Marketing is a process of creating a gap between what we have and what we need. Sometimes that gap is obvious – there are things we need, such as food, which we sometimes don’t have. Most time marketing tries to create a desire where there isn’t one – for example, you may already have a functioning car, but after you’ve been bombarded by adverts, you might want a better one.
When you’re a child, that gap is self evident. You don’t have very much and little means to acquire things. Pretty much anything that exists presents an almost insurmountable gap between have and want. The excitement of Christmas is all about filling those gaps. As you get older, the gaps begin to close – you have more of what you want, but we compensate for the loss of that excitement, by inventing new things to want – feelings, status, experience, but it’s never quite the same.
I’ve always loved Christmas and particularly Boxing Day football. It reminds me of early Christmases at my grandparents where we would go to The Manor as a treat. That memory opens others – the joy of a new football shirt – a luxury I couldn’t hope to buy myself – or a Subbuteo accessory. I can buy those things now if I want to, but seeing kids with their brand new full Oxford kit worn proudly over the top of their clothes, makes me want to be seven again. The atmosphere is positive and homely as the cynicism of wizened regulars is compensated by the buoyant mood of family members and guests enjoying the novelty and taking in their first breath of fresh air in at least 24 hours.
Sadly, the reality of the game rarely lives up to expectations. The game against Southend probably summed up the reality of League 1 this season and our role in it. Southend represented a group of perhaps 15 or more well drilled sides – of which we are also one. They were organised and aware, happy to slow the game down, focussed on nullifying our threats, hoping that they might snatch something, which they did.
Karl Robinson’s assessment was spot on; we don’t have options up front to make an impact if Plan A doesn’t work. Timothée Dieng in Southend’s midfield marshalled James Henry out of the game, Marcus Browne was either tired, disinterested, off-form or injured depending on which Oxford supporting body language expert you listen to. As a result, Jamie Mackie was isolated and Gavin Whyte battled away gamely without much support or success. As teams begin to understand our threats that’s what they’ll focussed on; when you’ve got little to introduce from the bench, then the chances of outmanoeuvring your opponents are reduced considerably.
They didn’t look a threat particularly, but neither did we. Our decent chance, from James Henry, went wide. Their decent chance went in. In most football games there are a range of ‘fair results’ a 1-0 win or 0-0 draw would both have been fair. But so was the 0-1 defeat.
The casuals, guests and family members won’t really care about the result. They will probably draw some grand conclusions about the team or players – I once went with a friend on Boxing Day who thought Matt Robinson should be playing in the Premier League. We, on the other hand, must now move on. January is going to be an interesting month – players will probably leave, others will come in – we may start to see Wembley on the horizon in the trophy that shall not be named, we may even get an FA Cup run. If we’re to get anything meaningful out of this season, January will probably define what that is.