Match wrap: Blackpool 2 Oxford United 1

Predictably enough, the reaction to our first defeat of the season on Radio Oxford was apoplectic. According to some, the loss scraped away the veneer of a good start, exposing the inadequacies at the club from Board level down.

There isn’t a lot to support that, of course. We were playing the team currently top of the table (albeit after just two games), away from home, we dominated and lost, in part, to a soft penalty.

In a sense, the defeat serves us well. It gets it out the way; had we come away from a sequence of Sunderland, Peterborough (twice) and Blackpool unbeaten we’d have been delighted; which might have caused a problem.

Alternatively, had we come out of it with perhaps a point or none – which would have been far from unrealistic – then the pressure would be bordering on intolerable, and it’s still only the middle of August.

The prospect of us going up automatically remains remote, in the Absolute State of Oxford United survey, it was clear that the expectation was a finish anywhere from 8th-10th, higher than that would be considered over-performance, but it will also be a play-off place.

Maybe we have got a team capable of achieving more than was expected, but blasting out from the front and expecting to maintain that kind of form throughout the year is ambitious to say the least.

Three games in and we’re not panicking about where our first points are coming from, nor are we anxious about what our first defeat will do to us. We’re up and running, with a solid base to work from.

The true picture is unlikely to reveal itself before the clocks go back. In the interim, this period is about completing any transfer business, and setting our stall out and finding a rhythm. Getting a win and a defeat out of the way are both pretty healthy in my view. The nature of the defeat is like the one against Blackpool, far better than a tanking – as we did against Barnsley last year, or a defeat which should have been eminently winnable – as in 2017 against Cheltenham. In fact, this is the latest first defeat we’ve had since promotion in 2016 (defeat to Sheffield Wednesday in the League Cup) and the latest in the League since 2013.

That said, we now enter a sequence of games against decent teams we should probably expect to compete with – Burton, Bristol Rovers, Coventry and Fleetwood all represent benchmarks for us in this division. In fact, in the survey, fans predicted they would occupy the four positions between 11th-15th. A positive set of results and maybe we should be recalibrating our expectations upwards a little; poor results and there may be grounds to worry.

Match wrap: Oxford United 1 Peterborough United 0

It should go without saying that you can’t draw any meaningful conclusions from games in August. But, without the fatigue and injuries that will come later in the season, and a lack of context and pressure, it is possible to get a feel for the general health of the squad.

Tuesday’s League Cup win over Peterborough was my first game of the season, having missed Saturday’s game. Last year, my first game was our 2-3 defeat to Accrington where it was obvious we were trying to play a high energy game, which was exciting but ultimately chaotic. The season before was our 3-4 defeat to Cheltenham in the League Cup where it felt like the players were doing a physics A-Level exam having only been taught half the syllabus.

Tuesday’s game was similar to last year in that we’re clearly trying to play at a very high tempo. There were moments in the first half that were bewildering in their pace and accuracy. Peterborough’s physicality was driven less out of malice and more out of the fact they couldn’t lay a glove on us. The lunging tackles, which injured Malachi Napa and should have resulted in a red card for Frankie Kent for his challenge on Mark Sykes, were the result of not being able to keep up.

But, unlike last year, everyone seems in tune with the philosophy. Cameron Brannagan and Rob Dickie are maturing into leaders on the pitch, Jamie Hanson’s work-rate was excellent and his temperament more measured. Ben Woodburn and Elliot Moore need a bit more time, but they didn’t look out of place. Given how tough our opening fixtures have been on paper, this could have been a must-win game. In fact, our start has been good, so we could relax a little and make changes. That didn’t seem to effect the cohesiveness of the team as a unit, which suggests everyone is buying into the style Karl Robinson wants to play. Although Peterborough had better quality chances, as a unit we looked strong, given that the changes could have been disruptive, it suggests good strength in depth.

What’s still missing is the end product; people mocked Peterborough striker Ivan Toney, but we’d kill for his strength and mobility. Perhaps Dan Ageyi will be that missing piece of the puzzle, but it sounds like we’re still looking for another striker (the still vacant number nine shirt suggests that’s the case). Despite that, with three games without conceding a goal in open play, frankly we couldn’t have wished for a better start to the season.

