When David Kemp was dismissed from his own miserable reign as Oxford manager his parting shot went along the lines of “So what? They sacked me. Like that’s going make a difference.” He was alluding darkly to the shenanigans happening in the background. He was such a joyless unlikeable figure that nobody was going to side with him. The Guardian’s Fiver newsletter claimed he would never get another job in football. We agreed, smugly.
Now, Kemp is Terry Pulis’ understudy at Stoke while Brian Horton tries not to disguise his glee at being Phil Brown’s wingman at Hull. And we, well we ring our hands trying to avoid the inevitable truth that Kemp was right.
In time Darren Patterson will be remembered as one of The Many. Another manager who tried and failed. His time at Oxford is notable for his nearly-man status – he was nearly a good player, but injury reduced him to just 20 games, he nearly kept us up, but was replaced by the bull-in-a-china-shop duo of Merry and Smith. He nearly created a promotion bothering team, but had his momentum interrupted by the close season and then all his good work broken up by a financial crisis.
Patterson could well have been the right man at the wrong club and one day we may too see him telling Garth Crooks that “I’ve got to be honest with you” about some overachieving Premiership team. I hope so, because I liked him.
What comes next is more our interest, of course. We have no money and ludicrously high expectations. The league we’re in is remarkable by how poor it is. It is time to get ugly and rugged, athletic and strong. We have to get a strategy and part one of that strategy is to start winning games by any means necessary. Winning games will bring the crowds onside and that will generate money. So it’s time to quit any thoughts of purity and start bulldozering teams. Like Wimbledon… or Histon. Purists will scoff at the dismissal of artistry … but the most fun I’ve had with Oxford in the last 10 years has been under the Ian Atkins, the balls were long, the strikers were 17 stone, nothing was pretty, but we were winning games. And that’s the most important thing.