George Lawrence’s Shorts: The lunar-tics taking over the asylum

Saturday 6 February 2021

GLS hasn’t had an unfamiliar sensation like this since the doctor told him she needed to use the extra long lance. Apparently we suffered what’s known as ‘a loss’ on Saturday against Doncaster Rovers. This is an Old English term historians believe was last used in the Oxford area around the birth of Christ, or ‘Sam Long’ as he’s more conventionally known. An approximate translation is something along the lines of ‘WHAT THE FUDGING HECK WERE YOU DOING REF? HOW IS THAT NOT A PENALTY?’. 

Sunday 7 February 2021

Last year, the country was in thrall as Coleen Rooney took to Twitter to call out Rebekah Vardy for leaking stories to the tabloids. The affair was dubbed ‘Wagatha Christie’. Well, season two just dropped, it’s… A Touch of Fost. 

Ex-Oxford United central defender Luke Foster, spoke to The Mirror about his relationship with Vardy back in the early-2000s. He couldn’t cope with her relentless demands for the fame and glamour associated with dating one of the Conference’s most sought-after mid-table central defenders. Foster was left penniless when she traveled to games with him, sometimes blowing as much as £19 in Droylsden’s exclusive charity boutiques. 

Monday 8 February 2021

There’s more to Bristol Rovers Peaky Blinder Paul Tisdale than turn-ups and a pair of vintage Adidas Spezials, he’s also got a distressed t-shirt of a band he’s never heard of with the sleeves torn off. Tomorrow we head for Bristol Rovers just two weeks after beating them 2-0 at home.  “I think we’ve made some progress in terms of players” he said “and maybe some pattern that has improved since then.” Nothing barks improvement like no wins in nine, and two goals and two points out of twelve since our last game.

Tuesday 9 February 2021

*coquettishly puts fingers on lips and looks innocent*

What’s that? Oh, I’ve dropped something? This little thing? Another win? Oh silly me, let me bend down and pick it up. Gosh, I hope this skirt isn’t too short?

Yes, Oxford collect the wins like binmen collect the bins – almost every week, except for in inclement weather and with times adjusted to accommodate Bank Holidays. Goals from loanees Elliot Lee and Brandon Barker saw us cruise to a 2-0 win on Tuesday night

Wednesday 10 February 2021

After last night’s result Paul Tisdale has been told to pack his faux-vintage leather satchel (Primark, £7.99) and hit the high road. It’s been a torrid time for Tisdale who has only been in charge for 19 games, Matty Taylor has been on the phone to recruit him for Gas Hating Club and to ask him where he got that cashmere scarf from.  

Elsewhere, having received his Covid vaccine for being old and vulnerable, man-bun Ricky Holmes is currently limping around unconvincingly at Southend United’s training ground after leaving Northampton Town’s physio bench.

Thursday 11 February 2021

The Mirror have taken to wildly speculating who will take over as manager at Bournemouth. It’s a veritable racist paradise with both Jonathan Woodgate and John Terry in the running. One surprise name, though, is plucky non-racist KRob, whose been turning a few heads with his endeavours at Oxford. There’s a lot going for KRob; his results record, his record developing players and especially that the compo will be cheap when they fire him after six games and get Eddie Howe back again.

Friday 12 February 2021

KRob missed out on becoming manager of the month to Hull’s Grant McCann on Friday. Despite his perfect record in January, nobody can deny that Hull’s plummet down the form table to 11th hasn’t been eye-catching. Nothing could separate Josh Ruffels from Matty Lund of Rochdale for player of the month apart from their defensive records, goals per game, head-to-head record, league position and points accumulated; so the judges had to rely on the complicated football algorithm; alphabetical order, to make the decision. 

The club went and done a complete ‘normal’ again, announcing that it was introducing a new logo and planning a series of events to celebrate Chinese Lunar New Year, which is the Year of the Ox. The first of which was to postpone the game against Wigan on Saturday by 24 hours due to a frozen pitch – a Chinese dragon is on its way to help thaw the pitch out. Future events include trying to encourage Nick Harris to avoid calling his local takeaway the ‘Chinky’.

Meanwhile, the Sheffield Star have spun the wheel of random punditry to reveal that John Lundstram has been tipped to join Leeds United in the summer by former Aston Villa full-back Alan Hutton who has no obvious connection to any of the parties involved. Next month, Joe Skarz tipped for Borussia Mönchengladbach by Julian Joachim.