George Lawrence’s Shorts: Squad goals

Saturday 3 August 2019

GLS’ expensive public school education at The Anthony Tonkin College For Ordinary Boys meant our grasp of Latin is second to none. For instance, the verb ‘to mack’ means to complain endlessly. Mackie (he complains endlessly) Mackem (they complain endlessly), and so on. Ironically on Saturday, KRob wore the same waistcoat and tie combo for the 1-1 draw with Sunderland as the substitute Latin teacher GLS once gaffer-taped to the blackboard in Room 6b.

Monday 5 August 2019

Oxford United’s lessons in Brexit. Step 1: actively devalue your crippled reputation for no apparent reason as the EFL have done by announcing that the Football League Trophy will be known as the Leasing.com Trophy. Step 2: allow your valued assets to leave for the European mainland where they will be better treated as Leeds are set to do with Kemar Roofe heading to Anderlecht. Step 3: blame everyone else for the mess you created as Sunderland manager Jack Ross did following our draw with them on Saturday.

Tuesday 6 August 2019 

I AM NOT A NUMBER. Except if you’re an Oxford United player you are. The club have announced an innovative shirt numbering system where every registered player will have their own squad number. Junior players can aspire to achieving the smaller numbers, according to KRob, which should be motivation enough for little James Henry at 17 or young Jamie Mackie at 19. The club haven’t yet announced the competition for the first person to spot a pushy-parent in the club shop making a humblebrag order for a replica shirt with their darling little cash machine’s three figured number emblazoned on their back.

Wednesday 7 August 2019

Former Oxford striker John Aldridge has endorsed Ben Woodburn’s season long loan. Aldridge, who described Oxford as a “poxy club” before leaving for Liverpool in 1987 and hasn’t returned for single reunion or anniversary in the intervening 32 years said “He’s gone to what I think is a great club with great fans. I had great times there and I can’t say anything bad about the club because it’s in my heart.”

Thursday 8 August 2019

Benji Buchel’s dream of playing in some godforsaken corrupt country who has bought the rights to staging the 2020 Europa League Final looks to be over. He shipped five goals for no reply in the home leg of their latest qualifier against Eintracht Frankfurt. That’s right, the home leg. The second leg in Frankfurt is next week, #prayforbenji.

Friday 9 August 2019

Tiger had a grrreat Five Minute Fans Forum on Radio Oxford yesterday, dangling a bunch of intoxicating carrots as if Jerome Sale were Bugs Bunny on meth. I wish I could tell you more about the stadium, he said, maybe there’ll be an exciting announcement soon. Exciting times, will it be as exciting as the announcement from OxVox which is due in a couple of years ago about the future of the stadium? Or maybe it’ll be about the building of a temporary fourth stand, which will be ready for the 2016 derby game against Swindon?

Tomorrow marks Jose’s son, John Mousinho’s 500th game ‘I remember my debut like it was last week’ he said, ‘I gave away possession in a critical part of the field’.

‘No, that was last week’, said one of the clubs sports analysts. ‘And the week before’ he continued, flipping through his clip board. ‘And the week before that’ he said, not reading the mood of the room.

Midweek fixture: Just how does Karl Robinson keep getting away with it?

Last week Karl Robinson was having one of his rants. Characteristically, the vexations came thick and fast; no, signings hadn’t been easy; yes, we do know the season’s coming; yes, we are about to lose our best player. It was a thinly veiled, probably unplanned attack on the keyboard warriors of Twitter and Facebook who constantly demand instant success.

Twenty-four hours later, with Gavin Whyte leaving, he signed Ben Woodburn on loan, then a day after that, Anthony Forde joined, Rob Dickie signed a contract extension and, perhaps most surprisingly Karl Robinson himself signed a three year contract. The following day, Elliot Moore signed to fill the vacant centre-back role.

It’s difficult to know which is more surprising, that Robinson was offered a new contract, that he chose to sign one or that he’s still here at all. This is a man who led the team to a lengthy relegation scrap last year and who, on a regular basis, shoots his mouth off to the evident frustration of the fans. Put all that into the context of a distant owner who, if you believe a stereotype, will not tolerate humdrum performances, particularly from an English manager.

So how, despite everything, is he still getting away with it? 

Of course, the phrase ‘getting away with it’ implies that he’s managing to avoid the most logical conclusion that he shouldn’t be in post. This might be the heart of the issue, perhaps we need to challenge our norms to find an explanation.

