George Lawrences’s Shorts: Cam and Agyei

Saturday 10 August 2019

Time warped in on itself on Saturday. The club announced a contract extension for KRob which was announced last week and reported the signing of Dan Agyei that was reported last week. On the pitch, Cameron Brannagan scored in the 1-0 win over Peterborough in next week’s League Cup game. C U Next Tuesday, I guess.

Sunday 11 August 2019

Disappointment at the annual photo day when 130 of our newly minted squad members didn’t turn up. Afterwards the players got a trip around Oxford’s Natural History Museum. Cameron Brannigan coloured in his worksheet without going over the lines, bored dad, John Mousinho, secretly checked the football scores on his phone and Derek Fazackeley spent some time with a set of diplodocus bones that reminded him of the pet he had when he was a boy.

Monday 12 August 2019

There was feverish speculation that Matty Taylor was set to sign from Bristol City. Taylor played seven games for Oxford in The Conference. He was released in 2009, placing him in a file marked ‘Phil Trainer et al’. Inexplicably the player the club prematurely wrote off has resisted attempts to re-sign him when he got good. But, he was seen at The Kassam on Saturday, so perhaps KRob has got his man.

Tuesday 13 August 2019

On Saturday, the press in Peterborough said nothing is won in August, and for their football club, they’re not wrong. The theory that the world was destroyed by the Higgs Boson in 2012 leaving just our consciousness suspended in an endless vortex of nothingness gained further traction in the Type 2 Diabetes Cup. Cameron Brannagan scored again as we won 1-0 again over Peterborough again, setting us up for a mouthwatering second round game probably at home to Peterborough again. What the Fiarce Kelleher is going on?

Wednesday 14 August 2019

Cosmopolitan sophisticat Çhrïš Ŵįłdé is heading for a no-deal Oxit at Sheffield United. He’s realised his Oxford United fetish is a closet full of skeletons he needs to empty. In an attempt to shame them into walking out of the club so he can play with his new expensive toys, he has told Samir Carruthers, Jake Wright and Ricky Holmes to think beyond the salaries that pay their mortgages and feed their children and think nebulously about ‘their careers’.

Thursday 15 August 2019

KRob was on The Six Minute Fifty-Five Second Fans Forum on Radio Oxford on Thursday where he confirmed that he wasn’t looking to replace Shaun Derry as deputy head of pointing and shouting. ‘I like being on the grass.’ said KRob, in a joke which writes itself. Pass the Wagon Wheels.

Benji Buchel’s summer tour of countries Nigel Farage is scared of has concluded in Germany with a creditable 0-1 defeat to Eintracht Frankfurt in the Europa League.

Friday 16 August 2019

Anyone who has seen GLS rummaging around in his rhinestone covered cod piece will know how much he loves ballroom and chlamydia. So we’re beyond excited to be going to Blackpool this weekend. The Seasiders’ manager Simon Grayson has been giving some insight into how he’ll defeat KRob’s unbeatable army. “We will do what we normally do and that’s focus on their weaknesses and try and use our strengths to go and win the football match” It’s that kind of tactical genius which us two world wars.

George Lawrence’s Shorts: Squad goals

Saturday 3 August 2019

GLS’ expensive public school education at The Anthony Tonkin College For Ordinary Boys meant our grasp of Latin is second to none. For instance, the verb ‘to mack’ means to complain endlessly. Mackie (he complains endlessly) Mackem (they complain endlessly), and so on. Ironically on Saturday, KRob wore the same waistcoat and tie combo for the 1-1 draw with Sunderland as the substitute Latin teacher GLS once gaffer-taped to the blackboard in Room 6b.

Monday 5 August 2019

Oxford United’s lessons in Brexit. Step 1: actively devalue your crippled reputation for no apparent reason as the EFL have done by announcing that the Football League Trophy will be known as the Leasing.com Trophy. Step 2: allow your valued assets to leave for the European mainland where they will be better treated as Leeds are set to do with Kemar Roofe heading to Anderlecht. Step 3: blame everyone else for the mess you created as Sunderland manager Jack Ross did following our draw with them on Saturday.

Tuesday 6 August 2019 

I AM NOT A NUMBER. Except if you’re an Oxford United player you are. The club have announced an innovative shirt numbering system where every registered player will have their own squad number. Junior players can aspire to achieving the smaller numbers, according to KRob, which should be motivation enough for little James Henry at 17 or young Jamie Mackie at 19. The club haven’t yet announced the competition for the first person to spot a pushy-parent in the club shop making a humblebrag order for a replica shirt with their darling little cash machine’s three figured number emblazoned on their back.

