The official site is not short of plugs for the commercial opportunities at the club. It’s not wholly unwelcome, and during close-season not unexpected although one website describes the risible decision to have a shorts sponsor as ‘another great marketing idea’.
Hmm, had Firoz Kassam pumped the website full of marketing messages would he have been applauded in the same way? No, of course not. On current form, if anything Kassam was less commercially minded than the current regime, yet Kassam’s money grabbing was a persistent criticism.
The difference between Kassam and Nick Merry is that nobody liked Kassam. He built the stadium, but that was dismissed as a sweetener for a bigger land deal. He employed a string of managers with a logic that was hard to argue against. Joe Kinnear had a track record, Mark Wright was a manager with potential, Ian Atkins is one of the best at that level, Graham Rix seems to have a good reputation within the game (how, otherwise, does he keep getting employed?), Ramon Diaz had a track record akin to Alex Ferguson and Brian Talbot was another who had done it at that level. Apart from Atkins, no one succeeded and it was all Kassam’s fault. He brought in players like Basham, Mooney, Moody, Crosby and Bradbury; all of whom came with a good reputation. Even in the darkest days he was a regular presence at home games (one journalist commented on his departure that he didn’t go to away games, which is one thing he has in common with 90% of Oxford fans, then).
He was open that he didn’t really know what he was doing. He invested in the infrastructure (the stadium) at the expense of the team, which was a mistake, being fooled, as many fans were, into thinking that lower divisions are easy and that a big stadium inevitably leads to success.
Oxford fans will looked to John Madejski and what he did at Reading. But Madejski, like Kassam, is constantly appalled by the industry he’s in, the money involved and the way the normal rules of business (principally loyalty to contracts) are thrown out the window. Kassam’s biggest mistake was to not appoint a Chief Executive who understands the complications of football (Oxblogger doesn’t profess to know what those complications are, and few fans do, despite their claims otherwise). We know that its a ruthless game, where club loyalty is a myth and that star players polish teams they don’t make them. We also know that no division is easy and just because your ground looks like it should be in a higher division, doesn’t mean you will. In the end, the arrival of Nick Merry and Jim Smith has cleansed the club of the endless naval gazing and doom mongering. But as Kassam learnt running a successful football club is hard and that just because everything seems to be OK, doesn’t mean it will be. There’s a long way to go before the club is back where ‘it belongs’.
On the pitch (we play football too?), the first friendly of the year brought a 3-1 win against Didcot at the NPower Loop (yes, really). This is Didcot’s view of the game.