Match wrap: Oxford United 1 Peterborough United 2

I would have loved yesterday’s game, the FA Cup is Boba Fett’s backstory in the battle for the empire; a short sidebar story in the season’s great odyssey. The curios of football’s backwaters going toe-to-toe with more established names. It’s a rare moment of character in an often sanitised and rational world. 

But, yesterday was more than that, the setting was perfect; the sun shone brightly and the sky was blue, but there was a reassuring chill in the air. The weather is a big part of the season – the unbecoming warmth of the early weeks, going to evening games in short sleeves, gives way to a more familiar cooler temperature.

Once the clocks go back, the real business begins; the temperature drops, the big coat comes out. The occasionals who’ve been tempted to a game by the warm weather disappear. The real fans revel in the gloom as games finish in a half-light and then darkness. We are people of the gloaming, we live in the shadows. We revel while others hunker down seeking light and warmth.

Walking to a game, you might go to a shop for match supplies, you queue with people gathering treats for an afternoon in front of the TV. We buy the same things, but we know we’re bounty hunting, seeking out another three points to bring home.

I love that people don’t understand why we do this, why we sit for two hours on an uncomfortable plastic seat in the cold. Weekends are precious and there are so many better options out there. I love the fact it’s too complicated to explain.

The autumn gives way to Christmas and we’re re-joined by the occasionals; family members and extended hangers on returning home for the festive period. It’s nice to see them and the dark and cold is pushed back by the light and warmth of that communion. Christmas offers a brief celebration before the New Year comes and then we’re truly into the depth of winter and the grit of the season. Games are postponed, cup competitions disrupt the rhythm, injuries mount up, it’s a chaotic, ramshackle reckoning. The weather is grim; gloves, hats, coats, layers and layers and layers. 

When the players come out there’s not the same crispness of applause, more a whumping sound of gloved clapping. The most dedicated battle their way up and down motorways, we meet in service stations; not just our own fans, but that wider national network of people like us. There’s a sense of mutual respect as we queue for a coffee or a lunchtime KFC. At the game we endure a deepening discomfort as the cold grips the fibre of our bones. Respite only comes afterwards, when you’re back in the car; the heating finally kicks in and the radio picks through the bones of the day’s events. Your fingers thaw, you can feel your toes, your humanity returns. 

And then, as the games tick by, the sun appears again, order is restored, for most, their fate in the cups is decided and there’s a league position to secure. The maths simplifies, as you edge towards that pivotal game, the six-pointer that’ll decide, finally, whether the season will end in promotion, the play-offs, relegation or nothingness. As we get to May, the warmth returns and the tension is released. At least usually. The giants of the game resolve their differences in the FA Cup, Champions League and so forth. And that’s it, we go into a reverse hibernation, away from the sun and warmth, pleading for the new season and cold to return.

Except, not this season, of course, we aren’t getting to sense the seasonal shifts, the big coat doesn’t get its ceremonial debut, the temperature stays artificially constant. I was not the slightest bit concerned about yesterday’s game. It was unfortunate that we’d drawn the best team in the competition who we’re very familiar with anyway, but it feels like we’re trying to get this season out of the way as quickly as possible. Like clicking continue on a game of Football Manager without changing anything because you’ve lost enthusiasm for your team.

The usual defensive frailties aside, we seemed to play OK, but this must be what it’s like watching training; good movement, passing, plenty of effort, but the goals at either end are of little consequence. I’m quite glad we’re out; it just allows us to get on with picking our way through the league season without distractions or even the disappointment of a big name draw that we can’t go to.

Looking at the optics, the prospect of getting to a game this season feels pretty low. It’s hard to see cases dropping to a level where the government will confidently allow fans back in before the spring. The current lockdown seems principally to allow some kind of normal Christmas to happen, but surely caution will remain through January and February at least. 

Maybe by the spring we might edge towards something, part test event, part PR stunt, if cases are falling or the prospect of a vaccine becomes a reality maybe there will be a will to return. But, by that point, the season will be mostly spent. The warm weather at the end of season usually feels like a reward for our perseverance through the harsh winter months and the elation and despair, the wasted energy of an away defeat or the rare reward of a 96th minute winner. That moment where you want to tell your non-supporting friends and colleagues you were there, but they’re not interested, so it just lives inside you to be re-run in your head when things feel bleak.

