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…

Overall

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.

Squad

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.

Manager

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.

Directors

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.

Relationship

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.

PositionPre-seasonTitleRelegationDiff.
14Rotherham47.9%47.9%
23Sunderland28.7%28.7%
316Wigan22.2%22.2%
48Oxford0.6%0.6%
59Portsmouth0.6%0.6%
61Sheffield Weds0.0%
72Ipswich0.0%
85Charlton0.0%
97Bolton0.0%
1013Burton0.0%
1117MK Dons0.0%
1222Cambridge0.0%
1323Cheltenham0.0%
1410Accrington0.6%-0.6%
156Lincoln0.6%-0.6%
1615Plymouth0.6%-0.6%
1712Shrewsbury0.6%-0.6%
1821Wycombe0.6%-0.6%
1914Fleetwood1.2%-1.2%
2020Wimbledon2.4%-2.4%
2124Morecambe6.0%-6.0%
2218Gillingham8.4%-8.4%
2319Crewe39.5%-39.5%
2411Doncaster39.5%-39.5%

Midweek fixture – My first game

My first Oxford United game was on the 27th December 1975, I was three years old and as legend has it, spent most of it staring at the floodlights while standing on the London Road terrace. 

The result is a matter of record; a 2-1 defeat to Southampton with a goal from Mick Tait in front of 12,004 fans. Beyond that, I know virtually nothing; there’s no video of the day and it’s not exactly an event etched into the collective memory. It may have been my first game, but it was of little importance in the great scheme of things. 

In the great void of my memory, I’ve managed to conjure up a mental image of me standing amongst spindly men in frock coats and top hats, like something out of a Lowry painting. It’s an image of something generically old fashioned, although more likely, given the fashion of the day, I would have been surrounded by men in voluminous bell bottom jeans and denim jackets covered in badges.

Bohemian Rhapsody was number 1, the country was mired in the Northern Ireland troubles and Harold Wilson was Prime Minister. Two days after the game, the Sex Discrimnation Act came into force. Different times. 

I will never see that first Mick Tait goal, in fact, I’d never even seen a photo of the game, assuming all records of the day were consigned to history, never to be unearthed. Then it dawned on me that a record must exist; a programme for the game must be out there somewhere and, perhaps, for the game after, at home to Bristol City, thereby opening up the possibility that I might be able to piece the story of the day together. 

Programmes served a different purpose back then; they were the primary communication channel with fans and much less of a commercial vehicle. I don’t know why I hadn’t thought about it before, almost every game in history has a programme, and I’d never thought to seek these ones out. It took about two minutes to find them on ebay.

The reason I was there, almost certainly, was because we’d have been visiting my grandparents over Christmas in Abingdon. All my early Oxford United experiences happened around that time of year, perhaps it was my dad’s attempt at some early bonding, though I suspect it was just a way of getting some relative peace and quiet from the family.

Played just two days after Christmas, the game was the second of a double header; the previous day we’d lost to Luton 3-2 at Kenilworth Road (Southampton had beaten Bristol Rovers at The Dell). We were in 20th position of Division 2 and would eventually succumb to relegation, Southampton were fourth and would go on to win the FA Cup the following May beating Manchester United 1-0. Of the eleven that started that day, ten started at Wembley with just Peter Osgood replacing Hugh Fisher who dropped to the bench. 

The programme around that time was in the style of a tabloid newspaper which would have been too large and cumbersome to read at a game. The photos were in black and white but its editorial felt more independent than the programmes we know today. Nowadays, everything has to be exciting and positive; back then, there was a more measured approach, the good and the bad reported in equal measure. 

The crowd was obviously swelled by the Christmas holidays, it was twice the average gate for the season. Oxford wore blue and yellow stripes, a two year experiment which was abandoned at the end of that season. The idea was resurrected when we returned to the Football League in 2010, much to the dismay of many Oxford fans. Personally, I quite liked those stripes, perhaps that first game left an indelible impression on me.

The real buzz before and after the game was an FA Cup third round tie away to Manchester United, which was to be played the following Saturday. The match report talks about Derek Clarke scoring a spectacular opener before Manchester United pegged Oxford back with two disputed penalties. The decisions so incensed the Oxford hierarchy that the club lodged a formal complaint about referee George Courtney. Mick Brown melodramatically said “All I have is a broken heart after Manchester”.

