Some fans sprinted up from the Corner House or pubs further afield, others jumped in taxis or onto bicycles. A few had been outside all along, gathered on Coldhams Common since before the game.
From 4:30 PM it was clear something was happening on Newmarket Road, a growing crowd in the Supporters Club car park, yellow smoke visible from behind the NRE. In the ground, the chants of the fans outside were the only thing that could be heard above the bellowing voice of Paul Digby.
Once the game was over and the on-pitch celebrations quickly wrapped up there was only one place the players wanted to be. As they ran down to the Newmarket Road End turnstiles it was Paul Mullin who was first on top of the turnstile block to greet the assembled U’s fans. The rest of the team soon followed, despite the best efforts of the police and stewards to keep them from climbing onto the roof. Outside beer was sprayed, drums were beaten. Songs were sang and smoke flares held aloft. Fans from Cambridge, Haverhill, St Neots, Ely, Royston and all over the local area all gathered at the ground for what felt like the first time in ages.
The U’s fans soon moved round to the Main Stand car park where Cut Throat Lane was packed. Officials and other match attendees were blocked from leaving the car park unless their horns were blown. Everyone joined in with the exception of one sour old bloke in an Audi who wouldn’t join the celebrations. The U’s faithful responded by sitting down in front of his car, holding up his exit even more until he finally gave in.
Eventually the U’s players came into the car park, still in their match shirts and shorts, soaked in Champagne and beer. Paul Mullin led the U’s fans in song with a megaphone. The stewards still tried to keep the players back from the fence. Last to come over was the boss himself, Mark Bonner. He thanked the fans for their support, and then started a chant before disappearing back inside where the celebrations continued long into the night.
This is why we support the U’s, for moments like this. They don’t come around often, but when they do it’s like nothing else on earth. There might not be tens or hundreds of thousands of us, but whatever our differences, however long we’ve been supporting the U’s, wherever we sit or stand in the ground, whatever we think about the clubs badge and whether we should go back to the old one or not and whatever our opinions on Greg Taylor or Liam O’Neil (both legends by the way) we are all United.
This promotion was for every one of us, every fan who hasn’t been able to get to the ground this season. Every fan whos match day ritual has changed from having a few in the Dobblers, the Blue, the White Swan or the Wrestlers before heading to the Abbey to brewing up a cup of tea and sitting down in front of iFollow instead. It’s for those of us who haven’t driven, cycled or walked down Newmarket Road this season, those of us who haven’t legged it from the station when their train has got in late, or stepped out of their car straight into a muddy puddle on the grass verge of the ring road. Next season we should all be back in our familiar spots on the terraces or in our favourite seat. Pre-match the pubs will be packed, and as we cross Barnwell Bridge at ten to three the sight of the Abbey floodlights will welcome us home. But for some U’s fans things won’t ever be the same. This pandemic has taken loved ones from us, and and certain spots of the Abbey will be sadly empty when we go back. Those fans won’t ever be forgotten. This promotion is for them as much as it is for anyone.
Bring on August and League One. Up The U’s!