The league, of course, will determine where we start next season when, maybe, things are closer to normal. The priority has to be not to be any lower than we were when this whole thing started. As dislocating as this season has been, we can’t lose sight of that necessity. The cups, on the other hand, with all their self-contained beauty are an irrelevance or a painful reminder of what we’ve lost. I’m kind of happy it’s already over.

George Lawrence’s Shorts: Swind-off, Charlt-on

Saturday 24 October 2020

Saturday’s postponed derby against Swindon has created a serious backlog of fixtures. The compressed season means that games are backing up, so we’re unlikely to see the derby rearranged until Christmas when no games are ever played. Christmas Day is looking fairly blank for most people this year, so let’s Rocky IV this sucker and sort this cold war out once and for all. QUEUE: TRAINING MONTAGE.

Sunday 25 October 2020

Swindon boss Richie Wellens has named Toby Holland along with coaches Tommy Wright, Noel Hunt and Steve Mildenhall as those who tested positive last week. The club’s physio is also self-isolating because, according to Wellens’ bamboozling medical jargon ‘he looked really bad’. If you’ve been unable to attend your loved one’s funeral or lost your job, you really need to get your priorities right: “The goalkeeper needs someone to warm him up.” wailed Wellens by way of explanation. 

Monday 26 October 2020

It was the draw for the first round of the FA Cup on Monday with Grant Holt caressing his balls live on TV in front of Lindsey Hipgrave. A bit like a low rent version of that Peter Crouch thing that they had on in the summer. In these troubled times, the FA Cup offers a reminder of happier times of old. The smell of stale cigars, the stench of cheap aftershave, the whiff of vaguely criminal activity; yes, our home tie against Barry Fry’s Peterborough will come as a soothing balm on our furrowed brow.

Tuesday 27 October 2020

Charlton had the good grace to turn up to face KRob’s plucky part-timers on, well, Loseday? Twosday? You pick. Despite a spirited opening, Oxford gifted two goals before half-time so everyone could switch off and catch the end of Bake Off. Following the 2-0 defeat, Oxford now have less clean sheets than Trainspotting’s Spud after a big night on the skag. 

Wednesday 28 October 2020

There are lots of reasons to be positive when you’re from Swindon. It’s not that far from Oxford and there’s always the knowledge that death will come to us all eventually. Swindon supporters club chairman and amateur virologist, Peter Norris has been looking on the bright side of his team’s failure to fulfil the derby fixture on Saturday. “If there’s one positive we can take from this though, it’s that – depending on when the game is rearranged for, hopefully the new year – fans may be able to go.” He didn’t elaborate on which new year.

Elsewhere, The Sheffield Star has revealed why John Lundstram is set to leave Sheffield United in January. The man whose fantasy football defensive credentials were so over-inflated last season KRob couldn’t actually see him has pushed cosmopolitan sophisticat Čhrįßtøphë Wïlłdē’s patience a little too far.

Thursday 29 October 2020

It was the Six Minute Nine Second Fans’ Forum on Radio Oxford with KRob on Thursday. Talk quickly turned to the man who’s been overdoing the hand sanitizer this year, Sensible Simon Eastwood. Is it possible the glovesman might be dropped? Asked one fan, ‘Everyone can be dropped’ said KRob with ice flowing through his veins. No one drops ‘em like KRob, apart from Sensible Simon, of course. 

Meanwhile the Dundalk Donkey Pat Hoban watched on as his team went down 3-0 to Arsenal in the Europa League.

Friday 30 October 2020

It’s a Halloween spooktacular tomorrow as Oxford face Fleetwood for a trick and a treat. Joey Barton has been talking about the game; ‘There’s no doubt about it, Oxford are a top ten side.’ he said about the team currently 23rd. GLS once went to a Halloween party as Joey Barton; we used to trick people into thinking we’re a reasonable human being by wearing glasses and talking about books, and then treat them to a choke hold to the throat and a punch in the face. 