Match wrap: Oxford United 2 Bristol Rovers 0

I don’t remember a lot about our eight game winning streak in 1982/83 – the last time we won more than six in a row – but I do remember bits. I remember the 5-2 win over Folkstone in the FA Cup because Folkestone was where we caught the ferry to go on holiday and I couldn’t fathom why they’d have a football team. I remember beating Newport 2-1 because we went a goal down and Radio Oxford got the ‘prayer mat’ out; something they’d do if we needed a bit of luck. When we equalised I shouted in my kitchen ‘COME ON OXFORD’ to the obvious amusement of our neighbour raking leaves in the garden next door. I also remember the run ending in a cup game against Torquay; their mascot had ‘½’ on the back of their shirt, which I thought was hilarious. Don’t look at me like that, I was young.

I do remember the feeling; like we were in a pocket of air with no resistance. We breezed through games, nothing was too difficult we were floating, weightless. I got a similar sense of that last season when we beat Lincoln, West Ham and Gillingham. And yes, that was only last season.

I’m not getting the same feeling from the current run. Partially, because it’s been so fragmented with postponements but mostly because we are not of it, we are not within it, we are watchers from afar.

I know I’m not alone in feeling this lockdown more than the previous ones, football fans are winter-people, football, for me, straightens out the wrinkles and frustrations of the working week. Working can be complex and frustrating; football and going to games, is simple and unifying. In the winter, when it’s dark, cold and gloomy and those frustrations hide in the shadows, the weekend’s game is a beacon. As mentally refreshing as any spar weekend. I know people who don’t like football and hate winter, I’ve always loved it, particularly January. Where they look to the skies to see if the sun is lingering a little longer, signalling the oncoming of spring, I just have to look to the floodlights each weekend to provide direction. 

There’s no doubt I prefer a lockdown with football than without, I look forward to the game and enjoy the wins, but I don’t lose myself when the ball hits the back of the net and, at the final whistle, I unplug my laptop from the TV and get on with whatever needs doing. I miss walking down the concrete steps and getting mildly frustrated behind a hobbling septuagenarian who descends like they’re returning from the summit of Everest. I miss walking past a shadowy group catching up on the day’s results… ‘I see Plymouth won again…’ without ever knowing why that might be important to them.

I’ve no doubt the players feel the same; playing football each weekend will still bring them purpose and fulfilment, but the sense of occasion is gone. I doubt many footballers try to articulate their cultural purpose, but I bet they miss it when it’s not there.

I see Oxford fans on Twitter sharing the odd conspiracy theory about Covid, snippets of data and information that appear to confirm what everyone desperately wants; a lessening of its threat and a return to normal. But building that narrative only makes it worse, we begin to believe what is not true; that this will magically disappear or that the risks are overstated, and that will just mean the road to recovery will be longer and more painful. It’s a bit like the woman I read about in a local paper a couple of years ago who turned down chemotherapy in preference for a diet of carrots to fight her cancer. Yes, really and no, it didn’t work. The loss of prominent Oxford fans to the virus surely brings it home that this isn’t some abstract threat, it’s very real and immediate. 

I know that data is misinterpreted, I know the virus is real, but I still look to the horizons for a glimmer of hope that this will simply end and the world will click back into place. It’s only natural. I want to go back to games, we have away games at Ipswich, MK Dons and Swindon coming up, in our current form, these would have been epic adventures. 

But, the prospect of returning to normal this season seems to ebb away with every passing day. Perhaps a very limited number of people will be allowed in during late spring, but surely the government will be more cautious this time and the unlocking will be so gradual, the season will be nearly over by the time it’s safe to return. 

At work, we’re currently planning on six month cycles, nobody is planning their next career move, they’re not even planning their next summer holiday. To cast too far forward just brings uncertainty, regret and anxiety. The answer, then, is to pull back; did we get through today? Are we OK right now?

It’s much the same with this season; our regret comes from not being immersed in the narrative, the feeling of detachment creates a feeling of more detachment. Rather than pining for the whole – a late season charge to the play-offs, an away day for the ages, we just need to take each game as it comes, however it comes. The days will turn into weeks, which turn into months and into years and gradually everything changes.  

