Having established who you are, and how you’re feeling, with days until the new season (proper), it’s time to look at the results of the Absolute State of Oxford United and the season ahead of us. How will we do? Where will we finish? What will happen?
The big question is where in the league will we finish? 23% think we’ll get automatic promotion with another 49% seeing us in the play-offs. Most votes went for second, but there was another peak around 6th.
There’s a lot of competition in the division, Wigan are your favourites – although a proportion of those votes came before the full horrors of their administration really became clear. Portsmouth were the next most popular choice followed by Peterborough.
The relegation vote was somewhat skewed by the existence of a certain team from Wiltshire. 76 of you saw them finishing bottom, but there’s not a whole lot of objectivity in that. Others expected to struggle are Rochdale and Wimbledon.
Putting the two together – one vote for a championship prediction, minus one for a relegation; Wigan and Portsmouth are set to to be promoted with Peterborough, Hull, Ipswich Town and Sunderland making the play-offs. The relegation places will go to Swindon, Rochdale, AFC Wimbledon and Crewe, as a result we will finish 8th.
What this seems to show is that while there’s a lot of confidence in our own ability, the real question is how good are we compared to others. What may give us some hope is looking at the teams above us; in addition to Wigan, Portsmouth, Hull, Sunderland and Charlton are all carrying significant baggage with them. While it’s unlikely they’ll all blow, we can probably expect a few to falter.
Success in both cup competitions last year has driven a renewed sense of optimism. In the FA Cup 49% think we’ll make the 4th Round with another 44% in the 5th round. Last year the expectation was that we’d make the 3rd Round.
In the League Cup – remembering that the vote came in before the win over Wimbledon – 33% expected us to make the 3rd Round, which is a step on from last year, when nearly half (48%) thought we’d make the second round. 1% think we’ll make it all the way to Wembley; you’ve got to admire the optimism.
Hopes for the season
In terms of hopes for the season, there were some common themes. Whatever happens in next season’s derby fixtures, it’s clear that this represents only the fifth most important thing in fans’ eyes.
The biggest theme was the hope that we’d gain promotion. Last year’s run to the play-off final has clearly whetted the appetite and there’s a wrong to be righted. Going one better than last season is the one thing, above all others, that fans want to see.
Everyone’s favourite hope surrounded the resolution of the stadium situation. There’s a mixed view as to whether a new stadium or buying the Kassam offers the best opportunities, but getting it sorted one way or the other remains the eternal dream for many fans.
More generally, people want to see progress. There is a clear contentedness about the progress the club has made in the last 18 months, and more of the same, regardless of whether that results in promotion or not, is a hope many want to see.
A return to normality
Perhaps more profoundly; there was a desire to return to some kind of normality. Getting back to games is a priority, with a tacit recognition that this is likely to be in a limited way initially. The return to normality wasn’t just focussed on our own situation, there’s a real hope that the financial damage to clubs around us isn’t too deep and that the economic effects of the pandemic don’t cut too deep.
Nine in a row
And of course, it probably goes without saying that another derby double is still high on the agenda of hopes for the forthcoming year. While there is the expected bravado and confidence that clocking up wins number eight and nine is inevitable, many do recognise that the run is probably closer to ending than starting, but six more points would still be nice, wouldn’t it?
Asking about predictions often gets similar answers to asking about hopes. Also, collating the predictions of more than 300 people means that you get a prediction for every possible scenario – the infinite monkeys with infinite typewriters theory. None-the-less, these were the themes:
There are mixed views about when we’ll get to see a game in real life, October is the earliest prediction with the latest being February. One predictor is not expecting to see a game live all season. Even if there is a return, the prediction is that crowds won’t top 4000 all year. As for away games, many don’t expect to be on the road until after Christmas, or not at all. Quite a few are predicting that the season will be interrupted again.
Some predictions already seem out of date; Matty Taylor has signed as predicted by some and not others, he just now just needs to fulfil the prophecy of 20-30 goals. Liam Kelly did sign as expected (although many predicted on a permanent deal). Plenty is expected of Dan Agyei with one person predicting 15-20 goals while Rob Atkinson is also predicted to emerge as a key talent.
Those predicting that Cameron Brannagan would be sold were off the mark, though its still conceivable he’ll go in January as some think. A few people are expecting the return of Marcus Browne either on loan or permanently, and probably in January.
Most people predicted that Rob Dickie would be sold, though the expected price was £3-4m, which appears off the mark. For the record, he didn’t end up in the Premiership, specifically not with Southampton.
Another player mentioned in dispatches was Simon Eastwood, one person is expecting him to be ousted as our first choice keeper, while another thinks he’ll move back north before the season is out. We’ll see.
Off the field
There is a general prediction of financial chaos across the divisions, but there’s a mixed view as to what that’ll mean for us. Some think there will be another winding up order, while others are looking forward to a cash injection into the club.
Of all the management predictions, Karl Robinson leaving was the most predominant. With a four year contract signed, that seems increasingly unlikely, though if a Championship club comes knocking – as some have predicted – it may still be a different story.
Naturally, the biggest off-the-field issue is the stadium and once again, everyone is predicting everything. We will buy the stadium, build a fourth stand, build a new stadium or nothing will happen at all. Someone is clearly right, the question is, who?
Obviously, most predictions around specific games focussed on the two Swindon games; while many are confident of a good result, there is a large minority expecting us to falter. Someone predicted there would be a 1-1 draw with Sunderland while another predicted yet another cup game against Manchester City.
In the league more generally, most are predicting a rollercoaster season of ups and downs. One thinks the final game of the season will feature 10 teams with a chance of the play-offs, while dark horses such as Lincoln, Gillingham or Bristol Rovers are predicted to upset the apple cart. Most are expecting a tight tussle, one person predicted that at Christmas, the top 10 will be separated by just 2 points. At the other end, one person is expecting relegation to be determined completely by points deductions.
In other news, we’ll have a red away kit – not yet, but apparently there’s a third shirt in the offing – and Jerome Sale will win commentator of the year, though presumably that’s only if he avoids swearing on air in frustration, as one has foreseen.
And that’s it; all the collective wisdom of Oxford United fans laid bare. All that’s left to do is to let the season commence and see what happens. Good luck everyone.