Test yourself on the Abbey Stadium and Cambridge United: in what year did the ground open? How tall are the floodlight pylons? What kind of animals used to graze on the pitch? What year do we think the club was founded? What might be buried under the pitch? After whom is the long terrace along the side named? (Answers below, but no peeking until you've given the questions your best shot.)
Children from Year 5 of Abbey Meadows Community Primary School did their best to complete the Coconuts Quiz when they and their teachers visited the stadium and our mini-museum, The Story of the U's, this week. We all had a great time.
The visit was part of a four-week project, dubbed You and the U's, 100 Years of Coconuts is running with the school and with help from the Cambridge United Community Trust. In turn, it forms part of the two-year Coconuts project, funded by a generous Heritage Lottery Fund grant, that aims to spread the story of our football club far and wide. This club is your club, we're telling the children – and you can play just as big a part in its story as the supporters and players who founded Abbey United and built the ground.
In weeks two, three and four of You and the U's, we'll visit Abbey Meadows with handling boxes full of memorabilia, equipment and photographs; enjoy a walking tour of the area around the Abbey, discovering important locations in the club's history; and produce a piece of artwork pulling together what the children have learned.
Answers: 1932; 36.6 metres; sheep; 1912; the mortal remains of 12th and 13th century leprosy victims; Harry Habbin, president of Cambridge United Supporters' Club in the 1950s.
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.
This article appeared in the Cambridge United programme for the game against Stevenage on 26 September 2015.
Favourite moment in United history? A certain early summer day at Wembley in 2014, perhaps. A cheeky flick, lob or chip from Dave Kitson? The moment in 1991 when the U’s strode out at Highbury to face the mighty Gunners, roared on by (literally) countless thousands? That unforgettable 5-1 at London Road in 1989? Or perhaps your memory goes back to the day in 1970 when United’s election to the Football League was announced, or further back to the days of Wilf Mannion, the Gallego brothers or even Abbey United’s Wally Wilson and Harvey Cornwell.
The story of the U’s covers a long, long time – 103 years, perhaps even longer – and involves innumerable people, places and events. It’s Coconuts’ aim to cover that entire era and recognise the huge part played by the Cambridge United family in making this the greatest little club in the world.
The first chance to do that in the flesh, as it were, comes next month when a 100 Years of Coconuts display opens at the Museum of Cambridge – the fascinating and inspiring place that used to be known as the Folk Museum. It’s on from October 9 until November 27, and you’ll find the museum at the corner of Castle Hill and Northampton Street.
This will be the first pop-up display in a series enabled by our grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, and will be followed by a more permanent mini-museum in the Supporters’ Club. We’re talking to other museums that are keen to welcome similar displays. We’re also talking to the Abbey Stadium landlords, Grosvenor, but that’s a story for another time.
The Museum of Cambridge’s Community Cabinet, on the first floor of the ancient building that was once the White Horse Inn, enables many groups to put on this kind of exhibition. The Coconuts display will take visitors (that includes you) on a journey from 1912 to the present day using photographs, rare documents, memorabilia, other precious artefacts, a pair of ladies’ pants and a little imagination. The Coconuts mannequins, whom we’ve named Julian and Sandy in an act of homage to Round the Horne, will model contrasting football fashions from different eras.
While we’re making every effort to make this little exhibition as good as it can be, we’ll also be using it to learn museum-making lessons that will benefit us in formulating future displays. That’s where you come in. Feedback forms will be available at the museum, and we’d also welcome your thoughts in writing on what you’ve seen: please email firstname.lastname@example.org or use the contact form at 100yearsofcoconuts.co.uk/contact-us.html.
While we contemplate the prospect of huge swarms of U’s fans and football historians queuing all the way down to Magdalene Bridge, we’re also wondering where to put all the stuff we’re accumulating when it’s not on display. We’ve been particularly overwhelmed by donations of programmes. While the Coconuts programme collection is in its infancy, it’s fair to say we’ve more than enough from recent years. But please, if you’re thinking of donating or loaning programmes from between the 1940s and the 1980s, go right ahead. You can contact us via the means above, or perhaps leave small donations at the CFU caravan on match days.
See you at the museum.
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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.