Wednesday 7 August 2019

Former Oxford striker John Aldridge has endorsed Ben Woodburn’s season long loan. Aldridge, who described Oxford as a “poxy club” before leaving for Liverpool in 1987 and hasn’t returned for single reunion or anniversary in the intervening 32 years said “He’s gone to what I think is a great club with great fans. I had great times there and I can’t say anything bad about the club because it’s in my heart.”

Thursday 8 August 2019

Benji Buchel’s dream of playing in some godforsaken corrupt country who has bought the rights to staging the 2020 Europa League Final looks to be over. He shipped five goals for no reply in the home leg of their latest qualifier against Eintracht Frankfurt. That’s right, the home leg. The second leg in Frankfurt is next week, #prayforbenji.

Friday 9 August 2019

Tiger had a grrreat Five Minute Fans Forum on Radio Oxford yesterday, dangling a bunch of intoxicating carrots as if Jerome Sale were Bugs Bunny on meth. I wish I could tell you more about the stadium, he said, maybe there’ll be an exciting announcement soon. Exciting times, will it be as exciting as the announcement from OxVox which is due in a couple of years ago about the future of the stadium? Or maybe it’ll be about the building of a temporary fourth stand, which will be ready for the 2016 derby game against Swindon?

Tomorrow marks Jose’s son, John Mousinho’s 500th game ‘I remember my debut like it was last week’ he said, ‘I gave away possession in a critical part of the field’.

‘No, that was last week’, said one of the clubs sports analysts. ‘And the week before’ he continued, flipping through his clip board. ‘And the week before that’ he said, not reading the mood of the room.

The wrap: Luton Town 3 Oxford United 1

So that’s it, the end of a brutal and bruising year. One where every game appeared analogous of the whole season, yet seemed to signal something different. A season full of contradictions; where we’re owned by the richest people in our history, but can’t pay the bills, where we’ve developed an infrastructure for the future, but struggled for results today, where we spent 84% of the season in bottom seven (55% in the relegation zone) and finished in the top half of the table.

Because of this, I genuinely thought we might beat Luton, but in the end we stuck to the script; which I suppose, was a contradiction to the script-ripping nine months we’ve had.

Perhaps it’s fitting that Luton were champions; it’s difficult not to admire what they’ve achieved as a club. I’ve always seen them as a barometer; how we’re doing relative to each other and what we can achieve. But simultaneously, they (their fans, and perhaps just a minority of them) are loathsome, as their reaction after the game showed. And if you think that them taunting the away end and throwing a smoke bomb into the stand is just the excitement of the moment, then you’re forgetting them doing something similar in 2010 when York City players were forced to into the away end to escape. No set of fans deserve their success less.

In other ways, it’s heartening to see Luton succeed, it gives us a glimmer of hope. In truth, if you look at all our ups and downs over the decades, mid-table in third tier is probably our natural place, despite ambitions stating otherwise. The biggest challenge is that the increments needed to navigate beyond where we are grow by the year. A team can spend £4m on a striker and finish fifth in the third division now.

Luton’s promotion means that three of the four teams you’d think have Championship infrastructures – Sunderland, Portsmouth, Charlton and Doncaster – will still be with us next year. Of those coming down, Ipswich, Bolton (if they survive the summer) and Rotherham are all similarly capable of competing for promotion despite their woes.

For us, bridging the gap and breaking into the top six has to be our target. This season reminds me of Eric Morecambe’s famous line to Andre Previn – we played all the right notes, just not necessarily in the right order. If we want to progress, then we have to be more organised; our season was killed by our form in the opening weeks, which was preceded by a chaotic summer.

The last few weeks have been as entertaining as anything we’ve seen in the last decade or more, even the promotion seasons, which have been laced with anxiety. We’ve been swashbuckling and daring, sparking life back into the club just as it seemed to be on a downward spiral. Even narrowly avoiding relegation in our 125th year would have been a grim way to celebrate.

Any sign the problems that caused us to fail so badly are sorting themselves out may come in the next couple of weeks. Our previous two promotions were characterised by high quality early signings. Fans will always get jittery during May and early-June because signings aren’t flowing in. In the main, that’s not justified because football slows down during those months as people take a well-earned break. However, if our results on the pitch in the last couple of months are a reflection of us getting our act together off it, then maybe we’ll see some signs of that in the coming days.

The wrap: Oxford United 2 Doncaster Rovers 2

It took a double take for me to realise that we’d made eight changes for the draw against Doncaster. At first glance, it looked like a fairly predictable starting eleven. That’s probably because there were only four from the starting eleven that played against Charlton just over a week ago.

