Oxford United 3 Bristol Rovers 0

After last week’s freak heatwave, I looked out from the South Stand on Saturday at the slate grey sky with the floodlights glowing. Down below Simon Heslop received a pass, a feint shadow was caste on the pitch. My heart warmed.
We are the people of the gloaming. As the summer departs most recede to their houses, their weekends defined by X Factor and Strictly. We, on the other hand, appear blinking into the gloom; our weekends have purpose and focus.
Saturday’s 3-0 win over Bristol Rovers was English football at its very best.
It didn’t need to be like that, of course, neither side could boast particularly stellar form – us at home or them away. It was no local derby, no make or break.  Ticket prices weren’t slashed, like the day’s other big League 2 crowd at Bradford. On paper, it was just another lower league fixture. But, with good marketing by both clubs we got a sizable crowd and atmosphere that was a reminder of football’s good old days.
The surprise isn’t so much the size of the crowd, more that it doesn’t happen more often.
On the way in, Radio Five were in discussion with Joey Barton. As is so often the case with media-hate figures, Barton came over as articulate and thoughtful. He recognised that elite sportsmen, footballers in particular, are oddballs. They have to be, they spend their lives eating grilled chicken and pasta, they do their job with 50,000 people screaming bile at them and sports science means they have reached a point of physical fitness that makes them more machines than men. They have mind-boggling salaries, preposterously big houses and pneumatic wives. Barton recognises how bizarre this is, not to excuse his behaviour, but helps to explain it. If he wanted to play sport for sport, he’d have taken up rugby league, he said.
And yet, Premier League players are considered the definition of perfection – good looking, rich, skilful. But they are odd, as in, not typical.
On Friday, I turned over to see that England had qualified for Euro 2012. England games are now relegated to Friday nights, when QI, Outnumbered and Would I Lie To You are all perfectly adequate viewing alternatives. England had just conceded a two-goal lead against a micro-nation, but were slapping each other on the back stony faced, as a job well done. Although live on Sky the game had no coverage on terrestrial TV. You have to wonder, who were they doing it for, and who really cared?
The oddballs of the Premier League are achieving things I can’t bring myself to care about. It is increasingly pointless and joyless. I can’t have heroes who are over-evolved freaks, I want them to be flawed, I want them to take the tube once in a while and have mortgages.
It helps when you’re successful, well, competitive at least. It is easier to drag yourself to a game when there’s the prospect of a win. Ultimate Support Saturday helped sustain the momentum that has been provided by a good start to the season, but, it wasn’t just the result; if we’d lost or drawn it would still have been worthwhile.  

Yellows 6 Bristol Rovers 1

We’ve seen some bad sides in the last four years; Chester’s wheezing death throes, Wrexham neutered by their recent history, Tamworth running around like five-year- olds chasing a tennis ball in the playground.

None were quite as awful and shambolic as Bristol Rovers were last night. At least the others had good reason to be bad. Rovers seemed comfortable on the ball, athletic and strong, but they fell apart every time they tried to produce something. Like they couldn’t get their legs to do what their brains were asking. A kind of football Alzheimer’s.

I became preoccupied with it; I even gave an involuntary groan when Green latched onto one of Heslop’s through-balls. My new compadres in the SSU must have thought I was a Bristolian. I guess I’m just programmed to be sensitive to failure.

It made the game curious to watch. Everything we did worked; we were rampant, it could genuinely have been 8 or 9. Can we really have been that good? Trips to the Kassam are all about bulging veins and chest beating, the enjoyment of watching Oxford has come from the release from the agony of the game as it has about the thrill of victory. We’re not used to enjoying an exhibition in passing moving and finishing.

Last time we scored six was against Eastbourne and that included two penalty saves from Billy Turley. Before that, against Halifax, in 2001, we still struggled despite them being bottom of the league destined for the Conference. It was only when they were reduced to nine men that we took over. Before that? 6-0 against Shrewsbury… and then every goal was a header. Scoring six isn’t exactly conventional, but with us it’s been more that 25 years since we had a six-goal haul that was just, um, normal.

The evening reminded me of watching the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park one cool August evening 8 years ago. A thoroughly enjoyable evening out in warm friendly surroundings, but I’m buggered if I could work out what was going on.