An edited version of this article appeared in the Cambridge United matchday programme for the game against Crewe Alexandra on 30 December 2017.
Fellow Cambridge United supporters! Prepare to exercise your democratic right to determine which playing heroes of the past 100-plus years should take their place in your club’s Hall of Fame.
It’s almost that time again. From Saturday, January 13 you will be able to vote via the Hall of Fame website (cuhalloffame.org.uk) or on paper at the CFU caravan before home games.
The results will be announced at a swish, star-studded induction dinner in March – stand by for announcements of ticket prices and arrangements. Last year’s dinner was a roaring success and tickets sold out in a flash, so best to keep that credit card close by you.
This year, you’re voting for players in three categories: pre-1970, 1970-1989 and 1990-2005. A Committee of the Wise has already decided on the identities of three other inductees: a manager, an ‘off-pitch’ personality and the recipient of a special 100 Years of Coconuts management committee award.
Your mission – and you really should choose to accept it – is to vote for one player in each category. From the pre-1970 shortlist, choose between Harvey Cornwell, Terry Eades, Joe and Tony Gallego, Johnny Haasz, Wilf Mannion and Len Saward.
From the ranks of the 1970-1989 heroes, you’ll be deciding between Brendon Batson, Alan Biley, Steve Fallon, Tom Finney, Andy Sinton and Dave Stringer. Those shortlisted in the 1990-2005 category are Steve Claridge, Liam Daish, Andy Duncan, Alan Kimble, John Taylor and John Vaughan.
Hang about, I hear you cry. Explain yourselves, Coconuts committee! How come my favourite U’s player of all time, Reg Barnwell, isn’t shortlisted? Why does Terry Eades figure in the pre-1970 category when his most impressive displays came in United’s first Football League era, after 1970? What does Dave Kitson have to do to get in the frame? I’m only 18; how am I supposed to know who the dickens Harvey Cornwell and Johnny Haasz are?
They’re all valid questions. To answer most of them, remind yourself that you’re voting in just one iteration of the Cambridge United Hall of Fame induction process, and there will be more. Perhaps your idol, be it the aforementioned and entirely fictitious Reg Barnwell, Dave Kitson or Devon White, will appear on a future shortlist. Perhaps he’s already been inducted. Perhaps the committee felt Terry Eades’s pre-League contribution alone made him worthy of nomination.
As for the question of how younger fans can hope to choose from a bunch of players they’ve never heard of, the answer is simple: consult your copies of Newmarket Road Roughs and Risen from the Dust.
The first two volumes of Celery & Coconuts, Andrew Bennett’s history of Abbey/Cambridge United, describe these players’ finest moments, and provide all the facts and figures you could want. I shouldn’t need to remind you that, if you’re one of the few U’s fans who haven’t already bought these essential books, you can rectify the error by visiting the CFU online store (cambridgefansunited.org/store/c4/Books.html) or the caravan on a match day.
I promise I’m not trying to influence your vote by using a photo of Harvey Cornwell on this page; I just thought you’d like to see it. It shows him playing his last game for Thursday Wanderers, on Jesus Green on 16 April 1955. The Wanderers’ opponents, City Police, showed scant respect for the 59-year-old Grand Old Man of Cambridge football by winning 13-1.