An edited version of this article was published in the Cambridge United programme for the match against Accrington Stanley on 21 November 2015.
We’re aware at Coconuts Acres that we're sometimes guilty of focusing on the distant past of Cambridge United, at the expense of more recent history. In our defence, there are good reasons for that – the task of documenting earlier events is urgent, and we already have a satisfactory record of the recent past – but we sympathise with supporters who are eager to hear about their modern-day heroes.
That’s one reason good why we’re always delighted to welcome Danny Potter to the Abbey whether it's to field fans’ queries in a Q&A session or to pedal off on a marathon charity cycle ride. Another reason is that Danny is one of the nicest blokes you’ll ever meet, in football or any other sphere.
He was known, too, for getting opposition supporters on his side, and that was no accident. ‘I always try to get on with the other team’s fans in the first five minutes and then they stay off your back,’ he says.
At a time when many people bemoan the lack of ‘characters’ in the game, it’s refreshing to have someone like Danny around. But of course, he was a hell of a player too. His 138 games for the U’s between 2007 and 2010 are remembered for the reflex saves, the command of the area and communication with his defenders and the decisive, accurate distribution. No wonder he was selected for the England C team in 2008.
His career also covered the dramatic art – in 2002, he played himself in Sky TV's late, largely unlamented Dream Team series. He survived, unlike the many Harchester United characters who were bumped off in the declining years of the run.
Born in Ipswich in 1979, Danny started his football life at Stamford Bridge, playing in the same youth team as our own Rob Wolleaston, but the dream didn’t come true and he was released when he was 18. ‘When I started out at Chelsea I thought I’d made it,’ he observes, ‘but the easiest thing in the world is getting into a football club – the hardest thing is staying there.’
It wasn’t too hard leaving Weymouth, where he found himself after spells at Colchester, Exeter and Chelmsford. In 2003 the Terras couldn’t guarantee to pay him every week, so it was an easy decision to move to Canvey Island. He memorably bantered with U’s fans when we drew there in 2005.
Danny was on the move again in 2006, this time to Stevenage, but he was so eager to join Jimmy Quinn’s United in May 2007 that he stumped up the transfer fee himself – and he was an instant success in a mean defence.
After the disappointment of the 2008 play-off defeat, new boss Gary Brabin pooh-poohed a £15,000 Rushden bid for Danny, saying he would only consider bids over £75K. He was unchallenged as first-choice keeper during 2008/09 but his season again ended anti-climactically when injury forced him to miss the play-off final against Torquay. He had kept 17 clean league sheets that season, just as he had in 2007/08.
A shoulder injury in February 2010 kept Danny out for the rest of the season, and Martin Ling released him that summer. He moved on to Torquay and Newport before winding down his career with Staines, Leiston and Eastbourne Borough.
Now back in Suffolk, he’s always guaranteed a warm welcome from his friends and admirers at the Abbey when he makes the journey along the A14.