I can remember two masterclasses in the art of ‘returning to your old club’. The most recent was Lee Steele’s return to the Kassam on the last day of the 2005/6 season. He simply got on with what he did well. As gutsy as our performance was; Steele was just too good – he scored and we went down.
Nigel Jemson was hardly in his prime when he turned up with Shrewsbury to the Kassam shortly after we moved there. He barracked and bickered his way through the game as usual. When Paul Tait put in a reckless challenge, Jemson waddled 70 yards to give the ref a couple of reminders as to why he might treat Tait to the ultimate sanction. With the red card issued, the crowd and team went into a blind fury. Two minutes later Jemson popped up in amid the chaos of a disorganised defence to slot home the winner. Irritating, but brilliant.
What you’re definitely not supposed to do when you come back to your old club is saunter around at half pace as Andy Burgess – the Conference’s leading media brand – did last night. If this was Burgess’ big opportunity to show the Oxford public what he could do then I guess he did that, but not in a good way. His contribution was limited to a couple of decidedly Conference style looping crosses and one neat slide rule pass. In a game of some zip and vigour he chose to occupy the illusive ‘corridor of least impact’ just in front of their left back. Perhaps he should remember that as good as he can be, in 10 months at the club, he really only hit form for about 6-8 weeks – he would do well to keep his mouth shut. Presumably he wasn’t substituted simply out of sympathy.
And so to the end of another home programme. We’re looking like a team that can do some damage next season. But ultimately it’s been a miserable campaign. Completing it before April is out feels like being picked up by your mum in her rollers and dressing gown from the school disco at 9.00pm when all your mates are drinking cider until midnight inside. Hopefully it will serve as a reminder to what a pre-season of complacency can bring.