Midweek fixture – Oxblogger’s mid-season survey results

The results are in; Oxblogger’s mid-season survey reveals a club on the up and expectations of the play-offs still burning brightly. And this was before Cameron Brannagan and Mark Sykes rumours, or Jordan Thornily’s return to Blackpool, or Stratfield Brake. So things have probably changed a bit, but, what did we find? Read on…


With the return to stadiums seemingly a permanent thing now, and the fact we’ve enjoyed a much better start than in previous seasons, the overall mood is good. We’ve not quite hit the peak in mid-2020 – which we can call ‘pre-pandemic levels’, but some way ahead of where we were at the start of the season or, indeed, a year ago. It seems that the general mood is influenced by two factors – short-term form and relative performance to six months ago. So, a few good results can really shift the mood and you don’t necessarily need to be pushing for promotion to make people happy as long as it’s better than it was a few months ago.


After taking a bit of a dip, the squad is looking healthier than it has done since mid-2020. The mid-season assessment is always a difficult one with the transfer window distorting opinions as the month progresses. To date, there’s been virtually no movement – the results came in after Jordan Thornily went back to Blackpool. Despite a degree of anxiety about the lack of movement, we’re generally very happy with the quality we’ve already got.


Karl Robinson’s stock remains very high, registering an average rating of 8.7. It’s not as high as his highest peak – an 8.9 coming directly after the play-off defeat to Wycombe in 2020 – but a huge improvement on his starting rating, which was just 6.1.


The survey came before the news of the club went public on the move to Stratfield Brake. Despite this, the directors rating of 7.9 represents a new peak. One of the most noticeable things about the survey has been the growing appreciation of those running the club. Back in 2019, we’d just come off the back of a difficult season which had seen a number of winding up orders. Ever since, the owners have strengthened the squad, bought the lease to the training ground and kept the club afloat over the pandemic. The fans seem to really appreciate that.


The relationship between the fans and club returned a solid 7.8, a slight growth from the summer. This isn’t bad considering that we still seem to be in a bit of limbo with regards to who actually owns the club. Considering this, there seems to be a lot of trust that these issues will be resolved as there’s no sign it’s souring the relationship with the fans.

Favourite players

The fans’ favourite players always fluctuate wildly, although Cameron Brannagan is consistently in the top two. This time around, he’s topped the table with Mark Sykes, Matty Taylor and Herbie Kane making up the big four. Mark Sykes surge to second place reflects a remarkable upturn in his form.

Back in July Sam Long topped the table, but he’s dropped back to fifth with just 3.6% of the vote. The graph below tracks Cameron Brannagan’s scores over the years compared to Sam Long. Brannagan has always been a pretty consistent performer, whereas Long seems to be pretty boom and bust in the eyes of the fan.

Where will we finish?

Obviously with half-a-season of experience in our back pocket – predictions of where we’ll ultimately finish become more certain. At the start of the season 21% thought we were in line for automatic promotion, this has dropped to 7%. 45% thought we’d make the play-offs, that’s shot up to 87% with the most likely finishing spot being 5th. Hard to know whether we’ve become more pessimistic or optimistic, but, there’s at least a growing consensus.

Who wins the league

In terms of where this all ends up, it looks like the title is a three horse race between Rotherham, Sunderland and Wigan. Wigan are over-performing given that you predicted they’d finish 16th at the start of the season. Pre-season favourites Sheffield Wednesday and Ipswich Town are a bit lost in a large no-mans land.

At the other end, Doncaster Rovers and Crewe Alexandra look doomed along with Gillingham and Morecambe, who were pre-season relegation favourites. Cheltenham and Cambridge were both predicted to go down at the start of the season, so will be happy to be in mid-table.

61Sheffield Weds0.0%
1117MK Dons0.0%

Match wrap – Doncaster Rovers 1 Oxford United 2

With the Tories breaking their own rules, Covid cases soaring and iFollow on the TV in whatever it is that three grades below standard definition is; Tuesday night made me feel a bit nostalgic. The barren wasteland of the terraces at Doncaster’s Keepmoat Stadium presented an atmosphere not dissimilar to football under lockdown.

