Last week, we looked at the ‘slow’ data of who responded to this year’s Absolute State of Oxford United 2021 survey. Too long, didn’t read? Not a lot has changed. What about the more reactionary stuff? The short-term, knee-jerk, feelings you have towards the club? How did last season work out for you?
Having secured a play-off place, which was much more than many people were expecting, the general mood towards the club remains good. Overall, fans rated their general attitude 8/10, an increase on the mid-season (pre-record breaking run) result of 7.2. That said, and perhaps understandably, it was but slightly behind this time last year – which was post-Wembley, which saw us at 8.3.
The overall squad rating has dropped back on this time last year coming in at 7.1 compared to 7.7. There is still a lot of faith in the squad when you look back to 2019 when they were rated just 6.2. There is perhaps a degree of pessimism, or maybe realism, that the reality of having a breakthrough player such as Rob Atkinson is that they will leave. It’s likely that there is a concern about how long the club can sustain the pressure of having to sell a player evey season, and more importantly, replace them with someone who will be equally valuable in a couple of years time.
Karl Robinson continues to track positively even if he didn’t fully recover from the early season sluggishness which saw him rated as 7.7 at Christmas. He’s recovered to 8.3, a bit behind where he was this time last year but a world away from the 6.1 he got back in 2019.
I’ve said previously that it takes extra effort for the owners of the club to get a decent rating, so they should be very happy to sustain a strong approval at 7.6, exactly what they scored this time last year. Of course, the last twelve months has shown just how reliant we are on the deep pockets of our owners, but it would also be very easy to criticise them for selling our best players. Overall, this is a very good result for Tiger’s crew.
Relationship with the fans
Curiously, the relationship between the club and the fans doesn’t track with on-field factors like the players or manager as you might expect. There’s a far closer relationship between the performance of the directors. The last two results, 7.4 in January and 7.6 now is identical to the scores of the directors. Is it that, deep down, success is really determined by what happens off the field.
Five years ago we were still in the Michael Appleton era, even though that period was one of considerable success, there’s a strong appreciation of the progress the club has made since. 49% of respondents think things are considerably better than they were and another 36% see it as a bit better.
Casting forward, there is more caution, 45% expect it to be a little bit better with 29% expecting it to be about the same. It might be the looming threat of the post-pandemic world, but optimism is slightly worse than it was a year ago.
Two players dominated the voting when it came to your favourite player. Cameron Brannagan picked up just over 20% of the votes. He’s been in the top two favourite players in each of the end-of-season votes. Top, of course, was Sam Long, who, like Brannagan, is one of the few ever-presents in the survey. Unlike Brannagan, Long’s rise up the rankings has been nothing short of remarkable; 18 months ago he picked up less than 1% of the vote – in fact in my mean-spirited and discontinued question about your least favourite player in 2019, he picked up 6% of your votes, in the latest survey he picked up 23% of the votes. Quite a turnaround.
Moments of the season
Your moments of the season were quite concentrated; many were simply happy to attend a game whether than was the mid-season games against Hull and Northampton Town or the play-off tie against Blackpool. Mide Shodipo’s last minute winner in the 4-3 victory over Rochdale was a regular mention as was Sam Long’s goal against Plymouth.
The three big ones, however, were Dan Agyei’s goal against Swindon at The County Ground, Sam Long’s winner against Gillingham, and your number one; the final day against Burton and the win that saw us sneak into play-offs. Talk about leaving the best until last.