Perhaps just taking each game at a time is how we’ve dragged ourselves back into form. It feels like the current run has sneaked up on us. The Swindon defeat, our last loss, was so brutal it could easily have signalled the end of our season. Just keep clear of relegation and sack off the season as a whole. Instead, yesterday we looked fluid and cohesive, we’re no longer chasing shadows, we’re playing on the front foot, confidence flowed through everything we did. It’s massive credit to the players and manager that they’ve turned it round. There are tougher games to come, but improbably, the play-offs don’t seem such a distant prospect. The win was great, I just missed that feeling of my toes thawing out in the car on the way home.

George Lawrence’s Shorts: Postponed Malone

Saturday 17 January 2021

Oxford have had five games called off due to CoVid pestilence this season, so it was a novelty when news filtered through that our game against Northampton Town on Saturday was called off due to flood. ‘We’ve tested the pitch, and the ball isn’t running true’ said a spokesman for the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

Sunday 18 January 2021

Jedward orphan, Mark Sykes has been given clearance to play for the Republic of Ireland after turning his back on the Northern Ireland faster than a braying tax-avoiding Brexit billionaire. “Clearance came through a month ago.” he said. Sykes is looking forward to pulling on the famous emerald green shirt just as soon as Sports Direct in Botley is back open so he can go and buy one.

Monday 19 January 2021

It was revealed on Monday that the Kassam Stadium is set to become a Covid vaccine centre. For most, being vaccinated will be a straightforward process of having a painless injection in their upper arm. However, Oxford United fans will also be offered The David Kemp Special, which is for those who prefer to stick needles in their eyes.

Tuesday 20 January 2021

It’s been announced that the twice postponed game against Doncaster Rovers, has been rescheduled to be postponed on the 16th March while the trip to Northampton, postponed on Saturday, will be postponed a week later on the 23rd March.

Wednesday 21 January 2021

Loan strangers Dan Crowley and Ben Woodburn are refocusing their careers as brief paragraphs in ‘Whatever happened to…’ internet articles. Crowley, signed by PClot for Birmingham City, is set for a loan spell at Hull City, while wunderkind Woodburn has returned to Liverpool, for his thirty-fourth last chance to revive his flagging career, after his loan spell at Blackpool ended.

Thursday 22 January 2021

KRob is bamboozled by the format of the Papa Johns Trophy; there are unconfirmed reports that we’re now in the quarter-finals and could face trips to Hull City, Tranmere Rovers or Sunderland. The draw is on Saturday live on Babestation or something. “It doesn’t make sense” said KRob salivating over his takeaway menu; “Even I wouldn’t go to Sunderland for a Chilli Freak pizza with a side order of Marmite and cheese scrolls and a large diet coke.”

Friday 23 January 2021

Former football club and now internet heritage brand Oxford United are alleged to be coming out of retirement for a game against Bristol Rovers. Rovers are managed by rejected Peaky Blinders character Paul Tisdale who is expecting the game to be ‘fluid’. Matty Taylor returns to his old club. Tisdale, an out-of-the-box thinker, is planning to stop Taylor by waiting until after the game to look back to see if he stopped him. “He is a threat.” he said adjusting his baker boy cap and straightening his cravat “how we quantify that, let’s talk about that in hindsight once we’ve done a job to stop him being a threat.” Smart.

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.

Midweek fixture: League 1 Kitwatch 2020/2021

There’s nothing better than a new kit; so the summer is new kit Christmas. Nearly everyone have revealed their kit for the new season. I’ll keep updating this post with new designs as they’re revealed. Here’s what we have so far…

Accrington Stanley

Accrington are punching above their weight adopting Adidas as their kit manufacturer. Thankfully they’ve managed to bring the tone down a notch or two with an experimental dotty sleeve. It’s let Accrington down, it’s let Adidas down, but most of all, it’s let the lovely white shirt down.

Blackpool

We’re all shocked to our core with Blackpool’s new shirt; tangerine with white trim, like every Blackpool shirt in history. That said, it’s a nice enough design. Eagled eyed among you will see this template replicated elsewhere. In the least shocking news ever the away shirt is a simple reverse out of the home version.

