George Lawrence’s Summer Shorts – Hall and notes

Monday 27 May 2019

Sunderland Till I Die was a Netflix smash chronicling The Mackems’ glorious march to Premier League promotion that built, like a classic Hollywood fairytale, to a humiliating relegation. They are now led by former Oxford United saviour Charlie Methven and his doe-eyed cash-puppy Stewart Donald featuring a side-order of Wondertroll Chris Maguire. Filming for series two wrapped at Wembley yesterday with defeat to Charlton in the League 1 play-off final. The producers now face the enviable task of committing to film a redemptive story of how this once great club fell to League 1 and heroically stayed there.

Jonté Angle Smith brushed aside his Oxford United woes with a goal for Bermuda in their Gold Cup warm up game against a team of part-time cleaners from San Miguel Azores. As it happens GLS once scored when playing with a spritely part-time cleaner from Ormskirk after drinking San Miguel in the Azores, but that just resulted in a rather nasty itch.

Tuesday 28 May 2019

Strong and silent type Niall, ‘don’t call me Niall, it’s Neal, just spelt Niall’ McWilliams insists that negotiating for a better stadium deal with Uncle Firoz is not futile. Donning a colander as a helmet and a rusty bin lid as a shield, the veteran of four winding up campaigns will appeal to Uncle F’s special kind of kindness to take a bit of the toxicity out of the relationship.

Wednesday 29 May 2019

The Aylesbury Ashley Young Rob Hall has signed a new one-year contract. Hall has had a wretched couple of years with his football brain writing cheques his knee ligaments won’t cash. KRob is hoping that the witch doctors at the club will have put those woes behind him.

Swansea City are rolling out the big guns in their quest to return to the Premier League. Mr Big Guns himself, in fact. MApp is apparently glaring menacingly at an offer to take over as their manager; look, it’s just his normal face, right?

Thursday 30 May 2019

The original man-bun, Ryan Williams has been called up to the Australian national team. Williams was the break out star of the 2013/14 season on loan from Fulham. If that doesn’t ring any bells then perhaps the words ‘Waddock’ and ‘Animaletes’ will jog your memory. Williams, who was like Ricky Holmes with a more serviceable back, has just left Rotherham, whose relegation has resulted in a call-up for The Digerisoccerdoos’ game against South Korea.

Friday 31 May 2019

The Oxford United Jedward Mark Sykes and Gavin Whyte will be finishing each other’s sentences and doing attention seeking peace signs in Estonia and Belarus after being called up to Northern Ireland’s squad for their Euro 2020 qualifiers. Expect KRob to make a statement about wanting to play them in a kickabout in the park he’s organising for his kids at the same time.

Saturday 1 June 2019

He may have the continental swag of a Shirley Valentine knee trembler, but Premier League sophisticate Chrïstophé Wïldê could be about to return to his alter-ego Chris Wilder. West Brom are considering an audacious move to drag Wilder back to Championship. Apparently he is unhappy with some off-the-field shenanigans at Sheffield United and may be tempted to leave.

George Lawrence’s Summer Shorts – Dyer’s Traits

Monday 20 May 2019

There’s only one question asked for more often by Oxford United fans than ‘What is Danny Philliskirk up to these days?’ and that is; ‘Who the hell is Danny Philliskirk?’. Well, he played four memorable games on loan from Chelsea for us in 2010 scoring no fewer, and no more, than zero goals. Like Sam Smith, but less prolific. Having largely disappeared off the scene for a while, he resurfaced on Sunday to win the FA Trophy with Fylde against Leyton Orient.

Tuesday 21 May 2019

Signing-alert! You can’t judge a book by its cover, but you can judge a signing by its shirt sponsor. Or lack thereof. 17-year-old full-back Kevin Berkoe was announced with all the pomp and circumstance we’ve come to expect from a new signing, though his Singha-less shirt reminds us the cheeky scamp is likely to be a Junior Yellow.

The Oxford United Jedward, Gavin Whyte and Mark Sykes, have been called-up to Northern Ireland’s training camp, where they will be kayaking, whittling and welly wanging, THAT’S WELLY WANGING GAV.

Jonte angle Smith could console himself after being released a couple of weeks ago by nabbing a spot in the Bermuda Gold Cup squad.

Wednesday 22 May 2019

God we miss the football season; the goals, the excitement, the winding up orders. The club that’s had more winding ups than Lawrence Vigouroux in a Chris Maguire factory was due in court to face Uncle Firoz over its unpaid debts. Tiger checked down the back of the sofa and found the cash to pay the debt, so the case was dismissed.

In a tactic straight out of Theresa May’s Brexit playbook of doing the same thing repeatedly in the hope of getting a different result, the club will put aside 20 years of animosity and vitriol and return to Firoz Kassam with a proposal for a better relationship. That’ll work won’t it?

More signings, of sorts, crime fighting Aarons; McCreadie and Heap, have signed six month contracts for the Junior Yellows. Nice one Aaron-squared.

If you’re one of those people who thought that Chris Wilder was the new Sam Allardyce, it turns out you’re wrong. Sam Allardyce is the new Sam Allardyce; the grandson of statistically England’s greatest manager has signed for the Junior Yellows.

Star baker Canice Carrol, whose promising career has been dogged by a period on loan at Swindon Town, has been called up to do substitute fist bumps for the Republic of Ireland Under 21s.

