Clockwise from above: Ely Cathedral presides over proceedings in the Simon Dobbin charity match at Ely City's Unwin Ground on Sunday, May 14; Tom Youngs, coach of the Boughtwood-Eason All Stars, checks out his squad at the pre-match photograph; Paul Wanless, one of Potter's Pros, discovers that something's been eating his antique boots; Danny Potter leaves the field after a fully committed performance – his daughter Sienna proved more of a threat up front, frankly; the teams and the Dobbin family smile for the cameras.
Coconuts has nothing but praise for the organisers of and participants in Sunday's event aimed at raising money for Simon Dobbin and his family. The sun (mostly) shone on a cracking day during which at least £3,000 was raised, with more to come, and a great time was had by all.
Watched by Simon, his amazing wife Nicole and their daughter Emily, teams assembled by organisers Dave Boughtwood-Eason and Danny Potter fought out a win for one of the sides, or perhaps the other, by a scoreline approximating 7-4, or something.
Simon was brutally attacked by a mob of thugs on his way home from United's game at Southend in March 2015. In that attack he suffered injuries that have changed his life and the lives of his family. He is unable to do anything for himself, can't walk or sit independently, is fed through a tube and is cared for every hour of every day by Nicole. She hopes to be able to make necessary changes to their Mildenhall home, and every penny raised can help them achieve that aim.
Ex-U's and many other players – and more than 400 spectators – turned out in force for the game played on Ely City's Unwin Ground. Ely secretary Paul Jeffrey, a United prospect himself at one time, manned the gates as a steady procession of former and current pros passed through. They included Mark Albrighton, Tes Bramble, David Bridges, Jon Challinor, Jody Craddock, Liam Hughes, Michael Kyd, Rogan McGeorge, Tony Scully, Michael Shinn, Steve Slade and Paul Wanless. Even ex-Arsenal full back Nigel Winterburn turned out, and the game was reffed by former Prem official Mark Halsey. Wayne Hatswell was understandably detained elsewhere after thoroughly enjoying Josh Coulson's testimonial dinner the night before, but a fresh-looking Josh made it to Ely, along with dad Dave.
And Coconuts was able to recruit five new members for Cambridge United Former Players' Association: Messrs Bramble, Challinor, Craddock, Kyd and Scully. Shame be upon the Coconuts committee member who was humiliated at dartboard football (provided by Dan Chillingworth's Xtreme Soccer) by a three-year-old.
More of this kind of thing, please. Meanwhile, if you would like to donate to the Dobbo cause, go to Dave's crowdfunding page here. And keep an eye out for details of another fundraising game: United are arranging a pre-season game with Southend.
Some of the inaugural members of the Cambridge United Former Players' Association at the launch event in the Supporters' Club on Monday, July 4. From left: Tom Finney, Graham Daniels, Vic Phillips, Rodney Slack, Peter Bowstead, Peter Hobbs, Tom Youngs, Dan Gleeson, Steve Fallon, Peter Phillips, Jim White.
The first three inductees of the newly inaugurated Cambridge United Hall of Fame were honoured tonight by 100 Years of Coconuts.
At an award ceremony in the Supporters’ Club, presided over by United chairman Dave Doggett and fans’ elected director Dave Matthew-Jones, Russell Crane, Lil Harrison and Rodney Slack were inducted into the Hall of Fame.
The ceremony was watched by members of the Cambridge United Former Players’ Association, also launched tonight by Coconuts.
The Former Players’ Association has been set up with the aim of bringing the extended U’s family closer together, while the Hall of Fame recognises outstanding contributions to the development and history of the football club. Like Coconuts’ recently opened mini-museum, The Story of the U’s, the two initiatives have been made possible by a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.
The Hall of Fame inductees were chosen by Coconuts and CFU trust board members. In future, Coconuts will look to involve the entire U’s supporter base in the voting process.
At first the Hall of Fame will take the form of a website, but Coconuts and Cambridge United are looking at the possibility of a physical display within the Abbey Stadium.
‘We were very clear when we set out to launch the Hall of Fame that we didn’t just want to honour players,’ said Coconuts chair Pat Morgan.
‘Fans are just as important to any football club as players, directors, financial supporters and staff, and the first three inductees are a good indication of that.
‘Russell Crane was just as much a U’s supporter as he was a player. Lil Harrison was involved with the club before the first world war and was still going to games in the 1990s. Rodney Slack has the U’s in his blood despite being born near the other place [Peterborough].
‘As Russell told us, the club is a family affair, and you couldn’t find three more committed family members than these first inductees.’
Russell Crane (1926-2016) grew up in a U’s-mad household in Ditton Walk, opposite the United ground. He broke many club records during an 18-year career with Abbey and Cambridge United, and was still attending games as a guest of Coconuts as recently as last year.
Rodney Slack was born in 1940. Voted player of the year three times in his first five years as a U’s player, he was idolised by the fans and continues to live within a stone’s throw of the Abbey. He is a 100 Years of Coconuts committee member and chairman of the Former Players’ Association.
Lil Harrison (1904-1996) first saw Abbey United play at the age of ten. She went on to become a stalwart of the Supporters’ Club committee, raised countless thousands of pounds as the club rose through the leagues and came to exemplify the family spirit of the club.
The inaugural membership of the Cambridge United Former Players’ Association is around 100 – a number that is expected to grow fast in the coming months.
They range from ‘Tickle’ Sanderson, who first played for Abbey United in 1939, to more recent players like Liam Hughes and Coconuts patron Luke Chadwick.
CUFPA, chaired by Rodney Slack, is setting up a website and will keep members in touch with a quarterly newsletter. Occasional small-scale social events will be arranged and members are encouraged to contact each other via a password-protected members’ area on the website.
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I'm the living embodiment of the spirit of the U's, and I'll be blogging whenever I've got news for you, as long as I don't miss my tea.