Let’s start with our owners. It’s easy to paint a foreign owner as being untrustworthy and impatient. It’s easier still to paint our owners as conniving fraudsters given the problems they’ve had with paying bills and signing players.

But, perhaps they are doing things the right way, there has been investment in the training ground and the youth team set up. Results improved last season once the training ground was in a fit state. Signings, though slow this year, seem more sensible and robust.

The fans too are perhaps not as anti-Robinson as it may initially appear. The Absolute State of Oxford United survey rated him only a fraction behind the squad. In the main, the squad are considered positively, and so – according to the numbers – is the manager.

Then there’s Robinson himself; I’ve always said that he improved both MK Dons and Charlton in less-than-perfect circumstances. You might even argue that he has improved Oxford in a post-Clotet world where he had to shed the squad of the likes of Tiendelli and Mehmeti and deal with key players with itchy feet from the Michael Appleton era such as Ledson, Johnson, Rothwell and Nelson, while achieving, if not stunning progress, then stability.

There’s absolutely no doubting Robinson’s work ethic; his desire to succeed spills out in interviews, which doesn’t always serve him well. He’s barely gone a few days without talking to the press this summer and at times he’s looked exhausted. He understands the system – he knows that he can’t stop Nelson and Gavin Whyte pursuing their careers elsewhere – or Ledson or Rothwell – but he kept them all performing right up to the point they left. In addition, the signing of Woodburn – like Marcus Browne and Luke Garbutt last year – shows he has contacts in the right places. How much did his links to Liverpool secure the friendly with Steven Gerrard’s Rangers?

The Radio Oxford pre-season special with Robinson, Zaki Nuseibeh and Niall McWilliams saw the trio, if not finishing each others’ sentences, then at least starting them. What it seemed to show was a cohesive group with a shared vision of the future. Robinson’s signing of a new contract is perhaps the most telling; concepts of loyalty and ambition are probably over-stated in League 1, but Robinson evidently trusts the club to protect his reputation, which is critical to sustain his career long-term.

McWilliams, who I’ve been critical of, also made a tellng contribution. He said that when people asked him about the club’s strategy, he tells them about the ‘six pillars’ only for them to ask when they’re going to sign a new winger.

Which might be why Karl Robinson is ‘getting away with it’; because there is a shared long term vision for the club which will deliver its benefits more slowly than many fans (and many other managers) would want. That vision, alongside a robust, sensible, sustainable strategy, is more likely to deliver sustained success than the abilities, or otherwise, of a single individual. Perhaps Robinson is getting away with it, because he is not the genius with a gift of footballing alchemy, but because he understands his role in a bigger machine, a strategic thinker, which might be just what we need. 

Match wrap: Sunderland 1 Oxford United 1

I make no secret of not particularly liking the start of the season. I used to love it, I’d really feel the gap between the end of one season and the beginning of another. I loved the new kits and players and, above all, the renewed sense of hope and anticipation. Now, football is everywhere, all the time, so a new season is not really anything new. It’s just, well, the continuation of football.

What I’ve learned to enjoy more is the rolling narrative as the year progresses, the sense of emerging drama, the battle through the winter and the mad dash, exhausted and battered, to some kind of conclusion in May. In that sense, I prefer my football more Scandi-drama than The Fast and the Furious.

I was a bit split about what would make a good result on Saturday. We’ve had a good final week of the summer and there are signs of optimism. A win, while capping it off nicely, might also have tipped expectations too far. Beating anyone on the opening game of the season is positive, beating Sunderland away could have created a sense that we were fixed, when we are anything but. Anyone who remembers the 4-1 win over Portsmouth, or going back 20 years, a 2-1 win at Stoke where Steve Anthrobus scored the winner on his debut will know these results are meaningless.

Even when we took the lead, you could sense the immediate optimism; Rob Dickie had become an able replacement for Curtis Nelson, Ben Woodburn was a cut above in quality. Yes, perhaps, but judge them in 15-20 games, not on the basis of the opening twenty-five minutes when minds and bodies are sharp and the weather is good. The mark of a good team is not whether you can perform, but for how long you can sustain it.

