After last week’s revelations about how you rate Oxford United, let’s have a look at your predictions for the season. Like all good strategies, it’s important to have the end in mind right at the start. Notions of success – from promotion to avoiding relegation to remaining solvent will evolve over time, but where are the expectations now?
There was a lot of consensus about where we’ll finish next season; nearly half of respondents had us finishing anywhere from 8th and 10th, which feels like it has a dose of realism about it.
The cups too had a solid level of expectations; 49% expect us to make the third round of the FA Cup with 51% expecting us to make the second round of the League Cup. It’s fairly certain where the benchmarks are.
If there is an expectation of promotion – 4 punters had us going up as champions – then it’s clear who people think who we need to beat. Over a third of respondents saw Portsmouth as favourites, with Ipswich just ahead of Sunderland. If those prophecies come true, breaking into the automatic promotion spots looks a tall order.
At the other end, Bury’s troubles look set to catch up with them, nearly a third expect them to go down. Wycombe Wanderers got 18% of the vote, although that might be just being a bit vitriolic, Bolton had 11%, just ahead of Rochdale.
Putting the two together sees us finishing 6th with the table looking like this:
It’s not a prediction, but if anyone is in any doubt, feelings towards the Checkatrade Trophy haven’t mellowed; fans rated it somewhere between an irrelevance and a threat to smaller clubs. Only a couple of pragmatists admitted that if we did make it to Wembley, then it would be a good day out.
We asked for a prediction, and perhaps predictably when getting responses from nearly 300 people, while there were common themes; all eventualities are possible.
Winding up orders were a major theme with many predicting more next season – one predicted there would be two (another four), with one by Christmas. One person predicted a change of chairman when Tiger (who will wear a bow tie) becomes Thailand’s new prime minister – or is embroiled in a scandal resulting in financial catastrophe. Will Stewart Donald take over? One person thinks so. It wasn’t all doom and gloom with a handful of people still optimistic that the board will show their worth and bring stability to the club.
There will be ‘three comments’ from either Kassam or the board about the other party not being true to their word, with a few expecting a winding up order, and a court case win, for Uncle Firoz.
Eric Thohir was mentioned by a couple of people – one predicting him to be a damp squib another expecting him to leave. Someone is expecting more ‘high worth individuals’, although isn’t optimistic they’ll bring much to the party. One thinks the club will be sold with another thinking there will be a new board of directors.
We will either make progress on a new stadium or things will remain broadly the same. We could buy the stadium or there will be a new agreement to stay at the Kassam (with the rent going up). Also, Kassam will promise a fourth stand, which won’t be built. Or nothing will change and there will still be bird poop on the seats.
The fate of Karl Robinson is in the balance; will he be sacked by Christmas (or in October)? Or perhaps he’ll get some credit – maybe even be given the freedom of the city. He’ll sign some players he’s worked with before (hello, Tariqe Fosu). Perhaps he’ll punch the fourth official, blame the referee or just generally talk too much nonsense. Meanwhile, one person thinks that Derek Fazackerly will announce his retirement.
Cameron Brannagan will be sold in January, and Rob Dickie, but who will be the player we sell ‘for peanuts’? To compensate we’ll also sell Mark Sykes for more money than we could have predicted.
Recruitment will improve, our top scorer will be a loan player and one of the top five goalscorers in the country with at least 20 goals, but we won’t have enough firepower up front at the start of the season – or we will sign a striker who’ll be rubbish. We’ll concede too many goals because we haven’t replaced Curtis Nelson – or at least not before we’ve played six games – meaning the team will take too long to gel.
We will sign loan players who will return in January, and have an injury crisis for no obvious reason.
Gavin Whyte will be gone in January for £5m (or double his current value). Alternatively, we’ll hold onto him and he’ll have a blinder and end as top scorer. Rob Hall won’t play more than 10 games, but will be a super-sub. We will be promised big signings which will never come and make our record signing; perhaps a pacey forward. Shandon Baptiste will ‘like’ every 21-year old he sees on Twitter (can someone keep an eye on that)?
We’ll be champions, get promoted, make the play-offs, not bother either end of the table and struggle abjectly. It’ll be exciting, average and disappointing. There will be a points deduction with a poor Christmas. We won’t win any games in international breaks and lose at home to Bristol Rovers (obviously), but we will win at Sunderland.
And other things…
Fans will moan all season, we’ll draw Swindon in a cup competition that will be live on TV, an Oxford legend will pass away, there will be a dog on the pitch and Ollie and Olivia Ox will have a baby called Oswald. Blimey.
We’ll keep an eye on all this, and perhaps revisit it throughout the season.