Football, at its very best, demands that you use a broad range of emotions. Happiness alone is not enough. In fact, the more guaranteed your happiness is, the less attractive football becomes. The early rounds of the FA Cup tell you that. A home tie against a non-league side – and the promise of a festival of goals – will not generate big crowds. However, games against bigger teams, when you’re not likely to win can be a sell out.
On Tuesday night, following the 1-0 win over Dagenham and Redbridge, Chris Wilder got sniffy when his interviewer asked about a Ryan Clarke save in the closing minutes. He considered the question to be negative, resented the implication that we’d rode our luck.
But we need those moments of harum-scarum; it puts the good times into stark relief. That’s a reason that away wins tend to be more satisfying than a home one.
There was quite a bit of fall out following the draw with Burton. Someone commented that Jake Wright’s position should be under threat, albeit with a caveat that he’s still ‘a legend’. When JP Pitman was loaned out to Crawley – a surprise to everyone, I think – somebody commented that it would have been nice to see more of Pitman – good or bad. These were strangely guarded criticisms.
For nearly 3 years, it’s been good to be an Oxford fan. But have we got too nice? We seem to have an almost endless capacity for goodwill. Even the likes of Midson, Deering, Creighton and Green were brought up as people who would never have got us into the ‘parlous’ state we’d found ourselves in (i.e. 1 defeat in 5). The endless niceness ignored Deering’s inability to reach the penalty box from a corner, or Green’s patchy finishing. Effective though they were at the time; are they potential saviours now? No.
Perhaps we need someone to boo. Our boo reflex is all flabby and unexercised, we can’t discharge the range of emotions needed to enjoy football. We need a Matt Murphy, when the good times were rolling in 1996, we could always channel our frustrations towards Murphy. It satisfied our need to criticise.
Because we need to be frustrated at football, and because we don’t have anyone to be frustrated with, it means when negativity comes, it does so as one big overreaction, as we saw against Burton, followed by one big overreaction of positivity, as we’ve seen against Dagenham. We need to be more on the level.