Equally, a defeat could have popped our fragile ego, if it had been mid-season, we might have shrugged it off, but seeing ourselves sitting dead last in the table, as we did last year, could have sent us into a deep depression. A defeat also would have put greater pressure on the games coming up. Last year’s opening fixtures were tricky, this year is no different.

Of course, in the moment, during the ninety minutes I desperately wanted us to win, but in the grander scheme a draw is almost a better result. We’ve taken a point in one of the most difficult fixtures of the season, we only conceded because of a penalty and one of our new signings got the goal.

In a game of cricket, it’s a bit like opening an innings with a solid forward defensive rather than slogging the ball out of the ground for six. Now, we have to build.

George Lawrence’s Shorts: Karlma chameleon

Monday 29 July 2019

Like a religious leader in an inner-city riot, KRob has appealed for calm as the season opener against Sunderland approaches. “It’s a little bit dark right now.” said the man appealing for calm. “We know we need a striker, I don’t need people telling me that. We know we need a centre back and two wingers.” he added rubbing a soothing balm into our collective temples, “People will be shouting when they read this, saying ‘the season starts on Saturday’. We know, we’re not stupid.”

Just like a scented candle flickering by a bubble bath.

Tuesday 30 July 2019

*ching*

We live in an oasis of calm. Ah man, the news that Gavin Whyte has signed for Cardiff is, like, whatever man. The fee described as ‘north of £2m’ is, we assume, one of Jacob Rees-Mogg’s old-fangled imperial measures. Some say Whyte will be out of his depth, but we have video evidence that he can hold his own. 

Just as the sweat dried on Whyte’s number ten shirt, Ben Woodburn signed on a season long loan from Liverpool. The Welsh wunderkind has lost his way a bit at Anfield and so a year at Oxford will act as a form of immersion therapy to propel him out of his stupor. 

Elsewhere, there could be a new opportunity for the Us to go steaming into the Kassam on a matchday if plans to build a station near the stadium go ahead. It’ll be situated on the Science Park, who will no doubt lobby for it to close on a Saturday.

Wednesday 31 July 2019

KRob donned his headphones and hopped in a helicopter as he turned all Anneka Rice attempting to solve a world of riddles and problems in the space of an hour. The boilersuited beauty managed to end the day signing Anthony Forde, formerly of Rotherham, Rob Dickie on a longer term contract before picking up a new contract for himself

Across town The Britannia Inn in Oxford will soon have a blue plaque on the wall recognising it as the site of Oxford United’s founding 125 years ago. The plaque will act as a timely reminder that nothing good ever comes from a pub dream.

Thursday 1 August 2019

Good god, is there nothing KRob won’t ruin? The sludge pit of naysaying has dried up leaving the doomgoblins picking crust from between their toes. Following yesterday’s sickening cavalcade of good news, he’s now signed the millennial Jon Ashton; Elliot Moore from Leicester City. We are rapidly approaching that point where there is literally nothing to complain about.

But what news of Oxford United’s greatest ever Leichensteiner? We hear you ask. Benji Buchel kept a clean sheet as FC Vaduz turned around a 1-0 deficit to beat Hungarian’s Vidi 2-1 in the second leg of their Europa League tie. We have no idea what that means, but we’re pretty sure it’s good. They play Eintracht Frankfurt in the next round.

Friday 2 August 2019

KRob is strutting about like a management accountant whose wife has allowed him a rare foray into the martial bed for a fumble under her nightie. Having scored a couple of times this week, he wants more, two more strikers, in fact. We think we’ve got one of our headaches coming on.

Kemar Roofe has had his chips at Leeds, it seems, and plans to dip them in mayonnaise by signing for those unelected Brussels bureaucrats Anderlecht.

And with that, the summer is done; this is it; the Mark Angel derby awaits, football is back to ruin everything.

Midweek Fixture: 2019/20 season preview

Maybe I’m getting older, but the summers seem to be shorter and shorter. Perhaps the season is getting longer and longer. Either way, the window in which club’s are supposed to refresh and renew seems to get smaller as time passes.

Last year, the World Cup truncated the summer into a few short hysterical weeks; signings seemed rushed, preparations lacking in preparation. We toured Ireland where friendlies were adjusted to accommodate England games, everything seemed to crash on top of each other.