With Kashi serving a customary ban, Hanson’s inclusion was no shock. Whyte and Browne for Garbutt and Sykes didn’t feel particularly experimental given both have featured regularly throughout the year. Only Nico Jones coming in for Rob Dickie was any real surprise.

Karl Robinson was back to his babbling best, if that’s what you can call it. Beforehand he said he wanted Jones to make mistakes – because that’s how you learn – and said afterwards that he ‘loved’ his own goal. Thankfully Nathan Cooper gave him an outball on that by suggesting that it was because of Jones’ reaction. Yes, said Robbo, moving incomprehensibly into a detailed description of some ‘diag’ Jones made shortly afterwards.

For all his nonsense, what I will say about Robinson is that he’s got a nice tone when talking about prospects, although referring to every young player as the future of the club does wear a little thin.

It’s a fine line though, there is undoubted benefit in giving young players the opportunity to experience the pace of first team football and the feeling of playing in front of a crowd. But, asking him to play the full 90 minutes against a decent team whose season is still very alive was a big challenge.

I thought it was a step too far, if I’m honest. It wasn’t a bad display in the context of his age and experience. The own goal and a couple of critical slips can be written off as unfortunate, but, more experienced players’ have the deep muscle memory to adopt starting positions that mean they’re less likely to get into similar muddles. Giving Jones the full 90 minutes asked a lot physically and mentally, and gave him a lot to process afterwards. Apparently Robinson took time to talk to Jones afterwards, perhaps he knew he had work to do to maintain his confidence after a challenging afternoon.

Will it make him a better player, or damage his confidence? Time will tell, but it was a gamble that, perhaps, wasn’t needed. I’d have preferred Mousinho for an hour – assuming he was fit – perhaps giving Jones half an hour.

Whatever, against a club whose season isn’t over, we were the better team. It was heartening to see that for once, we showed a bit of savvy with the wind. You could see Browne’s long-distance daisy cutter just after half-time which led to Sinclair’s wrongly disallowed goal was pre-planned. For his failings, Karl Robinson will use every tool he’s got to win, we haven’t seen since the days of Chris Wilder.

People have said that they don’t want the season to end, but I think it’s coming at just the right time. There’s no guarantee that we could keep up our current pace and a couple of defeats could have knocked us back to where we were. Instead, we can head into the summer on a big positive, which should help with season ticket sales and general positivity towards the club in general. Meanwhile, the owners and management get a break to sort out the messy backdrop against which the season has been played out. Then perhaps, just perhaps, we can come back in August and achieve something closer to what we expected to achieve this season.

