The attack for our first game at the Kassam was a real before and after shot. Andy Scott’s signing, during the wretched twilight months of The Manor, was truly truly horrible. Scott was a nice bloke, but an inflated deal spiked with bonuses proved the desperate state the club was in at the time.
Alongside Scott was Jamie Brooks; the prodigious talent perfect for a new era. I took him for granted, putting his precocious lob in the first game down to luck. He scored 10 goals, but I expected him to score 20. It’s hard to believe now that had everything gone to plan, his career would have been peaking now a decade on. A move to Arsenal was in the offing when he was struck down with Guillain-Barre Syndrome, it nearly killed him and along with it, his career. He stayed until 2006 but scored just three more goals.
Mark Wright knew that a novice and non-scoring striker were not going to sustain the revolution. He had Manny Omoyinmi – a Proto-Yemi Odubade – but when we needed more firepower, he turned to a very familiar face in Paul Moody.
Moody held a special position in the history of the club, spearheading the 1996 promotion team. He’d since hauled his leaden and broken body around Fulham and Millwall and was now 34. He had a much better time than people remember, but was treading water and eventually gave up the ghost after less than a season.
By this time Ian Atkins was at the helm, his signing of Steve Basham was very un-Atkins; whose teams preferred to drop bombs on strikers from upon high. Basham hung around for years, scored lots of goals, not one of which anyone can remember.
Towards the end of the 2001/2 season, a gangling lummox appeared on the touchline. That man was Jefferson Louis. Louis was a peculiar chap, occasionally in trouble with the law, loved by fans not least for his goal in the FA Cup win over Swindon, famous for showing off his naked backside to the nation on finding out we were going to Arsenal. He was unpredictable, which meant he was hated for what he was loved for. At one point Ian Atkins substituted him after about 20 minutes for simply not trying.
Eventually he headed off on the most mind-boggling tour of the lower and non-leagues. According to Wikipedia, Oxford were his third team, in the next seven years he played for TWENTY-FOUR more clubs. We last saw him being ineffectual for Rushden during our play-off semi-final win.
Julian Alsop was much more Ian Atkins’ kind of guy. For the period he was at the club, a true barometer for its psyche. When Atkins was in situ, Alsop was a dependable lump for defenders to launch balls at. One of my abiding memories was his miraculous last minute winning goal against Leyton Orient on Boxing Day in 2003. A man without pace, touch or finesse, out sprinted the Orient back-four before executing a sublime dink over the keeper. It was the impossible goal.
When Graham Rix arrived, discipline around the club collapsed and Alsop The Barometer was fired for ramming a banana up the arse of a youth teamer. Oh yes.
Jamie Brooks’ story is the story of the Kassam. He had the ability to go all the way, but there was something dark lurking preventing it all, a curse that struck at a key moment. And for that, and his talent, Jamie Brooks is the first striker in the Kassam All-Star XI.