Both club’s had finished in mid-table the previous season, but were obviously heading in different directions; Oxford had sold Dave Roberts and Hugh Curran, and there was little hiding the pressure manager Mick Brown was under. His programme notes see him in the classic survival mode of a manager – poor results are the result of bad luck rather than bad management. Despite relegation, these were less reactive times and Brown would survive another three and a half years. The club’s AGM had been held earlier that week with shareholders complaining about the board’s short-termism, and its decision to close the club’s youth hostel, rather than questioning the manager.

Southampton featured England striker Mick Channon, who was the league’s top goalscorer, but the most famous person on the pitch may have been the referee. Improbably, the man in black was Jack Taylor who, despite being described in the programme as a Wolverhampton butcher, had refereed the 1974 World Cup Final and received an OBE in the New Year Honours the previous year. Taylor’s main claim to fame in that final was awarding the Dutch a penalty after 60 seconds. From Beckanbaur and Cruyff to Peter Houseman and Bobby Stokes, it’s hard to imagine why, with a full programme of domestic football on at the same time, that Taylor – who was considered to be amongst the best referees of all time – might be assigned such a game of limited significance. 

As for the game itself; Mick Channon created the opening goal in the 26th minute giving an opening to Bobby Stokes, who scored the winner in the FA Cup final, to shoot via a Colin Clarke deflection through Roy Burton’s legs. A second goal, another deflection, this time off Nick Lowe made it 2-0.

Oxford’s response came in the second half attacking up the hill towards the Cuckoo Lane End. Tait’s goal, which according to the non-bias assessment of the programme’s editor, was the ‘pick of the bunch’. Tait broke through, leaving Southampton defenders David Peach and Peter Rodriguez trailing to lift the ball over the goalkeeper to make it 2-1. 

Mick Brown claimed that as both were own goals, it was a clear sign of his endless bad luck. Late on, with Oxford pressing, goalkeeper Saints ‘keeper, Ian Turner, pulled off a world class save, Derek Clarke hit the bar and Mick Tait nearly doubled his tally. But, ultimately it was all for nought.

Nestled away in the London Road a bewildered and probably very cold three year old headed off with his dad back to the car and to Welford Gardens in Abingdon. The end of one journey and the start of another.

Oxford UnitedSouthampton
Roy Burton, Les Taylor, John Shuker, Nick Lowe, Colin Clarke, Billy Jeffrey (Peter Foley), Peter Houseman, Steve Aylott, Derek Clarke, Andy McCulloch, Mick Tait (1)Ian Turner, Peter Rodrigues, Mel Blyth, Jim Steele, David Peach, Hugh Fisher, Nick Holmes (1), Jim McCalliog, Mick Channon, Paul Gilchrist, Bobby Stokes (1)

Midweek fixture – Jamie Guy’s summer of love

Football can leave an indelible mark on the consciousness of fans. Stories of great seasons, games and moments are told and re-told, embellished and changed until they blend into the folklore of your club. The stories that endure are played out in great theatres in front of thousands of people but there is one story Oxford fans still tell that was played out in front of sparse crowds for no real purpose. How can that be? How did Jamie Guy’s 2007 pre-season goalscoring spree become the stuff of legend? 

Guy’s arrival from Colchester United in July 2007 was supposed to help refocus his career, a teenage sensation at Colchester with a couple of Championship goals to his name, things had started to go ary. He was struggling to get a starting berth at Layer Road and had just been convicted of a number of driving offences, a fresh start was just what he needed.

To a club like Oxford, Guy’s shortcomings were easy to overlook. No player in the fifth tier is flawless, but a goalscorer can be the key to promotion. Manager Darren Patterson had set about building an exciting, attacking side to release the club from the mire which had been decades in the making. He brought in Lewis Haldane, James Constable, Rob Davies, Chris Carruthers and Joe Burnell, but Guy was his marquee signing.

In the Conference, looks count, an asymmetric haircut and neat line in free-kicks could win you a contract just because you looked a bit like David Beckham. Guy was strong and bullish, quick with a low centre of gravity, squint and his style could have been mistaken for Wayne Rooney.

