It’s not even August and we’re ready for the off. I suppose it’s important that we’re all inconvenienced so that Sepp Blatter can buy a spare helicopter and the Qatari government can pretend they’re a beacon of humanity for a few weeks in November.
In the Oxblogger Oxford United Survey 2022, your predictions for the season are a mixed bag. You’re reasonably confident we’ll be at the right end of the table come May, but less confident that we’ll find the last few percentages that’ll get us over the line. All-in-all, it looks set to be an intriguing season.
How to summarise where you think we’ll finish? Unequivocally indecisive? Optimistically pessimistic? If we finish in the automatic promotion positions, it will be at the bottom and if we finish in the play-offs we’ll be bottom of those as well.
Last year’s votes were similar, second, fifth or sixth, but not first or third. Last year, the largest vote went to second place, this year, that’s dropped to fifth with sixth creeping up not far behind. A big drop in optimism. However, there was also a strong showing last year for eighth – outside the play-offs – and even votes for fifteenth. It seems we’re much more confident in reaching the play-offs, and more confident that we’ll avoid complete failure, but we’re less confident that we’re amongst the very best.
An odd dynamic, to be sure, but perhaps a converging of the realists and the optimists into a single view.
The prediction table shows the challenge, and perhaps the reason for the loss of confidence. Last year there was a clear us and them, this year there’s them, us and them. Sheffield Wednesday, Derby County and Ipswich Town are considered the biggest bears. There are five or six – including us – who will fight it out for the remaining play-off spots with everyone else falling behind. One of the interesting things are the lost teams of the division – Charlton, Portsmouth and Accrington who nobody considers worthy of either promotion or relegation. Charlton and Portsmouth, in particular, would surely expect more?
We’re a little less optimistic about our FA Cup prospects with nearly 75% of people think we’ll progress to the third round or beyond. Last year that number was 77%, so not much in it.
Similarly our optimism in the League Cup is falling away, 16% said we’d make it beyond the third round compared to around 30% last season.
You predict a pivotal year for Karl Robinson. There may be calls for his head if we start poorly, a consequence of his struggles bedding players into the Oxford way. One of you expects him to square up to Wayne Rooney, which will be a surprise to all of us.
Quite a few expect Robinson to leave, perhaps as early as Christmas, but maybe later, if we don’t go up. Rest assured, he won’t leave before buying some wingers or taking offence at the opinion of Steve Kinniburgh.
We’ll start the season with a 5-game losing streak (or, win 16 out of the first 18 points available) we’ll need to toughen up because we don’t have enough defenders. But we’ll beat Derby away and remain unbeaten at home even though we lose in the play-offs (or go up automatically). Alternatively, we’ll start well and end well and score set piece goals which will propel us to challenge for automatic promotion.
Along the way, we’ll beat Bristol Rovers twice and a Premier League club in the cup (maybe Manchester United). Derby will implode and suffer a points deductions, we’ll have a bad December and lose Cameron Brannagan in January (hmm?) before pulling it around in the spring. Rollercoaster.
When it comes to players, Cameron Brannagan will stay or go by August or January to Bristol City, but not before scoring five penalties in a game.
Matty Taylor will score 20 goals (or not break into double figures), with him and Baldock scoring 30 goals between them by Christmas. Baldock will be top scorer and claim the golden boot.
We’ll re-sign Chey Dunkley, Gavin Whyte and either Tariq Fosu or Shandon Baptiste on loan, and Marcus Browne will fulfil his potential.
James Golding, Gatlin O’Donker and Tyler Goodrham will establish themselves in the first team squad but we won’t sign enough proper full backs or wing backs or defensive minded physical players. Of those we do, one will be an Irish prospect.
There will be a marquee signing that no one expected (Josh Murphy?) and Alex Gorrin need to be sent off at least once, we may even sign a defender – I’m guessing that could be Stuart Finlay.
Our new owners will finally be confirmed which will lead to the stadium being approved. It may also not happen with someone lodging a legal objection against the Stratfield Brake proposal, possibly from Kidlington Parish Council, NIMBYs or environmentalists. One punter thinks we’ll sign a long term extension with the Kassam Stadium and may even be given an offer to buy it by Uncle Firoz.
In other news; as well as there being a dog on pitch, we’ll have a red third kit and clash despite having 37 kit combinations to choose from. One of you expects us to have to change our shirts at half-time due to a clash, or to borrow another team’s shirt. I am here for all this stuff.
Stevie Kinniburgh will get really angry about a player nobody else is bothered about about, the SLO might speak to other fans (is this a thing?) and the queue for a drink in the bowling alley will reach Grenoble Road. Pretty standard, really.
Obviously someone on Sky Sports will call us Oxford City and, getting back to the World Cup, we’ll suffer one of our lowest ever attendances during the tournament.
In terms of what you wanted out of this season, there were lots of things, but four very clean themes:
A new stadium
Cameron Brannagan staying
A decent defence
You don’t want much, do you? Good luck everyone.