Midweek fixture: 101 Milk Cup Final (related) facts*

  1. The basics: on April 20th 1986 Oxford United beat QPR 3-0 at Wembley to win the Milk Cup. The club’s greatest ever triumph.
  2. A terrace ticket for the game was £5; in today’s money that would be £14.39. Seated tickets were £16 (£46.06). In 2019, tickets for the final were between £40-£150.
  3. The programme was an A4 sized brochure style publication and cost £1 (£2.88 in today’s money). The 2019 League Cup final programme cost £10.
  4. The team wore what is now considered to be its traditional colours – yellow with navy blue. In fact, it was the first year we’d worn navy blue shorts and socks, before that we’d word a lighter royal blue and before that gold and black. We played in a darker blue between 1900-1950, but the shade used in 1986 was fundamentally a new one.
  5. To much hilarity, we were sponsored by Japanese company Wang computers. It’s very unlikely the club ever received any money from the deal as it was struck by Robert Maxwell as a way of getting a discount for a computer installation for his newspaper business. Rumour is that the system was never implemented.
  6. The final shirts had a slightly different ‘Wang’ logo to the regular league shirts. The word usually had a frame around it, but for the final it was removed. This is likely to be because there were rules about the dimensions of sponsor logos for TV matches.
  7. Alan Judge wore a special goalkeeping shirt with a diagonal shadow stripe. Swanky.
  8. Radio Oxford commentator Nick Harris was on duty for the final, before the game he walked around the pitch perimeter with a giant backpack containing a transmitter which allowed him to broadcast ‘on the go’. He’s still commentating, albeit from a more sedentary position, 33 years later.
  9. One of the ball boys at Wembley was one Joey Beauchamp, who went on to become one of the club’s greatest ever players; playing 375 games for the club. Beauchamp can be seen behind the goal celebrating Jeremy Charles’ third goal.
  10. The official cup final record was My Oh My by Prism and Oxford United. It was released on legendary ska and reggae label Trojan Records.
  11. Most of the culprits associated with the record appear to have disappeared. Lead singer Trina Jones is now senior manager of publishing relations at iHeart Radio. At least, I think so.
  12. The club’s official suits were provided by Van Heusen via Shepherd & Woodward on Oxford High Street. An advert featured the reassuring strapline ‘Worn by Oxford United When They’re Not Playing Football’.
  13. The club produced an official preview, which revealed the players’ nicknames. Some were more convincing than others – Hebberd was known as ‘Nijinsky’ and Briggs as ‘Rambo’, but one might question whether anyone called Ken Fish ‘Come on, Come on’, Maurice Evans ‘Do-be-do’ or Alan Judge ‘The Flying Pig’. Calling nearly man, Mark Jones ‘The Nearly Man’ is just mean.
  14. Before the main event, there was a celebrity game between Jimmy Tarbuck’s Rangers and David Frost’s Dons. The Dons team included Tommy Cannon, Jimmy Hill, Michael Le Vell (Coronation Street), Alan Parry, Dennis Waterman and Adam Woodyatt (Eastenders).
  15. Tarbuck’s Rangers had Bobby Ball, Bobby Moore (eh?), Patrick Mower, Paul Usher (Brookside), Martin Shaw and Sean Wilson (Coronation Street).
  16. I’m fairly certain Tarbuck’s Rangers won.
  17. The national anthem and ‘further selections’ were played by the 1985 World Showband champions, the Bristol Unicorns Youth Band, the most successful British marching band ever.
  18. As fun as this was, the real game kicked off at 2.30pm and was broadcast live on ITV. The host was lifelong Oxford fan Jim Rosenthal. Famously, Rosenthal wore an oversized rosette and one of the club’s horned caps to show his allegiance, which got him into trouble with his producers. Pundits were Jimmy Greaves, Ian St. John and Mick Channon. Brian Moore was in the commentary box with Greaves as co-commentator.
  19. Although the game was warm and sunny, earlier it had been grey and wet; you can see the pitch cutting up during the game. The London Marathon was run in the morning, Grete Weizz won the women’s race in 2 hours 24, and the men’s race by Toshihiko Seko in 2.10.
  20. Oxford fan Paul Scaysbrook completed the marathon in an Oxford shirt and horned cap. Bob Wilson interviewed him on TV. Scaysbrook only finished an hour before kick-off, but still made the game just before half-time.
  21. In goal was Alan Judge, whose Oxford career lasted 19 years, although there was a twelve year gap without a game. In 2004, as goalkeeping coach, he played against Southend United due to an injury crisis. He’s also the only player in the team to have played at The Manor and the Kassam Stadium – in 2003 he played against Cheltenham Town, again due to an injury crisis.
  22. Before becoming a professional footballer, skipper Malcolm Shotton worked in a women’s underwear factory as a hosiery knitter. The captain of our second visit to Wembley in 2010, James Constable, also worked in a women’s underwear factory before turning pro.
  23. Stay with me on this; the sister of our third Wembley captain Johnny Mullins is glamour model – Geena Mullins – who presumably spends quite a lot of her time being photographed in women’s underwear. The sister of our fourth Wembley captain – John Lundstram – is Jodie Lundstram, a beautician who was on Desperate Scousewives; a reality TV show. There’s a link there somewhere.
  24. The final proved cathartic for number 10 Trevor Hebberd, who scored the first goal and was man of the match. In 1979 he played in every round of Southampton’s run to the League Cup final, but didn’t even make the bench for the 3-2 defeat to Nottingham Forest at Wembley.
  25. Hebberd was 25/1 to score the first goal, one Oxford fan bagged £2,500 – over £7,000 in today’s money when it hit the back of the net.
  26. Hebberd was Jim Smith’s favourite signing while at Oxford.
  27. Hebberd and Malcolm Shotton were the only players to play in every round.
  28. Glaswegian, Ray Houghton, scorer of our second goal, may never have had an international career if it wasn’t for the Milk Cup run. After our 2-2 semi-final first leg draw against Aston Villa, John Aldridge introduced Houghton to Republic of Ireland manager Jack Charlton. Charlton didn’t know about Houghton’s Irish heritage, and promptly signed him up for Republic.