Thursday 23 May 2019

Fulham, who were accidentally promoted to the Premier League, but righted that particular wrong last season by being relegated at the earliest opportunity last season will visit The Kassam in July. This is the game in which our new signing will score his fifth goal of pre-season and his last before Christmas.

Friday 24 May 2019

We’ve hit that point in the summer when you need to have a good rummage around George Lawrence’s Shorts to find anything of marginal interest. In Deep State Oxford United, Des Buckingham, one time Oxford United coach is taking New Zealand to the Under-20 World Cup. Meanwhile, Stoke’s Nathan Collins; a prospect as hot as his dad, former Oxford United Dave was forgettable, is wanted by plucky mid-table Premier League Manchester United.

Saturday 25 May 2019

Truth hoover, The Sun, reports that a black man – former Oxford United midfielder Alex Dyer (M’Lord) – has been appointed as Scotland’s black assistant manager alongside white manager Steve Clarke. The paper, who aren’t racist because some of their best friends have friends who work with some people who are black (not black African black, just normal black, almost white, you might say).

They neglect to mention that White Clarke and Black Dyer have just worked together with great success at Kilmarnock, which might have been an influencing factor. Obviously Black Dyer isn’t quoted in the story because he might say some black things; that honour has gone to White Steve and Kilmarnock’s owner White Billy Bowie.

Liveblog: Transfer window – May 2019

Welcome

Ah summer, the gentle caress of the sun on cheek, light summer dresses, birds chirping happily in the trees. Time to freshen up, let air flow through your soul, and renew. Fling those windows open, for light is here to replace the dark!

Except if the window is a transfer window, then a swarm of wasps will consume your head, sting your eyeballs until pustules ravage your eyelids. But, football is dead, long live transfer windows.

So, what can we expect? New contracts for Rob Hall and Curtis Nelson? Freedom for Jon Obika, Jonte Smith and Scott Shearer? Players returning to their clubs to continue their long and winding journey towards an two-year contract at Fleetwood Town? Let us not forget, Fierce Keheller’s mission to play for every Conference South team in the country.

So, welcome to the summer’s transfer window, what a ride it’ll be.  

Tuesday May 7 2019

Are we off to a flyer or what? No. George Waring who Michael Appleton called upon to save us in the JPT Final in 2016 – replacing Callum O’Dowda – has signed a new contract at Chester City.

Wes Thomas has been released by Grimsby Town with a glorious implosion on Instagram. What goes on in the changing room stays in the changing room, except when you’ve been made redundant by voicemail, it seems.

Lee Bradbury, most famous at Oxford United for being dad to The Millennial Julian Alsopp, Harvey, has become manager at Yemi Odubade’s Eastbourne Borough.

Wednesday May 8 2019

The opening days of the transfer window are like the early episodes in a series of Game of Thrones. You have to keep your eye on apparently inconsequential exchanges because they could have a significant impact later on. So, expect Alex Jakubiak – who has gone back to Watford from Bristol Rovers and Isaac Buckley-Ricketts – set to join Macclesfield from Peterborough – to have their manhoods cut off and be incinerated by a dragon some time in mid-August.

Thursday May 9 2019

Sir Dropsalot, Sam Slocombe has been released by Bristol Rovers while former Oxford full-back and general Angry Young Man, James Clarke is in talks for new contract.

Cosmopolitan Premier League sophisticat Chris Wilder has taken a break from smoking Gauloise cigarettes and wearing black roll-neck jumpers, and started ditching players left right and centre. Ricky Holmes who is recovering from a fractured man-bun, the top-man’s top man, Jake Wright and Samir Carruthers have all been put up for sale. Poor old Marvelous Marvin Johnson has been sent back to Middlesbrough where he faces an uncertain future under Tony Pulis, who faces an uncertain future under Steve Gibson.

In the nether regions, Jack Midson and his conjoined twin Sammy Moore have become managers of Hemel Hempstead Town.

Like snipping dangle berries after a week of finding yourself at a vegan yoga retreat, KRob expressed relief at releasing a bunch of hangers’ on – Scott Shearer, Fiarce Keheller, Jon Obika, Charlie Raglan, Jonte Smith are all on their way. Curtis Nelson has been offered a contract he’ll turn down while Rob Hall has also been offered a deal.

Jugged-eared centre-back Michael Raynes has been released Crewe, while the 2016 striker who isn’t Kemar Roofe or Danny Hylton (or George Waring), Jordan Bowery, is in talks for a new contract.

Crawley are in discussion with the world’s oldest man, Dannie Bulman about a contract extension. Presumably negotiations have to work around his nap times and involve shouting into his ear-trumpet.

Bristol Rovers are apparently in discussion with Chris Wilder about signing some of his cast offs, The Bristol Post reporting that Samir Carruthers and Ricky Holmes could be filling The Gas treatment room next season, although presumably that doesn’t rule out Jake Wright either.

Monday 13 May 2019

A speculative piece in the Hull Daily Mail has linked us with goalkeeper Luke Southwood. Quite where he’d fit into the Simon Eastwood/Jack Stephens equation is anyone’s guess unless KRob is preparing his options in the event of an offer coming in for Eastwood. Eastwood? Southwood? Expect us to linked to Tim Westwood soon.

Tuesday 14 May 2019

John Dempster, fabled member of the team which successfully navigated us out of  the Football League in 2006 has been appointed manager of Mansfield Town. While Cheltenham Charlie Raglan has signed for Cheltenham.

