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.

Midweek Fixture: The Absolute State of Oxford United Survey Results (part 1) – Ratings

I wasn’t sure what to expect from the survey, and set myself a target of 100 responses or 1 month, whichever came sooner. That turned out to be quite conservative, there were 150 responses in the first 24 hours, and the survey ended with 297 over the three weeks it was available.

Is this a representative sample? Difficult to say, but many of the patterns were established early on and it’s reasonable to assume that there wouldn’t have been a significant shift had it been available longer, or had more responses. That said, we all operate within our own echo chamber so there may be unrepresented groups with wildly different views out there.

93.2% of those responding were men, which is predictable, although it seems a little high. If you look around the stadium on a match day, there are more than just a few hundred women. If the survey does represent our fan base, then you’d think attracting more women to the stadium would be an obvious focus. It would be interesting to know how that could be achieved – I suspect it’s not about making things pink or having somewhere to store your handbag.

Respondents were evenly split by age – nearly half were between 26-45 (24.7% in both the 26-35 and 36-45 age brackets), a quarter were 16-35 (19.3% 16-25, 16.2% 26-35) and by stand – East and South Stand being largely equal (43.6% and 36% respectively) with the North Stand (11.8%) much smaller. It probably goes without saying that the South Stand is, on average, older than the East Stand. The North Stand appears to be where the middle-aged prefer to sit.

What may be a little surprising is that if you sit in the South Stand, you are much more likely to go regularly home and away. 18% of East Stand supporters will go to 11-20 away games a season where for those in the South Stand it’s 23%. I suspect that this is principally down to practical issues like money and transport – if you’re younger, you probably have less access to both. Still, when you hear that the East Stand is where the most loyal and dedicated supporters are, you might want to think again. 

The first question aimed to establish an overall mark of satisfaction; on average people judged their mood to be 6.7 out of ten, with 7 being the most common response. With no benchmark, it’s tricky to draw conclusions although given the season we’d had, plus an apparent lack of signings, I thought that was quite positive.

Satisfaction by age showed a curious result – if you are young or old, then you tend to be happier than average, but there is a dip if you’re 36-45. Why? The differences aren’t huge, so it might just be an anomaly. Notionally, you’d expect happiness to be dictated by a benchmark, for example, if you experienced the glory years of the 80s or the Division 2 years of the 90s. My theory is that satisfaction is less influenced by the football, more by life in general as it’s well known that those in the age bracket are less likely to be happy.

The length of time you’ve been a fan doesn’t show any particular trend; the smallest group, and also the happiest are those who became fans in the last 10 years; the least happy are those who became fans in the 2000s (17.4% of respondents); which is strange given it was the lowest point for the club in living memory, so you would think, comparatively, that we’re on an upward curve. Most fans started supporting us in the 1980s (28%) and 1990s (23.5%), showing how important the Jim Smith years were to our ongoing support.

A really surprising result was that the largest proportion of respondents (34.6%) live over 50 miles from the stadium. Putting all this together; the bulk of older supporters and the distance people are travelling, it seems we rely heavily on a core of long standing supporters with enough money and desire to travel distances to games. It would appear young, local fans are not joining quickly enough to replace them. Potentially, that’s a bit of a timebomb for the club.

What was perhaps more interesting was what is driving the satisfaction. Karl Robinson and the squad polled almost identical results (6.1 and 6.2 respectively – although that doesn’t show just how close it was). Satisfaction with the board is clocking a decidedly middling 4.9.

Admittedly, the squad is in transition and it’s difficult to know how much that influenced the results, but Robinson – often maligned and criticised – seemed to come out of the assessment positively. Although the averages are identical, more people rated Robinson at 7 than any other score – the squad’s most common score was six.

What does it mean? Well, ‘moderates’ – discounting the most extreme views – rate Robinson more highly than the squad, but opinions on Robinson’s performance are much more varied. This perhaps illustrates how Robinson has his admirers, but at the same time maintains the ability to infuriate.

Given the Board’s performance over the last year, it’s perhaps no surprise to see the results of their relationship with the fans come out inconclusively. Overall, they rated on average 4.9, with most people rating it 5, although the curve seems to demonstrate a degree of uncertainty.

The relationship between the fans and board is similarly sceptical. The average rating was a solid 5 with most people rating the relationship six. There’s not enough data to prove this, but perhaps any judgement on the performances of the board is dictated wholly by the relationship it has with the fans, perhaps hotdogs are important after all.

What was remarkable was that there was virtually no difference of opinion between those who sit in the East Stand and those in the South Stand, so even though we might have a perception that the East Stand is full of the most fervent fans, with the South more sedate, we pretty much speak as one voice. 

