Mark Bonner gets the keys to the Abbey Stadium as new head coach of Cambridge United
Mark Bonner feels there is no room for sentiment after being appointed Cambridge United head coach.
After taking interim charge, the former assistant head coach led the U’s on a five-match unbeaten run in Sky Bet League Two, including four successive wins.
It was a dress rehearsal that was enough to persuade owner Paul Barry to offer Bonner a two-year deal until the end of the 2021/22 season.
But while it may have seemed like the lifelong U’s fan was fulfilling a dream – he grew up watching the team from the Habbin – Bonner does not see things like that.
“Honestly, the sentiment is probably bigger for people around me than myself because, as boring as it sounds, you haven’t got too long to wallow in that,” he said.
“It’s great, don’t get me wrong. I’m so grateful of the opportunity and so proud that I’m in this position.
“I’m so excited about what the future could hold, but at the same time there is a lot to get on with.
“We’ve got to crack on. Just as busy as the last five weeks have been, we’ve got to continue that now.”
Despite having first joined the U’s aged 16 to work in the football in the community scheme, Bonner does not reflect that 18 years later he is now in charge of the first team.
“I don’t think you think like that. I left the club for a period of time as well and wasn’t ever sure I would come back again,” he said.
“I’ve not been chasing it over the last five or six years. I’ve been working to try to make things better and working with the club to try to improve. I’ve been working with other members of staff to support them the best I can.
“I think if you do the best you can every day, things come to you and you don’t have to chase them so hard, and I believe that is the process I have gone through.”
Growing up in Sawston, Bonner understands the attachment and values of the club more than most.
“You would like to have a core of Cambridge in your club,” he said.
“I think if you can have that in your backroom staff and throughout the club, and perhaps in your squad, they live and breathe your values and your culture. That helps spread it throughout the club.
“But let’s not be too fanciful and too utopian with our view of it.
“We’ve got to create a team that is full of players that are good enough to make us better.”
Developing a pathway through the club to the first team is an aim, but he is realistic about striking the right balance.
“What we have to do is aspire to get as many good players as we can through our academy into the team,” he said.
“But, ultimately, they need to contribute to a winning team.
“That will be subsidised by players that may have been here a longer period of time and players that come and join us for short period of time.
“We have to get the balancing act right in that.”
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