It’s a pitch thing. That’s what it is.

Mickey Lewis’ didn’t want to harp on about it, but he did manage to mention the state of the pitch on 4 occassions during his 2 minute interview after the win over over Accrington. A primetime excuse bomb to load into the naysayers doom cannon. But it’s true that the pitch is looking ropey at the moment, why are all explanations labelled excuses?

It is very easy to use micro-examples to counter macro-issues; for example, if you argue that gun control will help reduce the number of massacres in America, it isn’t difficult to find an example of a massacre within a country where guns are closely controlled.

It stands to reason, however, that more gun control means less guns means less shootings. But not no shootings, it’s just not that simple. The core argument about gun control shouldn’t be undermined by the idea that this will solve the problem wholesale.

The football solution to all problems seems to be to sack the manager; the manager’s solution to all problems is to blame injuries or lack of funds. Again, rarely are problems that simple.

After the 2-0 win over Accrington on Tuesday Mickey Lewis, sounding like he’d recently had his throat sandblasted, introduced the idea that the adverse condition of the pitch has played a part in our current position.

The pitch excuse was like having a bomb vest under his tracksuit; a handy explanation, concealed from all until the time was right to detonate it. Jerome Sale and Nathan Cooper speculated that the grand reveal was tactically timed to coincide with a win so not to sound like it was an excuse for a poor result.

So was Mickey Lewis actually just talking about Tuesday, or is the management making a wider point? Is this an excuse, or an explanation? It’s a fine line.

There was a degree of outrage when London Welsh took up tenancy at the Kassam. Partly because of the cultural aspect of a football club having its own exclusive home; cultural because shared ownership seems an entirely practical thing to do. The Milan clubs share a ground even with their rivalry and it does them no harm.

The impact of the exiles’ occupation is quite acute. It has put any purchase of the stadium on the back burner because the club’s bargaining position has reduced greatly now Kassam is getting two sets of rent. How can the club argue that the commercial value of the property is depreciating when he’s just double its income?

As for the pitch, I don’t know much about rugby, but there seems to be a lot activity analogous of digging a potato patch. It’s bound to have an effect on the surface. The pitch, once the envy of the division, has looked pock-marked from early in the season and the lines of the rugby pitch are clearly visible evidencing that there is an impact of some kind.

But what link to our form? Well, not so much our form – we’re unbeaten in 7 and still in two cups – but our style, which people seem to be confusing (although the two are obviously related). Chris Wilder has always liked a fast, attacking passing game and but this year things haven’t gelled or flowed. It might be the constant change of personell forced upon the manager due to injuries, but it may also be the less than true nature of the pitch.

Peter Leven and Simon Heslop, in particular, seem to have been afflicted by poor form this year. Lewis claimed Leven isn’t fit, which given his recent amount of game time seems reckless. But, Leven can’t complete a pass, Heslop who can strike a ball sweetly has barely had a shot all season and looks like he wants to leave. If the ball isn’t running true, then it’s going to affect players whose game is based around their quality on the ball rather than, say, their physical presence.

The impact, Lewis implied, was the need to be more direct. This neutralises Leven’s impact to set pieces and rare moments when he has space and time to bring the ball under control. It’s not nice to watch, but perhaps it’s necessary.

It’s not the whole solution however, injuries are still a factor but not the whole reason, funds are a factor, but not the whole reason, Wilder is a factor, but not the whole reason. And so on. 

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Oxblogger is a blog about Oxford United.

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