I was a little surprised to see that nearly half of respondents thought we had progressed only a little (31%) or not at all (18%) in five years. In 2014 we were in League 2 and at the end of the Wilder/ Lenagan era with the wheels gently falling off; according to the results, there’s a feeling that our progress has been very limited despite being in a division higher with two trips to Wembley under our belt. Short memories? Maybe.

It looks like the fans are expecting no more than incremental improvements in the next five years. 39.8% didn’t expect any change, 34% only a small improvement. If the board are taking us on a great journey, the message hasn’t landed with the fans yet.

It seems a more trivial matter, but the new shirt seemed to get approval from fans rating it an average 7.0 although it’s considered only a little better than last season; perhaps a consequence of sticking with Puma and generally maintaining the same aesthetic.

Overall, the results came out more positively than I was expecting. The summer has been fairly quiet and last season was hardly great.

Midweek fixture: Should we sign Ched Evans?

It feels like a recurring theme, what do you do when your team want to sign someone who is a wrong’un? Last season it was Nile Ranger, previously it was Luke McCormick and before that Adam Chapman, now it’s Ched Evans. Four players in ten years, and we still haven’t resolved the issue.

Let’s not pretend that Oxford fans are consistent and morally principled on the issue. Chapman, whose crime was dangerous driving resulting in the death of a pensioner, was supported almost without question. Reponse to McCormick’s signing – after killing two children while drunk driving – was generally hostile until he put in a series of solid performances covering for Ryan Clarke, he left at the end of the season with generally good will.

Ranger didn’t sign, of course, but given the state we were at the time there was the attitude of, well, if he can do a job…

Karl Robinson admitted this week that Ched Evans was a player that interested him. Rightly so, Evans is a decent player whose been seriously devalued due to his conviction for rape in 2012. That devaluation has brought the player into our price range when in normal circumstances we wouldn’t be able to afford him. In terms of a playing ‘asset’ Evans makes a lot of sense and Robinson is right to consider him an option.

The conviction was quashed in 2016, but the stench of the trial remains. Evans is free to work in whichever field he can find it. There’s a line of argument that says being a footballer is a privileged position and that players who do wrong shouldn’t be admitted back into the fold. That’s nonsense.

There’s also the argument that Evans is innocent (unlike the others), a victim of a malicious claim by his accuser. More than one professional footballer has openly empathised with the predatory dangers of women.

But Evans being found not guilty doesn’t prove his innocence. What his legal team achieved – with the aid of a substantial reward – was to convince a jury that the accusers previous behaviour – having sex with men while drunk – demonstrated a pattern which, while not proving Evans’ innocence, at least made the guilty verdict unsafe.

Evans’ innocence could only be proved if he could show he wasn’t there (he was), he didn’t have sex with the woman (he did, with a teammate present) or that she actively consented (difficult to prove, and not part of his defence). In essence Evans’ legal team didn’t prove his innocence, they undermined his accuser’s story.

That’s their right, it’s how the legal process works. But, most players don’t get themselves in a position where they risk being accused of rape. Plus, rape happens with frightening regularity and conviction rates are appallingly low. Rape is hard to prove, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen and I’m generally of the opinion that failed cases are more likely to be the result from a lack of evidence than the maliciousness of the accuser. What is there to gain from having the intimate details of your sex life commited to public record? Unless you believe that women are genetically predisposed to this kind of thing, in which case, you are an ignoramous.

Despite the verdict, Evans’ story remains a grubby one, and one that he has been an active participant in. While he should be free to continue his career wherever he can find work, this is a story that I’d rather we weren’t a part of.

Transfer window: Liveblog – July 2019

We’re in month three of the creeping death of the transfer window. If you can bear it; you can read all about May and June here. In short, Rob Hall renewed his contract, Curtis Nelson didn’t, Alex Gorrin signed plus a slew of under-23s. We’re still waiting on Chris Cadden from Motherwell.

Elsewhere, Kemar Roofe and Callum O’Dowda have been subject to speculation, although news on those fronts has reduced to a dribble. Strap in, July’s here…

Monday 1 July 2019

Seems a bit fanciful, but then this is the club who signed Ricky Holmes, Teeny Tiny Jack Payne is wanted by Gillingham after his release from Huddersfield.

Probably the least surprising news of modern times is that Tariq Fosu has signed for us taking another one off our ‘possible’ list. Talking of which, Chris Cadden’s move from Motherwell might be on the skids as Sunderland are now interested.

Tuesday 2 July 2019

Oxford City goal machine Kabongo Tshimanga, frequently linked with us – making him a modern day Norman Sylla – has signed with the decidedly less glamorous Boreham Wood in the Conference.

Wednesday 3 July 2019

We knew Teeny Tiny Jack Payne wasn’t going anywhere as inauspicious as Gillingham. He’s signed for Lincoln City instead.

