Oxblogger @ 15 – Your questions, answered

In the third post to celebrate the Oxblogger’s 15th anniversary, I asked Twitter if they had any questions. Apparently they did, and none of them are ‘who’s your favourite player?’.

I think about Trevor Hebberd every day, but only think about Les Phillips 4 or 5 times a week. Do I need to reevaluate my priorities? @stuartyellow

We can all share this sense of guilt about Les Phillips, but we should never regret how we feel. To quote a meme on Facebook: ‘you be you’. Over the years, though, I have learnt to develop an appreciation for the under-appreciated like Dave Smith and Simon Clist. I like the idea of a player with a family and a mortgage and a limited amount of time to make an impression. It’s easy to slip out of the game, so I can see why, and appreciate, the players who find their nook and stick to it. 

Favourite Wilder loan signing? @keithharris76

Looking beyond players whose loans turned into permanent deals – honorable mentions to Matt Green and Rob Hall on that front – Scott Rendell put in one of the greatest performances I’ve seen in an Oxford shirt against Swindon in 2012. After James Constable was sent off, he was left alone up front and worked himself into the ground, one of the best displays of defending from the front you’ll ever see.

Worst Wilder loan signing? @keithharris76

I understand why players like Daniel Boateng don’t work out, they’re just teenagers carrying the brand of a big club and we expect more than they can deliver. Ben Futcher didn’t have that excuse; he had a simple job, with all the attributes and experience to carry it out. I’m not usually one for a pile-on but I found myself leading the charge after his debut.

Wilder loan signing you’d completely forgotten existed? @keithharris76

I have no recollection of Ryan Doble at all, apparently Wilder signed him on loan from Southampton in 2011. I keep forgetting about Wlder’s mid-season crisis of confidence in 2010, when we were scoring goals and leading the table and he decided that James Constable, Jack Midson and Matt Green needed to be replaced by John Grant and Franny Green. It’s funny how that aberration is wiped from your memory given how it turned out.

When do you think the Jefferson Louis Era will begin? @mintygreen2

Like Covid, we’ve got to learn to live with Jefferson Louis’s football career, it’s going to be with us for years to come. In many ways, though, his era began with his goal against Swindon, passed through his live arse-showing on national TV and ended with his brief appearance against Arsenal at Highbury. The rest of his career was just trying to recreate the magic.

What’s the best journey you have been on? @mintygreen2

My first away day was at Coventry City in 1982, the M40 wasn’t finished so we went cross-country. Every town we passed, the pubs were full of Oxford fans. The drive to Wembley in 1986 was special – Oxford fans all along the M40, minibuses parked on the hard shoulder so fans could have a wazz; we got stuck in traffic at one point and the team coach edged past, flanked by police outriders. Kevin Brock gave me a little wave as they passed, that was pretty good. I once drove from Scotland to see us play Wolves at the Manor and flew from New York to watch us beat Bury in 2002. Oh, and my daughter was born the morning of the Leyton Orient relegation game in 2006, I travelled directly from the hospital to the ground, that was certainly a pretty surreal journey. 

You’re having a dinner party and may invite three guests and they have to be a former or current Oxford United player. Who are you bringing? @Joe_Citrone

I’ve heard loads of stories from the 1980s and 1990s so I’d give those eras a miss. The 2000/01 season was the most shambolic in our history, what was going on inside the club has never been explained; so I’d have Steve Anthrobus for that. The Conference promotion season was transformative and Ryan Clarke seems a nice guy, so I’d have him. I’d probably want someone who lived through the Chris Wilder, Michael Appleton and Karl Robinson’s years – so let’s go with Sam Long.  

Favourite Oxford United moustache @gingermoods

I always thought John Trewick looked most comfortable in his, like he’d probably had it when he was a baby. I prefer the short-lived efforts, where the player has at clearly looked at other people and thought they’d give it a go before losing confidence and shaving it off – Les Robinson’s experiments during the 90s are a good example.

Favourite throw in? @gingermoods

Being alive through Dave Challinor’s throw-in career is one of the privileges of my life, I used to look forward to the spectacle of us trying to defend his arial assaults at The Manor. He’d launch it and the ball would go out of sight because of the low roof on the London Road, you could watch the players panicking as they tried to track it, then it would drop from nowhere at the back post. I’ve got a memory of seeing Mike Ford taking a throw against Swindon in about 92 which showed off the back of his nineties curtains haircut, it shimmered as his head moved. I also have a vivid image of Kevin Brock throwing the ball in early on in the Milk Cup Final, but I’ve just re-watched the first half and he it turns out he didn’t do a single throw-in, every opportunity he passed over to John Trewick. And you thought you’d heard all the stories from the Milk Cup Final.