Wednesday 15 May 2019

Junior Us news, Alex Fisher whose scrawny frame briefly featured for Oxford in the darker of the Conference years has left Yeovil, while Robbie Cundy has gone full Sam Ricketts on us and got himself a two-year contract with Bristol City.

Cundy has been at Bath City, where Ryan Clarke was last season. Clarke’s performances have earned him a year’s extension with the Romans.

Friday 17 May 2019

Following Leeds’ failure in the play-offs there are early rumblings about the future of Kemar Roofe. Roofe has a year left on his contract and was top scorer last season despite a period out with injury. There was speculation that he might move to Newcastle in January but knowing how much Chris Wilder values Michael Appleton’s judgement, Sheffield United may be an obvious destination.

1,2,3,4… Toni Martinez looks set to leave West Ham while pleasantly named Josh Smile has signed for Maidenhead United. Apparently Smile was on our books at some point, though I’m blowed if I can remember him. Jack Payne, Huddersfield’s pocket sized loan specialist has been released as has Tyrone Barnett by Cheltenham.

Sunday 19 May 2019

Callum O’Dowda appears to be on his way out of Bristol City. There’s a familiarity with the story, O’Dowda has a year on his contract and is refusing to sign an extension. With a number of clubs interested, Leeds especially, he’s suddenly gotten himself injured, though not injured enough to miss the Republic of Ireland’s upcoming internationals.

Monday 20 May 2019

In Speculationville, The News, the Portsmouth website have suggested that Curtis Nelson would be a decent signing for Pompey. They admit that Nelson’s main reason for not signing a new contract is because he wants to play in the Championship. The paper fails to acknowledge that Portsmouth don’t meet that criteria.

Alex Dyer ducked and dodged a question about becoming Kilmarnock manager now Steve Clarke has become the Scotland manager.

A tweet from a Torquay journalist suggested we’ve already signed Oxford City’s striker Kabongo Tshimanga.

Defensive hairdo Freddie Grant has joined Maidenhead.

Tuesday 21 May 2019

OK, deep breath; 17-year-old Kevin Bercoe has signed following his release by Wolves. Aarons Heap and McCreadie have signed short contract extensions and Sam ‘not that Sam Allardyce’ Allardyce has come from it’s not clear where. Despite a slew of activity, these appear to be ones for the future.

Manny Agboola, who has been fourth wheel in the goalkeeping department at Oxford has quietly left the club.

And, in Carlton Morris news; one of MApp’s earliest loan signings has signed a contract extension with Norwich while being simultaneously loaned out to Rotherham for the season.

Friday 24 May 2019

If you ever want to use that #oufc Twitter trope of referencing an obscure former player in a joke, then 2008 is a go-to season. A contemporary of Michael Husbands and Levi Reid, Jake Cole, who was signed on loan as cover for Billy Turley, has signed for Maidstone United.

Saturday 25 May 2019

Chelsea have finally decided that Todd Kane, who has had more clubs on loan than Tiger Woods after his luggage got lost on his way to the British Open, isn’t going to make the grade. Hull City are interested.

Talking of child protégées who didn’t quite make it, Josh Ashby has signed for Oxford City.

Tuesday 29 May 2019

Bristol Rovers want Alex Jakubiak back, but that may just be a regurgitation of a previous story.

Former loanee Zeli Ismail who had everything Jordan Graham had – a Wolves contract, but missed one thing – talent, even though he was once tipped to be a £100m player – has been released by Walsall.

Hero of the home derby win over Swindon in 2012, Lee Holmes, has been offered a new deal by Exeter City.

What about Giorgio Rasulo, I hear you ask? He’s been offered a new deal by Mike Ford at Banbury.

Wednesday 29 May 2019

Rob Hall has step-overed his way to a new one-year contract. Hall has been injured for the best part of two-years but KRob is ready to take a punt on him. With Curtis Nelson unlikely to sign his new contract, Hall’s signature should signal the start of the next phase of next season’s planning.

Thursday 30 May 2019

Armani Little has signed pre-contract terms with Torquay, whatever that is, while Sam Slocombe is in talks with S****horpe.

Friday 31 May 2019

Ryan Williams who was mentioned in dispatches *waves vaguely at the top of the page* somewhere up there appears to have rejected his contract offer at Rotherham. Meanwhile James Clarke has left Bristol Rovers to make whoopie with Walsall.

George Lawrence’s Summer Shorts: Magnetic feels

Monday 13 May 2019

We open the week with an apology; GLS maintains high standards of professionalism and we forgot to mention the escapades of our benchmark professional Daniel Crowley. If you don’t recall, Crowley was a diminutive attacking midfielder who joined us on loan from Arsenal in 2016 – think Jack Payne in Cuban heels. Crowley’s time was cut short due to Michael Appleton’s dark mutterings about his conduct (following a spell at Barnsley, who made dark mutterings about his conduct). His career has been revitalised Jadon Sancho style by moving to Europe – taking his brand of ill discipline to Willem II in the Eredivisie. A couple of weeks ago, Willem II, which is Dutch for Will.I.Am, lost 4-0 to Ajax in the Dutch Cup Final with Crowley coming off the bench for the last half hour.

In other news, lovable Le Petite Boule de Bowling, Alex MacDonald had play-off heartbreak when Mansfield were knocked out by Newport County on penalties. Armani Little – which also describes the only clothes GLS ever finds at Bicester Village – scored in Woking’s play-off final Conference South win; The Millennial Julian Allsopp, Harvey Bradbury, was a late substitute.