Thursday 4 July 2019

Listen very carefully, I shall say this only once… Chris Cadden has now gained the interest of Columbus Crew in the USA who can’t actually play him due to overseas player restrictions. So, if they did buy him, they might loan him to us. However, they’re quibbling over the fee. The impasse could leave a gap for Sunderland to exploit, except they’re restricted due to ongoing discussions about a takeover. Got that?

Friday 5 July 2019

Tyrone Marsh and Robbie Cundy; both ‘future’s of the club’ during their time in the juniors have signed for Boreham Wood and Exeter (on loan from Bristol City) respectively.

Sunday 7 July 2019

On the day that Oxford play Rangers in a friendly, the universe continues to contract. It seems the Glaswegians want Leeds (because it’s always Leeds) striker Kemar Roofe. The price being quoted is £5million, which seems a paltry sum given that’s not that far north of what Leeds paid us.

Monday 8 July 2019

Spelling’s worst nightmare Fiacre Kelleher, has re-joined Macclesfield Town where, apparently, he spent last season on loan.

Tuesday 9 July 2019

A decent legit rumour; Oxford have tabled a £500,000 bid for Kilmarnock centre-back Stuart Findlay.

Wednesday 10 July 2019

Cosmopolitan sophistocat Çhrïstøphę Wîldë has resisted the lure of the gutter; after being linked to a number of Championship clubs following some unrest at Sheffield United.

As baffling transfers of the summer go, Tsun Dai’s move to Wolves for genuine money will take some beating.

Ched Evans is in KRob’s sights after he scored a bucketload of goals for Fleetwood last season.

And, as predictable as the sun rising in the morning, MApp didn’t get the Donny Rovers job, Darren Moore did.

Thursday 11 July 2019

KRob’s hopes of bringing Luke ‘Garbs’ Garbutt back to Oxford have been dashed now signed for Ipswich Town.

Sunday 14 July 2019

HITC, a site of questionable credibility, claims Neil Lennon has been watching Sheffield United’s Gorgeous George Baldock. He’s been keeping an eye on him for over a year, but only admits in the final paragraph that luring him north is a completely different kettle of fish.

Monday 15 July 2019

Donegal’s finest, John O’Bika has is on trial at Stevenage with the view to a long term injury.

Tuesday 16 July 2019

Itchy footed midfielder Callum O’Dowda is on the verge of a move to Fulham having got bored at Bristol City. We should be set to benefit from a decent sell-on fee, although the clubs are quibbling over the fee.

Elsewhere, Marcus Browne could be set to leave West Ham with Manuel Pellegrini preferring some ready made wing work rather than making his own.

Wednesday 17 July 2019

Oxford have given up in their pursuit of Stuart Findlay after a number of other clubs got involved jacking the price up. Perhaps KRob should keep his cards slightly closer to his chest?

Thursday 18 July 2019

Goalkeeper Max Crocombe has joined Brisbane Roar where he’ll flatter to deceive and Dan Crowley will be joining PClot at Birmingham City for an argument after he signed for £700,000.

George Lawrence’s summer shorts: fixtures and flittings

Monday 17 June 2019

So, that’s settled; Curtis Nelson is heading for Cardiff City. Nelson hasn’t signed a new contract with Oxford due to his ambition to play for a Championship club. This alerted Sunderland, who admitted defeat in the race after remembering that they weren’t one. Gammon fanzine The Daily Mail are now reporting that Nelson’s off to South Wales.

Meanwhile in Costa Rica, Jonte ‘Angle’ Smith drew on the ineffectual cameo experience he gained during his time at Oxford by coming on for Bermuda in their 2-1 defeat to Haiti in the CONCACAF Gold Cup.

On the internet, Oxford United blogging sensation Oxblogger has launched The Absolute State of Oxford United Survey, which you can take part in here.

Tuesday 18 June 2019

Negotiations are hotting up to keep Gavin Whyte at Oxford United following interest from Nottingham Forest. The too and fro is like watching the mating ritual of a pair of particularly amourous flamingos. KRob did the ultimate mic-drop by giving Whyte the number 10 shirt next season. Whyte’s considered response was a high-fives emoji on Twitter. That’s some high stakes negotiating right there.

In a, *squints*, Morrisons near Wembley, the baked beans are being tidied in preparation for the Carabao Cup draw which will be held there on Thursday.

In foreign climes, Curacao didn’t make Gino van Kessel run in their defeat to El Salvador.

Wednesday 19 June 2019

Birmingham City have sent former loanee Garry Monk back to his monastery due to the fact they’re making too much progress or something. In his wake comes PClot as caretaker head coach.

The meticulously crafted Spanish marketing construct, and Oxford United record breaker, brings a wealth of experience focussing on football fundamentals; the obsessive recreation of early 2010’s Malmo, soporific tactics and posting vaingloriously thoughtful photos on Twitter.

