To give some sense anticipation to Sunday’s dead rubber against Shrewsbury the club revealed next season’s home kit. It reminded me of FA Cup Finals in the past when teams would play in a new kit; something that would bring a sense of novelty which added to the occasion.
Nowadays, new kit reveals are part of the annual cycle so it’s as predictable as Christmas. Usually, the club wait until August, probably more out of being disorganised than clever marketing, but seeing the new livery at a time when football-starved fans will devour anything like a polar bear after a hard winter brings a sense of impending excitement.
There’s a view that new projects start with all hope and no certainty and end with no hope and all certainty. Revealing the kit at the end of a season is a time when there is no hope and total certainty; when anticipation is at its lowest. While parading the new shirt on the last day of the season makes good commercial sense, offering the club a late cash boost, it loses a little something when it’s being worn by players who clearly won’t be here playing in a game which doesn’t mean anything.
There’s seems little doubt that Chris Maguire won’t be with us next season. Not only was the manner of his substitution a clear indication of his intentions, his increasingly ludicrous attempts to bow out with a goal seemed to signal that he’s on his way to pastures new.
You suspect that Oxford, the location, rather than the club, is what doesn’t work for Chris Maguire. He’s a raw and emotional player and that seems to bleed into his personal life. If he was a single-minded professional, sacrificing everything, including family and friends, for his career then you suspect he wouldn’t be playing for us anyway, but he also wouldn’t be Chris Maguire. Instead, it seems Maguire is set to follow his heart back to Scotland. Judging by Michael Appleton’s greeting of him as he came off, it seems the management know there’s nothing they can do about it.
Marvin Johnson’s future is likely to be decided by more straight forward commercial means. If there were scouts watching, then he’ll have done himself no harm, effortlessly driving at and through the Shrewsbury defence. You suspect the only thing now is whether there’s a club prepared to put the money up. At 26, he’s probably not one for the future, but the club will struggle to resist a figure similar to Kemar Roofe’s, chicken feed to lower ranking Premier League and high ranking Championship clubs. Kemar Roofe, with his goals, was more impactful, but Johnson has the physicality and versatility that is an asset to any squad.
Of others, the fact that Phil Edwards wasn’t brought on despite losing both full-backs would suggest he won’t be here and the preference of Raglan over Dunkley appears to bring his time at the club to a close; although maybe not Raglan’s.
But what Sunday did show is that even if we do lose Maguire and Johnson, the nucleus of the squad remains a strong one. Finding the next Roofe or Johnson may be good for business, but it’s not necessary to see us progress. What we’re lacking is not ability but capacity; it’s the numbers rather than the quality that has seen us just fall short this year. Address that, and we could be looking at Championship football this time next year.