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Sawston stadium dreams sustained through voluntary dedication by Cambridge City’s fans



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Cambridge City kitman Brian Chapman . Picture: Keith Heppell
Cambridge City kitman Brian Chapman . Picture: Keith Heppell

The dedication of volunteers has long been the foundation for the running of clubs.

They make a commitment of time and effort with no financial gain, or at best very little, and it is all for the love of ultimately a hobby.

The abstract investment, and in some cases actual, is huge, but the quantifiable return is minimal – it is about the opportunity to share memorable moments with like-minded individuals.

Cambridge City have spent the last nine years without a home to call their own, but the dedication of so many volunteers was based on the dream of one day moving into a new stadium.

That moment is soon approaching, with work at the Sawston ground making smooth progress.

When they step through the gates for the first time, it will make a special moment for so many that thought the day may never arrive.

One of those volunteers is Brian Chapman.

Known to many as Chopper, a nickname that came from his playing days as a right-back, Chapman has been supporting City since 1960 and has been the Lilywhites’ kit man since 1978.

“My dad used to take me up to Milton Road,” he says of how his connection to the club first started.

“We lived that side of town, and although we were nearer United then, I was always City so I went in the stands to watch the football. I went up when the supporters’ club committee run discos and bingo, things like that, then I went on the gate to sell jackpot tickets, and in ’78 I went to do the kit – I’ve been there from then on.

“Bill Cole was managing and he asked me to do it.”

It is fair to say that it has become a labour of love for Chapman, who is 70.

The lack of a home for City has meant that Chapman’s own abode has had to become the kit room.

“At the moment, since we’ve been away from Milton Road I’ve been washing the kit and taking it home, I have to pump all the balls up, get all the kit out, take it all in, make sure everything is all there and then wash it,” he explains.

“At Milton Road, we had washing machines but then we moved to St Ives and we had somewhere else then, and we had washing machines here at Histon for a while for one season, then we moved out so I had to do it all from home.”

The role on match days means putting out the corner flags, letting the nets down from the goals, laying out the kit and making sure the balls are fully inflated. He also has a role during games, operating the numbers board.

To think that it all started with a friendly against West Ham in February 1959 when 11,000 attended Milton Road to mark the new floodlights.

“It’s a friendly club,” says Chapman. “It’s like a family.”

His favourite matches include the FA Cup ties against Wigan Athletic, in a 2-0 defeat when the match was switched to the Latics’ ground in 1999, and MK Dons, in 2012 when the tie went to a replay, while players who stand out during the decades include Kevin Wilkin, Alan Banks and Ray Peacock.

Now there will be the opportunity to create more memories at the new stadium.

“It will be really good. We will have somewhere to keep all the stuff in one place. I’ve got all of the stuff at the moment – all the kit and everything, home and away kit in the bedrooms,” says Chapman.

“It will be great at Sawston, brilliant. I’ve been there one Saturday when we didn’t have a game to have a look around and it looks really good.

“The pitch is good and all the other things that have gone up. I think everything is going up slowly.

“It will be great when it’s done.”

It is difficult to truly quantify just how much City’s Sawston stadium will mean to so many of the volunteers and fans after so many nomadic years, but that first game at their new ground will be an historic one to attend.

Cambridge City FC volunteers, Dan Barnes . Picture: Keith Heppell. (50728306)
Cambridge City FC volunteers, Dan Barnes . Picture: Keith Heppell. (50728306)

Dan Barnes

How long have supported City? “Lifelong fan. I had no choice really. My father was a City fan and my grandfather from before the war, so it’s in the blood. I’m hooked.”

How long have you volunteered with City? “I got involved in the Trust recently, I’ve joined the board of the Trust so we’re trying to help out wherever we can really whether it’s selling 50-50s, programmes, turnstiles, helping out with the girls, the stand at matchdays, it’s a bit of everything really, trying to do your bit.”

Why do you volunteer? “It’s just to help the club at the end of the day.

“It’s those income streams, especially while we’re groundsharing, things like programmes, 50-50s, merchandise is so important, it’s all we’ve got until we’ve got our place so we try to push that as much as we can.”

What will moving to Sawston mean to you? “Everything. For a fan like me, to be homeless for all these years, to finally have a lovely spanking new ground, it’s the dream really.