Doncaster, like Rotherham, are a club I’ve admired with their nice new stadium and moderately, but not overwhelmingly, successful team. Somehow, they managed to modernise gracefully, keeping their feet on the ground and not losing sight of their wider purpose. 

So, its been odd to see their implosion and descent towards the bottom of the division. Like all football clubs at this level, despite everything, they’re still built on the shakiest of foundations where a loss of nerve, a poor managerial appointment or a dodgy signing can see the whole house of cards collapse. Perhaps we should be warned, as good as it feels now, the potential for it all to unravel is real. 

It was startling to see just how poor they were in real life, I missed the first two minutes of the game and with it, apparently, two clear cut chances. We then proceded to overwhelm them as their lack of confidence seeped into every pore and chaos wrapped itself tightly around their throat.

The fact we didn’t capitalise on Mark Sykes’s opening goal made the game unnecessarily competitive and it was of little surprise to see them equalise. We’re still quite a leaky team, with only five clean sheets all season, conceding is a standing agenda item.

The response from some fans was that this was ‘typical Oxford’ making meal out of something which should be straight forward. But was it? In the same way that the pandemic is apparently over and, at the same time, far from over, our post-pandemic relationship with the club has perhaps yet to be fully established. We’re back, but but still not fully complete. So, what is ‘typical Oxford’ in 2021/22? 

There was a time in the bad old days when we would have been impressed if a player came onto the pitch with their shorts the right way round. Scoring a goal was not the culmination of a highly coordinated, complex and skilled operation, but an accident of chance resulting from solid graft. Cheering wasn’t a celebration, it was a gesture of collective surprise.

There was at least one cross-field pass last night from Cameron Brannagan which was made with such nonchalance it barely raised a murmur amongst the commentators. Marcus Mcguane, who looked a level above everyone else for an hour, sprayed a ball out wide; a 40-yard pass that wasn’t even mentioned. We were so complete and dominant, I’m beginning to think that edgy and awkward is not ‘typical Oxford’ anymore.

Going into the last five minutes, chasing a winner was a case of claiming what we richly deserved. It wasn’t the ‘typical Oxford’ that involved grinding out a result and losing in the last minute. It might be what’s deep in our muscle memory as fans, but it’s not us on the pitch. Not now. 

Despite the equaliser we quickly regained our composure and set about seeking justice for a dominant performance. As is often the case in these situations, with them defending deeply, any breakthrough relies on someone being brave and doing something slightly different to change the angles and knock your opponent off balance.

Steve Seddon burst from his full back position, unconcerned by the hole he left behind to break the lines and square it to the ever-reliable James Henry for the winner. I yelped into the silent abyss of my living room, the noise echoed off the walls. 

Was this ‘typical Oxford’ one with and an unerring ability and confidence to secure the right result regardless of the difficulties presented to them? Perhaps we’ve changed. It’s almost like we have an identity crisis, but probably one that we all would welcome.

Match wrap – Ipswich Town 0 Oxford United 0

It’s often commented, this season in particular, how much better the atmosphere is away from home. It shouldn’t be that much of a surprise; we’re on our best behaviour on the road. At home there’s no compulsion to put on a show, it’s the equivalent of sitting in front of the TV with your trousers unzipped scratching yourself. Everything about an away game is an event; the journey, the food, the ground, singing yourself hoarse. It’s different. 

I was last at Portman Road forty years ago; I was a home fan then, sat in the three tier main stand. The posh seats, or back in the early eighties, the safest. ‘We’ won 3-1 against Wolves, the team my dad supported. You could say the intersection of his old-gold (let’s call it yellow for this analogy) and my preference for blue, was the yellow and blue of Oxford who we watched as a secondary treat during Christmas visits to my grandparents.

Ipswich Town form some great memories of my childhood; the FA Cup win in 1978, the UEFA Cup of 1981. Bobby Robson, Paul Cooper, Paul Mariner, Arnold Muhren, Eric Gates and my personal favourite, winger Chris Woods.   

When we got to Portman Road yesterday, the memories flooded back. It was exactly as I remembered it, nestled in the town. Interwoven into the fabric of Ipswich life, Town and town to our town and gown. For us, football is something you go to, for Ipswich you can drop off your dry cleaning before walking to the stadium. 