Thursday 20 June 2019

Fixtures Christmas! A day when randomly assorted list of obscure northern towns starts to address the issues you have with your father’s lack of love and attention when the teenage you was addressing conflicting feelings surrounding your sexuality. Or is that just us?

Football League copyright restrictions prevent us from letting you know who we’re playing, in fact we’re not sure we should even be telling you that football exists. We open the season with the Marco Gabbiadini derby, Boxing Day sees us play in the Wayne Biggins Trophy. The last game of the season will be the Sam Ricketts Invitational.

The Type 2 Diabetes Cup first round was drawn at the home of football (Morrisons, Colindale). The removal of unexpected items in the velvet bagging area resulted in us drawing, a two-for-one offer on Branston Pickle.

Or, Peterborough United.

And then, if there wasn’t enough football for the day, we only went and signed a real life player; Alex Rodriguez Gorrin, whose has a record as a tough tackling midfield ball-winner. He should provide lots of protection for the shrinking wallflower Cameron Brannagan.

Friday 21 June 2019

Back in the real world of losing games, the ever-consistent Jonte ‘Angle’ Smith made a brief and ineffectual appearance for Bermuda in their defeat to Costa Rica in the Gold Cup.

Saturday 22 June 2019

The technical sports bras were back out on Saturday as the players returned for what was nebulously called ‘testing’. We assume this was to see whether they’ve gone up a cup size or two during their down time. Judging by pictures on Twitter, none of the players have gone full Matt Day who appeared to use his summers during the Conference years supplementing his income as a doughnut eating competition professional.

No, you’re regretting finding out it was on… in The Gold Cup, Gino van Kessel featured as a substitute in Curacao’s 1-0 win over Honduras. What’s worse, it means they can still qualify for the knock-out rounds.

Still, you could console yourself by filling out an Oxford United survey, couldn’t you?

George Lawrence’s Summer Shorts: Admirable Nelson

Monday 10 June 2019

Last month, the club publicly pledged its eternal allegiance to the King of Thailand, and everyone thought that was a Very Normal Thing To Do. GLS take these things seriously, so today’s news is dedicated to our new leader.

Remember, workshy barrel chested wingman Gino van Kessel who we had an option to buy for £800,000 last year? An option that became as attractive as eating a nest of wasps? Well, nobody saw van Kessel run in 12 parsecs on Saturday as he was an unused substitute in Curaçao’s King’s Cup win over Vietnam in Thailand. Meanwhile, Tiger was photographed having a grrrrreat meeting with Ahmed Kashi. Kashi’s hotel is a home from home; it’s got a big bed, TV and an early bath.

Tuesday 11 June 2019

It takes a billion grains of sand to make a beach; and today is a veritable sandpit of news. The arms race in the Championship is hotting up – Chrìstôphé Wïldé is still being courted by West Brom and Middlesborough, while Hull City are being linked with Steve McClaren – or as Athletico Mince prefer ‘15th and out’ – and the man who will always win an arms race, perpetual managerial bridesmaid, MApp.

Meanwhile, if you’re worried about the value of your investments in the wake of Brexit, put your money into Gavin Whyte whose stock value grows exponentially. Having lodged a £2m interest, Nottingham Forest have found their target’s value arbitrarily doubled by a Sky commentator on Sunday. Cagey-in-chief, KRob, who has a poker-face like concrete, has piled in saying he wants more than that, while boasting about how good he is at selling players.    

Wednesday 12 June 2019

It’s all going off in non-playing substitute news this week. Tyler Roberts was keeping his snood game strong on the bench for Wales as they got mullered by Hungary. Half of the Oxford United Jedward, Mark Sykes has experienced the joy of wearing a fluorescent tabard after making the bench for Northern Ireland’s Euro qualifier win over Belarus. Gavin Whyte; Sykes’ partner in disposable pop-crime didn’t make the bench and was left in the stands Googling ‘obscenity laws, nottingham’.

An archeological dig has discovered the missing link between Matt Elliot and Curtis Nelson – via Steve Davis, Brian Wilsterman and Andy Lineghan. Neolithic former centre-back Mike Williamson has been excavated to become manager of Gateshead.

Thursday 13 June 2019

KRob’s search for players continues having taken his wife on a hot date to the Toulon Tournament. She tweeted a shot of them looking out across a spartan stadium readying themselves for the semi-final tie between Brazil and the Republic of Ireland.

Giddy fans implored KRob to pull one out of the bag and sign one of the samba stars of the future. But, KRob’s recruitment strategy is taken directly from Henry Ford’s principle of having any colour of car as long as it’s black. Or, in KRob’s case, we can have any player as long as they’re Irish, so we’re only going to get a starlet with a famous Brazilian name if The Republic have Diarmuid O’Pele or Eamonn O’Zico in their ranks.

