Midweek fixture: Oxford United’s biggest rivals… ranked

How do you measure a rivalry? Location? Envy? Superiority? Or is it just a feeling? A few weeks ago, I asked you who you thought were our biggest rivals. Well, here’s the top nineteen.

19. Peterborough United

Let’s not get carried away; it doesn’t take many votes to become our 19th biggest rival. This one is the result of a brooding dislike following the curtailing of last season and the antics of the Peterborough hierarchy.

18. Cambridge United

Really? I’m surprised so many lazy Sky Sports commentators voted. The tenuous varsity link between the two cities has never turned made it into the stands in terms of a rivalry.

17. Queen’s Park Rangers

While many of these lower rivals are based on a single issue, any rivalry with QPR is surely based on a single game, 34 years ago at Wembley.

16. Coventry City

Maybe a bit of a surprise to some, but if you live in the north of the county, you may be more familiar with Coventry fans than other parts.

15. Sunderland

The biggest team in our division probably attracts a few ‘pick me’ votes, but the added link of Stewart Donald, Charlie Methven and Chris Maguire, mean that Sunderland make the list.

14. Stevenage

The team that denied us promotion from the Conference in 2010, but most likely, any rivalry is down to one man and his drinks break; Graham Westley.

13. Wimbledon

Familiarity breeds contempt, Oxford and Wimbledon have shared many seasons together over a very long time. Alongside Luton, they’re the only team we’ve played in both the top flight and the Conference.

12. Bristol City

I can’t fathom this one, we’ve played each other once in the last eighteen years.

11. Crewe Alexandra

In almost any other season, Crewe wouldn’t attract a vote, but the vitriol surrounding their double postponement earlier this season adds a bit of spice to an otherwise dormant relationship. The only rivalry based on not playing any games.

10. Cheltenham Town

Into the top ten and we’re beginning to touch on more sensible rivalries. Cheltenham Town’s relationship must be down to location.

9. Leyton Orient

Some will never let it go; some fourteen years ago Leyton Orient came to the Kassam looking for a win to secure promotion. They did it in the last minute, which sent us down to the Conference. They danced on our pitch, apparently, though I’d left by then. Some will never forget or forgive.

8. MK Dons

The newest rivalry in the list. It’s not exactly what you’d call white hot, but geographical location has always promised a good large following and made MK Dons a decent away day.

7. Portsmouth

Portsmouth sat on their own in terms of votes – some twenty ahead of MK Dons, and a similar number behind Northampton. We’ve shared many seasons with Portsmouth, I think secretly we’re a bit envious of their size and history, which makes beating them all the more sweet.

6. Northampton Town

Now we’re into the real rivalries. First up Northampton Town, another team whose path we’ve crossed countless times. Added spice came from Chris Wilder leaving us for them in 2014, then keeping them up. Then two years later, Wilder took them up as champions despite Michael Appleton’s assertion we were the better team.

5. Luton Town

There’s a genuinely visceral dislike for Luton Town, we’ve played them in the top division and the Conference, we’ve been promotion rivals and they’ve poached our manager. All of which adds up to a relationship with a bit of bite.

4. Bristol Rovers

A team we’ve played with almost monotonous regularity, any rivalry is spiced up by the fact we’re both very capable of winning away in the game. Matty Taylor helped turn the heat up a notch, he hates the Gas, pass it on.

3. Wycombe Wanderers

It’s not a derby, but of all the non-derbies out there, this is the biggest one for us. We won decisively in a key game on the way to promotion in 1996, they beat us in the FA Cup when we were on a roll in 2010, six years later we secured promotion against them, and last year they secured promotion against us at Wembley. It’s not a derby, but it’s getting there.

2. Reading

Perhaps at the expense of Reading? We haven’t played each other in 16 years and not as equals in 19. But, a rivalry still exists, apparently, though it’s kind of like the Korean War – it’s still technically happening, but in reality it’s made up of irritating each other on social media.

1. Swindon Town

The big one. But, this list wasn’t really about finding out who our biggest rival were.

George Lawrence’s Shorts: Extension Robellion

Saturday 5 September 2020

Uh oh, who’s that with the lute and the harlequin tights frolicking through the bluebells? Why, it’s GLS The Bard. Bard, what song have you for us this very day?