Tuesday 14 May 2019

As they say in Game of Thrones; The North Remembers, unfortunately the south forgets. In the hullabaloo about new contracts and released players last week, the name T’ony McMahon was completely overlooked. The whippet worrying full-back remains on our books despite spending a good chunk of the year on loan at Scunthorpe who he helped steer to a comfortable relegation spot last season. KRob doesn’t expect him to return south next year; he doesn’t want to take a “bad signing and make it into a good signing.”; applying his trademark bewildering logic. Some would argue he spent a decent part of last season achieving the exact opposite. Not us, though, not us.

Wednesday 15 May 2019

Exotic foreign coach Chrïstophé Wïldé has beaten Pep Guardiola and other Johnny Foreigners to become the LMA Manager of the Year. The Brexiteers’ choice is responsible for the Oxford careers of legends Tom Newey and Ben Futcher; the award is recognition for Wïldé’s journey from non-league to the Premier League via the second best footballing team in League 2. He says his success won’t change him, although we understand that he’s already started buying Carte Noir coffee and is shopping for some of the more premium brands in Home Bargains.

There was an assistant manager glare-fest at The Hawthorns on Tuesday as John Terry and Michael Appleton faced each other down in their play-off semi-final. Villa sneaked through on penalties, although everyone agreed West Brom took the better footballing spot kicks.

Thursday 16 May 2019

They say what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger; so we can say with a degree of confidence that nobody killed Robbie Cundy during his time at the Kassam. With his career solidly rooted in a single Oxford United appearance against Dagenham and Redbridge in the JPT in 2015, Cundy dropped out of the Football League in 2017 eventually joining Bath City. As a result of his performances as The Romans’ Jake Wright to their Ryan Clarke, who also happens to be the actual Ryan Clarke, Bristol City have signed him up on a two-year contract.

The curse of the play-off semi-finals continue. After Alex MacDonald on Sunday, MApp on Tuesday, The Roofe was not on fire on Wednesday as Kemar sat in the stands watching Leeds get mauled by Derby in their play-off semi-final second leg. Chris Maguire is up tonight in Sunderland v Portsmouth. Uh oh.

Friday 17 May 2019

Johnny Mullins has retired. Mullins was part of the promotion winning team of 2016 before leaving for Luton Town. He was at Cheltenham Town last season, but has chosen to jack it all in. Mullins was known as as The Magnet because he twice scored from a corner in 127 games. At approximately 5 corners a game, that’s a magnetism of 0.2%. Coincidentally, he also has an excellent, if slightly pricey range of kitchens.

Trolly is on his way to Wembley – Charlie Methven’s Sunderland featuring Chris Maguire drew 0-0 with Portsmouth last night sending the Mackems through to face Charlton.

KRob has spoken. Let’s face it this is not an unusual thing, he seems to have spoken continuously since the end of the season. So much so that it’s possible he’s still standing pitchside at Kenilworth Road speaking to an increasingly weary Nathan Cooper. That’s probably not true, although it’s exactly the kind of thing he’d do, isn’t it? His latest ejaculation focuses on his wish list for next season. Nothing remarkable about the list, although he did mention that he was hoping to bring back Wonderfoot Luke Garbutt and ban-magnet Ahmed Kashi and the sloth in the box, Jerome Sinclair.

Saturday 18 May 2019

It’s the day that the whole nation stops, gathers together around the TV set and watches a great annual institution play out in front of them. As well as Eurovision, it’s also the FA Cup final. It’s Watford’s first appearance since 1984 when they were captained by former Oxford United player and now Youth Team Officer Les Taylor. You can read him banging on about it like your drunk uncle here.

Back in the future, Leeds’ capitulation against Derby as raised question about Kemar Roofe. With a year on his contract, speculation is that he’ll be snapped up by a Premier League club this summer. Wait, who’s the cat in the beret with Yvette Carte-Blanche from Allo Allo on his arm? It’s only remodelled bon vivant Chrïstophé Wïldé. He wouldn’t would he?

Sunday 19 May 2019

Our week closes with the news that conscientious objector Callum O’Dowda has joined us the the Republic of Ireland squad. Nothing unusual about that except he hasn’t played for Bristol City since March due to a mystery injury. Always a highly principled young man, O’Dowda and his medical team have searched for a diagnosis. It appears that it could be suffering from a broken contract resulting from an inflated ego with a number of Championship and Premier League teams interested in his signature. All very treatable if you apply a great pile of money to it.

Midweek fixture: 2010 play-off winners – where are they now?

Ryan Clarke

A goalkeeper who saved his team more times than any other player is ironically most well known for dropping the ball into his own net with the score at 2-0. Clarke went on to play more than 200 times for the club before moving to Northampton Town. His career stalled a bit and he failed to make a single appearance, later admitting to depression. After a brief spell at Wimbledon he moved to Eastleigh and Torquay and is currently at Bath City.

Damian Batt

A full-back with pace and a prodigious engine, Batt played on for three more years before briefly claiming a move to Vancouver Whitecaps. It came to nothing and he announced his retirement allowing him to focus on his business Alexander Du’Bel. He made a brief return at Eastleigh and then Dagenham and Redbridge before fully retiring in 2015. In 2017, the Telegraph raised a series of concerns about his dubious claims to be raising money for charity.

Mark Creighton

The Beast who kick started the season with a last minute winner over York was a wall of a central defender. Almost as soon as the following season started Creighton was loaned out to Wrexham, before moving to Kidderminster Harriers permanently. After two years he retired due to injury and set up his tattoo business Raw Ink Studios.