On the side of the Cobbold Stand are giant pictures of Mick Mills and John Walk, their history and, to some extent mine, is writ large.

Most grounds of my childhood – Highbury, The Manor – are gone, but broadly speaking Portman Road is unchanged. This is one of the remaining legacies of my past, like meeting a first crush cutting through the weathering of age to see the beauty of their youth. We went into the club shop and saw the vintage replica shirts with the Pioneer sponsor, Adidas everywhere and a book celebrating the 40th anniversary of their UEFA Cup win. It’s the only opponents’ club shop where I could buy 85% of their merchandise.

It was like part of my childhood had broken off and was just floating there in front of me. I had my daughter with me, but couldn’t explain what I was feeling, it was all about mortality and futility. For a brief period, I was a ten-year-old Ipswich fan.

Inside the ground, the players’ tunnel is in the corner with a strange shed built on top. The stadium is the product of its history, complete and coherent and a hotchpotch at the same time. When the teams came out, there were chequerboard flags and their players wore tracksuit tops; these are literally things I obsessed over.

My life now is very different, so fittingly where so much about Ipswich is familiar, so much about Oxford has changed. We’re unrecognisable from the club of ten years ago, let alone forty. 

Before the game, there was a thankfully restrained Remembrance Day ceremony. It wasn’t the hideous over-engineered debacle of Portsmouth two years ago which had so many elements somebody forgot to bring the players out before it started. Even so, the fans’ hushed reverence began while the coin toss was still being completed, it meant it was one of the more tense decisions about which end to face that Elliott Moore will need to make.

We started well, controlling and probing with menace, there were fleeting moments where an opportunity seemed to open up before being shut down. The real chances fell to Ipswich who hit the post twice and drew good, if routine, saves from Simon Eastwood. 

After a solid first-half, the inevitable lull came early in the second. At home, we might think of it as that dopey period which seems to be a characteristic of this team. Away, we’re more forgiving, we chivvy, we don’t chide. The efforts of the first half were always going to catch up with them at some point. As we retreated, Ipswich threatened again and a goal seemed to be coming. But, they too would eventually pay for their efforts, it was just a question of whether we could hang on until they blew up and whether we had anything left in the tank.

On the hour, the storm seemed to have passed, leaving the final half-an-hour for a slug-fest. Subs warmed up with menace on the far flank, Marcus McGuane was our most obvious threat, but even he couldn’t affect enough change.

The final exchange of blows had winded both sides. As the clock ticked by, I predicted there would be one remaining big chance, but for whom, it was difficult to say. In fact, we were done, the engine, quite literally, went into limp mode. To the fury of the home support, we strangled the life out of the game with a series of stoppages. Anti-football, they call it, securing an away point is more accurate.

We left the stadium into the chilly autumnal darkness and that lovely buzz of a thousand post-match analyses before weaving our way through the shadows, away from my childhood and back to the car. We edged our way back to the road and caught one last glimpse of the floodlights as they beamed into the stadium. Happy memories of the past and of the present, that’s why we do away days.

There’s been one goal in five fixtures between these teams in the last three years. BBC cricket commentator and Oxford fan Henry Moeran described it as the most boring fixture in football. Personally, I loved it. 

Match wrap – Burton Albion 1 Oxford United 3

When the teams are announced an hour before kick-off there are only two positions I look for – who is in goal and who is up front. Others analyse the details of the rest of the team trying to unpick the mysteries of formation and strategy. For me, apart from the keeper and striker, the rest is just a blancmange of players, there could be eight changes and I’d struggle to know who they are.

When the team was announced for the Burton game, seeing the name Simon Eastwood at the top of the list came with a bit of a jolt. 

I like Eastwood a lot; I like his loyalty, I like that he’s self-effacing, I love that he prefers to watch Downton Abbey rather than football. A couple of years ago, he won the Oxford United World Cup of Goalkeepers on Twitter. That result was a travesty, he’s not the greatest, but he’s one of the best. 

Then there was THAT mistake in THAT game. As mistakes go it doesn’t get bigger – breaking a near twenty year unbeaten run in the last minute with a howling air-shot – that’s a good one. It’s up there with Rob Duffy rolling the ball into the Exeter City’s ‘keeper’s hands in the 2007 play-off semi-final and Ryan Clarke’s clanger against York at Wembley. 

