Let’s face it, the football world, nor any other world is going to tilt on its axis as a result of our defeat to Tonbridge. It’s not so much a case of how do we get beaten by teams like that, it’s how have we ended up playing first team games in competitions which barely feature on Teletext let alone get coverage in the mainstream media.
Like beating a weakened Manchester United in the Carling Cup, it looks much better on paper than it does in reality. Tonbridge beat the Oxford United brand. The former league club, the Milk Cup winners with a big stadium. John Aldridge, Ray Houghton and all that jazz. They haven’t beaten a good side. If the same team wore different coloured shirts and called themselves Droyslden, nobody would be interested – though we’re deluding ourselves to think that because we’re Oxford anyone cares.
The winners, of course, are off to AFC Wimbledon. If Torquay are the ghost of our football present and Ebbsfleet the ghost of football yet to come, then Wimbledon are the ghost of football past.
This is the team that did what Oxford did around the same time Oxford did it, except they came from further down, rose faster, stayed at the top longer and won a better cup against a better team. Even their fall has been more dramatic and cataclysmic; at the party they got wildly drunk, sang loudly on the Karaoke before collapsing in a heap and puking in the taxi. We made a fumbled pass at a girl we’ve liked for ages, got totally humiliated, made an excuse that we needed the toilet and popped off home when no one was looking.
When Wimbledon were pillaged of everything they’d earn’t they were left with nothing but a shell and a spirit of a club, they dusted themselves off and got on with it.
We got lazy; fans, owners, managers and players. We thought the brand would carry us through. We forgot to work for our success; during the pre-season every new signing bar Twigglet were triallists. We got the desperados, the hired guns looking for work. Players no one else wanted.
We may have scoffed at the likes of Phil Gilchrist, Rufus Brevett and Gavin Johnson dragging their fractured frames around a pitch every Saturday. But these were players who understood the work needed to be successful. Physically, they couldn’t do it, but mentally it was all there.
Even the club’s administrators have forgotten the effort needed to keep the club ticking over. Last year a huge amount of effort was put into filling the ground on Boxing Day. This year, they really can’t be bothered.
The fans are turning up to games expecting us to destroy the opposition (We are Oxford, who are you?). When it doesn’t happen in the first five minutes they get on the players’ backs.
Roll on Saturday and a pointless pasting from Aldershot. Hopefully this self-flagellation through the cups will awaken everyone to the task ahead. Signings in January, work on the training pitch, communication with the fans and the fans recognising that without their positive input, there’s no point. Only when the realisation hits that this club needs building from the floor will success come.