There have been no such distractions this year, but the summer has been short and quiet. Signings have come slowly, but they seem solid, unlike the follies of Ricky Holmes or Sam Smith. There hasn’t been the panic, nor the hysteria, though the disquiet has ratcheted up with the news that Gavin Whyte is off to Cardiff (and then appeased by the signing of Ben Woodburn). Perhaps fans are settling to our status; too small to go up, too big to go down.

We can search for someone to blame, but we’re suffering the consequences of something out of our control – hyper-inflation in the Premier League. We’re a club with the turnover of a reasonably sized supermarket trying to retain players who interest clubs with huge cash resources. Whyte, Curtis Nelson, Marcus Browne and even Tsun Dai are all heading for clubs benefitting from Premier League cash.  

Promotion seasons like 2010 and 2016 were characterised by a relentless pursuit of signings throughout the summer. That hasn’t been the case this year, and if that’s an indication of intent; a promotion tilt is unlikely. 

Those spending sprees were partly about organisation – good scouting – but also money. A club that can release cash at a time when it’s scarcely available, is a club that is more likely to have a successful season – or so it seems.

It seems fairly obvious that the cash isn’t available, at least not enough to make signings quick and easy. That’s not necessarily a bad thing – the quickest way to do a deal is to overpay and the likes of Smith and Holmes should remind us of the impact of that mistake. 

Maybe the money doesn’t exist or is earmarked for other things. It’s possible that we have owners that are striking a balance between short term performance and long-term stability. Kassam starved the team of resource to fund his new stadium, Lenagan and Eales did the opposite (although admittedly there wasn’t a stadium to invest in). 

The Whyte situation has skewed the argument; we thought we’d keep him, and so losing has had a disproportionate impact on morale. But, looking at the squad, seven players that played more than 10 games last season have left including Smith and Holmes. Five (so far) have signed, with another couple coming back from injury. In terms of numbers, it’s not that different to the end of last year.

There are gaps, of course, it’s easy to pick a figure out of the sky as to the number of players we need and panic, but most obviously we lack a true striker (20 goals, 15 goals, whatever) and we still look thin at the back. We’re not robust enough to withstand the loss of senior players to long-term injury, but there remains a solid core, so we’re not quite as vulnerable as it might seem. Good seasons rely on luck, at the moment we would need more than our fair share. A couple more signings before the end of the month will help a lot.

The shape of the division has changed. Last year, there were one or two serious contenders and a raft of ‘others’. That was evident in our own performance, where we were able to sit at the bottom of the table throughout the year, and then, with a couple of wins suddenly find ourselves in mid-table.

This year, that top cabal has grown – Sunderland, Portsmouth and Ipswich look obvious contenders for promotion, Doncaster, Rotherham, Peterborough are well resourced and organised and should have enough to fight for the play-offs. The result will squeeze a team like us. At the bottom also, some of the positions appear to have been established – Bury are already 12 points in the hole and facing relegation or extinction, Bolton may follow. Who knows what will happen with Coventry? In addition, there’s a batch of teams – Wycombe, Rochdale, Wimbledon, perhaps Accrington who will eventually succumb to relegation due to a lack of resources and are probably on borrowed time. For football in general, this is not good, but for us and our prospects, it should act as the cushion we need.

What is left are teams like us – struggling to go up, with too much to go down. It’s probably a reflection of who were are, maybe who we’ve always been – a reasonable third-level club. 

Getting out of that trajectory is going to require effort and money, and perhaps that’s where the season’s focus lies. What Michael Appleton started to build was largely destroyed by Pep Clotet, Karl Robinson has wrestled to establish a platform – let’s not forget, this is only his third transfer window. Success next season might be about creating foundations.

But, while foundations are sensible, where are we going to get our kicks? In the league, perhaps we’ll be a disruptor, derailing a couple of promotion bids, sending a team down, that kind of thing. The odd last minute win, a couple of big away days. We should probably hope for a bit of a cup adventure to lighten the mood. Perhaps even a decent shot at the Checkatrade Trophy.

The immediate challenge will be establishing a decent start. Last year’s was a disaster and it took months to recover. The season is long, so a tricky start doesn’t mean catastrophe, but with Sunderland and Peterborough (twice) in the opening week, a poor start might tip the sense of acceptance into one of frustration. Karl Robinson doesn’t need that pressure again. 