Most footballers are like wild animals – they’ll never let on that they’re wounded for fear of being attacked by a predator. We’ll probably never know the real impact that moment had on Eastwood emotionally, but it must have lurked in every dark corner for some time, particularly as it resulted in him being dropped to the bench. I wonder if it was worse that it happened in the deathly silence of an empty stadium, the only place for the primal maelstrom of despair to manifest is inside your head. At least with a full stadium the experience can be shared around a bit. 

For fans, that moment is likely to haunt their thoughts, not just their nervousness about Eastwood’s decision making in one-on-ones, there’ll be doubts about every aspect of his game resulting from that one moment. He himself said that it could come to define him, much more than the countless times he’s saved us. 

His new three-year contract last year came as a complete surprise, Jack Stevens is young, fresh and playing well, a new breed of goalkeeper who looks like he could easily play outfield. Above all, he seemed unfazed by his new elevation; there was talk of a move to Aston Villa, but beyond a big money move elsewhere, it’s hard to see how Stevens would give way to Eastwood; goalkeepers rarely get injured, they just slowly wear themselves out and Stevens is too young for that.

It was always going to take something unusual to re-instate Eastwood. The news that Stevens has glandular fever is just that. It can be a debilitating and lingering condition, the fortnight of rest that Craig Short said he needed seems optimistic. Suddenly, the decision to retain Eastwood is looking like a master stroke. 

We could have released him, saved some money and gone with a junior back-up knowing it would be necessary to dip into the loan market if we lost Stevens. We could have brought in a keeper like Scott Shearer, super-senior and dependable, and broadly happy to simply have a contract. To retain a player who would get into a lot of lower league sides seemed like a folly.

In 2016, the Welsh national team made it to the semi-final of the Euros, the unlikely run was based on a simple formula. They had the superstars in Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey, but they also had a squad of ‘good blokes’. People like Chris Gunter and Jonny Williams who both play in the lower leagues. Lots of players in tournaments don’t get much game time, it’s easy to get bored and frustrated. You need players who enjoy being part of the squad, who are positive and set an example. Gareth Southgate has successfully employed a similar principle with England, people like Jordan Henderson and Conor Coady know they might not play much, but they have a bigger role to play.

I’m rapidly coming to the conclusion that footballers, who are often maligned, tend have higher standards than many of the fans, politicians and media who criticise them. They’re certainly physically healthier, but they also work harder, are more supportive of their fellow professionals and, in recent years, have become more socially aware. 

Simon Eastwood is a very good goalkeeper, of course, but he’s also a thoroughly decent human being, prepared to keep working, be ready and not be disruptive. Confidence, if it has taken a hit, will build and we can be assured that Stevens’ absence, if it does stretch on, is not as destabilising as it could have been.

Eastwood slotted in comfortably to a team which is in a very healthy groove. The performance against Burton showed that we’re found a rhythm; the early season jitters of the past are gone, we are well set for the mid-season chaos that comes with the FA Cup and Christmas.

This is because the foundations of the squad are deep and stable. On the pitch, the highs are not as high, but more importantly, the lows are not as low. Results depend on players like Taylor and Henry performing, but their job is made much easier by the good people like Simon Eastwood that form the bedrock of the squad.

George Lawrence’s Shorts: Cambridge analytica

Sunday 1 August 2021

Helicopter pilot Gavin Whyte has wanged his way back to the club on loan from Cardiff City. We don’t want to be too cocky, but as we don’t use the schlong ball game, we think he’ll propel us to promotion, it’ll be tough, but where there’s a willy, there’s a way.

Monday 2 August 2021

With KRob salivating over the re-signing of Gavin Whyte, the rest of the coaching staff were able to sneak a defender into the building with Jordan Thorniley signing on loan from Blackpool. Meanwhile, bang dem up dat wid de big bear belly; Robbie Hall has found himself on trial in the lair of fatberg Steve Evans at Gillingham. #prayforrob #freerob #bigboned.

Tuesday 3 August 2021

With a few days left until the start of the season, Oxford got ready for the new campaign by inviting some NHS workers to the training ground. These are the heroes who have been looking after some of the country’s sickest people, or Sam Winnall as we know him.