“A lot of people thought it wouldn’t happen, but to see it happening now, it’s going to be the best present we’ve ever had.

“I can’t wait for that first day.”

Cambridge City FC volunteers, Andy Dewey . Picture: Keith Heppell. (50728310)
Cambridge City FC volunteers, Andy Dewey . Picture: Keith Heppell. (50728310)

Andy Dewey

How long have you supported City? “I’ve been supporting City since the 1950s, having been taken by my father and older brother.”

How long have you volunteered with City? “I started volunteering in October 1966, working in supporters’ club bar.”

Why do you volunteer? “I love the club. I met my now wife there, made lots of friends there. It’s been very difficult whilst ground-sharing though.”

What will moving to Sawston mean to you? “Moving to Sawston will mean it’s all been worthwhile.

“It is going to be a completely different journey building the club up again, but if my daughter Alice as general manager can’t do it, I’m not sure anyone can.”

Cambridge City FC volunteers, Kate Perring . Picture: Keith Heppell. (50728307)
Cambridge City FC volunteers, Kate Perring . Picture: Keith Heppell. (50728307)

Kate Perring

How long have supported City? “Eighteen years. My son went to summer school and the prize at the end of it was a ticket to a City game and we went to Milton Road and I’ve stayed ever since; he’s gone on to other things and I’m still here.”

How long have you volunteered with City? “Seven to eight years. I’m on the Supporters’ Trust board as well, so I run the 50-50 and I also run the 100 club as well which draws out a winner.”

Why do you volunteer? “I like the football club, it’s quite a friendly football club. We’re a big family especially the people behind the scenes and the directors and board.

“It’s just a really good atmosphere when you come through the turnstiles either on a Saturday afternoon or a Wednesday night.

“It’s just a very inclusive club so I thought I’d be a part of it.”

What will moving to Sawston mean to you? “It’s so exciting. We will finally have a home. It’s somewhere for us to have.

“The Supporters’ Trust have been going out to all the under-18s games, the boys and the ladies’ games so we’ve been supporting them.

“It’s going to encompass everyone into one place, so we will not be scattered around the county.

“It’s so exciting, the ground is going to be absolutely phenomenal.

“It is really good to be part of a club that has got this new venture starting.”

Cambridge City FC volunteers, Steve Plumb . Picture: Keith Heppell. (50728303)
Cambridge City FC volunteers, Steve Plumb . Picture: Keith Heppell. (50728303)

Steve Plumb

How long have you supported City? “February 8, 1975 was my first game. The original Milton Road and we lost 2-1 to Stourbridge.”

How long have you volunteered with City? “I’ve volunteered ever since then really. The next two or three games we were collecting old newspapers to raise money because the club was desperate then.

“Me and my mate used to help store newspapers in an old lock-up they had there and then we used to sell programmes on matchdays, and it’s just spiralled from there since.”

Why do you volunteer? “It’s my club.”

What will moving to Sawston mean to you? “It’s going to be everything.

“If we can get the feel of Milton Road back, everybody coming in, because it’s a second home to a lot of people. And we need a home.

“As soon as that structure starts going up, it’s going to be even more of a buzz.

“I’ve been into some of the schools in Sawston, and they want it more than we do I think.

“The feedback you get from them, they can’t wait for it – it’s been really good.”

Cambridge City FC volunteers, Alice Weekes . Picture: Keith Heppell. (50728308)
Cambridge City FC volunteers, Alice Weekes . Picture: Keith Heppell. (50728308)

Alice Weekes

How long have supported City? “Since I was eight years old, I’m now 32.”

How long have you volunteered with City? “I do a bit of everything, putting bin bags in the bins, doing the turnstile, programmes, I help with the hospitality sometimes, serve the players food. I do a bit of everything.

“At that point I needed help so I was willing to help. I started off as a fan. My brother used to sell programmes and then one day mum had to work so I had to come with him, and that’s it.”

Why do you volunteer? “I love it.”

What will moving to Sawston mean to you? “I think it’s really exciting.

“It’s a new future, somewhere we can call home. When you are groundsharing it doesn’t feel like it’s a home whereas Sawston will be really exciting and somewhere we can call ours.

“It’s going to be great, I can’t wait.”



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