong foundations that we can hopefully build on further in the coming years.
We also know that as a Club, we can always improve. There is a lot to learn from this season, which we need to review and discuss - from Owners and Board down. We will have a rigorous process to do that and be collectively stronger from the experience this season.
And a final thank you to you the fans who have been absolutely magnificent all season. Attendances have been significantly up - even in difficult times - which has been so encouraging, and the support has made a real difference when the team needed it most. We hope that many of you will either renew or buy Season Tickets when they go on sale next week.
We will have to make a modest increase to ticket prices for next year given the impact inflation has had on our running costs, but we will continue to invest to improve the Matchday experience for all, as we have done this year.
The big change off the pitch this summer will be at the training ground at Clare. We are working towards a new 30-year lease with the College and work on the new £3m building will begin this month, all being well.
We hope it will be finished by early autumn. In the meantime, we are doing a lot of work on the training pitches themselves and are grateful to Cambridge University Press who will be allowing us to use their changing facilities at the adjacent ground, whilst the work is taking place. We all see these new facilities as crucial to our long-term development as a sustainable football club and we will be releasing some design images to coincide with the start of works shortly.
On the Stadium front, we are continuing to discuss legal arrangements with the Supporters’ Club which we hope will be agreed shortly as a first step.
Off the pitch, I am also very pleased that we have set up a Shadow Board this season, uniting the different fan groups in one common forum. The benefits of this have already been shown in a number of ways this season - from consulting on fan behaviour policy to strategic improvements to the ground.
At the last meeting we sounded out thoughts on looking at the Club badge over the summer and whether it could be adapted or modernised, as this is consistent feedback we have received from potential sponsors in recent times. There was agreement that we should look at it without any commitment to change, recognising obviously the importance of getting the views and feedback of fans as part of any process.
We will say more about how we plan to take this forward over the summer and will publish the legal protections for Club assets through the Golden Share early next season. As a lifelong fan, I understand exactly what the Club badge means to so many and my promise to you is that if we do decide to make any changes, we will only do so with full consultation and broad consent.
Finally, my personal thanks to Mick George who after 10 years of brilliant support will make way for a new front of shirt sponsor next season. It has been a fantastic partnership and I am very pleased that they will still be involved with the Club going forward.
Thank you again for all your support. Enjoy the close season. Up the Us.