  29. Ray Houghton was famously the only player in the squad who hadn’t been signed by QPR manager Jim Smith. Neil Slatter was the only other player signed that summer.
  30. Houghton spent some of the previous summer training with QPR with an expectation he would sign for them. He didn’t.
  31. He’d won the League Cup again, with Aston Villa, in 1994. John Aldridge was manager of Tranmere when they were runners-up in 2000.
  32. Scorer of our third goal, Jeremy Charles was sporting a particularly bushy beard. This was the result of his decision not to shave until we were out of the competition.
  33. Charles had signed for Oxford 10 months earlier; from Queens Park Rangers.
  34. His career was ended by an injury sustained in Oxford’s next League Cup game against Gillingham the following season. He only scored one more goal for the club, against Nottingham Forest.
  35. Along with Charles’ beard, we were pretty moustachioed-up with Malcolm Shotton, Gary Briggs and John Trewick. Up front, John Aldridge, who usually sported a ‘tache, shaved his off.
  36. QPR had no moustaches in their team, they preferred mullets.
  37. Our main goalscoring threat was John Aldridge, who scored 34% of our goals that season. He had a quiet game, drawing a save from Paul Barron which led to Jeremy Charles’ third. Aldridge also missed a penalty at Wembley in the 1988 FA Cup final, and although he scored in the Charity Shield that year, he finally broke his cup final Wembley duck for Liverpool in the 1989 FA Cup final.
  38. At twenty-eight, the oldest player in the team was Dave Langan, one day older than Malcolm Shotton. Kevin Brock was the youngest player at twenty-three.
  39. The longest serving player in the team was Gary Briggs who made his debut in 1978.
  40. Slatter, along with Peter Rhodes-Brown and Billy Hamilton all missed out because of injury.
  41. The starting line-up contained two changes from the game immediately before – an away defeat to West Ham. Jeremy Charles came in for Billy Hamilton and Kevin Brock played in place of cup-tied Steve Perryman.
  42. The QPR side included Republic of Ireland international John Byrne. Byrne spent a memorable period at Oxford in 1993 partnering Paul Moody.
  43. QPR striker, Gary Bannister spent 10 games on loan at Oxford in 1992.
  44. The QPR squad also had Peter Hucker who played in goal for us between 1987 and 1989. It also had Gary Waddock, who had a disastrous and brief managerial spell at the club in 2014.
  45. Going into the game, we’d not won in seven games. QPR hadn’t lost in eight.
  46. At the time the 3-0 win represented the biggest Wembley win in League Cup Final history. That was equaled in 1996 by Aston Villa, and only bettered in 2006 when Manchester United beat Wigan 4-0.
  47. We inherited the cup from Norwich City, who had beaten Sunderland in 1985. Our successors were Arsenal, who beat Liverpool 2-1 the following year.
  48. The final was our first clean sheet in the tournament after beating Northampton Town in the second round.
  49. It was generally believed that Oxford’s path to the final had been fairly easy, which is true. However, it did include knocking out the cup holders, Norwich City in the 4th round, along the way.
  50. It was the first win over QPR in nearly 13 years and the first League Cup meeting for 19 years. We lost 1-5.
  51. We met them again in 1995, losing narrowly 2-3 over two legs. The Milk Cup Final was, therefore, our only League Cup win over QPR.
  52. The official crowd was 90,396, the lowest Wembley crowd for a League Cup Final before Wembley was made all-seater.
  53. It was still by far the biggest crowd Oxford have ever played in front of – the next biggest being 74,434 against Coventry City in the Checkatrade Trophy in 2017.
  54. There were 16,396 more people watching the game than in all our preceding Milk Cup games that season put together.
  55. Manager Maurice Evans famously sent physio Ken Fish up to collect his medal. Mr Fish was a 50s throwback sergeant major type with a clipped English accent. In fact he was South African, joining the club in 1964. He stayed for over 20 years years and died in 2005, aged 91.
  56. Maurice Evans nearly wasn’t the Oxford manager at all. He was sacked by Reading in 1984 and found the experience so depressing he nearly gave up the game completely. Jim Smith persuaded him to come to come out of exile. Even when Smith left, Evans was his very reluctant successor. All the time he was manager, he didn’t have a contract because he didn’t believe in them.
  57. The trophy was awarded by Sir Stephen Roberts, chairman of the Milk Marketing Board.
  58. The 1986 final was the last to be sponsored by the Milk Marketing Board, changing its name to Littlewoods Cup. Following our second win at Wembley – the Blue Square Premier changed its name and after our third trip to Wembley for the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy changed its name to the Checkatrade Trophy.
  59. The win would have seen Oxford United qualifying for the UEFA Cup, but due to English teams being banned from Europe after the Heysel Stadium disaster, it ever happened.
  60. Heysel may also have contributed to Jim Smith’s departure from the club. He and Robert Maxwell started negotiating a new contract on the night of the disaster, they broke off their discussions as the news came through, only to resume them a month later. By this point, QPR were ready to pounce.
  61. Jim Smith fell out with Robert Maxwell because he wanted £50,000 a year and Maxwell wanted to pay only £45,000. Smith wanted the equivalent of 4.3 times the then national average wage. Today the average Premier League manager earns over 50 times the national wage.
  62. Jim Smith took over from Frank Sibley at QPR. When he left, he was replaced by Trevor Francis.
  63. Despite his early set back, no subsequent QPR manager that has been in post any length of time has a higher win ratio and only two – Ian Holloway and Gerry Francis, have lasted longer.
  64. It wasn’t the first League Cup success for Assistant Manager Ray Graydon. He scored the winner for Aston Villa against Norwich City in the 1975 final. His penalty was saved, but he converted the rebound.
