This article appeared in the Cambridge United matchday programme for the game against Morecambe on 26 August 2017.
I can’t begin to count the number of times I’ve wobbled over Coldham Common past the dear old Abbey (sorry, I really must learn to call it the Cambs Glass Stadium; where would we be without our kind commercial partners?) Sometimes I’ve wobbled on my trusty pushbike and sometimes I’ve wobbled on foot, especially if I’ve had to stop off at the dear, departed Greyhound for a livener.
However many times it is, I can honestly say that on each and every occasion my heart has skipped a beat at the sight depicted on this page: my beloved football ground. There’s something spellbinding about the place, and I reckon the magic has been captured beautifully by Jamie B Edwards.
Jamie’s bringing a book out – or he will be if his publisher’s crowdfunding scheme takes off – called Drawing the 92. He’s travelled more than 25,000 miles to record the essence of all the grounds in English football’s top four levels, and the result is this hefty coffee-table volume (I suppose I’ll have to buy a coffee table now). It looks fabulous, so any help you can give to ensure it’s published will be money well spent. Head for kickstarter.com and search for Drawing the 92.
And while we’re talking about books, there’s tons of insight into the development of the Abbey – sorry, Cambs Glass – Stadium in Andrew Bennett’s Risen from the Dust, which will be published in October. This weighty tome tells the story of the U’s from 1951 to 1970, and you’ll be able to pre-order your copies very soon from the CFU website.
In the early 1950s, when United were not that long out of the Cambs League and the United Counties League was a very recent memory, the ground was little more than a rickety, 1934-vintage wooden stand holding a couple of hundred people, an old green shed where the players got changed and stretches of earth banking into which old railway sleepers had been dug.
But the club was on the move and its supporters were behind it every inch of the way. It was the fans who raised the money to equip the Abbey with concrete terraces and roofs, our towering floodlights (the best feature of the Cambridge skyline if you ask me) and countless other aspects of the ground.
The Cambs Glass Abbey Stadium seen from Coldham Common, captured by artist Jamie B Edwards for Drawing the 92.
It was the supporters – and sometimes the players too – who gave up their evenings and weekends to build what you see today.
A passage from the 1961/62 chapter of Risen from the Dust shows how much hard graft those supporters put in to ensure United were worthy of Southern League – and ultimately Football League – football.
‘In December, the Supporters’ Club launched a floodlight fund,’ writes Andrew. ‘Blanket collections were held during half-time intervals, with spectators urged to “give until it hurts”; badges were sold; and proceeds from tombola sessions were allocated to the fund for the rest of the season.
'Reference was made to the “New Abbey Stadium” project (the first time the name had been used officially), which apart from the floodlight fund, involved extending the cover over the Coldhams Common side terrace … The aim was “to make our stadium one of the finest in football”.’
It may not actually be the finest, but it’s ours in just about every sense. Cheerio Harry