Looking at the Absolute State of Oxford United Survey and what fans are looking for from the season; we want financial stability; no more winding up orders, greater ownership from the board and a reduction of influence from Firoz Kassam. There were a number of comments about removing Karl Robinson, some want Michael Appleton back although not many saw Robinson’s sacking as a goal. A squad with a decent striker is a must with the aim of achieving somewhere between consistency and promotion, last year’s rollercoaster is not needed. However, above all this were two aims for the season – to sort the stadium out and have a clear achievable plan for the future, and, reignite lost passion for the club amongst fans. Both of these things are the hardest to achieve, but, if anything can be done on those fronts, then the club will have had a successful season.

George Lawrence’s Summer Shorts: Ah, Whyte’s lemon trade

Monday 22 July 2019

What’s that noise wafting from the hazy embers of the weekend? Why, it’s a lute, which can only mean GLS The Bard is back. What stories do you have of the kingdom, The Bard…?

With a hey nonny, nonny…
KRob is excited, he might just get his man
Chris Cadden’s coming, that’s the master plan
Not a simple signing, a normal thing to do
He’s probably going to join us, via Columbus Crew
If he does come to us, we’d have to pay a fee
But if he goes to them, they’ll get their guy for free
In FIFA’s eyes at least, The Crew are rated poor
Where we are rated richer, so we’d be paying more
They’d loan the boy to us, avoiding paying fees
And Motherwell miss out, so they’re not very pleased
So, KRob is excited, he might just get his man
This is modern football, not a shyster scam
With a hey nonny nonny…

Tuesday 23 July 2019

Always trust a man with a lute and a pair of vacuum packed multi-coloured tights – unless they arrive unannounced at a primary school. GLS the Bard was right, Chris Cadden has signed on loan from Columbus Crew

Cadden went straight into the starting line up for a play-date with Fulham, with whom we drew 1-1. Despite Cameron Brannagan being The Boris Johnson – playing the number 10 role he’s not equipped for – his assist led to Jose’s son, John Mousinho, equalising on the hour. It was the most fun KRob has had with Cottagers since that night in those secluded woods in 1998.

Wednesday 24 July 2019

Like a mallet made of jelly, the city’s council are threatening to take Uncle Firoz’s lease for The Priory pub away from him. The Priory was rehab for fans wanting to drown their sorrows during Uncle Fizgog’s golden era of misery. As a metaphor for those times, the once loved pub has fallen into disrepair due to his neglect. Now fans are forced to use the authentic local coaching inn Ye Olde Bowlplex and the medieval Templar retreat Francis and Benedict’s for their pre and post-match wallow. 

Over in Europe, The Donkey of Dundalk – Pat Hoban scored a late equaliser for the Irishmen against Qarabag, from Azerbaijan. Interestingly Qarabag is old English for ‘carrier bag’. 

Thursday 25 July 2019

Once more into the fiery furnace of Lichensteiner football. Literally the greatest ever Lichensteiner to play for Oxford, Benji Buchel, was in goal for FC Vaduz’s Europa Cup tie against Hungarian’s Vidi. Sadly, Benji’s boys were defeated by a single goal in the 5th minute. All is not lost though, and the boys have an opportunity to claw back the deficit at Rheinpark Stadion next week.

Friday 26 July 2019

We all know that cosmopolitan sophisticat Çhrïštöphé Ŵíłdê can smoke Gaullist cigarettes, wear roll-neck jumpers and play pétanque until the sun sets, but underneath he is simply Neil Warncok rebooted. Well, the tables have turned, now professional curmudgeon Warnock is doing a Ŵíłdê and packing his squad with Oxford players. Following Curtis Nelson, rumours are abound that Warnock is keen on Gavin Whyte, he likes the cut of his jib, and the swing of his tackle.

Saturday 27 July 2019

It’s always a good idea to line up a friendly against a vastly inferior opponent a week before the season starts to administer a confidence boosting pasting before the serious stuff kicks off. That didn’t go to plan for Solihull Moors who were held to a draw by Oxford United on Saturday. KRob played his strongest, and only, eleven players.

Midweek fixture: The Absolute State of Oxford United (part 2) – Predictions

After last week’s revelations about how you rate Oxford United, let’s have a look at your predictions for the season. Like all good strategies, it’s important to have the end in mind right at the start. Notions of success – from promotion to avoiding relegation to remaining solvent will evolve over time, but where are the expectations now?