Bristol Rovers

The key to any artistic process is to know when to stop. Bristol Rovers have an iconic kit and it shouldn’t be difficult to pull a decent shirt out of the bag. This version has funny cuffs, collar, stripe down the arm, what appears to be some kind of camo shadowing. The second kit goes some way to redeeming things, but not much.

Burton Albion

Burton Albion may be the most forgettable team in the division, and their new home shirt lives up to that reputation. One of this season’s trends is the re-introduction of the button collar, which we can all agree is a travesty. And yet, the away kit is so awful, apparently modelled on the faux medical uniform of a cosmetic surgery nurse, that the button may just improve it.

Charlton Athletic

Without doubt Charlton have bigger problems than providing a decent new kit. The home shirt looks like every Charlton kit ever released, while the away shirt is probably a reflection of the mood around the club.

Crewe Alexandra

Crewe’s return to League 1 is marked by a retro red and black number, but it’s the away kit which is of most note, appearing to take inspiration from their shirt sponsor Mornflake Mighty Oats.

Doncaster Rovers

Thankfully Doncaster Rovers’ new shirt is identical to every Doncaster Rovers home shirt of the last decade. The red and white hoops are a classic not to be messed with. The away kit is also pretty sweet; maybe the best combo in the division?

Fleetwood Town

To some people, the fact that Fleetwood Town exist and are managed by Joey Barton is confusing enough. This kit, which seems to adopt about nine different styles in one, is a proper head scrambler. The away kit, however, works really nicely – silver and mint, who knew?

Gillingham

Bit of an odd one this; Gillingham are perhaps the most meh team in League 1, and it appears that they’re sticking with the same kit as last season. It’s OK, Macron, the manufacturer, have a nice style about them. You could describe this as a bit meh, really.

Hull City

Like all the teams coming down from the Championship, Hull have been slow to release their new shirt. The result is an unremarkable number, saved largely by the fact that it’s Umbro, giving it a nice traditional feel. The third kit (no second kit that I can ascertain) is a bit of an oddity; when I first saw it, I really liked it and thought it was one of the nicest in the division, then I looked again and find it a bit boring.

Ipswich Town

A tale of two shirts for Ipswich Town. An absolute beauty for the home shirt reminiscent of their heyday in the 1980s under Bobby Robson. The away shirt looks like someone has washed it with a tissue in the pocket.

Lincoln City

Lincoln City play a classic card with their new shirt. There are few teams that wear red and white stripes who haven’t gone for the disruptive inverted colourway at some point. There will be Lincoln fans everywhere tearing up their season tickets at the abomination, but I like it. The away number is solid but unremarkable.

MK Dons

A solid home option for MK Dons, but you can’t deny they work hard to be the most despicable team in the league, the away shirt is black with gold trim? What are they? A Bond villain? Yes, yes they are.

Northampton Town

I’ve always felt that Hummel offer a hipster’s choice when it comes to shirt manufacturing; typically because of their excellent work on the Danish national shirts in the mid-80s. I’ve also always liked Northampton’s colours. So, put together should be a sure fire winner. the away kit is OK until you look more closely, the strange central dribble, the fading pin stripes. They get away with it, but only just.

Oxford United

Look closely, well not that closely, and you’ll see the new Oxford shirt is the same Puma template as Blackpool and Swindon. Rumour has it that in real life it adopts the geometric pattern of the Peterborough shirt. It’s OK, for a title winning shirt.

Peterborough United

Last season Puma made a big deal of their sublimated flux shirt designs, this year seems to have some kind of geometric update. There are randomised white flecks in there as well. A real nearly, but not quite design, a bit like Peterborough. The away shirt utilises the 437th Puma template of the division, and it’s a bit of a cracker, while nothing screams ‘Revenge season’ then a neon pink third kit.

Plymouth Argyle

Plymouth return to League 1 with a couple of scorchers. The home shirt is spoilt a bit with what appears to be a button collar, the away kit is absolutely magnificent. It’s difficult to imagine under what circumstances they would need a third kit, but it ticks some boxes.

Portsmouth

One of the big favourites for the League 1 title next season have opted for a pretty conservative upgrade. What the heck is with that collar though? I quite like the away shirt with its white shadow stripes, it reminds me of our own away kit from the mid-eighties. Was there a three for two offer at Sports Direct? The unnecessary third kit looks like a reboot of our 2013/14 Animalates shirt.