  65. The following Saturday, we lost 2-3 away at Ipswich. Steve Perryman came back in place of Kevin Brock in an otherwise unchanged team.
  66. The 1986 Milk Cup was the only major domestic trophy not won by Liverpool that season.
  67. Missing out on the UEFA Cup, the club didn’t even qualify for the Screensports Super Cup, a domestic replacement for European football following the ban. It was abandoned after one season.
  68. The Milk Cup wasn’t the only domestic national competition won by Oxford that season, though. We were also the Daily Express 5-a-side champions beating Arsenal in the final.
  69. The winning squad was Houghton, Shotton, Aldridge, Hebberd and Trewick. In goal was Oxford City keeper Paul Whittington.
  70. It wasn’t our only tilt at getting to Wembley that season. We made it to the semi-final of the Full Members’ Cup, but lost 2-5 over two legs to Chelsea.
  71. Oxford fans were in the East Stand of the stadium, the tunnel end.
  72. In the pre-match interviews Maurice Evans claims there’s an Oxford banner saying ‘Aldridge strikes more often than Maxwell’s printers’. This was a reference to the fairly brutal modernisation of the newspaper industry which was going on at the time.
  73. QPR fans had a puntastic banner which said “We made Chelsea Neil, we made Liverpool Byrne and we’re sending Oxford down the Bannister”.
  74. None-the-less, things were pretty grim in the QPR end with members of the National Front fighting the poilce and black fans in the stands.
  75. Our reign came to an end with a 0-1 defeat to West Ham the following season. Seven players who were in the final played in that game.
  76. Because sentient women didn’t exist in the 1980s the tabloids featured a bevvy of glamorous beauties alongside the match reports the next day. The Star went with the ‘lovely’ Andrea Kovic wearing her swimming costume back to front. She wants to go in a hot air balloon and keep ‘all her legs in one basket’. The more respectful and enlightened Mirror had Corrine Russel – a Benny Hill favourite – in a string bikini showing off bingo numbers.
  77. On the same page there’s a story about Jimmy Saville boasting about his sexual conquests while marathon running. Ew.
  78. Otherwise, the news was mostly about the Queen’s upcoming birthday.
  79. The Guardian described our performance as having ‘attacking movements of verve and accuracy not often seen in Wembley finals’. Crikey.
  80. The Times said QPR were ‘Woefully poor in defence, laborious in midfield and negligible in attack … their challenge was surely one of the most feeble ever to have been staged in the national stadium’. Oh.
  81. Later it emerged that many QPR players had been fed a triple does of Mogadon sleeping tablets the night before to help them sleep. A contributory factor to their unusually gormless performance?
  82. Maybe, Johnny Byrne blames the fact they watched Spurs the previous day. Whereas Martin Allen thinks they had become fatigued by the endless expectation.
  83. Had the game been a draw, there would have been extra time. After that, a replay would have been played at White Hart Lane on Wednesday 30 April.
  84. Alan Judge is the seventh oldest footballer in Football League history. He became a driving instructor and lives in Bicester.
  85. John Trewick played for Birmingham City before moving to non-league. After retiring he enjoyed a successful coaching career before retiring from the game completely. He now lives in Solihull.
  86. Malcolm Shotton managed Oxford in 1998, enjoying initial success before his sergeant major style rubbed everyone up the wrong way. Became a coach at Loughborough University before becoming a car salesman. Occasionally joins Radio Oxford for co-commentating duties.
  87. Gary Briggs moved up to Blackpool where he worked as a civil servant and caretaker.
  88. David Langan lives in Peterborough where he endured some fairly tough times, worked at Peterborough Town Hall. Published his autobiography in 2012.
  89. Les Philips works for a building company locally.
  90. Trevor Hebberd moved to Leicestershire where he worked for a steel merchant in their warehouse.
  91. Kevin Brock managed a number of local teams including Oxford City and Banbury United. Lives in Bicester.
  92. Ray Houghton enjoyed huge success with the Republic of Ireland, Liverpool and Aston Villa. Now works as a pundit.
  93. Jeremy Charles now runs Sydenham Charles Vehicle Leasing.
  94. John Aldridge moved to Liverpool winning the league and FA Cup amongst others, then had a successful spell in Spain with Real Sociedad. Managed Tranmere before becoming a media pundit in Liverpool.
  95. Andy Thomas followed a similar path to Kevin Brock managing a number of local teams. Works at Wychwood golf club in Chipping Norton.
  96. Maurice Evans died in 2000 of a heart attack aged 63. A lounge is named after him at the Kassam Stadium.
  97. Robert Maxwell died in 1991 falling off a boat after having a heart attack. Shortly after, it was discovered that Maxwell had been using millions of pounds from The Mirror pension fund to shore up his businesses which were crippled with debt. At the time Guiness were QPR’s shirt sponsor. In the directors’ box was Ernest Saunders, who was later caught up in the Guiness share manipulation trial. Top guys.
  98. The 20th April has proved pretty lucky for the club ever since, we’ve won six and lost two, including two 3-0 wins – against Brighton in 1991 and Rochdale in 2013.
  99. No Oxford player was born on 20 April 1986, in fact no player has been born on 20th April at all. Current captain John Mousinho was the first future Oxford player to be born after the Milk Cup on the 30th.
  100. In May 2001, in what was the last game at The Manor, Alan Judge organised a re-run of the game for charity. The game ended 4-4 in front of 3,500 people. Judge, John Trewick, Gary Briggs, Kevin Brock, Les Phillips, Trevor Hebberd and Jeremy Charles all played.
  101. In 2016, to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the win, a number of the players re-united again for the game against Hartlepool. Jeremy Charles, Trevor Hebberd, Andy Thomas, Alan Judge, Gary Briggs and Les Phillips all attended alongside a number of the squad players from the time.