Wednesday 4 August 2021

Barnet manager, Harry Kewell has been reflecting on his team’s 1-1 friendly draw with Oxford while we reflect on the fact we played a 1-1 friendly draw with Barnet nobody knew about.   

Thursday 5 August 2021

Play-offs, here we come. In Plymouth Live’s League One league table of new kits we’ve come a very creditable 5th. In rave reviews, the Gok Wan’s doing the review called the shirt ‘not gobbing’ which is good enough for us.

Friday 6 August 2021

The club launched two new shirts via Tiktok; YouTube for the ADHD generation. A zig zagging fever-dream blue and white third shirt is complemented by a black change kit with yellow trim; a reminder of the golden years of Doudou and Rob Wooleansten.   

Saturday 7 August 2021

There was no undeserved privilege at the Abbey Stadium on the opening day of the season as Oxford and Cambridge played out a 1-1 draw. The game was sponsored by Astrazeneca, the pharmaceutical giant who worked with Oxford University to inject DNA-changing 5G transmitters into people’s arms. 

Sunday 8 August 2021

It may be over a year since fans have been at games; a time when people have lost loved ones and suffered economic hardship, but Cambridge manager Mark Bonner, reflecting on yesterday’s game, has no time for snowflake bedwetting. “I felt it was right to say welcome back to everyone, and to thank them for their support, but you’re also asking them at that point ‘come on then, you’re back now, so play a part with us this year’.” 

Monday 9 August 2021

There was a time that Chris Wilder could have been the next Denis Smith by declaring himself a candidate for the England manager’s job. Now he’s ready to climb his next mountain and get back into football. Wilder has never been out of the game for this long before, which has allowed a period of reflection. If we were Chris Wilder reflecting on who Chris Wilder is, we’d probably go looking for a big distraction too.  

Tuesday 10 August 2021

Jose’s son, John Mousinho hasn’t always led the life of a high flying office administrator. No, there was a time when he could only dream of owning his own clipboard and clicky pen. He used to play football for Burton Albion, who we play in the 1st round of the Type 2 Diabetes Cup tomorrow. “I don’t think you can replicate the buzz of playing, winning or scoring – it’s a cliché, but it’s true.” he said.

Wednesday 11 August 2021

Alright mate, calm down. Jose’s son decided to replicate the buzz of scoring for Burton by scoring for Burton in the last minute to cancel out Nathan Holland’s opener on Wednesday night. His deflected own-goal sent the tie to penalties. At that point it was time for the grown-ups to step in; Sensible Simon Eastwood saved two penalties before the box-to-boxfile footballer Mousinho did the admin by larruping home the winning spot kick.

Thursday 12 August 2021

Burton manager Flimsy Droid Bustlebank, has been ruing the missed opportunities that led to his side being knocked out of the Type 2 Diabetes Cup last night. “We had two balls cleared off the line, we looked dangerous going forward and it was just that final bit we are looking for and need to get better at.“ He said. A lack of striking options is at the heart of the problem but he hopes to have Kane Hemmings available soon, he’s also hoping to have some striking options too.

Friday 13 August 2021

Oxford welcome back both Charlton and fans on Saturday. Charlton manager Nigel Adkins has injury problems with three players doubtful for the game. “We’re a small group of players. You can see where we are, this is our squad.” He will, however, have former Oxford player, Sean Clare available who is currently doing a charity fundraiser to see if he can play for every League 1 club in the country.

Midweek fixture – Absolute state of Oxford United Survey – part 3 – Predictions

It’s here, the new season; are you ready? Me neither. Well, it’s here anyway, so we’d better get on with it. How will it pan out? That’s what I asked in the final section of the Absolute State of Oxford United Annual Survey. Having found out how you’re feeling and who you are, it’s time to look forward.

Where will we finish? That’s the biggest question; the result was a bit of a mixed bag. Last year there were quite a large number of you who thought we were destined for the title; that’s been tempered a little, but there’s still a lots of optimism that we’ll finish in the top two with 21% of you expecting automatic promotion. 45% of you expect us to make the play-offs, a small drop from from 49% last year. As always there’s a broad range of expectations – eight is always a popular placing, and nobody ever votes for 13th. A very small minority of you expect us to be as low as 15th.