Favourite Guy Whittingham goal @gingermoods

So much choice. There’s a arthouse film or one man show that could be written about Guy Wittingham’s seven day Oxford career, the inner turmoil of playing for Mike Ford while Steve Claridge tries to entice him back to Fratton Park. it’s somewhere between Being John Malkovich and Brokeback Mountain.

Best thing you’ve found in a football ground toilet @gingermoods

I have a vague recollection of seeing food supplies for the nearby snackbar piled up on the floor of the gents toilets. I can’t remember where, although the geography would work for Wycombe.

What’s your instinctive reaction to a bad reffing decision? Wild arm gesticulation? Bellow obscenities? Mutter under your breath? @jonnybiscuits

Palms up in a with a despairing shrug and an eye roll, it says that ‘I’m not angry, I’m just disappointed’. If he’s made persistent mistakes, I’ll add a look around at fellow fans which says ‘can you believe this guy?’. I figure they get used to hollering abuse. If I can undermine them passive aggressively from 100 yards away when they’re concentrating on something entirely different, then perhaps we’ll get some decisions go our way. 

Do you sing, or clap along without singing, or just sit there? @jonnybiscuits

I’m an instinctive singer, I don’t feel obliged to join in. Even on noisy nights in the London Road, it would take a lot for me to burst into song. I partly moved to the South Stand Upper for the peace and quiet (the tipping point was when I realised people around me in the East Stand were dong ‘wet willies’ to each other). It’s a treat when someone misreads the mood in the SSU and shouts ‘sing up, you fuckers’ to 1500 muttering octogenarians. For home games I usually sit and agree with whatever my neighbour’s ill informed opinion happens to be, but in recent years I’ve become much more of a singer for away games, I like that we impose ourselves when we go away. But I can only really do it if the words are easy to remember.   

Do you stand up when they do the stand up if you hate Swindon thing? @jonnybiscuits

No, I won’t participate. It’s not the standing up I have a problem with, it’s the sitting down. If standing up shows you hate Swindon, does sitting down mean you love them? It’s a big act of performative aggression to stand up, then there’s inevitably that moment when everyone’s sheepishly thinking ‘Soo, that’ll be that then, we’ll sit down now will we?’.

Do you take food into games? Has it changed since you got older? Bag of Werthers? Flask of Ovaltine? @jonnybiscuits

Football was probably the first place I bought things on my own, my dad would give me some money and I’d queue up. Back at The Manor, when I started going on my without my dad, I’d have a portion of chips and a Bovril, followed by a post-match follow-up bag of chips from the chippy on the parade of shops where the John Menzies was. There was one occasion when was draining the last of the Bovril and a bit lump dropped out and right into the back of my throat. My god, that’s a rush. Over the years I’ve come to realise that I don’t need drinks with nine tablespoons of salt in them. I often have a Yorkie and am appalled at myself that for having a pre-match latte. I want to be one of those people who take a full range of tapas to away games.  

What food should they sell at football grounds that they don’t sell at football grounds. @jonnybiscuits

What about a Mongolian wok style thing where you bring a bowl of your own ingredients and they’ll stir fry it for you for £5? I’ve always thought there’s a missed opportunity at The Kassam to create a proper pre-match atmosphere in the car park akin to either German football or American tailgate parties. You could have noodles, tacos, burgers, all sorts. Sadly the British obsession to sell the worst quality food for the highest possible price seems to prevent that.

Have you ever done a poo at a football ground? @jonnybiscuits

I’m sure I have, but not a memorable one. I mean, in the main you don’t, do you? You know there’s someone waiting outside, who needs that pressure? I did learn a very important lesson after a game at QPR in 1996. On the way back to the car, I popped into Tesco to buy some chocolate, a bottle of coke, but I also needed some toilet rolls. The lady at the till, paused, looked me in the eye and said “run out did you?”. I learnt that you should never buy toilet rolls in isolation as it sends a message that it’s an emergency purchase and you probably have a dirty bum.

Which Oxford United player past or present do you think would be the most sensuous lover? @eagerterrier

You can pretty much write off everyone from the 1980s and 1990s – they all seem to be permanently in season and would simply rut anything that moved. It’s hard to look beyond George Baldock, you’d just swim in his eyebrows and submit to whatever he wanted you to do. I bet he moisturises as well. I would also also pay good money to have Chey Dunkley shout at me about holding my defensive line. Sheesh, is it getting hot in here?