His Oxford debut was in the first pre-season game against Brackley Town. Despite a 2-1 reverse to the Southern League side, Guy, though not fully match fit, was only denied a debut goal by a fine save from ex-Oxford keeper Richard Knight. His assist in Lewis Haldane’s consolation goal was a promising start.

Days later, the squad headed to Banbury United, after quarter of an hour, Guy burst from his own half to set up James Constable for the opening goal, seconds into the second half he smashed home his first goal for the club. Later, he netted his second, showing his class by rounding the Banbury goalkeeper to make it three in a 4-0 rout.

Another goal in a 3-1 win over Maidenhead United solidified Darren Patterson’s thinking, Guy and Constable were his first choice strike partnership, a decision he sealed by giving Constable the number 9 shirt for the season and Guy number 10. 

With things looking promising, attention turned to the first home friendly of the summer against a Manchester United XI. Two years previously Jim Smith’s friendship with Sir Alex Ferguson had secured a pre-season game against a full strength United including Cristiano Ronaldo. The rassible Scot was less benevolent this time sending Ole Gunnar Solskjær down with a team of junior players including future England international Danny Drinkwater. 

None-the-less the lure of the Red Devils persuaded a crowd of 6,000 to brave the blistering heat of mid-summer. Patterson, playing his strongest eleven, saw his side race into the lead with Yemi Odubade scoring the opener. After 52 minutes Guy picked up an Odubade pass, drove forward, cut inside the fullback and took aim, his first shot was blocked on the line but instinctively he followed up to fire home the rebound. Although Manchester United fought back to 2-2 the result, and Guy’s performance, was making waves. 

The goal spree continued a few days later as James Constable back-heeled a lost cause to set Guy up to blast the ball past Wycombe keeper Scott Shearer in a 1-1 draw. With five goals in five games, Guy was the one-to-watch with his pace and power. If he could do this to League teams and the best youngsters in the country what might he do to Conference defenders? 

Next up was more League opposition as Cheltenham Town visited the Kassam. It was a humbling experience to welcome a team that many Oxford fans considered beneath them, but they were sure to be another stern test.

The newly gelling side were more than a match for the League 1 side. Just before half-time, Guy sprinted 40 yards to convert an Adam Murray pass for the opening goal. A quick Cheltenham equaliser didn’t deter the Yellows as Guy drove home from inside the box to restor the lead before half-time.

The opening day of the season and a long trip to Barrow was looming, but for fans, it couldn’t come quickly enough. Patterson had built a side with real attacking potency able to frighten teams way above the Conference. Guy had converted seven goals in six games – a tally that would have made him the previous season’s third top scorer.

A prestige friendly completed pre-season as Harry Redknapp brought FA Cup holders Portsmouth to the Kassam. Pompey were showcasing their new £11m striker, England international Peter Crouch, who’d signed over the summer. For Oxford, securing the friendly was a coup, showing that we still mixed in the right circles, plus we had our own striking revelation to show off. The mood was celebratory, a final farewell to the summer before an assault on promotion.

Patterson fielded his strongest team with Guy and Constable once again up front. The opening minutes saw Guy, now full of confidence, showing his class against his illustrious opponents. The crowd buzzed contentedly.

Suddenly there was a deathly hush, the buoyant mood evaporated. Guy was gesturing to the bench and clearly limping. Darren Patterson hurriedly prepared Michael Husbands as Guy disappeared down the tunnel, nobody was ready to make a substitution after just eight minutes. The team battled to a creditable 2-1 defeat but all the talk was of the striker’s injury, the start to the season and how Oxford’s promotion plans were in tatters.

The hamstring injury initially ruled him out for a month, days later the team made the long trip to Barrow for the opening game of the season. Live on TV, Oxford were ominously swept aside 3-0. Guy didn’t return until the fifth game of the season by which time Oxford had won one game and failed to score in four. He returned for the August Bank Holiday draw against Woking looking a shadow of the wrecking ball striker the fans had seen over the summer. 

His first goal came against Cambridge United in a 3-1 win at the end of September, but the writing was already on the wall. He showed moments of what had been, scoring in the FA Trophy and FA Cup, but mostly he seemed slow and unfit. Oxford were third from bottom and floundering. He’d get back in the side, but then slip out again with another niggling injury, more importantly he wasn’t scoring. 