* All facts would benefit from further verification and modification, I’ve done my best, right?

The wrap: Shrewsbury Town 2 Oxford United 3

The first game I saw this season was at home to Accrington. People were already talking about how unprepared we looked in our first few games. Against Stanley we took the lead twice, but lost 3-2. I mentioned at the time that perhaps this high energy style was what Karl Robinson was looking for, and perhaps both players and fans had to get used to the approach.

Robinson’s personal style is all action, of course, it’s perhaps not a surprise to see his teams playing the way they do. What is evident is that when it’s not working, it can be embarrassingly bad – being 3-0 up against Scunthorpe and drawing 3-3, conceding eight minutes into injury time against Luton, for example. When it does work – as it has in recent weeks – it’s brilliant, we haven’t had a sequence of games like this since promotion in 2016.

I was walking in The Chilterns with a patchy 4G connection during our win over Shrewsbury, but when information did filter through, it had a familiar feel about it. Conceded a penalty? Like Charlton, sending off? Like Walsall and Charlton, thrilling comeback? Charlton (again). All that was missing was the 94th minute winner.

Unless you’re there, not only does it take a while to piece it all together, it’s a lot to process. Ahmed Kashi has been sent off twice, and was booked against Charlton, Marcus Browne and Simon Eastwood have both received red cards. If you add people like Cameron Brannagan – 14 yellow cards this season or Jamie Mackie (11), you start to realise that this approach is not without its collateral damage. In addition, we’ve had to come back from behind twice and relied on injury time goals twice. This doesn’t happen very often.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s been a lot of fun as we’ve scrambled for safety and then made a bit of a mess of others’ promotion and relegation fights. I’ve loved Ahmed Kashi’s lunacy; bans give others opportunities, which keeps it interesting when the results are largely meaningless. But, is it sustainable across a whole season?

If we are going to mount a promotion bid next season, we surely can’t do it relying on 35 yard last minute winners or having to deal with the consequences of bans and injuries resulting from an over-combative style. We won’t have a big squad next year, so it’s not likely Karl Robinson will have options to draw on, he needs to keep his players playing. If we’re going to do well, then we need to be able to pick up points efficiently with minimal fuss. With the summer in our sights and players likely to leave anyway, then what happens between now and the end of season can be as messy as it likes, But, there’s nothing wrong with a controlled 2-0 win, and we will need to learn that at some point.

The wrap: Oxford United 2 Charlton Athletic 1

My evolving theory about League 1 this season is that the division mostly consists of fairly average teams, of which we are one. There is a small group of marginally more competent teams who will fight for promotion. But, no one is really capable of competing in the Championship for any length of time. Is it better to know your level or fight to get into a division you’re not equipped to compete in?