There was a lot of consensus about where we’ll finish next season; nearly half of respondents had us finishing anywhere from 8th and 10th, which feels like it has a dose of realism about it.

The cups too had a solid level of expectations; 49% expect us to make the third round of the FA Cup with 51% expecting us to make the second round of the League Cup. It’s fairly certain where the benchmarks are.

If there is an expectation of promotion – 4 punters had us going up as champions – then it’s clear who people think who we need to beat. Over a third of respondents saw Portsmouth as favourites, with Ipswich just ahead of Sunderland. If those prophecies come true, breaking into the automatic promotion spots looks a tall order.

At the other end, Bury’s troubles look set to catch up with them, nearly a third expect them to go down. Wycombe Wanderers got 18% of the vote, although that might be just being a bit vitriolic, Bolton had 11%, just ahead of Rochdale.

Putting the two together sees us finishing 6th with the table looking like this:

Portsmouth92092
Ipswich 85085
Sunderland79376
Peterborough 12111
Rotherham404
Oxford 404
Doncaster202
Blackpool 211
Gillingham12-1
Lincoln 46-2
Fleetwood13-2
Coventry35-2
Burton13-2
Bristol Rovers24-2
Shrewsbury03-3
MK Dons05-5
Southend08-8
Tranmere012-12
Accrington017-17
Wimbledon020-20
Rochdale029-29
Bolton131-30
Wycombe046-46
Bury089-89

It’s not a prediction, but if anyone is in any doubt, feelings towards the Checkatrade Trophy haven’t mellowed; fans rated it somewhere between an irrelevance and a threat to smaller clubs. Only a couple of pragmatists admitted that if we did make it to Wembley, then it would be a good day out.

We asked for a prediction, and perhaps predictably when getting responses from nearly 300 people, while there were common themes; all eventualities are possible.

Board

Winding up orders were a major theme with many predicting more next season – one predicted there would be two (another four), with one by Christmas. One person predicted a change of chairman when Tiger (who will wear a bow tie) becomes Thailand’s new prime minister – or is embroiled in a scandal resulting in financial catastrophe. Will Stewart Donald take over? One person thinks so. It wasn’t all doom and gloom with a handful of people still optimistic that the board will show their worth and bring stability to the club.

There will be ‘three comments’ from either Kassam or the board about the other party not being true to their word, with a few expecting a winding up order, and a court case win, for Uncle Firoz.

Eric Thohir was mentioned by a couple of people – one predicting him to be a damp squib another expecting him to leave. Someone is expecting more ‘high worth individuals’, although isn’t optimistic they’ll bring much to the party. One thinks the club will be sold with another thinking there will be a new board of directors.

Stadium

We will either make progress on a new stadium or things will remain broadly the same. We could buy the stadium or there will be a new agreement to stay at the Kassam (with the rent going up). Also, Kassam will promise a fourth stand, which won’t be built. Or nothing will change and there will still be bird poop on the seats.

Manager

The fate of Karl Robinson is in the balance; will he be sacked by Christmas (or in October)? Or perhaps he’ll get some credit – maybe even be given the freedom of the city. He’ll sign some players he’s worked with before (hello, Tariqe Fosu). Perhaps he’ll punch the fourth official, blame the referee or just generally talk too much nonsense. Meanwhile, one person thinks that Derek Fazackerly will announce his retirement.

Players

Cameron Brannagan will be sold in January, and Rob Dickie, but who will be the player we sell ‘for peanuts’? To compensate we’ll also sell Mark Sykes for more money than we could have predicted.

Recruitment will improve, our top scorer will be a loan player and one of the top five goalscorers in the country with at least 20 goals, but we won’t have enough firepower up front at the start of the season – or we will sign a striker who’ll be rubbish. We’ll concede too many goals because we haven’t replaced Curtis Nelson – or at least not before we’ve played six games – meaning the team will take too long to gel.

We will sign loan players who will return in January, and have an injury crisis for no obvious reason.

Gavin Whyte will be gone in January for £5m (or double his current value). Alternatively, we’ll hold onto him and he’ll have a blinder and end as top scorer. Rob Hall won’t play more than 10 games, but will be a super-sub. We will be promised big signings which will never come and make our record signing; perhaps a pacey forward. Shandon Baptiste will ‘like’ every 21-year old he sees on Twitter (can someone keep an eye on that)?