By early December it was all over for Darren Patterson, his promising attacking, entertaining side couldn’t pull themselves from the tractor beam of the relegation zone. Jim Smith took over as caretaker manager and Guy scored his final league goal in a 3-1 win over Mansfield, his first since the Cambridge game. But the writing was on the wall, whispers were that he was surplus to requirements. 

Guy’s last game came on New Year’s Day away at Salisbury as new manager Chris Wilder took charge. Colchester cancelled his loan deal but that suited everyone just fine, a glorious summer romance had turned sour.

Guy lasted at Colchester for another year before slipping into the whirlpool of non-league, each new club hoped to reignite the promise he’d shown during that summer in Oxford. In 2011 he shattered his leg while playing for Braintree Town and was never the same again. While working as a hod carrier, in 2016 he received a suspended sentence for attacking his girlfriend during a row. Things seem to have stabilised since then, last year, aged 33, he could be found plying his trade in the Chelmsford Sunday League for Priory Sports.

There are a million footballers with Guy’s story; bad luck and bad decisions blighting the potential of a rare talent. Their stories are frequently lost in the noise, although for Oxford fans, they’ll always have that glorious summer.

Midweek fixture: Oxford v Wycombe in ten games

Wycombe Wanderers are the visitors to the Kassam on Saturday. Just a regular Joe fixtures against a team of no consequence. Or is it? For a club that has as much relevance to us as, say, Rochdale or Morecambe, we have a surprisingly interwoven history with the team that is just 28 miles down the road, some six miles nearer than our old rivals Swindon.

So, perhaps it doesn’t have the storied past of the Swindon derby, but games against Wycombe Wanderers have rarely lacked significance. Here are ten games to whet the appetite.

April 1995 – Wycombe Wanderers 1 Oxford United 0

There are times when football clubs go through periods of cognitive dissonance; holding two conflicting views at the same time. In 1995 Oxford were in the third tier, but less less than 10 years on from our glorious heights of the Milk Cup Final – in our heads, we were both a small team and a big club. Similarly, Wycombe Wanderers were in their second season as a Football League club – a non-league team in the league. The coming together of the two clubs was both a mismatch and an alignment at the same time.

The first encounter at The Manor ended in a smash and grab 1-0 win for Wycombe but in many ways it felt like a cup giant killing than a league fixture. The following April, we headed to Adams Park for the first time expecting to exact brutal and comprehensive revenge. In the end, a calamitous mistake by Matt Elliott resulted in his sending off and the inevitable goal that followed left us staring at our new reality; Wycombe were one of us.

October 1995 – Oxford United 1 Wycombe Wanderers 4

The perception of Wycombe as a non-league team remains to this day, so it’s no surprise that similar misconceptions hung over the following season’s home fixture six months later. The outcome couldn’t be any worse than the previous season’s results and a re-correction was long overdue. Except it could and the re-correction didn’t happen. Well drilled and motivated; Wycombe picked Oxford apart with two identical set-piece goals leading 3-0 at half-time before eventually cruising to a 4-1 win. The humiliation did, however, act as a wake up call about our intentions for the season. The result sent a chilling reminder to the team that we couldn’t cruise to promotion; we’d have to fight for it. The chastening defeat would be the last one at The Manor that season providing a crucial building block to promotion.

April 1996 – Wycombe Wanderers 0 Oxford United 3

By April 1996 we were a different team; a stunning run of results from Christmas had catapulted us into play-off contention. A storming win over Blackpool the Saturday before was suddenly making promotion a distinct possibility. But, our new nemesis stood in our way, to maintain the run we’d need to finally put the Wycombe hoodoo away. On the following Easter Monday, we cruised on a wave of unstoppable momentum to a 3-0 win making memories and setting course for automatic promotion.

September 2000 – Wycombe Wanderers 3 Oxford United 1

Four years later the story was somewhat different. Against the backdrop of Firoz Kassam’s battle to move the club to its new stadium, Oxford’s on-the-field exploits were a meaningless, hopeless sideshow. Everything came to a head in the 2000/01 season with a slew of poor signings, failing talent and comical mismanagement. Oxford travelled to Adams Park for a Friday night game on Sky; the humiliation was absolute, not only were we humbled in a 3-1 defeat, at half-time injured goalkeeper Richard Knight was replaced by Hubert Busby Junior, a player many fans didn’t know we had. The Canadian delayed the re-start due to the fact the club didn’t have a spare goalkeeper’s jersey forcing him to play the second half in a training top. If anyone had delusions of our dominance in the relationship, they were surely put to bed here. Where’s the video? Nobody knows.

