Thursday, September 11, 2008

Fens Football Focus - 4 Cambridge City

I actually stayed just opposite the club's ground on Milton Road a couple of weeks ago and it perhaps says how knackered I was or how unassuming the club are that I didn't notice it. I have to say that I am looking forward to my first visit to this ground, as the walk from the bus stop to it takes in the historical centre and the picturesque Jesus Green, as well as going past several decent looking pubs.

Cambridge City at the moment play in the Southern League Premier Division after being demoted (notice the word demoted and not relegated) from the Conference South at the end of last season due to a failed ground inspection by the FA. This brought an end to 22 years in the 2nd tier of non-league football for the club and added to this it was discovered that the former directors had been robbing the club blind. The club is now a club 'ran by the fans for the fans', and it perhaps goes to show how unassuming the club are in that it's the kind of story the non-league press loves to cover, but their story has gone by without the hoo-ha of other clubs in a pickle.

The club were formed in 1908 under the name of Cambridge Town and in their early years they proved themselves to be a force to be reckoned with in local football winning the Bury and District League on several occassions and the Cambridge Amateur League. By the 1930s the 2 dominant forces in East Anglian non-league football were Cambridge Town and Ipswich Town, they locked horns together in the Southern Amateur League. Both of them were invited to join the league, Ipswich accepted and Cambridge didn't, instead they vowed to remain an amateur team and joined the Spartan League, which they won on 3 ocassions between 1945 and 1950.

In 1951 Cambridge became a city and Cambridge Town became Cambridge City, Abbey United also had pretensions of becoming Cambridge City, but Town got their application in first and Abbey United decided to become Cambridge United.

Cambridge City finally relinquished their amateur status in 1958 and joined the Southern League, where they were to remain until 2004 when they were promoted. In 1958 they got promoted in their first season and won the Southern League title in 1963. However, without automatic promotion at the time they were forced to stay in the Southern League and in 1967 were relegated to the 1st division. In 1970 they won promotion to the Premier division again, but whereas they had not been rewarded with promotiom in 1963, their local rivals United had joined the League at Bradford Park Avenue's expense. City were once again left watching their rivals overtake them and their runners up spot in 1971 would have come as little consellation.

The official website of the club says that the period that followed, particularly from 1975 to 1985 can be described as 'the darkest days for the club'. If we consider that recent events nearly led to the club going completly out of business it must have been a bloody awful time! At this time the board actually considered going back to being an amateur club in the Isthmian League, but the idea was never popular with the fans, and eventually they came through it and won the Southern League South title in 1986.

Let's hope that the club can again rise from the flames and that happier days are around the corner.

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