1Sheff Wed3838
2Ipswich 2222
17MK Dons14-3

Perhaps the more telling result is found in the question; who you thought would win the title and who will finish bottom. You predicted we’d finish 8th, pretty much where you thought we’d finish last year. The seems to be a growing divide between the haves and have nots in the division; something that’s more stark than ever before. You’re expecting Sheffield Wednesday to bounce straight back to the Championship and win the title. Going with them is Ipswich Town, who has invested heavily this summer. Sunderland, Rotherham, Charlton and Lincoln make up the play-off places.

There’s a notable falling away of teams we’ve previously looked on as a threat; teams like Doncaster, Fleetwood and Portsmouth are all stuck in no man’s land. We’re only just above that, and it’ll be interesting to see if we can stay competitive as the division heats up.

If there is hope, then it’s that many of these teams have experienced a lot of trauma in the recent past; last year you predicted that Wigan would win the title, but they were happy to avoid relegation. The same fate could beset more than one of the bigger teams predicted to do well. Even if financial stability can be achieved, the residual impact of previous difficulties can’t be under-estimated.

At the other end of the table, you’re expecting the three teams that came down last year – Cambridge, Cheltenham and Morecambe – to go straight back down again. Wycombe will join them or is that just a vote out of spite? If it is, then Wimbledon are, again, predicted to drop.

Last year’s poor FA Cup showing has tempered expectations a little, but most of you expect us to be in the competition after Christmas. You have to admire the one person who is looking forward to a trip to Wembley in May.

Similarly with the League Cup; given our history in the competition, there’s always a bit more optimism about our progress even though, given there’s no chance of meeting a non-league club, it’s theoretically a harder competition. Similarly, it’s hard to know whether your path will be blocked early by a big team, as ours was last season. Still, most of you expect us to get past Burton next Tuesday and move on to at least the third round.

Hopes for the season

Getting back to games is your biggest hope for the season, including away days. Many of you are looking forward to seeing a full stadium again after the limited capacity play-off against capacity. While away days are back on the cards at the moment, it’s hard to know whether we’ll make it through the whole season without some kind of restrictions in place.

On the field, the hope is that we’ll achieve promotion but a lot more of you are hoping for resolution around the proposed takeover and, of course, the eternal problem of the stadium.


A vast majority of you are predicting that the stadium situation will be resolved; which perhaps indicates there are a large proportion of lunatics amongst you. One of you claims the Kassam will be renamed Tiger’s Den although that, perhaps, is dependent on the outstanding ownership issues. Most of you are predicting that we’ll have new owners, which is perhaps no major surprise given the noises coming from Anindya Bakrie in recent weeks. That said, one of you is expecting someone from the UK to come in as our new owner, perhaps it’ll be the person who plans to use their anticipated Euromillions winnings to take the club over.

A few of you expect a change of manager before the end of the season, but not before Karl Robinson plays four wingers in a game and hires Steve Kinniburgh as a coach. The general impression seems to be that Robinson will eventually be snapped up by another club rather than sacked.

Elliott Moore is on a watch-list not to sign a new contract. Sean Clare is probably not going to be our best player but will almost certainly not play a single minute for the club, given that he’s been sold to Charlton and it seems Shandon Baptiste is unlikely to come back on loan. Rob Atkinson will definitely leave in a transfer window – this one. The returning hero? Maybe it’ll be Mide Shodipo, who is predicted to score against us. But, maybe Gavin Whyte counts, or Nathan Holland? One of you is predicting that Dan Agyei will be top goalscorer with 20 goals; hopefully that will act as a counter-balance to the ever-injured Sam Winnall.

Some of you have gone completely mad and are predicting a good start to the season, including giving Wycombe a good thrashing. Optimism is everywhere, one of you thinks that Trevor Kettle sends off three players and give us three penalties. And if that happens we’re sure to be going up, or hell will freeze over.

As always, there will be a dog on the pitch and Wycombe will get promoted via the play-offs despite finishing 18th. Perhaps the most accurate prediction is the person who simply answered by saying ‘who knows?’

Who knows, indeed. Full stadiums, empty stadiums, promotion, relegation, dogs on pitches. Frankly anything could and will happen. Good luck everyone.