Friday 14 June 2019

KRob’s admitted defeat in Curtis Nelson signing a new contract. It seems humiliatingly stripping him of the captaincy, giving it to a player with less than 5 games experience, and then preventing him from wearing the armband even for a few minutes at the end of any game has not motivated Nelson to sign. Go figure. He’s looking for a move to the Championship, or at least teams look like they should be in the Championship but are a bit too shambolic to actually be there. Like Sunderland.

Saturday 15 June 2019

The weekend has been a barron wasteland of news, so we end the week pretty much where we started. All eyes will be on the benches of the CONCACAF Gold Cup in USA, Jamaica and Costa Rica (basically, anywhere that’s happy to host a game). This is the international tournament for countries with the best holiday destinations. Jonte Angle Smith is lining up (for the national anthems, before sitting on the bench) for Bermuda in their game against Haiti on Sunday while Gino van Kessel’s Curaçao start their bid to avoid humiliation against El Salvador on Tuesday.

Liveblog: Transfer window – June 2019

Welcome to June’s Transfer Window, consider this a shelter from the storm of Oxford United tweets complaining about ‘y we dont no about nu singings’. Come and drench yourself in the cleansing waters every spurious rumour in the Oxford United universe.

May was a thrill-ride of former loanees and youth players signing for Conference South teams, you can read about it all here, but let’s carry over three stories of interest.

Having been offered a new contract which he’s expected to turn down, there’s little news of Curtis Nelson’s plans for next season. Leeds’ failure in the play-offs have sparked mutterings of Kemar Roofe going to the Premier League and Callum O’Dowda has done what he does and pulled a sicky to push for a move, possibly to Elland Road.

Saturday 1 June 2019

Jonjoe Kenny could be about to get his umlauts out by joining Schalke on loan from Everton after being squeezed out at Goodison.

Sunday 2 June 2019

One half of the Oxford United Jedward – we know the name is a portmanteau, we’re just not sure which is Je and which is Dward – Gavin Whyte is attracting interest from Nottingham Forest. We’re not one to cast aspersions, well, we are, but let’s pretend we’re not; but the story was broken by newspapers in Northern Ireland, where Whyte is away on international duty. Unless a Nottinghamshire hack has speculatively gone to Ireland sniffing for a story, we’d speculate this might be coming from the Camp of Whyte. Is he about to O’Dowda us?

Wednesday 5 June 2019

INCOMING? We’ve been linked with Charlton winger Tariqe Fosu <strikethrough>who might be a good replacement for Gavin Whyte</strikethrough>. Apparently the race for his signature is a three-way battle between us, Lincoln and Rotherham. KRob worked with Fosu when was at Charlton, because KRob seems to have worked with every professional footballer in the country at some point. Presumably Fosu wouldn’t have to uproot to come to Oxford, so maybe that’s a go-er.

Friday 7 June 2019

Leeds are ready to offer Kemar Roofe a big pay rise to keep him at Elland Road. Roofe was keen to start negotiations a year ago when he wasn’t top scorer, Leeds are ready now he is. Thems the breaks, I guess.

Meanwhile poor old Callum O’Dowda may have to find a new club to agitate a move to, the same report says Leeds aren’t interested. The big O’D (Original Defector) will have to focus on engineering a move elsewhere.

Sunday 9 June 2019

KRob’s attempt at signing every Charlton player took another step with rumours that we’d like to sign Defender Jason Pearce. Sunderland and Portsmouth are also in for him, so KRob will have his work cut out.

Monday 10 June 2019

Derby manager Frank Lampard is interested in signing loan specialist Todd Kane. Lardy Lamps will vaguely remember Kane from his days flushing the young full-back’s head down the toilet and stealing his dinner money at Chelsea.

Tuesday 11 June 2019

Matt Green is becoming a modern day Jefferson Louis after signing for his eleventh club; Grimsby Town. Dejohn Noel-Williams, briefly of this parish, has made the big time with a move to Wealdstone.

Our short lived pursuit of Jason Pearce may already be over as Portsmouth are apparently his preferred destination.

Meanwhile, Jonjoe Kenny’s loan has been confirmed by Schalke, who totally went there.

Wednesday 11 June 2019

Former loan striker, Jordan Bowery has joined evil ne’er do wells, MK Dons after turning down a new contract at Crewe. Celtic and Rangers are fighting again, this time over Marcus Browne, who they want on loan. Get a room, guys.

Thursday 12 June 2019

This one makes a lot of sense; apparently newly promoted Aston Villa want to bring Kemar Roofe back to the West Midlands.

Friday 14 June 2019

Fact-vacuum The Sun (actually, the Scottish version The McSun) are reporting that we might be in for Motherwell’s midfielder Chris Cadden, the basis of the story being that KRob scouts in Scotland regularly (signings = 0).

