Play second-place Grimsby tonight
8 October ~ First play second in the Conference Premier tonight when Cambridge United travel to Grimsby Town. For the table-topping U's, seven points clear of their hosts, the current campaign could hardly have begun any better. Four years on from the second of two successive losing play-off final appearances, Richard Money's team have made a record-breaking start to the season. Saturday saw the U's defeat Hereford 1-0 to set a new club record by going 13 games unbeaten at the start of a season.
Head coach Money also picked up the division's September Manager of the Month award before the game, but it was his performance after the match which hit the headlines. In his post-match interview Money was critical of some sections of the Abbey Stadium crowd for not getting behind his players: "I wanted to walk into the middle of the pitch in the first half, like Russell Crowe in Gladiator – 'are you not entertained?' Because we did entertain them, but it was quiet as a mouse," he said. "For the last ten minutes you'd think we were in the bottom four. It's not acceptable and it's not good enough."
Money has since reflected that his comments were the "antics of an old fool" but he has made wise use of his playing budget, far from the biggest in the division, in putting together a versatile team. A mixture of new signings and home-grown players have only conceded six goals in 13 games and, remarkably, picked up just five bookings in that time.
United's current success is built on solid foundations put into place over the last two years by director of football Jez George. Commercial income is reportedly on the rise and United's growing Youth and Community Trust now works with 2,500 children in the region. The feeling around the club is that in Money, who last week celebrated a year in charge, they have a head coach capable of building on this good work behind the scenes and returning the club to the Football League after a nine-year absence.
Grimsby, last year's beaten play-off semi-finalists, have designs on promotion themselves, and go into tonight's game on the back of a four-game unbeaten run. A win for the Mariners would cut United's lead at the top to four points and open up the race for the title, with the likes of Luton and Kidderminster starting to find their best form. A Cambridge victory, however, would only heighten the feeling among success-starved U's fans that this might finally be their year. Matthew Gooding
11 October ~ Addition comment from Supporters Direct
Supporters' trust Cambridge Fans United (CFU) are an imperative part of the club during this early season success. They've been the one continuous, positive thread over the space of ten years of almost perpetual crisis and failure. Club chairman Dave Doggett started on the trust board, and the trust retain their elected fan director, Colin Proctor. The group has a powerful role but highly constructive relationship with the club. Regular meetings and dialogue go on throughout the week. It may be a cliche but working together, building that relationship has been the key to the recent success.
Trust members are themselves involved all over the club, working in the shop, offices and financial areas, helping to introduce the new "matchday supporter-helpers" and innovations such as food pre-ordering schemes. Ultimately this has helped to increase matchday attendances and build a positive atmosphere at the Abbey Stadium.
It's not always easy to remember the full story when the results on the pitch are as stunning as they are at the moment, but CFU, its members, the board and all the fans who have played their part can rightfully take some credit for the position in which they now find themselves.