Rochdale

You might call it armageddon chic; there’s a theme in a lot of kits where they’ve taken their standard design and given it a twist. Quite often it’s such a twist it comes off completely. Rochdale are just about the right side of acceptable with the blurred lined and shredded but at the top.

Shrewsbury Town

Aficionados of League 1 kit launches will know that Shrewsbury specialise in producing terrible promotional photography. For evidence try this, this or even this.This year is no different. Still, they get bonus points for adopting Admiral as their kit manufacturer. The away shirt takes inspiration from Oxford’s purple years when we were sponsored by Isinglass.

Swindon Town

Our friends up the A420 have selected yet another Puma kit variation. How many templates does one manufacturer need? It’s a nice and simple design, ruined by the addition of a Swindon Town badge. The away shirt could not be less imaginative if it tried.

Sunderland

Let’s not kid ourselves; all teams use standard templates, but Sunderland’s new Nike shirt absolutely screams ‘park football’. The away shirt is Portsmouth’s home shirt in a different colour way, but that’s OK, I quite like it.

Wigan Athletic

I was genuinely sad when I saw this; Wigan’s kit feels like a club that’s fallen apart with the off-the-peg template and the ironed-on ‘sponsor’ (let’s assume the Supporters Club have not paid a penny for this).

AFC Wimbledon

Have Wimbledon given up? They seem so bored with life they can’t be bothered to feature a decent logo of their sponsor and what can you say about the diagonal shadow stripe? They seem to trump it with the away shirt, which is going some. A shirt that screams relegation.

George Lawrence’s Shorts: Parker, Pens

Saturday 24 August 2019

Like your gran after she’s eaten her bodyweight in Turkish Delight, there was some pretty obnoxious Gas around on Saturday. The club put on extra security for Matty Taylor’s return to his former club, Bristol Rovers. Fantasies around Taylor’s return turned out to be just that as he limped off after half-an-hour and we went down 3-1

Monday 26 August 2019

Like a railway announcer during autumn leaf fall; KRob has pinpointed why we’ve gone 3 games without a win – the wrong kind of goals. Our problem is that we’re scoring great goals, not scruffy ones, ‘if you take away the goals, we dominated’ he said possibly ignoring a key aspect of professional football.

Tuesday 27 August 2019

Oxford entertained East London millennial snowflakes Mi’Woh in the Type 2 Diabetes Cup on Tuesday. After going 2-0 down, two super-late goals from Jedward orphan Mark Sykes and James Henry forced the game to penalties which were won by Jose’s son John Mousinho who broke the net to settle the tie. They didn’t like that, but they don’t care, though they really do, because they’re actually very sensitive.  

Wednesday 28 August 2019

Dean Saunders is a former Oxford United goal machine turned TalkSport shock jock – the shock being how little he knows about football. On Wednesday Deano followed a well trodden path for Oxford goalscoring legends like Steve Anthrobus and John Durnin by being sent to prison, this time after refusing to take a breath test when stopped by the police. Saunders is appealing the decision on the grounds of diminished intelligence. 

In less incarcerated news, The Type 2 Diabetes Cup draw had an extra shot of insulin in it when we drew bubble-based buffoons We’stam at home in the next round

Thursday 29 August 2019

Former Leicester City player and Kidlington local Garry Parker, has been appointed Head of Setting Up The Reserves To Play Like The Opposition. The new role will be a blessed relief to Parker, who – if his club photo is anything to go by – got lost on a holiday trek through the jungle wearing just shorts and a pair of flip flops this summer only to be found looking tired and bewildered by local tribesmen.

This year’s Tsun Dai Remind Me Why We Signed Him has been announced as Kash Siddiqi. Siddiqi is a 33-year-old Pakistani international who will instantly be sent out on loan and forgotten. A sub-continental Tony McMahon. 

Friday 30 August 29

Tomorrow sees the visit of Coventry City in which Oxford are hoping to break a losing league streak longer than Jimmy Hill’s chin. Meanwhile in last night’s Six Minute 29 Second Fans Forum on Radio Oxford it was Tiger who came to tea. On the stadiumsituation nothing has changed since the club were asked about the stadiumsituation last week, but Mr Chairman did imply another signing might be on his way.