Last month forgotten 90s goalkeeper Elliot Jackson was the club’s special guest for the game against Tranmere. It got me thinking; imagine doing something stupid like trying to rank every single player from that decade. So, I did, and this is Part 1.
Firstly, the approach; all 107 players were listed in a survey and people were asked to pick 15 favourites, which were then ranked. Where there were four or less players with equal votes, they were put out on a Twitter poll to sort out their final ranking. As Twitter only allows four options, where there were larger groups, final rankings were determined by a combination of appearances, goals, contributions to relegations and promotions.
Did it work? Broadly yes, the right players seem to be roughly in the right places. Towards the bottom, where goals and appearances play a greater part in the final ranking, there is some advantage to being a striker, because they’re more likely to score goals (although if you’re at the bottom, chances are you didn’t score many), good strikers will always rank highly and they tend not to play as many games as defenders and goalkeepers, so it probably evens itself out.
Someone relatively famous such like Steve McCLaren, was probably unfairly judged, where more marginal players picked up the odd vote that bumped them up the rankings.
I can only assume the vote for, say, Matthew Keeble whose sole contribution was a a couple of appearances in 1993 was either a mistake, a joke, or it came from Matthew Keeble.
In a sense it all worked; for players like Phil Whelan, you can argue their on-going presence created the familiarity that breeds contempt, others created moments of joy, but without playing many games. This is, after-all, a ranking of our favourite players, not necessarily the best.
Lastly, many thanks to the endlessly valuable resource that is Rage Online, I thoroughly recommend getting lost in its deep well of data.
Right, let’s get to it. I’m going to do it in three chunks. Sort out the backmarkers this week, then 75-51 next week and finishing off with the big top fifty.
Who is the least favourite Oxford player of the 90s? Well, it’s Carl Saunders; Saunders signed non-contract forms in 1994, he never lost a game he started, never won a game he started, and never finished a game he started. His measly contribution to our history was lessened by the fact it all happened in a relegation season which makes him the 107th and least favourite player of the decade.
Of the others in this batch, there were some surprising names; Ian Walker – who signed on loan from Spurs – played for England and would have won if there were bonus points for having the most 90s haircut, Imre Varadi played in the Premier League, Phil Whelan and Steve Davis typified the late 90s collapse being shadows of their predecessors, but they both played fairly regularly and had played as a higher level.
Weirdly I remember Michael Williams’ pointless contribution, though Lee Gardner is a new name to me.
Here you go…
Some surprising names in the next batch of players – Elliot Jackson’s appearance at the Tranmere game inspired the project and despite a man-of-the-match performance against Chelsea in 1999 collected no votes and ended up 90th. Rob Folland was even more surprising, well regarded at the time and a Welsh Under 21 international, I’d have expected him to collect a bit more.
As I said, Matthew Keeble got a single vote bumping him up the rankings to 76, just ahead of Mike Salmon, whose single game was the 7-0 home defeat to Birmingham City.
Ross Weatherstone, who was convicted of racially aggravated assault, ranked five places above his brother, Simon, who wasn’t. I was pleased to see O’Neill Donaldson beating Peter Fear; justice was done in that titanic battle.