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Last Updated: Wednesday, 6 April, 2005, 15:11 GMT 16:11 UK
Cambridge could be re-united
By Andrew McKenzie

Cambridge United and City could resume rivalries next season after 35 years apart
For 35 years the biggest threat to Cambridge United's dominance of the local sporting limelight has been from a University rowing team.

But that could all soon be about to change.

Cambridge City, who play in front of crowds of around 500 and are managed by local policeman Gary Roberts, could soon be rubbing shoulders with their illustrious neighbours.

United have long looked doomed for relegation from the Football League and a goalless draw against Rochdale finally sealed their fate with two games of the season remaining.

Meanwhile, City are sitting pretty in second place of the Nationwide South table, are in the play-offs and have a decent chance of securing a place in the Conference and an opportunity to recreate some old rivalries.

Cambridge City secretary Andy Dewey told BBC Sport: "I've been a supporter since 1960 when we were the biggest club out of the two.

Formed: 1908
Nickname: Lilywhites
Ground: Milton Road
Capacity: 3,000
Club Records:
Attendance: 12,058 v Leytonstone 1949-50
Fee paid: 8,000 (Paul Coe from Rushden & Diamonds)
Fee received: 100,000 (Neil Harris to Millwall)
Reached FA Cup second round and FA Trophy fifth round this season - both club records
They were known as Cambridge Town until 1951
"We won the Southern Premier Division in 1962-63, which was the first division outside the Football League - there was no Conference then.

"You had to get voted in by the League clubs - there was no promotion or relegation and not many teams managed to get elected.

"Cambridge United were runners-up that season and we were both getting crowds of about 5-7,000 and we would get 12,000 if we played each other.

"The following season United overtook us in all aspects - on the pitch, their stadium and the size of the club generally.

"United got elected to the League in 1970 and then climbed up the divisions and got close to getting in the top flight one year."

United's best years came in the early 1990s when they reached the last eight of the FA Cup in successive seasons and then climbed from the old Fourth Division to the Second in successive years under controversial manager John Beck.

In 1991-92 they briefly led the Second Division and reached the play-offs but Leicester City ended their hopes of going from the bottom of the Football League to the top flight in successive seasons.

Steve Claridge, who was part of the side who climbed from Fourth to Second, says in those days they knew little about neighbours City.

"We used to play them in pre-season friendlies, when you look to play the local, smaller sides," he said.

Formed: 1912
Nickname: The U's
Ground: Abbey Stadium
Capacity: 9,217
Club Records:
Attendance: 14,000 v Chelsea 1970
Fee paid: 192,000 (Steve Claridge from Luton)
Fee received: 1m (Dion Dublin to Man Utd, Trevor Benjamin to Leicester)
Highest position was fifth in the old Second Division in 1991-92, reached FA Cup quarter-finals in 1990 and 1991, reached League Cup fifth round in 1993, finished runners-up in LDV Vans Trophy in 2002, Division Three champions in 1990-91, Division Four champions in 1976-77
They were known as Abbey United until 1951
"It was a nice fixture as it was close to home, but I think they were a league below what they are now and we were top of what is now the Championship so there was no real rivalry.

"They were not even a consideration. It was like night and day really."

Claridge left United at the end of the 1991-92 season along with strike partner Dion Dublin, who was sold to Manchester United for 1m.

The much-travelled Claridge returned to the club for a brief spell in a 192,000 deal which is still their record signing.

But, aside from a run to the fifth round of the League Cup in 1992-93 and a promotion in 1998-99, they have spent most of the years since then in the bottom rung of the League ladder.

Like many lower league clubs they have found themselves in severe financial problems recently.

Like United, City have also had their financial troubles.

Dewey said: "We are in a position where we have to sell our ground to clear our debts and that is proving to be a long, slow process.

"We were negotiating three years ago to sell our ground with the possibility of ground-sharing with United but the then chief executive resigned on the spot.

If you asked the United fan he would say Peterborough are their main rivals
Aaron Mason of the Cambridge Evening News

"Fortunately Arthur Eastham was available and he took over the running of the club - otherwise I don't suppose we'd be here now. There would have been nobody to take on the day-to-day running never mind the battle to avoid bankruptcy.

"We are again considering ground sharing with Cambridge which would be much easier for our fans to accept if they are in the same division."

Aaron Mason, who covers United for the Cambridge Evening News, says such a prospect has not really hit home with United fans.

"A lot of people have been talking about it but I don't think there's a great deal of rivalry because they haven't played each other since the old Southern League days," he said.

The clubs last met in a league game on 16 December 1967, with United winning 1-0
In the 1962-63 season the clubs played each other in front of 11,574 fans. City won the Southern League Premier Division that year, with United finishing runners-up
In 1951 Cambridge was granted City status. Cambridge Town and Abbey United applied for FA sanction to change their name to Cambridge City. Town's application succeeded because it was first to arrive at League offices, leaving Abbey United to change their name to Cambridge United
"It is mainly with older fans who remember those times. If you asked the United fan he would say Peterborough are their main rivals."

Dewey says he is confident City can make it through the play-offs and is excited by the chance to recreate the old rivalry.

"We do feel that a lot of football followers in Cambridge are now aware that we are only a division and two places behind them," he said.

"I think our fans have cottoned on to the local rivalry. It's nothing like Manchester United and Manchester City but there is still some rivalry even if it's only in jest, there is a lot of banter going on.

"No doubt some of their fans are thinking that relegation won't be as bad if we haven't got promotion because they will still be ahead of us.

"Or maybe they haven't realised it and haven't looked over their shoulder to see where we are. They may be more concerned with their own problems because they have had enough of them this season.

"When we were at our lowest they were at their highest so the gulf was enormous at one stage.

"We were struggling at the bottom of the Southern League Midlands Division and success was avoiding relegation from that each season.

"So it would be amazing to play them in a league game."

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