Hey nonny, nonny…

#There was a young man called Cameron Brannagan
In the League Cup he played the Wimbledon
He got one goal, then slotted in again
Good old Cameron Brannagan begin again.#

And while GLS The Bard dislodges his lute from The Place Lutes Shouldn’t Fit, we can also report that KRob excitedly announced that he’s about to put pen to paper on a new contract.

Sunday 6 September 2020

The Bellshill Bounder, Chris Maguire, has been singing the praises of Kemar Roofe predicting that his old chum will net 20 goals for Rangers this season. “He often played on either wing” said Maguire “Occasionally, he’d be put through the middle, he was excellent at getting in behind and running channels. He made that role his own”. What role is that Chris? The Headless Chicken?

There was plenty of hand sanitizer available as sweaty men gathered to fumble their ball bags for the second round draw of the Type 2 Diabetes Cup. Oxford drew the team they call The Waitrose Luton; Watford.  

Monday 7 September 2020

You’ve got to have a bit of luck in football; and there’s none luckier than Dean Saunders. Last year Deano avoided jailtime having been caught speeding, swerving over the road and refusing to take a breathalyser test while stinking of alcohol because it would have prevented him from carrying out his live saving work as a football pundit. Now, it seems he’s been smearing white rabbits all over his perm, because despite his bin-fire of a managerial career, he’s been listed as a possible manager of New York Red Bulls. The attraction of the energy drink to dampen the effects of his hangovers is likely to be a key draw. 

Tuesday 8 September 2020

As we’re driven into oblivion by a government kowtowing to Russian oligarchs, openly breaking international law and killing your gran for the benefit of Pret A Manger, there are only two things that will survive armageddon; cockroaches and the EFL Trophy.

On Tuesday we took on the “Chelsea” Muppet Babies in our first group game winning 2-1. Dan Agyei cleaned up the first before Derick Osei Yaw stayed cool Trigger and got the second. 

Wednesday 9 September 2020

He talks a racket, he earns a packet, his coat’s like Missy Elliot’s puffa jacket; KRob has signed his new contract. The deal will take him through to 2024; or as it will then be known, the 9th national lockdown. 

Thursday 10 September 2020

When GLS was a young boy, he was sent to the Netherlands to find himself and become a man. After several kilograms of Bubba Kush and a seven foot German in a sailor suit called Dietmar, he returned transformed. A similar fate surely awaits Liverpudlian wunderkind Ben Woodburn, who has been loaned out to Sparta Rotterdam for the season.

Friday 11 September 2020

KRob’s celebrating his new contract with a special treat, signing Sam Winnall who had been released by Sheffield Wednesday. The man they call The Ginger Danny Hylton should be available for the start of the new season. Yes, after wins over Wimbledon and “Chelsea”, it’s time to roll out the big guns and start the season for real with a trip to MApp’s Lincoln City. It’s a big season for a lot of players with Jedward Orphan Mark Sykes unphased by being given the number 10 shirt. ‘It’s got such a rich history’ Sykes may have said ‘I’m going to do everything I can to follow in the footsteps of the greatest Oxford United number 10s like Courtney Pitt, Jamie Guy and Craig Farrell.’ Legends every one of them.

Match wrap: Oxford United 1 AFC Wimbledon 1 (4-3 on penalties)

We’re back, or are we?

I watched the brilliant Netflix documentary series, Hip Hop Evolution, a few weeks ago and specifically the story of the ‘cyphers’ which sprung up around Washington Park in New York in the late 1990s. Cyphers were sessions where kids would congregate and try to outdo each other with their rhymes and wordplay in freestyle rap battles. 

Cyphers were an organic reaction to the money-motivated populism of Puff Daddy, which in turn was a reaction to the grim gun violence which led to the killing of Biggie Smalls and Tupac Shakur. 

Where Puff Daddy sampled great chunks of familiar million-selling songs and ran reductive raps over the top with the sole aim of selling bucket loads of records, the cyphers re-connected kids with the origins of hip hop. Rather than instant gratification from pop samples which played to a worldwide audience, DJs went back to finding obscure records to sample to create new sounds and beats while MCs outdid each other with the complexity of their rhymes and rhythm. What resulted was a generation of skilled lyricists like Talib Kweli, Common and Eminem.

