An edited version of this article appeared in the Cambridge United match day programme for the game against Forest Green Rovers on 2 October 2018.
When you glug a Corona nowadays, you’re drinking a disappointingly thin lager brewed in Mexico. There may be a chunk of lemon or lime wedged in the neck of the bottle, presumably to make it taste of something.
But to those of us who grew up before the drinks industry went daft, Corona means something very different.
Corona was the pop that came in bottles delivered by the Corona man in his big yellow lorry: lemonade, limeade, cherryade and loads of other flavours including my favourite, dandelion and burdock.
There were Corona depots all over the country and one of them was in front of the Abbey, on the site now occupied by the car hire people. That’s why all right-thinking people call that end of the ground the Corona End.
And that’s also why the next volume of the late, great Andrew Bennett’s history of our club, Celery & Coconuts, is called Champagne & Corona.
If you want to know where the ‘Champagne’ bit comes from, you’ll just have to buy a copy of the book, and I can help you out with that.
The Coconuts mob are taking pre-orders for the book, which will be out in plenty of time for Christmas. To reserve your copy, head, with credit card handy, to the CFU online store at cambridgefansunited.org/store, or to CFU's Caravan of Love in the front car park on a match day .
I’ve been allowed a glimpse and, I tell you what, Champagne & Corona is up to Andrew’s usual brilliant standard. It tells the story of the 1970s: an amazing decade that saw the U’s embark on their Football League adventure and climb all the way up to what is today called the Championship – the old Second Division.
They were (mostly) fantastic days, when we could feast on the skills of blokes like Brendon Batson, Steve Spriggs, Tom Finney, Dave Stringer, Willy Watson, Steve Fallon, Alan Biley and Brian Greenhalgh.
Brian and his striking pal Dave Lill feature on the front cover of Champagne & Corona. Dave is watching Brian tussle with the Rochdale defence at Spotland, during a 2-0 win for the U’s. You can understand and forgive the Dale player's pained expression, although not his hairstyle.
As you can tell from the sparsely populated terrace visible in the background, Dave was one of very few people who witnessed that event.
The Third Division fixture, on 5 February 1974, attracted the grand total of 588 spectators – a record low League attendance for both clubs. Champagne & Corona reveals the main reason for the tiny crowd: the Three-Day Week.
History lesson for those who weren’t around: in early 1974, beset by industrial action, a global oil crisis, cripplingly high inflation and general discontent, the Tory government introduced measures to conserve electricity consumption. One of these was the Three-Day Week, which limited businesses’ use of electricity to three consecutive days in every seven.
Rochdale weren’t allowed to use their floodlights, and United travelled to Lancashire on a Tuesday morning in order to play in the afternoon.
So it was that fewer than 600 people were able to turn up and watch. ‘The atmosphere was absolutely shocking,’ observed United manager Bill Leivers.
Andrew’s typically entertaining account of United’s place in the history of industrial relations is just one of many delights to be found within the covers of Champagne & Corona. Please order your copy now so that Coconuts can afford to pay the printer's bill.
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