Match wrap: Oxford United 2 Newcastle United 3

The Kassam Stadium has been corralled by big trucks, small trucks, trucks with small satellite dishes, trucks with big satellite dishes, trucks whose only purpose, you imagine, is to transport other trucks. The BBC doesn’t do much football, but when it does, it stays done.

Pitchside, the FA Cup sits proudly on a plinth. There are blinding arc lights with three cameramen filming three people. One is undeniably Michael Appleton, his cheekbones defined in the bright light. There’s another bald pundit who turns out to be Alan Shearer. Master of Ceremonies is Gabby Logan looking part human rights lawyer, part stay-at-home mum; both an every-woman and no woman you’ve ever met.

In between short bursts of football chat she’s riffles through a clipboard straining to hold a mountain of paperwork. It’s difficult to imagine what it contains. A make-up artist jumps in enthusiastically to brush her hair, Logan doesn’t flinch, it’s all part of the job. Nobody gets the Mr Muscle out to buff Appleton or Shearer’s bald pates.

In between the rabble, the club’s SLO, Kath Faulkner weaves her way through a mountain of people busying herself uploading another vignette from the team’s warm up to social media. And there’s Chris Williams looking like a nightclub bouncer, who with Martin Brodetsky – Oxford United’s Waldorf and Statler – represent the very soul of the club.

Around the pitch the fancy flashing advertising boards are back promoting our game against Accrington Stanley, £20 replica shirts and prescription-free Viagra. We have a sleeve sponsor for the night that fixes scuffed trainers.

It’s clear the club is operating at the edges and perhaps beyond its current capacity. This is the fourth Premier League team we’ve faced this season, the second prime-time live TV game and the sixth 10,000-plus crowd. Emotionally, it feels like we’re at breaking point.

The mood is confident rather than arrogant or apprehensive. Ticketing and the close proximity to the first game means that most of the regulars around me are sat slightly out of position. It’s like when the binmen leave number seven’s wheelie-bin outside number nine and number nine’s food bin in number 22’s garden, everything is familiar but slightly confusing.

Three seats next to me are vacant until moments before kick-off. Normally they’re occupied by season ticket holders, but seconds before kick-off people I’ve never seen before turn up sporting half-and-half scarves.

I’ve made my peace with half-and-half scarves, they’re no different to souvenir programmes and if those attending get an ounce more enjoyment out of their experience from buying one, then that’s a small step closer to them coming back.

It becomes evident that the lady sat next to me is, in fact, a Newcastle fan. She sings quietly and un-self-consciously along with the Toon fans in the North Stand. It turns out she lived near Kevin Keegan back in the 80s, but I guess everyone from Newcastle says that.

The game starts and it’s clear that our confidence is well founded. We’re not overawed or being outplayed. They put pressure on Marcus Browne which limits his scope and press Josh Ruffels and Sam Long. While we struggle to break out as an attacking threat, if we are going to concede, you suspect, it’ll be because of a bad luck or a mistake.

The mistake comes on 15 minutes. Mark Sykes over-plays in midfield, loses the ball and Sam Longstaff races forward to fire home. It’s not a howling error and Longstaff has plenty more to do once in possession, but it’s enough to separate the sides. 15 minutes later, Marcus Browne loses the ball on the edge of their box, the referee is liberal in his appliance of the rules all night, but he’s right about this one; no foul. A long ball to Joelinto creates a one-on-one with Rob Dickie and it’s 2-0.

They’re efficiently good, though it’s closer to Rotherham than futuristic Manchester City space-football. Given that they’re a serviceable defensive unit, it looks like game over.

Quixotically we then find some fluidity; Jamie Mackie goes close, Sam Long has one headed off the line. It’s nice to see us play. What’s lacking is a driving force. Browne is squeezed out, Henry is injured and Baptiste has gone. Mark Sykes becomes an unlikely pivot around which good things happen.

There’s a quiet acceptance over half-time that we’re at journeys end. The main objective now is to avoid injuries and humiliation. The second half is scrappy; their early efficiency has deserted them but we’re stuck between attacking and conceding more on the break.