One commentator explained, it was a reconnection of the output with its context. With the likes of Puff Daddy, hip hop had become solely about money, playing to the lowest common denominator, this new wave was about its community, building their reputation by being more skilful and clever than the others.

The link between football and its context is currently being tested, watching via an internet stream remains a mostly soulless experience. It’s necessary, and in some ways helpful, to be reminded that we remain in the midst of a crisis, and that things are not normal. It’s therefore right that Karl Robinson treated the Wimbledon game as an extension of our pre-season friendly programme. Entertaining the crowd wasn’t necessarily a priority. Even when league games start next week, it will still feel like we’re treading water until we can reconnect the games with their context and have fans back in the ground.

The re-structured season may play to our advantage. There is a built-in stability this season; only Marcus McGuane, Rob Atkinson and Derick Osei Yaw (briefly) made their debuts compared to five players last season and six the year before. Both those seasons started unevenly with just two wins out of our first eight last year, one less than the year before. 

But aside from the settled squad, our difficulties at the start of a season is down to the style we play, lots of passing and possession accompanied with blistering attacks in numbers. The movement needs to be second nature if it’s to be effective and, while that’s bedding in, we can look like a group of busy fools getting picked off by more conservative opposition. Take, for example, last season’s 4-2 defeat to Burton, there were times when we looked brilliant, but then we were unpicked by a team whose idea of cutting loose is to undo the top button of a Marks and Spencer shirt. In both previous seasons it took some time to find our flow. 

The stability we’ve managed to achieve over the summer means that most of the DNA remains intact. Osei Yaw aside, whose appearance was too brief to judge, Atkinson looked comfortable in place of Rob Dickie, while McGuane was industrious throughout. There was one brilliant pass which nearly put Matty Taylor through, but otherwise you could see he was still trying to figure out where the angles were with an extra touch which often lost him the opportunity. You get the sense, given time, he’ll be more confident of where his team mates are making his play more incisive. The lack of crowds – with their ability to erode as well as build confidence – may be an advantage.

It was also good to see Cameron Brannagan back in form. While few were prepared to admit it, least of all Brannagan himself, he didn’t quite seem the player he was post-injury last year, which may be why he’s still at the club, but it looks like we’ll benefit as a result. Also, Simon Eastwood continues to come back into form after a rusty play-off campaign. 

So the Wimbledon game, along with the EFL Trophy game against Chelsea Under 21s on Tuesday acts as an extended opportunity to bed new players in without the pressure of the fans complaining at a missed pass or opportunity. In addition, there isn’t the carrot of a big Premier League payday to play for which can tempt managers into looking for short term results over long term benefit. Whatever the second round brings, its advantage is in the minutes the players have on the pitch together, over the glories of the result. The lack of urgency in the early stages of the season should allow new players to settle and existing players to find their feet.

Pretty much every year I say that the season starts with all idealism and no facts and ends with all facts and no idealism. No single game defines the outcome of a season, least of all the first, so drawing significant conclusions to the draw with Wimbledon; our frailties at set pieces or the lack of clear chances up front is a fool’s game. While we seek answers to open questions, football is all a process of evolution. It’s why we, as fans, live with it constantly questioning and concluding only to find that the game has changed and the context moved on. 

Last year we’d won only three games of our opening ten, something that’s forgotten given what came later. That period could have been the difference between the play-offs and promotion. The year before it was just four wins. The front loading of League Cup and Trophy games this season affords us more opportunity to try, and fail, before the season gets into gear and, hopefully, the context; the reason for doing this in the first place, begins to return.  

George Lawrences Shorts: Matts Gloss

Saturday 15 February 2020

There was heartbreak for doe-eyed cash puppy Stewart Donald as Oxford United went down 1-0 to Sunderland whose owner, doe-eyed cash puppy Stewart Donald, was heartbroken by the news that his beloved Oxford United went down 1-0 to Sunderland.

Sunday 16 February 2020

We don’t mean to be the Jaja Binks of Oxford United by ruining a decent narrative, but Kilmarnock’s Stephen O’Donnell has been talking about his reasons for turning down a move to us during the transfer window. In it, he reveals himself to be a sentient human being demonstrating the ability to make a reasoned judgement based on a variety of competing factors.

On the other hand – JUST BUY ‘IM, WE CAN’T AFFORD ‘IM, WE’VE GOT NO AMBITION, and so on.

