Out of every team in the country, I really hate Luton Town. I’m kind of programmed to dislike Swindon, but our paths haven’t crossed enough in recent years to really develop any extreme emotional reaction to them. What about Reading? Well, meh.
But Luton really make me wretch. We seem to have had a parallel existence for nearly a quarter of a century. Their most recent ‘glory years’ coincided with ours in the mid-80’s. We won the Milk Cup in 1986, they won it a year later. More recently, as our Football League life was sucked dry by criminal negligence, theirs seemed to thrive for the same reason. Eventually they got their comeuppance and we crossed swords in the Conference theatre of war in what were brilliantly fractious affairs.
Whilst being in the Conference we seem to have picked up a number of other rivalries that I can’t get my head around. Crawley is one. OK, Steve Evans is a pretty odious character, but all the time we were in the Conference, he and they barely had any impact on our fortunes.
Stevenage is another I find completely baffling. OK, you might argue that they took ‘our’ title, but I always had them down as favourites last season because they’re a stable, well run club. Perhaps it’s just because they’re relatively local and we take a lot of fans there. Perhaps Westley said something mean about us that I missed.
In truth, Stevenage are a neatly run professional football club who are doing well considering who they are. We’ve shared a brief period of our history with them. I suspect over time we will ease away from them eventually.
I really think it’s possible to hate too many things. All in all, Tuesday night’s anodyne 0-0 draw is more significant for our play-off ambitions than it is to stoke an ill-conceived rivalry.
… to Morecambe
The atmosphere at Old Trafford during the fifth round cup-tie between Manchester United and Crawley was akin to those Soccer Aid games in which fat old pros and thingy-from-Holby-City celebrities wheeze around in the name of poor kids from Africa and thing.
Following Stevenage on Tuesday, Saturday saw the impressive demolition of Morecambe. But it was like we’d never left the Conference. With over 25% of the crowd at Morecambe being made up of Oxford fans, I’m starting to wonder whether we even belong in League 2.
Our time in the Conference saw League 2 change dramatically. Stevenage, Morecambe, Burton, Aldershot, Accrington and Hereford have all established themselves since we slipped out of the division. As a result League 2 feels like an upper class Conference. A bit like when you’re a teenager seeking a bit of sophistication by graduating from McDonalds to a Harvester. Yes, there may be some of the trappings of a resteraunt (waiters, salad), but fundamentally, it’s still a fast food joint. Likewise, League 2 doesn’t really feel like the promised land.
Not that I feel like the Premier League is our rightful place. My palette is not yet sophisticated enough for that. But a place in League 1 amongst those on the rise like us, plus a few fallen giants feels like a good place to be. After the performance against Morecambe, the likelihood that we’ll achieve that grows by the week.