I enjoyed retro day, it’s not easy making every match a genuine occasion in the modern game. We sit in the same seats with the same people having been bombarded by information all week. There’s very little novel about a home game. By Saturday we’re almost exhausted by football and come to be entertained, but not to participate.
I think that contributes towards the fact that up to the end of Saturday night just seven Premier League fixtures had been won by home teams all season. Tactics play a part, but crowds are a factor. They can become so apathetic that any home advantage is eroded.
But this initiative gave us something to contribute to; find your best shirt, share your best memory, unearth your oddest memorabilia. It creates momentum and energy through mass participating.
The hive-mind of Oxford fans acts as a binding force. We all remember the big stuff, but this sort of thing brings to the surface fragments of memories you’ve forgotten. It reminds you why you support the club in the first place. And because each fragment is a reminder of your own history, it reminds you of what makes you who you are. Your fellow fans are looking after your memories for you.
My personal highlight was a bloke in a long-sleeved red adidas away shirt from 1980 which tweaked so many faded memories. I’ve always loved away kits, the novelty of seeing your badge on a different colour always feels slightly exotic. I love long sleeve shirts because for years only the players wore them; replicas were always short sleeved. And, 1980/81 was the season I started watching Oxford regularly. It reminded me of being 8 years old, watching Andy Thomas and devouring each home programme for photos of away adventures to Newport or Lincoln. All of that from one glance across the South Stand Upper.
The theme, the game; there was a genuine sense of a phase ending. Six games in less than a month have propelled us into the season, now we can ease to a cruising speed without the angst of last year.
I don’t think we’ve met anyone we might consider promotion contenders, or are in that kind of form, unless we’re that team and we’re making everyone else look ordinary. It’s possible, we look comfortable at home and solid away. Nobody seems too carried away but neither is anyone shying away from the idea that promotion is the objective, or possible. There’s a satisfying confidence that all successful teams have.
The next few weeks will tell us more; Bristol Rovers and Portsmouth await. We may be leaving this phase of the season in a happy place, but the next one is just around the corner, and may be tougher.