Monday 17 February 2020

GLS remembers with great fondness the collapse of the iconic pick n mix  conglomerate Woolworths. With prices plummeting, the memory of gorging on cut price confectionery remains to this day with the vague taste of cola bottles still accompanying every burp. The joys of running the aisles picking up cut-priced chickaboos, Airfix kits and Ah Ha postcards while shop workers cried over their impending redundancy was recalled with the news that Southampton and Burnley are keen to snap up sulky sixth former Rob Dickie while Leeds are monitoring Cameron Brannagan-again

Tuesday 18 February 2020

“…And that’s the story of a parasitic football club leaching off a poorer one, acquiring its valuable assets and selling them off for its own gain, leaving the original club destitute and homeless.”

“Thanks grandad for telling me about Kingstonian and Wimbledon, now tell me a story of hypocrisy.”

“Well…”

We were visited by institutional bullying apologists Wimbledon on Tuesday who were treated to a close up display of Oxford in full-flight. Two goals from Nathan Holland and one from James Henry were bookended by two Matty Taylor goals in a 5-0 rout.

Wednesday 19 February 2020

The Whoscored website, an entrapment device for involuntary celebate men everywhere, have taken an arbitrary set of spuriously collected numbers to decide our best players now we’re seventy percent into the season. This is a crucial poll to attract clickbait advertising pictures of semi-famous women ‘like you’ve never seen them before’. 

Jose’s Son John Mousinho, Cameron Brannagain, Sulky Sixth Former, Grange Hill’s Rob Dickie, the stepover kid and non-Oxford playing Tariqe Fosu and Henry James’ James Henry are our current top 5.

Elsewhere, former commercial director and chum of doe-eyed cash puppy Stewart Donald and moccasin wearing Charlie Methven, Tony Davison has got a job at Northampton Rugby Club. He was most recently at Sunderland where his biggest achievement was attracting the Spice Girls to do a gig at The Stadium of Light.

Thursday 20 February 2020

It was the Seven Minute Fifteen Second Fans Forum on Radio Oxford on Thursday with Tiger having a grrreat time in the hot seat. In it he confirmed that the club had made three bids for right-backs in the transfer window and that Shandon The Baptiste and the stepover kid Tariqe Fosu wanted to go to Brentford once a bid had come in.

So apart from the cup runs, giant killings, multi-million pound talent pipeline, play-off push and training ground, what has Tiger ever done for us?

Sort out the stadiumsituation? 

Oh, fark off.

Friday 21 February 2020

It’s Ipswich Town tomorrow, a fixture that hasn’t been played for decades. The club have been taking part in some groundbreaking research into the impact of sleep on performance with the club’s mystic soothsayer Gary Bloom. KRob thinks sleep could be the key to unlocking even more magical powers from the players.

As they say, you snooze, you lose. Wait, hang on.

Match wrap: Oxford United 5 AFC Wimbledon 0

There’s a romanticism about playing under the lights at Oxford which is a bit of a myth. It’s a treat to go out when most others are dutifully staying in, but a midweek game is typically cold and often wet, it’s watched through the slight foggy tiredness of a day’s work, the crowd is usually down on a normal Saturday leaving the atmosphere a bit empty and flat.

It wasn’t always like that, there was something slightly magical about the way The Manor, largely hidden from view during the day, set back from the London Road, lit up the night’s sky on a Tuesday or Wednesday night as everything else darkened. It was a beacon that enticed you into something joyful. Or maybe that’s just whimsy too.

On Tuesday, I left the house at my normal time and parked in my normal spot. I say ‘normal’, I haven’t been able to park there for weeks due to the crowds we’ve been attracting. The weather and opponents, as well as the inconvenience of a Tuesday night meant the place was quiet. It was both unusual and, at the same time, familiar.

Tiger’s programme notes were terse, addressing the brooding criticism of the club since January. There was a sense that all the goodwill built up over a surge up the table and two good cup runs was crumbling in the wake of two lads leaving for Brentford.

But, from the opening moments it was clear that we were so much better than Wimbledon. A class above. For all the talk about tiredness, injuries and a lack of transfer activity, we outplayed and outfought them. There was no harrying the full-backs from the opening seconds, no break-neck counter attacks to fend off, things which seemed to come so easily to our more recent opponents were completely absent. Against others, it’s felt like we’d been found out, whereas, in fact, maybe we’ve just been playing a lot of very good teams.

