Any talk about derbies is like a school playground argument about who is your best and second best friend; unresolvable, circular, divisive and ultimately pointless. So, inevitably, as another Wycombe/Oxford fixture swings by, the discussion begins again and remains unresolved. Again.
Most Oxford fans dismiss the idea for obvious reasons; we have established rivalries – Swindon, obviously, and Reading (who we haven’t played against for 14 years). Admitting any sense of rivalry with Wycombe would, in the eyes of some fans, bring us down to Wycombe’s level. And in their eyes that’s non-league despite Wanderers having been a Football League club for a quarter of a century. Every time a fixture does come by, of course, it doesn’t stop a scramble for tickets.
Perhaps with a derby, as well as proximity, you’ve got to have forgotten why you don’t like a team in the first place in order it to turn into something deeper. In truth, I really like Wycombe; I like the fact that I’ve only ever missed one meeting home or away. I like Adams Park, its setting in the foothills of the Chilterns is fantastic and as a stadium it reminds me of The Manor – a bit disjointed, but at the same time complete – a home rather than a stadium. We invariably sell out our allocation which means the atmosphere is always good. The two teams have been evenly matched over the years, so more often than not, it’s a good game.
My daughter came to the game on Saturday, she’s been to a few sparsely populated enormo-domes which have been comfortable and fun to watch, but she’s never experienced the febrile intensity of a packed away end. I would have told her that this was what the London Road was like, but she has no concept of us playing anywhere other than The Kassam. Needless to say she loved it, even if she did hear a few too many shouts of ‘cunt’ than I’d have liked. I’d also like to think she’s aware that the ‘wanker’ sign is not an innocent gesture of Corinthian rivalries.
Saturday’s edition was a fine complement to the series – it galloped along at a fair pace, punctuated by incidents and talking points – injuries, fights and apoplexy. Leaving at the end there was the sense of deep muscle exhaustion which comes with being drawn into something. It might not have felt like a derby, but at times it felt like a derby. My daughter complained that her feet hurt, which is exactly how it should be.
Complaints of our demise or how we should be beating ‘teams like Wycombe’ are overstated. More often than not this season we have played well, but we lack an additional dimension. For all Ade Akinfenwa’s absurdities, and he has many, he does one thing well. Which is standing still. But, like Peter Crouch, Kevin Francis or even Yemi Odubade, you accept his failures because if all else fails, you know the one dimension they have might break the deadlock.
We don’t have that – a goal poacher, a battering ram, someone with prodigious pace. The closest we have is, perhaps Marcus Browne, but he can only play for a few minutes at a time. It meant that even with numerous chances, it was difficult to remember a chance we genuinely looked like scoring from.
But that said, there’s an energy and effort that should still give us a good platform for the season. We just need to ease any tensions about relegation by scraping together a few points so that we can start looking up.
Whether it’s a derby or not is unresolvable, but I’ll always look forward to an Oxford Wycombe game, because above all else, it’s a very fine fixture.