Have you ever made up a chant and thought it was going to take hold, only for it to be received like a fart in a vinegar bottle? @eagerterrier

I once re-wrote the Spurs FA Cup classic; Ossie’s On His Way To Wembley to Beano’s On His Way To Wembley when we had a run at the EFL Trophy in 2013. I thought it was so funny I stopped the car to craft the tweet. ‘They can’t stop him, he supports Tottenham’ really didn’t work, but I hit send expecting an avalanche of retweets, before it would be sung on the terraces that night. When I got out the car, not a single ‘like’.

Favourite ever chant? Toby Cox@eagerterrier

I like the origins of the left side/right side of the London Road chant. The fact it refers to a stadium many haven’t seen and to the time they divided the stand with a big fence for crowd control, which, in turn, stems from an unfounded fear that all football fans were violent and unruly savages. It’s fundamentally a slave song, but has taken on a life of its own. Honourable mention also to the Dave Savage chant to the theme tune of Steptoe and Son. It was brilliant because a) it didn’t in any way scan and b) 80% of the people singing it were probably born ten years after it was on TV.

I used to think that the Supporter’s Club wrote terrace songs and fans would attend rehearsals during the week in preparation for Saturday. 

Is your garden shed really bigger than this? @eagerterrier

I do have quite a large garden shed, I reckon if I ever watched a game from an executive box I could legitimately sing it.

What character would central casting have you down as? I would be the exhausted sister’s husband or the gay best friend. @eagerterrier

I’m that off-screen narrator that speaks in a southern drawl to give pathos to a story in the hope that it might give it the edge in the Oscars. Think Morgan Freeman in The Shawshank Redemption.

Who would play you in a movie? Toby Cox@eagerterrier

I’d go with Martin Freeman, barely making eye contact, but constantly breaking the fourth wall with knowing glances to the camera.

Who is your nemesis? Toby Cox@eagerterrier

In the early days of Oxblogger, there was someone who used to post disparaging comments after every post. He wrote terrible teenage angsty poetry on his own blog which I resisted commenting on because I thought it might make him suicidal, I don’t know where he is now, but I’ve worked out some great comebacks for his insults.

Luton fans didn’t like me saying that I hated their club, which ended up as the inspiration for a vitriolic article in a local Luton newspaper. My passive aggressive open letter to Swindon fans didn’t go down very well either.

Is there an Oxblogger for another team who you admire? @eagerterrier

Oxblogger was inspired by Arseblog, the Arsenal blog and the style is similar to the cycling blog Inrng. Most blogs don’t last that long, so tend to be good in short bursts. I probably shouldn’t, but I liked the Swindon blog The Washbag, but that seems to have died. I’ve always liked fan-driven stuff; I miss the fact we don’t have a fanzine anymore and I subscribe to When Saturday Comes.

When were you funniest on Twitter? I downloaded all my tweets and realised I peaked around 2012 @eagerterrier

I don’t know about funniest, I was quite proud of my thread comparing Simon Eastwood’s goalkeeping kits to bottles of Radox. There’s a lot that still makes me laugh; Jonny Biscuits referring to an ambulance as a hospital lorry is only improved by the self-owning responses from people who think he’s serious. I still think this is an underrated masterpiece.

If you were a manager/coach; would your touch line outfit be: a) jacket and jeans b) collar and tie (+or- official club bench coat) c) club tracksuit? @Oxrising

I’m not a fan of the ‘primary school dad at a PTA fundraiser’ look which is common nowadays. I quite like it when managers wear a club scarf. I’d keep it old school, it would be a suit and club tie with a big club crest on the jacket. Tracksuits should be only worn by coaches, Ken Fish style.

Why do you hate prawn cocktail crisps so much?! @Oxrising

Look, it’s nothing personal, in our house, it’s accepted that if you reach for a packet of crisps and pick out a prawn cocktail flavour, you’ve pretty much run out of crisps. I thought they were just there as a low-stock warning.

Was the conference experience really ‘good for us’ or just four horrific shit show years in the wilder-ness? @Oxrising

It took four years to realise that it doesn’t matter if you’re a club with a bit of history, it’s today’s team that makes the difference. He wasn’t popular when he said it, but Chris Wilder was right when he said we had to forget winning the Milk Cup and start focusing on getting out of the Conference because the history wouldn’t get us up. It’s an important lesson to learn, but truth is; that could have been an email. 

If you couldn’t blog about the Yellows, who or what would you blog about? @AllenSeldon

Twitter is where nuance goes to die, and I’ve always thought I could do a decent politics blog which looked at all sides of an argument. Alternatively, I’m slowly working my way through the takeaway curry menu to see if there’s anything better than a chicken dansak. That journey’s got a blog in it, although I’m 6 months and three curries into my exploration, so it’d be a slow burner.

Thanks to everyone who asked questions, they were, um, more varied than I was expecting. I’ll keep my powder dry on who my favourite player is.

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Oxblogger is a blog about Oxford United.

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