As the goals started to flow, for the first time in a couple of months, I felt we could breathe. In that workaday atmosphere, we could just be who we are. It felt as normal as games against Newcastle and Manchester City feel abnormal. For weeks nearly all our games have felt like a teeth-grinding hold-your-breath rocket ride, this just felt like a game of football in the mould of which we’re more familiar.

It reinforced to me that this is League 1 with its two divisions – the Championship, even Premier League, aspirants, and the League 2 over-performers. When you’re only playing the teams at the top, it feels like you’re failing, but then you start facing the teams at the bottom it shows that it’s not all doom and gloom. Overall, it provides a much better perspective as to where we’re at this season.

Of course there’s more we could do; we could take more financial risks to bring in players or resist bids from others. That’s a choice, mostly for those whose money is at stake. Demanding that we take those risks implies we’re failing and that any degree of prudence is ignoring that particular reality. We’re not failing, we’re a good side who are still in with a chance of the play-offs, which may even bring about promotion. But those things aren’t an ambition in itself, it’s the by-product of progress and, if you look at the season as a whole rather than small segments of it, it’s hard to argue that we aren’t progressing.

George Lawrences Shorts: Cadden falling star and put it in your pocket

Saturday 28 December 2019

Look, between Christmas and New Year we have no idea what day it is, when the bins go out and we’ve reached the point where choosing the healthy meal option means picking a Bounty out of our box of Celebrations. So, we can’t be absolutely sure if it’s true that Bolton and Motherwell are interested in the services former Oxford work experience student Jonte Smith, but anything is possible. 

Sunday 29 December 2019

The crazy gang met the culture club on Sunday with Oxford running out 2-1 winners over Wimbledon. Orphaned Oxford Jedward Mark Sykes donned his neon winklepickers and scored the second half winner. 

To you and I, he’s the chatty scouser with the viscosity of custard, but it turns out that KRob may actually be football’s master puppeteer. It turns out that he was the evil genius behind Rangers’ recent derby win over Celtic.

Monday 30 December 2019

He was near ever-present for Oxford during the 1960s clocking over 500 games over 15 years. The man Sam Long described as a bit of a newcomer, John Shuker, sadly died on Monday

Tuesday 31 December 2019

In the last decade there have been about 40,000 hours of professional football played in England. Drunk betting website The Sack Race have rated cosmopolitan sophisticat Christophe Wilde as the best manager of the decade. OF. THE. DECADE. The man who signed Tom Newey and David Hunt beat Pep Guardiola, Alex Ferguson and Jose Mourinho. 

OF. THE. WHOLE. DAMN. DECADE.

Wednesday 1 January 2020

A New Year! Now we’re in the future, it’s all teleporting, silver suits and power pills. Apart from Jamie Mackie who has thrown a canvas bag over his shoulder and headed to the hills to live off the fruits of the forest until ‘you all come to your senses’. And with good reason as the crumbling of society began with a 1-0 defeat to Doncaster.

Elsewhere, we’re always very proud when our former players really go on to achieve great things, Gavin Whyte helicopter impression made it into the top 20 most read sports stories on Belfast Live last year.

Thursday 2 January 2020

Cowboy Chris Cadden has loaded up his horse and headed out west to join the homesteaders Columbus Crew. The announcement triggered a trolling war with something called The Crew View, sort of GLS with a gun fetish. It’s a big challenge for Cadden to move over 3,500 miles given that he previously listed his major achievement when moving to Oxford as ironing his own trousers.

It was also announce that Oussama Zamouri has left the club; Zamouri made one appearance depriving Oxford fans of the opportunity to sing: “When you forget who you’ve got, and you’ve not had a shot, that’s Zamouri”. 

Friday 3 January 2020

KRob has gone all jealous ex-boyfriend to slide into Cowboy Chris Cadden’s DMs pleading with him to come back to Oxford. Expect him to appear stripped to the waist, with a bag of cans at Cowboy Chris’ ranch drunkenly singing Ed Sheeran ballads at 4 in the morning in an attempt to get him back. 

Meanwhile, there will be a new song on the terraces for the visit of Hartlepool in the Cup. All together now: ‘We’re by far the 15th greatest team, the EFL has ever seen (this decade)‘.