Jake Wright

Signed midway through the season to replace Luke Foster, Wright evolved into a formidable centre-back and leader. Wright steered the club through the League 2 years and into the Appleton era where he captained the team to promotion in 2016. He signed for Sheffield United, rejoining Chris Wilder during that summer and promptly won promotion with them to The Championship.

Anthony Tonkin

A sanguine full-back signed in the January before the play-off final. Tonkin drifted out of the team after promotion, but had a moment in the sun against Swindon Town. In 2012 he moved to Aldershot Town before moving onto Frome Town. A business graduate, he had a sideline as a property developer during his playing days. He became a Financial Advisor on retiring before becoming a Quantity Surveyor.

Dannie Bulman

Bulman was signed at the start of the promotion season after leaving Crawley Town. He had already played over 350 games for Wycombe, Stevenage and Crawley. Bulman was quickly moved on back to Crawley following promotion; Chris Wilder’s biggest mistake. After that he moves to Wimbledon where he was the Football League’s oldest player in 2018. Currently back at Crawley.

Adam Chapman

Signed from Sheffield United, Chapman took over from the injured Adam Murray as the creative force in midfield. Immediately before the final it was announced that Chapman was set to stand trial for killing someone in car accident. He was convicted and spent a year away in a young offenders institute. He returned and played spasmodically before moving on, at one playing a game against Wycombe with a burnt his nipple from baby milk. He now plays for Sheffield FC.

Simon Clist

An invaluable water-carrier in the middle of midfield. Clist became our unlikely first goalscorer on our return to the Football League. In 2012 Clist moved to Hereford on loan and then permanently. The trail runs cold at this point, although he reappeared as guest of honour at the club in 2018.

Jack Midson

A player with a deft touch and great poise; Midson was another player who undeservedly was moved out of the club by Chris Wilder following promotion. He eventually settled with Wimbledon, taking them back to the Football League and having the honour of scoring against the Dons’ nemesis MK Dons. Following a number of moves he became assistant manager at Concord Rangers. He’s also a director of M&M Sports Coaching with his team mate Sammy Moore. Recently appointed manager at Hemel Hempstead Town.

James Constable

A bona fide club legend. Constable scored over 100 goals and just one short of the club’s goalscoring record left for Eastleigh. After four years he moved to Poole Town one loan, recently announcing his semi-retirement and became a patron of Oxford United in the Community. Left Eastleigh permanently in May 2019.

Matt Green

A peculiar career which started at Cardiff, he had a brief loan spell at Oxford before controversially moving to Torquay. He came back in 2010 and became part of a formidable three pronged attack. Another player who was moved on a little too quickly, in 2013 he scored a bucketload at Mansfield earning him a move to The Championship and Birmingham City. Injury stalled his career and he moved back to Mansfield before moving to Lincoln and Salford.

Subs:

Billy Turley

A character and a dying breed, Turley lost his place to Ryan Clarke at the beginning of the season. He was released immediately after the final before spending some time at Brackley Town.

Kevin Sandwith

An early Chris Wilder Signing, he lost his place to Anthony Tonkin at Christmas. Released after the final he went to Mansfield before drifting around the non-league and disappearing.

Alfie Potter

Potter came on to score the iconic third goal at Wembley. He played on until 2015 enjoying moments in the sun such as a winner over Swindon and a leading part in a 4-1 win over Portsmouth. Joined Chris Wilder at Northampton in 2015 before moving to Mansfield and Billericay Town.

Rhys Day

Day came on with three minutes to go and won the header which set up the breakaway for the third goal. Another player who played briefly for Mansfield before popping up at Hyde. Currently an Operations Manager in Manchester.

Sam Deering

A diminutive forward who set up Alfie Potter for the third goal. Deering drifted in and out of the team until 2011 before moving to Barnet. Enjoyed an FA Cup giant killing with Whitehawk before ending up at Billericay.

Manager: Chris Wilder

Battled on with the club until everyone forgot what a remarkable job he had done. Left acrimoniously in 2014 for Northampton who were, at the time, bottom of League 2. He saved them by beating us on the last game of the season. He followed it up by winning the title while we came second. Shortly after, he moved to Sheffield United where he won promotion to the Championship and then, in 2019, The Premier League.

George Lawrence’s Summer Shorts: Xemi-final heartache

Monday 6 May

KRob will need a bit of a sit down after his trip to Luton at the epic conclusion of this season’s blockbuster saga we call: Shambles: Endgame. Shod of his patent black puffa jacket, a fashion statement not seen since Kevin and Perry Go Large, he was quick to condemn Luton fans who celebrated their promotion on Saturday by slinging a smoke bomb into the Oxford end. KRob, ever one to set a good example, would have preferred them to follow his lead on how to conduct oneself during a promotion party by simply smacking someone in the chops.

Tuesday 7 May

Luton Town striker George Moncur apologised for taunting Oxford fans after scoring his team’s first goal on Saturday. Moncur magnanimously acknowledged that the Oxford fans doing nothing wrong, had done nothing wrong. His apology rang somewhat hollow when admitting he just can’t help himself in that ‘Oops! I did it again’ way Britney Spears did when coquettishly describing how she accidentally keeps dressing as a dirty old man’s wet dream.

