Ricky Hatton says that the first three rounds of a fight is the easy bit because adrenalin takes you through. The true test of a champion is what happens after that; tiredness, a lack of progress and a relentless opponent means that you mentally descend into a dark place. How you deal with that dark place dictates what you’re truly made of.
I was feeling rotten on Monday morning and considered not going to the fine win over Stevenage. I couldn’t find a good reason for attending; it was a game without true consequence, it was cold and I was feeling rough. Something inside nagged away – how you deal with these dark places is how you’re judged as a fan.
So, I attended, but I treated myself to an upgrade to the South Stand Upper. It meant I didn’t have to deal with the twat next to me in the Oxford Mail Stand. I didn’t have to stand up in faux anticipation of a goal fest. It’s altogether more civilised in the SSU, overall, it’s nice to get a bit of peace and quiet.
My neighbours in the SSU were evidently not regulars. The bloke next to me referred to ‘The Manor House Ground’ and asked whether Billy Turley was the captain but he did refer to Adam Murray as the rather over familiar; “Muzza”.
It might be the funny acoustics in the ground, but in the SSU you can hear every scream. Muzza appears to refer to everyone by the same name. Perhaps he can’t remember who they all are. I don’t blame him, I’m still not totally au fait with the new look team. I spent some time wondering if Murphy was playing today, before realising that we don’t have a Murphy playing for us.
As detached as I feel from the team, it’s a solid unit I can learn to love. We’re a bit rigid going forward, with players struggling to join any breakaway. Conversely it means Murray (in particular) and Hand control the midfield in a way not seen for some time. The mobility up front, compensation for the firm midfield and defensive units, makes a refreshing change from the turgid attack of earlier in the year. We shouldn’t get too carried away with the win, but finally, at least we have a highlight from the season.