Saturday 16 June 2019

Former youth team player Marvel, yes Marvel, Ekpiteta has signed for Newport County. His brother Marvin, yes Marvin and Marvel, plays for Leyton Orient.

Monday 17 June 2019

Looks like Curtis Nelson is off to Cardiff City to join creepy Uncle Warnock in the Championship. Apparently Stewart Donald at Sunderland wanted to continue Project: Oxford (North), by signing Nelson, but the defender wants to play in the Championship.

Tuesday 19 June 2019

That Chris Cadden rumour appears to be gathering pace with The Herald reporting that a fee of around £300,000 has been established. But, more than that, KRob’s going for a double also targetting Cadden’s teammate Alex Gorrin.

Elsewhere, we’re also in the market for Jorge Grant from Nottingham Forest. I mean, how many central midfielders does one team need?

Thursday 20 June 2019

We’ve got a live one! Alex Gorrin has signed a two-year contract after leaving Motherwell. Described as tough tackling ball winner, his signing must raise doubts over Ahmed Kashi.

MeanwhioeSheffield Wednesday have shown an interest in signing one Cheyenne Armani Keanu Roma Dunkley from Wigan despite being under some kind of Transfer embargo. So goodness knows how that’s supposed to work.

Oh, and while you’re here…

Sunday 23 June 2019

The Scottish Sun, who are rapidly becoming the voice of Oxford United transfer news are reporting that we’re about to sign Danny Wilson who is neither the former Barnsley manager nor the 80s pop band. He’s currently at Colorado Rapids.

Wednesday 26 June 2019

The general radio silence surrounding the club may be telling as Tariqe Fosu (see 5 June) is apparently on the verge of signing after announcing he was leaving Charlton.

Thursday 27 June 2019

It’s all go; brother of Love Island star Wes, Curtis Nelson has finally signed his deal with Cardiff. The original man-bun Ryan Williams has signed for Portsmouth. Former junior yellow Robbie Cundy, who joined Bristol City earlier in the summer is being lined up for a loan move to Exeter City. Oxford City striker, and sometime Oxford United target Kabongo Tshimanga is set for ‘a Conference team’. Teeny tiny Jack Payne, recently released by Huddersfield and occasionally mentioned as a possible target could be on his way to join managerial cuckoo, PClot at Birmingham City.

Talking of which, former loanee Garry Monk could be on his way to replace Frank Lampy Lamps at Derby.

Sunday 30 June 2019

Legit legend James Constable will be tearing it up at Hungerford Town next season while the less-legendary Jerome Sinclair has snubbed us for VVV-Venlo in Holland.

Midweek fixture – Robin Herd

In his book Them, Jon Ronson interviews extremists from all sides of the political spectrum and concludes that they are bound by the single idea that the world is controlled by a nefarious central entity i.e. ‘Them’. He suggests, however, that there is no ‘Them’ and the world is made up of billions of people making trillions of decisions – some good and many bad and that we muddle through dealing with the consequences of both.

This could describe the legacy of Robin Herd, who died last week, towards Oxford United. Having made his name as an engineer, first working on Concorde, then in Formula 1 racing, he became chairman in 1995 owning 89.2% of the club shares. Oxford educated, he was unusual in that rather than becoming wholly ensconced in the insular world of university life, he became a genuine fan of the club.

At the time we were still reeling from the aftermath of the Maxwell era; clinging to a sheer rock face; somehow holding on, but gradually losing our grip. The best we could hope was to hang on as long as possible, even if the end was both inevitable and catastrophic.

Herd’s arrival injected some enthusiasm and energy into the club that it hadn’t seen for a decade. Having a genuine fan leading the club gave a reassurance it was finally in good hands. He was a charismatic showman, fresh from the glamorous world of Formula 1. He had contacts, in particular the Agnelli family, who owned Juventus. Herd announced a strategic alliance between the two clubs, suggesting that there would be a swapping of talent and ideas, they’d get Matt Murphy, we’d get Alessandro Del Piero. There was even talk of having our second kit styled in Juventus’ black and white stripes. The Italians rapidly played down the link up and it ultimately fizzled to nothing; even Oxford officials described it as ‘talks about talks’.

In 1994, after a decade in the top two divisions, we’d finally lost our footing and dropped to the Third Division; it’s wrong to say Herd stimulated an immediate return to the second tier – that work was already underway even in the year we were relegated with the arrival of Denis Smith. But, time was running out financially; we had a solid core of a squad but it couldn’t be maintained forever. The stability Herd offered gave Smith the opportunity to build on what he had, keeping saleable assets such as Matt Elliot, Phil Gilchrist, Joey Beauchamp, Phil Whitehead and Paul Moody. In 1996, that stability allowed us to survive a poor opening to the season before gaining a head of steam, and a thrilling late season run, which saw us snatching promotion on the last day of the season against Peterborough.