Our recent run has been slightly tinged with the concern we’ve merely hit a good run of opponents at the right time – Walsall, Bradford, Wycombe and Wimbledon all look like relegation candidates and we played them one after the other, drawing with with one and sneaking past two in the last minute.

Charlton offered a different proposition; not only are they in that group of teams looking to go up, there were times in the opening minutes where they blew my theory out of the water. Perhaps they could sustain themselves at a higher level. I thought they were much better than Sunderland or Portsmouth. The fact they were unbeaten in eleven supporting that view.

Their penalty was soft, I thought, but may have done us a favour given the chaos later. It made it much harder for the referee to make big decisions on marginal calls without the game descending into a farce that would have been of his making.

There was something about the sunshine, the meaninglessness of the game from our perspective, the buoyancy of the Charlton fans and the early goal which gave that foreboding sense that we were going to collapse in the theatre of it all.

Then it all turned around. Just when we could have switched off, we resolved to show we weren’t just a makeweights in someone else’s end of season adventure. Curtis Nelson, perhaps playing his penultimate game at the Kassam, had plenty of time to watch the ball drop, but caught his volley perfectly. And then Garbutt slammed home his brilliant second.

Garbutt’s resurrection may be the story of our revival. He could easily have crumbled under the criticism of earlier in the season, he’s well paid and is not from round here so he could have just given up. Instead, he’s dragged himself back into the team, changed position and transformed. He’s now the one gee’ing up the crowd and, at Walsall, disappearing into it. Karl Robinson’s role in turning his season around can’t be ignored, either.

The second half was entertaining but barking mad – Simon Eastwood was rightly sent off although it was clearly a miscalculation rather than a deliberate attempt to cheat. His one-match ban implies that the FA agree, so it does make you wonder whether red is too harsh a punishment for a momentary mistake.

Incidentally, I’m not a fan of a team being allowed to make an immediate substitution when a goalkeeper gets sent off. Clearly it would have disadvantaged us, but I think you should have to wait until the next available stoppage before making any changes.

There was half-an-hour to hold out. I remember looking at the clock and realising that Eastwood had only been off the field for six minutes; it felt like hours had passed. They had territory and possession, and won a lot of corners, but we didn’t cave.

Eastwood’s dismissal should have signalled the end of our hopes of taking the points, but in reality, we had the better chances. In many ways it was reminiscent of our fabled win at home to Swindon in 2012 when James Constable was sent off.

Solly’s sending off was as much about Jamie Mackie’s fall as it was about a dangerous challenge. Perhaps that was more deserving of a yellow, although I thought Lapslie should have been sent off for tripping Jerome Sinclair when he was clean through. It could easily have been a goal from Garbutt, who benefitted from the advantage, with Lapslie then being sent off for the foul. Practically every decision and incident could have gone the other way; it was that good a game.

Leaving the game with adrenalin coursing through my veins once again got me thinking; in terms of sheer thrills, spills and drama; is there a team offering better value for money in the country than us right now?

Through all the mayhem, though, was a refreshing level of gamesmanship and guile. We would have been overwhelmed with less maturity. It’s something we have frequently lacked in the past. Michael Appleton prided himself on developing players, Pep Clotet on his tactical acumen, Karl Robinson’s thing is winning games at all cost. He’s more a Chris Wilder, with all the baggage that comes with that.

It was Robinson who introduced Mackie and Hanson because he knew they’d dig in. He removed Kashi to protect him from a second yellow, god help him if Josh Ruffels’ last minute chance had gone in. For all Robinson’s streams of consciousness when interviewed, he kept his head when all those around him lost theirs.

It goes without saying that Jamie Mackie led the charge with a masterful performance of pushing, being pushed and being outraged at being pushed. Cameron Brannagan showed his growing maturity being tidy and combative at the same time. The back-four protected Jack Stevens admirably, with Josh Ruffels and Sam Long both offering outlets when the chance was offered. Not that Stevens was a passenger, his scooped save being as good as anything Simon Eastwood has produced this year, in fact I’m not sure Eastwood would have the athleticism.

Every Charlton shot was met with two or three players falling over themselves to block the ball. Total commitment and discipline.

With the younger players learning from the older players, what emerges is an increasingly competent and effective unit, one capable of performing against the best in the division.

And this is what turns a team from being a League One also-ran into potential play-off or promotion candidates. It’s come too late for this season and large chunks of the squad will disappear over the summer, but if a DNA is emerging and some off-the-field stability can be established, then we can, perhaps look forward to next season with a degree of optimism.