Meanwhile, if we ever needed a reminder that we’re no longer in the era of John Durnin and Billy Whitehurst, in ‘I beg your pardon?’ news, the club tweeted its collective allegiance to King Maha Vajiralongkorn of Thailand. The newly coronated king recently announced that his security detail would become his new queen; we look forward to Tiger persuading the consort to take the Kassam Stadium into her portfolio and allow The Yellow Ultras banners back into the East Stand.

Wednesday 8 May

Like Cheers or The Simpsons, Oxford United have launched a spin-off show which threatens to be funnier than the original. The latest episode of the new show – The Oxford United Board – aired yesterday following the successful pilot episode; Whose Tax Bill Is It Anyway? and yesterday’s season opener The King and I.

This episode, entitled Filthy Rich and Cat Flap, focussed on the new board, and went something along the lines of something something great fans, something something great city, hey, why not watch this video about how eye wateringly rich Anindya Bakrie is. Classic.

Thursday 9 May

It’s happened! Transfer Christmas! Yes, it’s the day clubs announce, in the most public way possible, which players they’re making redundant. Alan Shearer’s brother Scott, spellcheck’s Fiarce Kelleher, Donegal’s finest Jon O’Bika, Cheltenham Charlie Raglan, Jonte ‘angle’ Smith have all been given the old heave-ho by KRob. They all leave with our best wishes for the… yeah whatever.

Curtis Nelson and The Aylesbury Ashley Young, Rob Hall, have been offered new contracts, Jose’s son, John Mousinho and Son of God, Jack Stephens have had their sentences, sorry, contracts, extended.

Friday 10 May

Like the time GLS ate that four day old paella, Oxford United endured an unfortunate Spanish incident a couple of years ago when it hired Pep Clotet as manager. It all passed in a blur of Dwight Tiendellis, but one little Spanish aberration has been largely forgotten.

For a short while, Xemi Hernandez was going to be our Lionel Messi, but after becoming hacked off by those uniquely British affectations like running and tackling, he ended up back home at Lleida in the Spanish 3rd division. On Tuesday, he decided to bunk off work to see the aforementioned Messi spend 90 minutes looking bewildered in Anfield during Liverpool’s epic comeback in the Champions League. His indiscretion was rumbled when he was seen on TV, resulting in a fine from his promotion seeking club.

Back home, there is no more evocative fixture in our history than Oxford United versus QPR. Yes, the game that’s best known as being the Peter Hucker derby will be re-run as a friendly in July.

Saturday 11 May

KRob is in Scotland looking for players, while others are in France and Spain, apparently there’s a ball playing midfielder in the Spanish third division who may be looking for a new club. Faz has made up a double portion cheese sandwiches for his trip to Ireland, because he won’t touch that funny foreign food they eat.

Back home, when GLS’ creepy uncle comes for Christmas, he shuts his eyes, goes to his happy place and prays the door handle doesn’t click in the dead of the night. That happy place is 2016 when everything was rosey and there was no such thing as Agon Mehmeti. So, on Saturday, GLS got that funny feeling in his trousers watching 2016 alumnus Kemar Roofe smashing in the winner for Leeds in the Championship play-off semi-final against Derby.

Later on, Wondertroll Chris Maguire larruped in the winner for Sunderland against Portsmouth while Max Crocombe was on the bench for plucky underdogs Salford City, as they won promotion to the Football League. It just goes to show that all you need is a dream and a billion pounds to make it in life.

Midweek fixture: Chris Wilder – Premier League manager

When Oxford United appointed Chris Wilder I thought we’d given up. We’d tried the ‘been there, done that’ appointments (Atkins, Talbot), the emerging talent (Wright, Rix), the messiah (Jim Smith) and even the South American Alex Ferguson (Diaz). None had worked, and so in 2009, with finances biting, this nondescript appointment seemed like a sign we were hunkering down for a long dark winter of simply being a non-league club.

In fact, there was one recruitment tactic we hadn’t tried – advertising the role; applications, interviews, a selection criteria. Where his predecessors were heavily networked into the footballing establishment, Wilder was a hidden gem. He’d taken Halifax to the brink returning to the Football League against a backdrop of crippling financial problems, then working alongside Alan Knill at Bury to win them promotion. What he needed was a chance to get into the system; it came via Kelvin Thomas and Ian Lenagan and a dose of good practice.

Wilder’s first move was to create a siege mentality around the club; he declared Sam Deering – who broke his leg in his first game – to be our best player. Deering wasn’t, but the sense of injustice was galvanising. This was immediately followed by the revelation that the club was being deducted five points for not registering Eddie Hutchinson as a player. Hutchinson had been with the club for three years, but was on his way out and unregistered, then played due to injuries. It was a harsh punishment for an admin error, made all the worse by the fact we missed out on the play-offs by those five points. Wilder’s parting shot for the season was about his desire to get out of ‘this poxy league’ – the club and fans were as one on that.

Wilder’s ‘poxy league’ comment would be repeated countless time because it encapsulated both him as a person and the team he wanted to create – scratchy, awkward, aggressively ambitious and strangely relatable. Wilder knew we didn’t belong in the Conference, but he also knew getting out of it had to be earned.

The following season’s promotion will always be remembered as nothing but glorious, but it wasn’t without issues. Wilder was apoplectic at the apparent apathy after we’d raced to a 4-0 win over Chester in an unbeaten start to the season which saw us topping the table. He ranted about the club being backward looking, wallowing in its Milk Cup glory, much to the considerable chagrin of many fans – a rift that, for some, never healed.