It was a good time for Herd to get involved in football. The Premier League was finding its feet, football was becoming a political asset under New Labour not the societal burden promoted by the ailing Tories. Steve Gibson had started to transform Middlesbrough by building a new stadium, Jack Walker had already made waves at Blackburn; with a bit of ambition, moderate clubs could start making progress in a way it never could before.

Oxford’s search for a new stadium had been going on for over thirty years and nobody had cracked it. Even at the peak of our powers with a rich and unctuous owner in Maxwell, we hadn’t managed to budge the combined forces of the local council and university. Sites and plans came and went, it was Robin Herd who broke the cycle.

The conditions were right; the idea of stimulating economic growth by developing out of town greenfield sites for shopping centres and supermarkets was evolving. Football stadiums became a political lever to allow that to happen. Finally the council crumbled and Herd’s greatest project – a brand new Oxford United stadium at Minchery Farm – was underway.

Things progressed rapidly, a four stand design with a conference centre was adopted with plans to fill in the corners when budget allowed. Iron girders went up and the new ground started to take shape. Then rumours started, contractors weren’t on site, bills hadn’t been paid. The club fell silent, I would drive past from time to time, progress seemed to be slow, but I wanted to believe it was just how these things worked.

According to Herd, he planned to buy up commercial land around the stadium, but when the council blocked him, the money dried up. A Bermudan investor, John Gunn, pulled out after ‘studying the club’s accounts’, though it was also revealed he was being investigated by the DTI regarding the £1.6bn collapse of a finance company. With pressure growing to hand over to someone with the cash to complete the job, Herd conceded defeat.

The contractors, Taylor Woodrow, were gone, Herd’s dream had backfired spectacularly on the club he supported, we had all the same problems as before plus the additional burden of rent on a rotting carcass of a new stadium. The debt was reported to be as high as £18 million.

The blow-back was hideous; Matt Elliot was sold for £1.6 million, Phils Gilchrist and Whitehead went for cut priced deals to Leicester and West Brom, Simon Marsh went to Birmingham. Even as we ran out of playing assets to cash in on, bills and wages weren’t paid and the club descended further, losing £12,000 a week. Then Firoz Kassam appeared to bail Herd and the club out.

If life is a series of decisions, some good, many bad, then judging Robin Herd’s legacy should be judged in that context. He achieved something that nobody else had by securing a new site for a stadium – it drove us to the verge of oblivion and into the hands of an owner who took us to the Conference. But, had we not moved, what would have happened? Perhaps the conditions would have become more favourable and we’d have had a new ground to thrive in, or we could still be at a dilapidated Manor Ground wallowing in the Conference with little prospect of getting out.

Perhaps we needed a fan with an audacious vision to modernise the club; perhaps the blow-up was inevitable but needed. A more objective, rational owner may not have taken the same risk, and not got as far as a result. The brief period of his reign – he left in 1998 – included a famous promotion and the foundations of a new ground, plus a big dose of glamorous lunacy. In isolation, it was as good as it got in the 1990s. The decisions taken after his brief reign shouldn’t cloud what he achieved. Even though the aftermath was painful, Herd’s legacy should be measured more about what he did while he was in charge and less about what impact it ultimately had.

George Lawrence’s Summer Shorts: Zebroski’s away goals count trouble

Sunday 2 June 2019

There was a Twitter takeover on Chris Zebroski’s socials this weekend. The Big Zebroski was on loan from Millwall in 2007 contributing a missed penalty in the Conference play-off semi-final defeat to Exeter City. He’ll be expecting more penalties after he met someone called Layla, who got him on his knees (probably). He’ll ‘be begging darling please’ after his wife tweeted from his account a series of incriminating messages between the man she is soon to call her ex and the women she called ‘Ugly Fat C***’ Layla’; which coincidentally was the working title of the Eric Clapton classic whose lyrics are painfully laced throughout this paragraph. Despite her posh quadruple barrelled name, we doubt she’ll ‘ease his worried mind’.

And in other news, Zebroski doesn’t have Twitter anymore.

Monday 3 June 2019

The club used Josh ‘Ruffles’ Ruffels to reveal next season’s home kit; thereby labelling him the player good enough to get game-time next season, but not good enough to be sold before August. According to the Puma marketing drones, the design includes a sublimated flux, which is either the faulty component of the Delorean in Back to the Future or the unintended consequence of consuming a jar full of pickled cucumbers.

Tuesday 4 June 2019

First West Brom now Middlesbrough are reported to be wafting a plate of smoked kippers in an attempt to lure Christophé Wïlldê back into the Championship. Wïlldê is unhappy that off-the-field problems may scupper Sheffield United’s relegation preparations and reports suggest that Boro are desperate to be brought down a bit after a year of Tony Pulis’ special brand of miserablism.

