‘You just couldn’t find a more exciting time’ - Cambridge United Women manager Darren Marjoram
Darren Marjoram struggled to put into context the impact of developments at Cambridge United Women this summer.
It has been an off-season which has seen fundamental changes to bring the women’s and men’s clubs closer together.
A new women’s football board has been formed to fully integrate the women’s team into the football club, it has been confirmed four matches will be held at the Abbey Stadium this coming season, Intelligent Membranes have been unveiled as front-of-shirt sponsors, Sarah Wiltshire has returned to the U's as a marquee signing and the club have been granted a three-year licence to become an Emerging Talent Centre.
“It’s hard to put into words really because the amount of work that has gone into getting to even this stage, you can’t really measure it, it’s huge,” said Cambridge United Women’s manager Marjoram.
“From playing on park pitches, trying to scrape together the money to pay referees’ fees years back to this now – a launch at the Abbey Stadium and fixtures being announced at the Abbey Stadium, the women’s team now run within the club.
“That alone is phenomenally exciting, and then you’ve got the announcement of the ETC for the club, and the talented young girls that we will see come through the process.
“You just couldn’t find a more exciting time.”
It is Marjoram’s second season at the club, and he admits that it feels very different this time around.
The conversations were had about what needed to be done to push on, and that was not just structurally but with regards to the playing squad as well.
“I am very excited because it almost feels like a new beginning around things,” he said.
“It’s an exciting time and certainly so far in pre-season everything we’ve seen has been really positive.”
The FA Women’s National League, Division One South East matches to be held at the Abbey are Norwich City on August 21, Cambridge City on February 22 and Actonians on April 30, and the fourth game will be a cup tie which is still to be confirmed.
And it does make a difference to the players.
“I came here not knowing whether the players were going to be really nervous about it, or really inspired by it, and it was a bit of both,” said Marjoram.
“When we needed to dig in, you could see in the changing room at half time, for example, the excitement around playing at the Abbey, what that meant and the adrenaline it brought with it.
“For us, playing at the Abbey is a big thing, a really big thing, and it does bring a lot of excitement.”
The U’s squad this season has thinned out a bit in terms of numbers, with around 23 being involved in pre-season games.
That has allowed them the opportunity to involve some younger players, and they have delivered some impressive performances.
“You look around now and you see the pathway opportunities there are for young girls,” added Marjoram.
“They get some very good coaching opportunities at a very young age so by the time they’re reaching 16 and can play senior football, their grounding is very good, in general terms.
“It is probably being borne out with the fact that we have got quite a few younger players who are either in or pushing the first-team squad now.
“Their skillset is something we can definitely lean on.”