The Coconuts chaps were talking the other day. They do a lot of that, and there’s usually tea and chocolate digestives involved; even doughnuts sometimes. This time, for a change, they were yakking about something important: Andrew Bennett’s brilliant book about the early history of our club, Newmarket Road Roughs.
It’s been selling really well, and if you haven’t got your copy yet, get along to the CFU caravan or online store before they’re all gone – just £14.99 to you.
Andrew spent thousands of hours researching at the Cambridgeshire Collection, but he was far from the first U’s fan to make use of that excellent resource. Long before 100 Years of Coconuts was a twinkle in Dave Matthew-Jones’s eye, the history of Cambridge United was being studied by Paul Daw, and the result was his trio of books: United in Endeavour (covering the period 1912 to 1988), On the Up (1988 to 1991) and First Team Match Statistics (1913 to 1991).
Paul it was who, while delving into the past with the help of people like Coconuts committee man Rodney Slack, discovered that Abbey United wasn’t founded in 1919, as many people believed, but in 1912. (Was it even earlier? Read Newmarket Road Roughs and make up your own mind.) Paul it was who undertook to publish this long overdue work himself, for the love of the game and United – a club he’d already served as secretary.
When he was appointed to the Abbey job in March 1984, Paul had been secretary of his great football love, Saffron Walden Town, since 1975. He’d also published his history of the Bloods and was enjoying a playing career with the club that saw him fill every position except that of goalkeeper. Only when he reached the age of 62 did he see fit to retire from the veterans’ team.
He has continued to serve his hometown club, as chairman and president, ever since. When Town were forced to play their home matches away following a disastrous pitch-levelling exercise, Paul took on the decade-long job of rebuilding the ground. No wonder they’re holding a testimonial match at Catons Lane on February 5, with the proceeds going towards the naming of the Paul Daw Stand.
When Ryan fell out with the Cambridge Evening News, Paul’s secretary, Mandy Castle, was recruited to deal with dear old Randall Butt. When the Thatcher government proposed identity cards as a means of crowd control, Paul pointed out that a significant proportion of United supporters attended only a few matches per season. ‘It’s going to cost supporters money somewhere along the line,’ he observed. ‘I don’t think the government are going to pay for it … I really think the government ought to put some money back into the game – or take out less than they are.’
Paul left the Abbey in December 1985, but his legacy endures to this day. Get along to the testimonial on February 5, and pay tribute to a remarkable bloke.