Packed with the fascinating stories of the characters who saw our club, always firmly based in its community, through its formative years and on to the brink of national recognition, Newmarket Road Roughs comes with details of every game played by Abbey United in its first 40 years, plus league tables and playing records.
Those appendices alone are worth the cover price of £14.99 for this attractively designed hardback book – the first of many to come from Andrew Bennett and Lovely Bunch. To preorder your copy, go to cambridgefansunited.org/store/c4/Books.html or visit the CFU outlet on a match day. Alternatively, drop a line to email@example.com. Members of CFU enjoy a £1 discount.
We’ll let you know when your copy of Newmarket Road Roughs is available to pick up or is in the post. By choosing to collect from the CFU caravan you will avoid the postal charges of £2.99 for normal post and £5.99 for Royal Mail special delivery.
Happy reading! The past will soon be present.
It’s not fair that such a shining example of healthy, young humanity should be afflicted by an awful disease like MS, but Tom is not one to sit at home and bemoan his condition. Self-pity is not his style. He’d rather be making use of his abilities and the skills he picked up while studying for his journalism degree, and doing something positive.
The result is What dreams are (not quite) made of: No fame, no fortune just football … and Multiple Sclerosis, Tom’s newly published account of his life in and after football. Naturally, it majors on his time at the Abbey, where he was welcomed at the age of ten having shone in his hometown of Mildenhall. But it will also interest readers in places like Northampton, Leytonstone and Bury (Lancs, not St Edmunds), where he ground out the rest of a career that – thanks to ill fortune, poor management and too many spells on the physio’s table – never achieved what it had promised.
It’s engagingly written – no ghostwriter needed here – and pleasingly frank. If he thinks a training schedule was badly planned and executed, he’ll tell us, and he’ll name the guilty party. And we’re treated to a cutting assessment of the homophobia, sexism, racism and childishness of football dressing room culture of his time – a culture in which Tom never felt comfortable. Let’s hope more enlightened views prevail today.
He’s unflinching in addressing the MS issue and the ramifications for his family. Tom, his wife Chelle and their daughters do not know what the future holds, but it’s certain that, whatever happens, they’ll face it head on and in a positive frame of mind. This most articulate of men has done those who research, work with and live with MS a great service – and given the rest of us, football fans or not, a cracking read.
What Dreams are (Not Quite) Made of: No Fame, No Fortune, Just Football ... and Multiple Sclerosis is published by Vertical Editions (Skipton) at £14.99 (hardback).
He was a regular starter the following season, helping to anchor the midfield as United challenged for the title again. He missed the last away game, a 4-1 loss at Yeovil, with tonsillitis, but got out of his sickbed to play in a 3-0 defeat of Worcester five days later. The following evening he started in front of the Abbey Stadium’s record crowd of 14,000 in a friendly against Chelsea, but like the rest of the first team sat out the second half in anticipation of the title-deciding game against Margate the following afternoon. United won 2-0 and were champions again.
Following the club’s election to Football League Division Four, Mel remained a regular first-team choice, although his 1970/71 season was ended three games early by an ankle injury. United finished 20th in their first League season and, as Leivers revamped his squad, Mel signed for City.
He returned to the Abbey in November 1971 to play in the first leg of the Cambs Professional Cup final. Cautioned for bringing down Peter Phillips, he reacted by throwing a punch when the U’s striker returned the compliment, earning an instant dismissal.
He had explained why he was no stranger to the physical side of the game the previous season. ‘I was brought up in a hard school at Sunderland, where we were always instructed to put our opponents out of the game before starting to play the football. Great play was made of mental attitude as we prepared before each game to do battle, and I have always played hard, whether in training or a match.’
Nonetheless, Mel’s skill on the ball was considerable and, while he was not known for scoring – he netted just three times for United – he will long be remembered for one moment of brilliance. With the score at 1-1 with five minutes to go in the first away game of 1969/70, he dribbled through Gloucester’s attempted offside trap to score an outstanding winner.
He believed his best asset lay in another area, however: ‘I feel I am at my best when the boss says before the game that so and so have a particular danger man and I am given the job of playing him out of the game.’
Remaining in the Cambridge area after his retirement, Mel became widely known as the landlord of the Rose & Crown in Teversham and later lived in Fulbourn. He leaves widow Joan, daughter Keely and two granddaughters.
One of Cambridge United’s most popular players returned to the Abbey on Saturday, August 6 to tell of the challenges he faced in football and those he is dealing with now.
Tom Youngs, who joined the U’s as a ten-year-old in 1989 and appeared 180 times for the first team between 1997 and 2003, launched his book What Dreams Are (Not Quite) Made Of at a 100 Years of Coconuts Q&A session after the home game against Barnet.
Tom told a packed audience about his multiple sclerosis diagnosis in 2014, and gave an insight into what the future might hold for him. By way of contrast, he delighted his listeners with tales of his career at United, picking out some of his highlights and favourite teammates.
He finished by proclaiming United supporters to be the best he had ever encountered, and assured the audience that playing at the Abbey was an uplifting experience – except for visitors. The crowd could be incredibly loud, he said, and their support gave players an advantage over their opponents. Scoring at the Corona End (he scored 43 times for the U’s) was an incredible experience, he added.
After the Q&A Tom signed copies of his book for a queue that took nearly an hour to die down. Already benefiting from appreciative reviews, the hardcover book retails at £14.99 – watch out for a Coconuts review, coming soon, It can be bought through the usual channels, online and on the high street.
As can be gathered from its subtitle (No Fame, No Fortune, Just Football ... and Multiple Sclerosis), Tom deals with the experience of living with MS as well as the highs and lows of a life in football ("the best job in the world").
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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.