This is an edited version of an article that appeared in the November 2017 issue of Amber News. With those puzzled by the introduction of a bridge motif on United away shirts in mind, Andy Fox, our resident badge and shirt expert – you might almost think of him as the Coconuts badger – tells the story of the classic United emblem and argues for a return to our roots.
My dad used to say we had a proper badge once. And he was right.
Here’s a short history lesson. (Sorry if that sounds patronising; I know a lot of you have graced this earth and supported United a lot longer than me.)
The pics reproduced here show our original badge … well, more or less. Let me explain.
Despite becoming Cambridge United in 1951, rendering the old ‘AU’ motif redundant, we didn’t have a badge until someone came up with this idea. It was designed and created in 1963, in time for the cover of the 1963/64 programme, and remained there until the late 1960s.
It’s incredible to think that we have never worn this badge on a shirt. OK, yes, there was a hybridised version on the yellow (eek!) and black quarter shirts between 1996 and 1998, when kit supplier Patrick went through one of its retro phases.
It’s equally astounding to note that U’s players didn’t wear a badge on their shirts from 1951 to 1974, full stop.
Twenty-three years and no badge on the shirt … that’s weird, even allowing for the spell in the 60s when badges on shirts became rather passé. Did no one question it? Dad?
The images show us the coat of arms of the city of Cambridge adorning a shield. This will be familiar if you’ve ever jumped in a cab outside the station or clocked the design above the entrance to the Guildhall.
The CUFC monogram needs no explanation. Did Carlisle and Colchester exist then?
The original badge (shown on the programme bottom right) featured two smaller shields, to the left and the right. On the left was the motif of the Cambridge & District Sportsmen’s Guild, a fundraising outfit formed in the early 1960s and based at the Supporters’ Club. To the right was the badge of the Supporters’ Club itself.
Come 1971, these emblems had disappeared from the badge – evidence perhaps of less than harmonious relations between various parties. Some may say those differences remain to this day, although the Guild was dissolved many years ago.
Moving down, we see the ‘Abbey’ construction, paying homage, folklore tells us, to the Abbey Church (the Church of St Andrew, to give it its full name) on Newmarket Road. This should need no clarification: it gives its name to the district that I and CUFC inhabit, to the city council ward, to the parish of St Andrew the Less and apparently to a little sporting institution that commenced proceedings in 1912.
The ball, the goal and the verdant turf remind us what sport we’re talking about.
Finally, we have the scroll at the bottom emblazoned with United In Endeavour, the club’s (un)official motto – as much CUFC as black and amber, Coconuts, Harry Habbin, Corona soft drinks and Ian Darler.
It was coined in the 1960s, when so many volunteers, unified in their hard work, contributed so much to the construction of the Abbey Stadium, particularly the Habbin Stand.
I mentioned 1971 above. That was the last time we saw this badge (minus the two shields) in any way representing Cambridge United.
Decent as it was to see it on the cover of every home programme during the 1971/72 season, one cannot help but view this as a rather ignominious exit for such a glorious creation.
Come the start of the 1972/73 season, the ‘book and ball’ badge was on its way, finding itself on the shirt front at the beginning of 1974/75. Only United could take two seasons to get a new badge from the programme cover on to the shirt – more weirdness.
And now I look at our current badge.
How has this ‘effort’ survived over 30 years? How much thinking went into it? If you took away the scroll at the bottom, who would be able to tell whose badge it is?
Time for a new badge. I’m not naïve enough in this minimalist age (see Arsenal, Spurs, Fulham, Juventus, Swansea, Cheltenham) to think we could see the return of the old one, although Manchester City’s latest creation shows I can carry on dreaming.
Look at Swindon’s and Barnsley’s return to their badge roots. And Brentford – the bee has returned in its full glory; what a sting that was.
Could we not use, though, some of the features of the old badge: the Abbey setting, the ball and the United In Endeavour scroll, and introduce those into a modern design? With a bit more black and amber colouring, maybe?
Check out the new ‘old’ flag in the Abbey Arms. I wonder how many people know the history behind it. And there are plenty of nods to the past in the CFU caravan: embroidered patches, car stickers, mugs, coasters, caps, beanie hats, they’re all there.