He was right, we’d spent too long expecting a revival, like success would come from the push of a button – a different manager, new player or just some kind of natural justice. What was really needed was culture change, a reality check of who we were. The culture shift came in the form of players who would thrive in the environment, not freeze in it – Dannie Bulman, Mark Creighton, Adam Murray, Ryan Clarke, Jake Wright, James Constable. All players who shared a mindset, the relentless pursuit of success.

The coup de grace was the 3-1 win over York in the play-off final at Wembley. In many ways, a greater achievement than the Milk Cup Final win of 1986, certainly more important in terms of our survival as a club. It should have cemented Wilder as sitting alongside Jim Smith as one of the club’s great managers.

One of my lasting memories of that win was not so much the elation of winning, but the relief that Wilder’s efforts hadn’t gone unrewarded; in many ways the fear of failure, even when things were going well, drove him forward.

Back in the Football League, his elevated flight instinct – running away from failure – seemed to get the better of him. Fans interviewed coming out of Wembley were already talking about back-to-back promotions, so expectations were high. Wilder’s impatience to progress caused him to break up the promotion team – Jack Midson and Matt Green were loaned out, along with Mark Creighton and Dannie Bulman. The dumping of the heroes of Wembley – the spine of the team – didn’t do much for Wilder’s stock with the fans.

To some extent it killed our momentum, steadying the ship took time. The bi-product of the stall was a first league meeting with Swindon Town for 10 years the following season. It was perfect for Wilder; who got  under the skin of the more celebrated Paolo DiCanio. A home and away double was as much about outfoxing DiCanio as it was a footballing victory.

The success wasn’t without collateral damage. A proposed move to Swindon for James Constable dragged on for much of that season, damaging the relationship between manager and his on-the-field talisman.

There was another win over Swindon the following season in the JPT Trophy, but after an underwhelming campaign, with promotion missed and financial constraints biting, Ian Lenagan presented a new vision for the club; of homegrown players leading the club’s future. There was a short term contract extension for Wilder, barely an endorsement. Wilder looked haunted, subservient to his owner’s will, constrained by a triple lock of promotion expectations, a falling budget and the burning platform of a short-term contract.  

Time was running out; like many managers who have got teams promoted from the Conference Wilder remained a decent bet for any struggling team. Portsmouth were first to bite, and Lenagan barely blinked allowing him to speak to them, he didn’t get the job, but it was the clearest indication yet that Wilder wasn’t wanted.

Then Northampton came sniffing; they were bottom of the league and heading for the Conference, any manager would have been mad to take it on. But, for Wilder, it was perfect; an opportunity to get angry, invigorate and agitate, to shake them out of their slumber, no excuses. At Oxford, his fight had gone, he could please nobody. But also, things were running themselves, Wilder couldn’t be a hands-off manager strategically shaping the club, he needed a problem to solve. The impact was instant; Wilder sparked an astonishing revival, they went into the final game of the season within a win of saving themselves from relegation. Their opponents? Oxford United.

It goes without saying that Northampton swept to safety with a 3-1 win, it was such a Wilder thing to do.

As Wilder steadied Northampton, Michael Appleton arrived to transform Oxford. Appleton was the anti-Wilder – a theoretician and strategist – process, not results. Very modern.

Over the next year Appleton remodelled the he inherited from Wilder; jettisoning many of his players. Ryan Clarke, Alfie Potter and Danny Rose all eventually reconnected Wilder with his Oxford past.

With both managers battleplans fully in place; 2015/16 put Wilder’s resurgent Northampton side in direct opposition to his previous club. For once, we were the progressive modern affectation, they were the rugged survivors. The Cobblers task made all the more difficult in a backdrop of implied corruption and near bankruptcy. No Oxford fan would trade Michael Appleton, but it was difficult not to be impressed by the way Wilder rounded on those who were putting the club in jeopardy, imploring them to accept an offer for the club from his former Oxford boss Kelvin Thomas.

Thomas eventually took over, and Wilder took Northampton on a long undefeated streak to the top of the league. We weren’t doing bad ourselves, but were burdened by cup runs in the JPT and FA Cup. While we took plaudits from the media, they streaked to the title, inflicting a typically Wilder-esque defeat at the Kassam in February. We secured the second promotion spot, with Michael Appleton claiming we were the best footballing team in the division. Wilder raged, but it showed the difference between the two managers – Appleton the scientist and theoretician, Wilder, a results man through and through.

Inevitably, Wilder’s success brought the attention of others, and finally a club he couldn’t resist – Sheffield United. There’d been talk, even at Oxford, about how they just had to ask and Wilder would go, but now was his opportunity. Like his two previous clubs, The Blades needed organising, shaking out of their slumber; perfect for Wilder. The only question was whether he could scale his skills to a club of their size.

Yes. He took them to the League 1 title in his first season, swatting us out the way, yet again. Mirroring his Northampton days; he acquired Oxford captain Jake Wright. Following a period of consolidation in The Championship, George Baldock and Jon Lundstram – a chunk of the best footballing team in League 2 were now gunning for the Premier League. Marvin Johnson was added, albeit on loan and not really playing.

While it is likely that maybe only Baldock will expect to play in the Premier League, it is telling that no less than four former Michael Appleton players were in Wilder’s promotion squad. Appleton found the players, Wilder got them winning. If there wasn’t animosity between the two of them, they’d probably be a dream team.

