Well, we have established a number of things about this season. Michael Appleton is a better coach then he is a manager – he will improve your players, but will he win you games?
Our owners have a preference for untried, high risk signings – the talented but injured, the talented but inexperienced, and the talented with questionable attitude. There is no evidence, currently, of a wider strategy for the club – particularly around stadium ownership. We have a sickly sweet PR machine in place which has face-aching smiles and talks in management-speak of ‘customer journeys’ and ‘USP’s’.
Commercial successes have been limited – we have a shirt sponsor who is almost certainly not paying any money for the privilege, but the pop-up club shop outside the South Stand is a good innovation.
The club are demonstrably worse off than they were 12 months ago and yet the fans are compliant in this apparent failure. Perhaps it’s out of apathy, perhaps from politeness. One thing is for sure, no other Oxford manager – throughout our history – would have been given this much time.
Is there anything to be optimistic about?
Well, change does take time and it is to football’s eternal failing that it doesn’t give things time. The preference is to continually role the dice in the hope that, by the law of averages, you will eventually throw a double six. The football is certainly better, chances are being created, logic would suggest that it should be possible to accumulate enough points for a mid-table finish.
We are on a very, very gradual upward climb form-wise. We’re unbeaten in six games and West Brom was a great night.
As optimism goes, this sounds underwhelming. But, it was highly unlikely, given the financial constraints Ian Lenagan became under, that we were ever going to go up this season. So, considering what might have been – poor mid-table football – with what should be – entertaining mid-table football – you might argue that things are progressing.
I like the new branding at the stadium, although we’re a long way from creating a decent match day atmosphere, but I quite like seeing the club badges on each stand as I walk to the ground. The portakabin club shop is a good idea, as well as generating cash and it helps centralise the match day experience.
And that’s all I have, it is too easy to be wholly positive or wholly negative about things. It’s almost, to some, an question of pride to side on an issue in such a binary, absolute fashion. Most things are in fact usually a bit negative and a bit positive.
But, the truth is that on balance, things are worse, and what is perhaps interesting is the lack of frustration that seems to be coming from the fans. Perhaps there is a point when everyone gets fed up with fighting and starts to give up.
I struggle with the idea that a decision about a manager should rest on a single result rather than a prevailing trend, so must-win games are a bit of a nonsense. However, we continue to fall short. As pretty as the football may be and as gloopy as the PR is, if we can’t win games, then you have to question what is the point of the Ashton revolution?