November 2006 – Wycombe Wanderers 2 Oxford United 1

By 2006 we’d hit rock bottom after being relegated to Wycombe’s spiritual home; the Conference. Now Wycombe were a club we could only aspire to be like. By November 2006 they were top of League 2, a height we could only dream of achieving. We assumed, having hit the bottom, that the bounce back was to begin as the club was no longer in the hands of Firoz Kassam and Jim Smith was back on the bench. Glory awaits.

Unbeaten all season, we were drawn together in the 1st Round of the FA Cup, providing the perfect opportunity to prove that our lowly position was some kind of administrative error. Having put up a good performance, we were eventually put in our place as Wycombe opened the scoring. A Gavin Johnson free-kick saw us grab an equaliser and an opportunity to head back to the Kassam to finish the job. A minute later Wycombe scored again, a sobering reminder of the predicament we were in.

April 2015 – Wycombe Wanderers 2 Oxford United 3

A return to the Football League in 2010 saw us reacquaint with Wycombe, but the expected rebirth and domination never quite came. In 2014 the club was taken over by Darryl Eales and Michael Appleton was installed as head coach. The first season was torture, big promises, false hopes and fitful form left us struggling. An endless supply of short-term signings and loanees meant that nothing stuck, nothing settled.

We headed to Wycombe towards the end of the season with lingering concerns about relegation hanging over us. In our ranks was an unassuming striker Kemar Roofe on loan from West Brom, one of many who’d pushed their way through the revolving door that season. Suddenly we found our mojo, Roofe scored two goals and set up the third in a dominant display kindling a return to optimism and hope.

May 2016 – Oxford United 3 Wycombe Wanderers 0

Just over a year later and everything had changed. The season had been blessed with derby wins, giant killings and Wembley, but all paled into insignificance. Going into the final game of the season, we still needed three points to secure promotion to League 1 for the first time in 15 years. It was strangely fitting that the final game was against Wycombe, our constant companion for over 20 years. The team, who hadn’t let us down all season, didn’t let us down again and we marauded to a 3-0 win and promotion. Finally, the readjustment had come, hadn’t it?

March 2019 – Oxford United 2 Wycombe Wanderers 1

Three years on from promotion, Michael Appleton had moved on and an experiment with Pep Clotet hadn’t worked. Not for the first time, the gear change from one division to another hadn’t been as smooth as we’d have liked. Karl Robinson arrived alongside new Thai owners to evolve the latest iteration of the club. Robinson faced a similar challenge to Michael Appleton, deconstructing and reconstructing the club’s culture.

A steady improvement after a difficult start, had eased some of the pressure, but there remained scepticism about the new regime. As the season eased to its inglorious end, the home fixture against Wycombe acted as an important marker of our progress. Having gone a goal down and survived a missed second-half penalty, the game ticked into its final minute and a draw seemed an inevitable conclusion. The ball was worked out to Josh Ruffels for what everyone expected to be a cross into the box for one last desperate chance. Ruffels had something different on his mind, steering a world class finish into the net from 25 yards out for a last minute win.

December 2019 – Oxford United 1 Wycombe Wanderers 0

Six months on and things had changed; Karl Robinson had found his groove; memorable wins akin to the glories of 2015 and 2016 had started to come. Wycombe, however, had found a deeper groove – one that had taken them from relegation favourites to the top of League 1. It was robust, pragmatic and effective; anathema to the expansive ethos Robinson had instilled.

The result was a meeting of cultures and an atmosphere that looked like a derby, even if it wasn’t one. James Henry grabbed a first half goal, but the game pivoted on a first-half incident when the players came together after a bad challenge from Alex Gorrin. John Mousinho sprung into action, easing his way into the melee appearing to play the peace maker while confronting the already booked Wycombe talisman Ade Akinfenwa. Playing the dark arts against its masters, Mousinho collapsed to the floor the second Akinfenwa raised his hands to shove the Oxford captain away giving the referee no choice but to send him off. The tight ship that had put Wycombe on top of the table listed badly and Oxford cruised to a memorable win.

