They say winning is a habit. Let’s assume you build a squad of players ready to step up whenever they’re needed rather than a squad of players made up of some you like and other you wouldn’t put out if they were on fire. A successful team drawn from that squad, even if technically ‘weakened’, should be motivated in the same way as your strongest XI. They all train together so the differences in attitude and approach should be fairly marginal.
In a successful squad, even a weakened team is likely to have all the attributes to be a successful one. Which means that unless you deliberately go out to lose, you’re likely to be competitive in every game.
This makes arguments about the relative importance of the JPT and FA Cup academic. Each game, regardless of the competition, is there to be won and if you’re a successful team, it’s very difficult to go out and try not to do that.
It’s an odd time of the season, and it’s going to carry on for the next few weeks with the replay against Braintree, a possible second round tie against Forest Green and another JPT tie. League games become a bit buried.
This has two effects; firstly switching teams on and off is very difficult so you might as well go for everything. Secondly, because of injuries and suspensions, which start to kick in over this period, it is almost impossible to distinguish between weakened and strong team. Take our back-four against Dagenham; on paper a ‘weakened’ defence, but with Johnny Mullins suspended and Jake Wright injured, even if that had been a league game the defence would have looked unfamiliar. Then, next week, with Mullins and Wright potentially back, they could get a run out against Braintree, a game they might otherwise have missed.
That’s the bind of being successful and the thing that successful managers complain about constantly. You get fixture congestion because you’re a decent side, so there’s no real point in prioritising one thing over another; just go for everything.
Coming up: Cambridge
Old game of the day
The derby. This is the fixture that all Oxford fans look for when the list comes out in June. The video I wanted to find was one of Phil Whelan trying a back-pass in a bog. I like the obscurity of this video, it’s only had 80-odd views and has little detail behind it. I spent most of it trying to identify our players, particularly who scored our goal, before working out that it was Cambridge, not us, in yellow. We’re in red. IN RED, I TELL YOU.