CUAFC captains ahead of the Varsity matchALISSA SATTENTAU with permission for Varsity

Both Cambridge men’s and women’s football captains faced the media ahead of Friday’s much anticipated 150th Varsity clash with Oxford at the Abbey Stadium.

Women’s captain Abbie Hastie seemed very confident about her side’s chances in the fixture and played down the threat of the opposition. She believes that Cambridge will have too much for their rivals and their home advantage will help to get the job done. “The bulk of the crowd will be Cambridge so hopefully that will be intimidating for Oxford,” and that is likely to be the case. For players across both games, playing in front of such a big crowd is not something they do every day and is bound to make a difference. So, if you are at the Abbey on Friday night, make sure you get behind the home teams.

Cambridge have certainly been impressive this season, reaching the semifinal of the National Championship where they were defeated 2-1 by a strong Exeter side, who needed a “contentious” offside call to get over the line. Hastie said that “we like to play passing football” and although that may be true, her side have known how to get the job done in difficult situations this season too. In the quarterfinal of the same competition they were able to hold on to a 1-0 lead against Loughborough, despite sustained pressure from their opposition in the second half. I was in attendance at the game and the defensive display more than merited the clean sheet. So, the team have shown they can get the job done under pressure and Hastie believes the lights of the Abbey Stadium shouldn’t be a problem. “I think playing in the semifinal will help the girls deal with the perceived pressure of the Varsity match.”

The impressive cup run has come with problems for the team as well. The extra games have forced a condensed schedule on the women and injuries have been a factor in their season. However, despite some “soreness” from the frequency of matches, Hastie said her team were “about back to full strength” ahead of the big one. So, Oxford will have their hands full in what the captain said “will be a good game”. Cambridge go into it as favourites, but they won’t want to let an impressive season be tarnished by an upset at the hands of their fiercest rivals.

Cai La Trobe Roberts, the men’s captain, praised the way his squad have dealt with a season which has brought so many injuries. Over the course of this season, the Blues have had to field over 35 different players in the first XI to cover for their injuries. “We have a special manager who has managed to turn that into results, despite missing players […] It’s created quite a competitive environment in training with everyone trying to prove their point and keep their place.” Asked about how the injuries have affected the Blues’ preparation for the match, La Trobe Roberts was very composed in saying: “You just have to adapt [to the injuries].”

In terms of preparation, the men’s Blues have done their homework on Friday’s opponents. La Trobe Roberts remarked that “[we] have done due diligence on Oxford and have looked through their gameplay and video footage.” He pointed specifically to the fact the Oxford first team streamed their other Varsity match, against Oxford Brookes, on Youtube, helpfully making it free to view for the Blues’ staff and squad.


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Regardless of opposition analysis, however, La Trobe Roberts’ Blues side are steadfast in their belief that if they perform to their known standards, the result will take care of itself. La Trobe Roberts spoke of the strength in the inexperience of his squad, many of whom are freshers, saying that the strong fresher contingent has “brought a lot of energy to the squad” and “a lot of characters”. On the pitch, he spoke of how “we back ourselves to play our football” regardless of the squad put out. And who’s to doubt them? With one piece of silverware already (the Midlands Conference Cup) and promotion virtually all but confirmed, the men’s Blues are a team who have got used to that winning feeling.

Ultimately, La Trobe Roberts said that the most important thing on Friday night is “staying calm”. In a clear statement of belief, he reiterated that the men’s Blues “have special players and if they stay calm they will perform”.

Tickets for Friday’s Varsity match can be bought here:{96D3BE7A-7E25-4DF0-A213-6B3D60F60D4A}&homeArea=home