This year, the Varsity football match is back at Craven Cottage for the first time since the 2008-09 season. The Light Blues will be gunning for a hat-trick of wins on Sunday.
This hotly contested fixture is one of the oldest rivalries in world football. With the exceptions of two intervals for the two World Wars, the fixture has been played every year since 1873. The first ever Varsity match ended in a 1-0 win for Oxford, with England international Robert Vidal scoring the only goal of the game. This year, Cambridge are looking to get one over on their historic rivals once more, and give a season of progress and renewed ambition, a fitting fairy-tale ending.
Cambridge skipper, Anthony Childs, said: “The squad is in good spirits and I'm very happy with how our preparation has gone. We are as fit as we can be and everyone knows what they need to do on the day. It’s now just a case of going out there and putting what we've learnt into practice. We are confident that if we play as well as we know we can then the result will come.
“Everyone is buzzing to play at Craven Cottage, at what will be by far the best ground any of the lads have ever played at. The game was at Selhurst Park last year, another premier league stadium, but having been to visit Craven Cottage last week it was clear that this is another step up. With the game being held on Boat Race day it has helped to boost the attendance; our initial allocation has already sold out and it looks like we will have over 3000 people there. I personally can't wait to experience the atmosphere. It will be an honour to lead the light blues out at Craven Cottage in the 130th Varsity Match.”
Looking back at the season, the captain conceded that at first glance, the season would appear to have been a torrid one. Nevertheless, he explained: “Playing at the highest level of university football for the first time in CUAFC's history, against teams with players who attend university to play football rather than study such as Loughborough and Bath, it was always going to be tough to stay up. I am pleased that we avoided relegation and the lads should all be proud of that. Considering we were competitive in every fixture, except for one bad day at Bath. If we had slightly more luck and hadn't conceded so many goals in the last few minutes of games we could have finished higher up in the table.”
A high point of the season for Cambridge was upsetting eventual champions UWE Hartpury 4-3 at home. “They had been unbeaten in three seasons and have now won the title for eight years in a row. It was an outstanding performance and shows how far we have come in the last couple of seasons,” added Childs.
The year has been one of change and progress for CUAFC, whose budding new partnership with Cambridge United has instilled the club with a new sense of hope and ambition for the coming years. The captain elaborated: “Cambridge United’s director of Football, Jez George, has taken us under his wing and with the help of some excellent coaches, has instilled a new professionalism to CUAFC. The roles of the tactician, manager, dietician and psychologist have been integral in this seasons success and I'm confident that CUAFC will continue to do well at the highest level of university football as the partnership with Cambridge United develops.”
A new beginning heralds new hope for CUAFC. Fingers crossed that this year will be one to remember for the club as they look to wrap up the season with a victory over their most important of rivals.
– The Varsity football match has been held at numerous neutral grounds over the years, including at Premier League stadiums such as Stamford Bridge, Upton Park, White Hart Lane and ex-Arsenal ground – Highbury. During the years 1953-1988 the match was played at Wembley itself.
– The Varsity match has yielded 50 Oxford wins, 49 Cambridge wins and 30 draws, that needed to be settled by extra-time and penalties.
– Cambridge have scored 204 goals in the fixture so far, whereas rivals Oxford are one ahead on 205 goals.
– Chris Hollins, a successful figure in sports media, played in the Varsity match in 1993/4. But don’t get too excited team Cambridge, he actually played for Oxford and scored a goal on what was a very bad day for the Light Blues, when they were comprehensively beaten 5-0.
Editor's Note: We will be reporting from the Varsity football match this Sunday on twitter. Follow us @TCSNewspaper.