So, Wilder is now one of the elite managers in the country, fourth or fifth in line for the England job, you might argue. Weirdly, the Premier League might suit him. Nobody will fancy his team to stay up so he’ll have plenty to rail against, he can create the siege mentality and rage against the uneven playing field as he did in his first season with us in the Conference, he can get under the skin of the suave European managers like he did with Paolo DiCanio.

And yet, his time at Oxford, which started it all has left a stain with all parties. You only have to see Wilder celebrating promotion; middle aged spread, a weak lager in his hand frothing over to tell you everything you need to know about how Oxford fans should feel towards him. Should we be proud of what he’s achieved, and wish him well in the future? Yes. Is he a bit of a tit? Yes also. When it comes to Oxford’s relationship with Wilder, that’s probably about as good as it will get.

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.

Midweek fixture: Why you should be an Oxford fan

The season is nearly over, our form is good, but why should you buy a season ticket or even be an Oxford United fan? Here’s a handy guide:

Because anything is possible

You are joining an institution which is 125 years old and has experienced everything there is to experience in professional football from national honours to the ignominy of falling out of the Football League altogether. Only one other club has done that, Luton, and, well, have you ever been to Luton?

Because it’s good for you

Life can be pretty overwhelming sometimes. School, college, work and home can get quite chaotic and become hard to process. But, there’s always a game on Saturday and the objective is always to win. You need this, because sometimes it gets you through the day.

Because you’re only truly alive if you mean something

Have you ever listened to people talk about the Premier League? It’s Ozil this and Aguero that, regurgitated opinions that have been replayed a thousand times on TV. Did you know Harry Kane is a good player? Opinions become worn out by relentless media coverage. When you’re not in the media spotlight and you talk about your football club, your opinion is yours, not that of some saggy ex-pro or wizened old hack with a deadline to hit. You mean something because it means something.

Because when you know, you know

You’re part of an undercover movement. If you see someone in a Spurs or Manchester United shirt, you don’t know whether they’re going to football or to Westfield shopping centre. See someone in an Oxford shirt and you know they’re part of the secret society. If you see someone in, say, a Rochdale shirt – preferably their away shirt from 1994 – you know they’re also part of the resistance network, a counter-culture people don’t understand.

Because you’re always on a secret mission

Let’s face it, people don’t care about your club; at best they’ll ask what division you’re in and shut down before you finish telling them. But they don’t know that your Saturdays are spent screaming for an undeserved away point at Scunthorpe courtesy of Jamie Mackie. They don’t even know what a Jamie Mackie is, and they are less of a person because of it.

Because you’re not just watching history, you are history

If you do get to Wembley, draw a big team in the cup, get promoted or have a moment in a game which makes national headlines, people suddenly want to know: were you there? You can say, heroically, that you were because you’ve invested the time and deserved to be part of that moment in a way they haven’t. Then you can watch the sadness in their eyes as they cower in the dawn of their meaningless existence.

Because they’ll never understand  

Sometimes you’ll draw a big team away in the cup and join an armada of 3,000 or more on a pilgrimage across the country. When you arrive, watch as the opposition fans – mere extras in the Premier League media product – look at you like you’re an exotic, beguiling creature. And that’s because you are. They think you’re there for the day out, they don’t know you’re there for the win, and if not the win, then a glorious death trying, a death we don’t fear. They can’t figure you out, they don’t know why you do it, but they’re jealous that you do.

Because it puts everything else into perspective

You go to a game on a Tuesday night when you’ve got work or school in the morning and the world is fixated on the Bake Off quarter-finals. The next day, your colleagues talk about under-cooked macarons as though they’ve got a purpose in life. You have a meeting with your boss where you thank them for trebling your workload because you ‘thrive on the pressure’. Secretly, you don’t give a crap about their meaningless existence and hierarchy because last night’s point means you’re eight points clear of the relegation zone and that is life.

Because it’s the lows that make the highs

Don’t do it for the wins, do it for the mission, do it for the journey, not the destination. Week in, week out, you’ll be cold, you’ll be bored, you’ll be frustrated. Then sometimes, just sometimes, you’ll be deep into stoppage time, 100 miles from home in a game nobody else gives a damn about. All seems lost, when a final, desperate ball is launched forward, their full-back slips and suddenly your striker – four goals in thirty-six games and a contract that expires in four months – is bearing down on goal. He looks terrified, he can’t feel his feet, he scuffs his shot and it squirms under their keeper and rolls into the net. Suddenly he transforms into a god. And you? You’re tumbling down the terrace, arm in arm with a 64-year-old retired gas fitter from Wantage, careering into a steward like he’s a luminous crash mat in a gym. Your world becomes blurred and muffled because your face is embedded in the armpit of an overweight ginger teenager. Someone has their hand on your backside, and you can’t be certain that you’ve still got your phone. You gasp for clean air. When you surface all you can see is Sheila, a South Stand regular, whose been going to away games on the London Road coach for 30 years and insists Billy Whitehurst was a lovely polite boy, claps hysterically and waves the scarf she bought when Ron Atkinson was a boy. It’s a blissful momentary release from her sciatica. When you do finally extract yourself from the bundle and the final whistle goes, you want to tell everyone what happened, but the convenient faceless industrial estate where you’ve parked your car is empty. You go onto Twitter and share the moment with hundreds of others until the feeling fades and all that’s left is a vague sense of needing that moment again, and more. And so, despite the rain, despite the misery, despite the fact Saturday is your only chance to fix the broken guttering which threatens to wreck your house, you make a silent pact that you’ll do it all again next week.

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.