There’s a tree, held together by a mass of ivy, that pokes up over the Habbin roof from its roots on the banks of Coldham Brook. Its silhouette is a spookily magical sight when the sun is setting in an amber blaze.
It provides Dave Matthew-Jones with his favourite view at the Abbey Stadium. Perhaps he sees the tree, still standing proudly despite attempts to suck its life away, as a metaphor for his football club.
No one has done more to keep Cambridge United alive than DMJ. As a founder member of the CFU Trust Board in 2000, he saw the U’s slipping towards the precipice of extinction and, as the years ticked by, the Abbey was sold and the club slid into administration and relegation from the Football League, he threw himself wholeheartedly into the fight to save it.
Whether counting coppers thrown by fans into collecting buckets or plotting routes to safety and ways to buy back the ground, Dave was a ubiquitous figure.
Later, he earned supporters’ respect by representing them on the club’s board, while acting as United’s supporter liaison officer and rallying the band of volunteer-supporters who toil daily around the Abbey.
It’s a long time since 1970, when the young Matthew-Jones first set foot in the ground, intrigued by how tiny Cambridge United could entice Reading players George Harris and Colin Meldrum, whom he’d admired as a child in Berkshire, to the Abbey. We have much reason to be thankful that he stayed.