1979 was a big year for me. I saw The Arsenal beat Man U 3-2 in the FA Cup final on TV and thought that’s my team right there. I heard Rapper’s Delight for the first time which ignited my love of hip hop and I was taken to Milton Road by my dad.
I have a season ticket at The Arsenal, still listen to hip hop everyday and am proud to say I’m the N1 on the Cambridge City Exiles flag. ‘79 was a year that shaped me!
On November 1st Cambridge City fans heard the news we’ve been waiting for since 2012. Planning was granted for their new ground at Sawston. The final day of that 2012/13 season was a sad day. It was the day City were finally going to lose their Milton Road ground and become homeless but it was more than that to me and many others. It was a place oozing with memories of my childhood. It was extra special to me since my dad died in 1999. City were the team we shared and we'd spent so many happy times at Milton Road together. In fact I found it hard to go to a game after he died as it was so intrinsically linked to him. He went with his same mates and stood in the same place every game. I’m not sure I went for 4 years after he left.
My first memories of Milton Road was the enormous wooden Wembley they played in. I’d push through the turnstiles and be allowed to wander around the terrace. I remember a dog track and The Arsenal coming for an evening friendly. I stood above the tunnel and was overwhelmed by the smell of Vaseline on a cold night. That’s it. That’s all I have of the old place and I don’t really remember it going to be replaced by the ‘new’ Milton Road. (I might even have my dates wrong and this could be before 1979.)
Anyway, it’s the new Milton Road I grew up in. We’d leave in good time so dad could get a space to park and meet his friends right opposite the turnstiles to the left of the Shed. Ged, Big Dick (an enormous, kind, gentle giant of a man, Grumpy (could peel an orange in his pocket!) and Wiz (always wearing headphones to keep up with the scores) were always there. We’d go around to Tony at the tea bar and order 6 teas ‘to the brim’ at half time before returning to our positions.
I remember driving home after a game one Saturday and asking dad what Wiz’s name was. ‘Wiz’ dad replied. ‘No, his real name?’ I persisted. ‘No idea son. Worked with him for years but only know him as Wiz.’ I remember saying and trying to be clever, ‘So if Wiz died and you saw his name in the paper you wouldn’t know he’s dead.’
‘Of course I would. He wouldn’t be a work.’ A good point well made!
I remember Ged buying a slice of cake so stale he stuck it to the bottom of his shoe while congratulating the poor lady in the tea bar on her new cobblers job. I remember Big Dick getting stuck in the turnstile. I remember being taught to ‘encourage’ the officials on their wonderful work. I remember Butch Gawthrop asking me how the Arsenal were getting on when he should’ve been concentrating (& seeing him in the street at Highbury one night and coolly nodding an ‘alright’ at him like he knew me!) I remember winning the 50/50 draw, taking school friends, chatting to the ladies in the club shop, taking my girlfriend (now Mrs of many years) and eventually taking my own son (Mascot 3rd October 2009 vs Tiverton)
I returned a few years after dad died. Dick had passed away a few years before, grumpy had stopped going, Wiz and Ged were sometimes around. It was different without him but the love of the place and the club remained. Life goes on and my son was now taking his dad and winning the 50/50. This led to a magnificent night 5 years ago when they played MK Dons in the FA Cup 1st Round Proper.
The build up was so exciting and ramped up when it was announced it would be televised. Via Twitter, Phil, a stranger said he’d get me 2 tickets as I couldn’t get there from London and I now stand with Phil and his friends when I get there. We got a fantastic 0-0 before losing 6-1 in the replay. However, Dancing around the seats at Milton Keynes when the 1 went in is up there with Sol Campbell’s goal in Paris in 2006 (and i played Mark Strong's head like the bongos following that goal!)
Since 2012/13 season City have been lodging at Histon and now St Ives. There were moments when I thought they’d go under but they are alive and kicking and the news they can build a new home is magnificent. Following relegation they now have a great management team in place and are looking good. The news about the ground hopefully secures the future of this fantastic little non-League club. Congratulations to everyone who has worked so hard to make this happen. I can't wait (and it's so much closer to the M11!)
Good Luck @cambridgecityfc