Back in July I ran a survey to see what people thought about the state of Oxford United. You can see the results here and here. There’s another, shorter, mid-season survey currently running here, if you want to take part. There were two reasons for the survey; to track progress over time and to provide benchmarks against which we can monitor our performance.
We’re just past the halfway point in the season; so it seems opportune to review how we’re doing against the benchmarks we set ourselves in the summer.
In the league, pre-season predictions were that we’d finish between 8th and 10th, so our current 4th position is polling higher than we’d expected. Just 1.1% of you thought we finish 4th, 1.9% higher, the rest lower.
It probably goes without saying that we’re out-performing in the cups; over half expected us to make only the 2nd Round of the League Cup, so our quarter-final spot was some way in advance of that. 3.7% thought we’d reach that far, with 1.3% of people thinking we’d go further.
In the FA Cup, 49% expected us to make the third round of the FA Cup so we’ve already beaten that. 17% thought we would make the 4th Round. About 3% thought we’d go further.
So, on that basis – we’re higher in the League than 97% of you thought we’d be, we’ve gone further in the League Cup than 95% thought and in the FA Cup further than 80% predicted. Not bad.
The league pre-season favourites were Portsmouth who are 10th, one place behind Sunderland – who were predicted to finish third. Ipswich were predicted to be 2nd but are currently 5th. The biggest surprise of the lot, of course, is Wycombe who are top despite a pre-season prediction they’d finish 23rd.
Wycombe aside, those at the bottom were largely predicted – everyone knew Bury were in trouble and Bolton’s problems were well known. Rochdale were expected to finish 21st, but are currently 18th. Sol Campbell’s Southend were predicted 17th and are currently 22nd.
Board predictions focussed on winding up orders so it’s good to see no more have materialised. Some predicted a change of chairman, but that hasn’t happened and while Stewart Donald may be trying to extract himself at Sunderland, it seems the prospect of him coming to Oxford are remote.
Firoz Kassam featured in a number of predictions, but he’s been notably quiet in recent months. On the other hand, the prediction that Eric Thohir would leave after being a damp squib turned out to be true. Overall, predictions of instability have not materialised.
All sorts of things were predicted of the stadium, but despite some positive noises from the board, we appear to be largely where we were six months ago. The training ground, which nobody talked about, is probably the most important development in that area.
Predictions that Karl Robinson wouldn’t make it until October or would be sacked by Christmas haven’t happened. Some pleaded that he’ll get some credit, and that does seem to have happened, though he’s yet to be given the freedom of the city. He did sign a player he’s worked with before – Tariqe Fosu, he hasn’t punched a fourth official (but has come close), he has blamed the referee on a number of occasions. Derek Fazackerly has not announced his retirement.
We’ve yet to see whether Cameron Brannagan, Rob Dickie or Mark Sykes will go in January. Recruitment has definitely improved, our top scorer isn’t a loan player, but Matty Taylor is in second. Top scorer James Henry is on track to grab 20 goals. Predictions that we won’t have enough firepower up front at the start of the season or that we’ll sign a striker who’s rubbish don’t seem to have happened. The idea that we’d concede too many goals because we haven’t replaced Curtis Nelson, again seemed baseless.
It was predicted that we’d sign loan players who would return in January, Chris Cadden fits the bill there, and we have had an injury crisis for no obvious reason.
Gavin Whyte didn’t go in January for £5m, he went for £2m in August it also means he won’t end as top scorer. Someone predicted that Rob Hall wouldn’t play more than 10 games, which he has, albeit mostly in cup competitions.
There was no consensus about how things would go on the pitch, so we’ve been everything and nothing that anyone has predicted. It has been exciting rather than disappointing. We haven’t had a points deduction and Christmas was not in any way a poor one. We also won during an international break (against Doncaster) and we didn’t beat Sunderland away.
And other things…
Moaning has been largely absent this season, we won’t draw Swindon in a cup competition and Jim Smith, Womble and John Shuker are all Oxford legends that have passed away – a sadly accurate prediction from someone. I haven’t seen any dogs on the pitch and, as far as I know Ollie and Olivia Ox haven’t had a baby called Oswald.