Wednesday 5 June

The club have announced that they’re to play a prestige friendly against Scottish giants Glasgow Rangers. If you’re not familiar with Scottish football, it’s a bit like The Conference, if two of the teams had a massive hang up about 5th century Scottish church reform. The Tax Avoidance Derby also offers an opportunity for entrepreneurial photographers to get KRob and Steven Gerrard pictures, which would make a great ‘before and after’ shot when promoting dangerous weight loss pills on the web.

Thursday 6 June

John Mousinho may be about to follow his dad Jose into management as KRob has told him that he won’t play much next season despite an appearance related contract extension. That’s like doing your marriage vows then leaning across to your beloved and whispering ‘that’s all just a figure of speech, right?’ KRob would like to offer Mousinho the opportunity to become a player-coach, or as he’ll be known ‘a coach’, or to use its technical term; cone management technician.

Friday 9 June

Grab a spatula, this news barrel won’t scrape itself. The club’s Head of Star Jumps Chris Short has signed a new contract for next season. Short, who is as handsome and rugged as Bear Grylls’ arsehole, is credited with improving the team’s fitness leading to a slew of 94th minute winners in the closing weeks of the season. He’ll be working on improving the other 93 when the players get back together in a few weeks.

Saturday 8 June

We’re assuming it was due to the relentless jumping about in silver drainpipes and orange winklepickers, but the Oxford United Jedward Gavin Sykes and Mark Whyte, or whatever, were split up for Northern Ireland’s game against Estonia. Whyte – who Sky reckoned is now worth £4 million – made his first competitive start for the national team in their 2-1 win whereas Sykes didn’t make the bench.

Midweek fixture: Home shirt 2019/2020 – a review

One of the greatest tragedies of the human condition is the realisation that your club’s kit is rarely, if ever, specifically designed for your club. I came to that realisation very late having believed for years that clubs dealt directly with manufacturers to tap into the essence of their existence to inspire a design which would emote to your very soul.

Nope, most football shirts, whether you are playing park or professional football, is simply a manufacturer’s template in a particular colourway with a badge and sponsor sewn on.

The new Oxford home shirt, revealed this week, puts that into greater contrast than ever before. Like countless other teams in the lower leagues, the shirt is manufactured by Puma, and is basically a yellow and blue version of Tranmere’s new shirt, Rotherham’s and, heaven forfend, Swindon’s.

The lower leagues are a good place for Puma to operate; away from the arms race between Adidas and Nike, they enjoy a reputation for being a premium brand without the budget of the big two. You could argue that League 1 is full of once premium brands working at a budget level as well.   

The strategy appears to be to hoover up as many clubs as possible to benefit from the aggregated audience they offer. Making money, however, means keeping costs low, which means there are limited options available and those that exist are universal, uncontroversial and perhaps a little bland.

The other cost saving is in marketing; rather than spend money on carefully crafted marketing whiffle, it is easier to issue a templated descriptions for threadbare club marketing departments to use. But, if you do that you should never use such supercilious wibble as ‘flux pattern sublimated into the shirt’ because that sort of phrase is a honeypot for stretched copywriters; it must mean something.

But does it? The simple answer is no, it is promotional boohockey of the first order. Of the many definitions of flux, the one which even remotely makes sense is not the ‘abnormal discharge of blood’ but a description of something that flows. ‘Sublimate’ is less clear and probably refers to the elevation of something, though perhaps not to a higher social plain as is its true definition. Distilled into something more digestible, it might be better to say there are textured wavy lines in the fabric.

That’s the new shirt’s defining motif; a nod to some of the more imaginative styles developed by Puma as they’ve courted emergent footballing nations from Africa, in particular. As well as the sublimated flux; the shirt has blue sleeves with a thick yellow cuff, similar to the 2016/2017 ‘Starter’ shirt although the overall effect is more towards the 2011/2012 Nike edition.

Thankfully, the club have reverted to blue shorts, which gives everyone hope that the world’s most complex problems can be resolved, along with yellow socks, of which I’ve always been a fan.

All in all, it’s OK, a bit derivative and obviously generic, but ultimately OK. I can see how people will like it, because there’s so little to be offended by. Perhaps my shattered illusions of a kit which is truly ours, plus the regimented annual reveal of yet another new shirt – which is necessarily limited in scope in terms of colour and layout – has made the whole thing less exciting than it once was.

It is what it is; so the club are rightly marketing it as an empty vessel whose meaning is derived from the moments that happen in it. These things only become classics if something memorable happens while wearing them – think promotions, cup or derby wins. Whether this becomes a classic remains to be seen.