July 2020 – Wycombe Wanderers 2 Oxford United 1

The dynamic between Oxford and Wycombe can pivot in a matter of months, but nobody could have predicted that the world would tilt on its axis following the previous December’s victory. A pandemic had struck, locking the world down. Football shut its doors hoping for the storm to pass. Its gradual re-opening resulted in a contrived resolution to the League season. Wycombe, who were falling apart following the battle at The Kassam, benefitted from a points-per-game calculation that saw them jump from 8th into the play-offs. The inevitable clash in the final came at a hauntingly empty Wembley deep into July. Oxford played all the football and had all the possession, Wycombe stuck to the template that had brought them success taking their chances securing a 2-1 win and a somewhat Pyrrhic promotion to the Championship.

When is a derby a derby? Perhaps the stories of a rivalry need to be retold and embellished to the point where they’re no longer true. They need to span generations until we no longer know what we’re all fighting about. If Oxford v Wycombe isn’t a derby, then it’s something else, whatever it is, our histories have become intertwined and we’re all the richer for it.

George Lawrence’s Summer Shorts – Wingdings

Sunday 25 July 2021

With no football to busy the minds of young men, it’s no a surprise to hear there’s a lot of Jacking off going on. The first Jack off, is Jack Grealish, who looks set for Manchester City despite Aston Villa offering him a new contract. Another Jack off could be Jack Stevens who Villa are interested in signing from Oxford.

Monday 26 July 2021

The Top man’s top man Jakey right right Wright has been talking to the MSM, The Hucknall Despatch, about his recent move to Boston. Boston, he says, are a massive club in the Northern Conference, which, when you realise they’ll be playing teams like Spennymoor and Curzon Athletic, is like winning a tallest dwarf competition.

Tuesday 27 July 2021

Following last week’s revelation that former loanee Tyler Roberts is dating Love Island’s Georgia Steel (no, us neither), news reaches us that Ryan Ledson has been getting his mistimed tackle out with Corrie actor Lucy Fallon. Fallon plays Bethany Platt, the granddaughter of chinless national treasure Gail. Lego featured on Fallon’s Instagram feed sharing a bowl of Betty’s Hot Pot on a date night, let’s just be thankful it wasn’t Bet Lynch who caught his eye, she’d have crushed him to dust.    

Wednesday 28 July 2021

Nothing says pre-season like a KRob LSD-induced friendly innovation. On the back of ideas like ‘two games in two days’ and ‘horseback five-a-side’*, KRob went for double Posh – which is nearly as posh as something from the Tesco’s Finest range that isn’t part of a meal deal. Quantum physicist, KRob, decided that the squad should play two simultaneous games against Peterborough on Wednesday, in the process, he proved there’s no such thing as a parallel universe as both games ended 2-2.

*Unconfirmed at the time of going to press.

Thursday 29 July 2021

There’s only one thing that KRob loves more than a winger, and that’s a returning winger. You should have seen the cheeky smile on his face when Nathan Holland walked through the door on a season long loan from West Ham.

Elsewhere, former-Oxford boss Graham Rix, whose only crimes have been having sex with a minor, being accused of racism and bullying and signing Courtney Pitt, has joined Gosport Borough as assistant manager

Friday 30 July 2021

Life can move pretty fast sometimes; it was recently revealed that board member Anindya Bakri and baby-faced billionaire Eric Thohir were interested in taking a controlling interest in the club. And, a mere five months later, Bakri has confirmed that this still could be the case.

Saturday 31 July 2021

KRob’s first-choice eleven for this season is beginning to look like the team Simon Eastwood might invite to play in his testimonial in ten years time. Willy wangning winger, Gavin Whyte becomes the third player to return to the club this summer, signing on a season’s long loan from Cardiff.

Elsewhere, Oxford went down 3-2 to Bristol Rovers in their final pre-season friendly. Oxford led through goals from Steve Seddon and James Henry, but were pegged back by two late goals from Brett Pitman. The late goals were a proper punch in the guts from Joey Barton’s Rovers, something Barton specialises in, it seems.

Midweek Fixture – Absolute State of Oxford United Survey – Part 2 – the ratings

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?

Overall

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 squad

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.

The manager

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. 

The owners

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.

Optimism

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. 

Favourite players

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.