Results

We’ll be champions, get promoted, make the play-offs, not bother either end of the table and struggle abjectly. It’ll be exciting, average and disappointing. There will be a points deduction with a poor Christmas. We won’t win any games in international breaks and lose at home to Bristol Rovers (obviously), but we will win at Sunderland.

And other things…

Fans will moan all season, we’ll draw Swindon in a cup competition that will be live on TV, an Oxford legend will pass away, there will be a dog on the pitch and Ollie and Olivia Ox will have a baby called Oswald. Blimey.

We’ll keep an eye on all this, and perhaps revisit it throughout the season.

George Lawrence’s Summer Shorts: Durnin time

Monday 15 July 2019

What. A. Week.

Of sport.

We’re all recovering from a mind blowing few days of sporting endeavour; there was Lewis Hamilton winning the British Grand Prix, England winning the cricket World Cup, Benji Buchel keeping a clean sheet in FC Vaduz’s Europa League qualifier, Federer and Djokovic duking it out at Wimbledon over five hours, England trouncing everyone in the Netball World Cup and Thomas De Gendt’s epic breakaway win in the Tour de France.

Wait, what? Yes, the master of the scrambled corner clearance Benji Buchel is now with FC Vaduz who drew 0-0 in the Europa League against Icelandic giants Breidablik. As we said: What. A. Week.

Tuesday 16 July 2019

The two most feared letters in any pre-season are X and I, when put together it transforms a prestige friendly against a progressive, glamorous league club into a meaningless husk of a kick around featuring four trialists, six teenagers and a competition winner from a local school. Sure enough, tonight’s Charlie Methven ‘check out these loafers’ derby with Eastleigh was cursed with an XI as an Oxford United XI went down 0-3.

Wednesday 17 July 2019 

If you’ve endured more than a week of GLS, then you’ll know of Jill Sharp, the loon-eyed Rangers fan spotted at Ibrox a couple of weeks ago for our friendly gubbing from Steven Gerard’s Tax Avoiding army. Well, that game was her last taste of freedom, as she’s been sentenced to a year in prison for stalking some poor sap. Now her cougar-like tendencies have been pegged back, expect Jamie Mackie’s injury to clear up rapidly.

Thursday 18 July 2019

The immovable object meets the irresistible force after PClot signed Dan Crowley from Dutch side Will.I.Am. Quite how PClot’s tactical rigamortis will align to Dan Crowley’s more fluid professionalism and his Trump-esque appreciation of his own abilities (I am great, which has been proved because I say I am, and if you say I’m not you’re lying) remains to be seen.

Friday 19 July 2019

Is it Friday already? KRob described this week as a big one for transfers, and sure enough, the two big additions to next season’s effort have been revealed – Shandon Baptiste is ahead of schedule with recovery from injury (it’s like having a new signing, while not having a new signing) and we have a brand new, er, pitch which is apparently going to give us an advantage. A 20-goals a season advantage? OK, then.

So, we have to look to Europe for our good news (suck on that BoJo). Benji Buchel’s Europa League adventure continues after FC Vaduz beat Breidablik 2-1 in the second leg of their tie. They go to Hungarians Vidi in the next round.

Saturday 20 July 2019

There is no more evocative fixture in Oxford lore than a game against Queens Park Rangers. The Peter Hucker derby was held on Saturday with QPR strolling to a 2-1 win.

Earlier, the club revealed their new away kit, a white number with a blue and yellow sash. The launch was only available to personal callers to the club shop who put photos of it on Twitter. The club promised lots of ‘content’ would be given to internet people later, which turned out to be slightly better photos of the previously revealed new shirt.

Sunday 21 July 2019

We end the week with a wholesome story of all round fun guy Johnny ‘lager’ Durnin. Durnin has been convicted of racially aggravated assault after he grabbed a 74 year-old pensioner by the throat and punched him in the face calling him a ‘Paki bastard’ at a drive-through McDonalds. Durnin denies the charge, claiming it was mere aggravated assault. So that’s OK then. However, afterwards it was revealed that Durnin had thrown a coffee cup at a cyclist a week earlier, perhaps it wasn’t even aggravated, but the charge of ‘habitual assault’ doesn’t currently exist.