Weekly wrap: Crawley, Brentford and The Woodmans

Crawley wrap – Oxford United 1 Crawley Town 1

Never judge anything from a single result a trend is always a more effective measure of where things are at. For all the changes and improvements that have been made off the field over the summer, the draw with Crawley gave the clearest indication that we continue to evolve on it. That’s not necessarily a bad thing; we’re too obsessed in football with the power of genius and passion to recognise that success comes from funding and its consistent application in the right processes. While it is possible to jump-start a revival, the effort required to do that is formidable and potentially destructive. If something feels too good to be true, it frequently is. So moderate progression is OK.

This is something to worry about and yet not worry about at the same time. While the overall performance is broadly in the same place as where we left things at the end of last season, the result puts us somewhere between a solid, if unremarkable start and two points dropped. It is only the first game, after all. But, at the same time, we’re a club with a brittle ego and you might reasonably question how long Oxford fans will continue to believe that the summer was anything other than a publicity stunt if results, and the promised revival, come too slowly. If we do have ambitions to win promotion, and even the title, then we should expect to beat a team like Crawley at home.

Brentford wrap – Brentford 0 Oxford United 4

The first round of the League Cup is a bit like the aftermath of a bomb blast; after it happens; it’s difficult to work out whether you’re dead or alive. Two games into the season gives you a sequence, of sorts, on which to judge yourself. Two poor results and you’re tanking, two good results and you’re on a charge. And then there’s all the grey space in between. You really have no idea whether your opening league game is against a title contender or a relegation certainty. Your League Cup fixture adds to that mix with the uncertainty that your opposition is even trying.

Brentford are the hipsters choice now that Bournemouth have sold out and gone into the big time. On one hand they’re the epitome of the moneyball culture in which data is sexual chocolate, but, look at them another way and they’re another rich person’s plaything that is destined to implode spectacularly. This is the club whose MASSIVE DATA SET calculated that their manager was no good when they were sitting in the play-offs last season.

So, did we beat a prospective Premier League club or one that’ll be rattling a collection tin when they’re fighting for survival in a few years time? Who knows, but I find their decision to play a weakened team utterly detestable. When it comes to strength in depth, they’re clearly paper thin so what did they achieve? A clear run at the Championship title? If that is their genuine ambition and this was part of that process, then they’re effectively throwing the game, which is fraud. Or is it just that this is what their algorithms tell them this is what proper modern football clubs do, even if they have no idea why? In reality, I reckon they’ve ultimately come out of it devalued and humiliated.

None the less, credit where it’s due; to come out and demolish a Championship team like we did harms us in no way at all. What it actually means in the context of our season, I haven’t a clue… and neither do you.

Any other business

In goal for Crawley on Saturday was Freddie Woodman, son of former United ‘keeper Andy. Such was Ian Atkins’ devotion to the long ball, it could be argued that Woodman was also one of the greatest our playmakers of the modern era. Significantly, Woodmans senior and junior became by my reckoning, the first father and son duo to have played at the Kassam. Rather chillingly, this makes the Kassam a stadium that has spanned the footballing generations.

We haven’t won at home on the first day of the season since THAT win against York in 2009. The Crawley game had similar hallmarks in that it should have underlined a hectic and positive closed season, catapulting us into the campaign with vigour. Of course, it ultimately did none of those things. I missed that game against York meaning the last opening day win I saw was against Halifax in our first Conference game. This was a remarkable game for two reasons – the first was the Chris Wilder was in the opposition dugout. The second was that the game was sealed by an Andy Burgess wonder-strike, that’s when we thought Burgess was the non-league Lionel Messi.

I followed the first two games of the season on Twitter through a ropey 3G connection while on holiday. I’ve always liked the romantic idea of being an ex-pat fan; following from distant lands, treating every visit to the Kassam as a visit to Mecca and wearing your replica shirt as a counter-cultural statement in a sea of whatever the locals are into (in my holiday’s case, Marseille or Paris Saint Germain). In reality, from this limited experience, there’s just an overwhelming sense of distant despair as the Twitter feed clicks through the 90 minutes.  Either the helplessness of a result going sour or the sense of loss from missing out on a spectacular win. On balance, I think I prefer the communal despair of actually being there.

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Oxblogger

Oxblogger is a blog about Oxford United.

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