On the hour Browne goes down and Karl Robinson instantly replaces him; it feels like he’s conceding defeat. We’re not always perfect, but we’re still playing with a signature style. Some of their passing is indistinguishable from the Conference; four or five times the ball simply runs out of play. Still, they have the two goal buffer and we have little in response, so it matters not.

The game becomes painful, Newcastle fans sing songs at Alan Shearer who is holed up in a black box that makes for a studio in the corner – ‘They’re perpetually stuck in the 90s’ says someone near me. But, Shearer is the most glamorous thing about the game, if I was watching this on TV, I’d be channel surfing for Live At The Apollo on Dave, even if it featured Jason Manford.  

The clock ticks on, we’re tiring on and off the pitch. Nathan Holland is mainlining energy gels. With Matty Taylor just back from injury and Dan Agyei and Liam Kelly barely having 90 minutes of football between them this year, even our fresh legs don’t have fresh legs.

Five minutes to go, through all the scrappiness we draw a foul 25 yards out. Liam Kelly stands over the ball, he has the stature of Sam Deering, so the distance looks about three times what it is. Physically we’re drained, but this is a purely technical challenge so we have a chance. Kelly exquisitely lifts the ball over the wall and past the keeper for 2-1. He dutifully trots back to the centre-circle, but a smile on his face shows how pleased he is with it. It’s almost identical to Chris Maguire’s goal at Middlesborough three years ago. Look what happened then.

But that’s fanciful hope rather than expectation. As we tick into injury time, we win another free-kick in the centre circle. Suddenly everything is simple; equalise or lose heavily. Simon Eastwood abandons his goal to make a nuisance of himself up front. Kelly pitches the ball to the back post; Sam Long who’s put in an exhausting shift, pops it up, Eastwood stares into the sky trying to locate it like a village cricketer blinded by the sun. His bewilderment disrupts the Newcastle back line allowing Ruffels to win the second ball which drops to where Nathan Holland is loitering. Holland watches it fall from the night’s sky, swings a boot and connects.

Now we’re in the hands of destiny. The ball arrows its way through a narrow alleyway of opportunity. I’m right behind it; gravity brings the ball down, potential energy transfers into kinetic energy via biomechanics. A confluence of science, a moment of liquid poetry, the ball hits the net and the place implodes. If we’re going down, it’s going to be with grenades and flamethrowers. Holland celebrates like he’s from the 50s with both hands in the air. The stadium is carnage, like a coach crash in an ice storm; bodies are everywhere, shoes are lost, grannies thrown into the air. Even with its imperfections and gaping open end, sometimes The Kassam can feel like home. For moments, live on national TV, the world can see why we do what we do.

And then, the reality. As the final whistle goes, a person on my row nudges past and doesn’t come back, his cup of Horlicks beckons. We start extra-time brightly and threaten again with Dan Agyei. But it can’t be sustained and we run out of puff; only Sykes seems to maintain the intensity, growing more influential as the minutes tick by. Our only option now is to survive to penalties, even with precious few natural penalty takers on the pitch. George Thorne comes on looking like the banjo-tech from Mumford & Sons, it’s good to see him back, but he’s a long way from fit.

Conceding is, perhaps, inevitable and it comes eventually from Saint-Maximin, who is built like an American wrestling figurine. With five minutes to go and no energy to respond, hope slips away. They celebrate wildly; but given the preposterous financial gap between the two clubs, they should be beating us and it shouldn’t take three and a half hours to do it. Exhausted and heroic, the cup dream is over. It’s been a heck of a run.

There are times this season when it feels like we’ve been on loan to somewhere else – the Carabao Cup, Premier League, Sky Sports and the BBC. We depart in a blaze of glory in front of the nation; there’s no better way to fail. Tomorrow, it’s back to normality and the simple reality of seven games in 21 days. Perhaps the 5th Round wasn’t much of a prize after all.

Match wrap: Newcastle United 0 Oxford United 0

I’ve had a sense of foreboding and dread all week, a mild, manageable mental health wobble that occasionally creeps up on me. As it turns out, the week ended on a bad note, not directly for me, but for some people near me. It turned out to be a mentally challenging week that I was pleased to see end.

Saturday’s game rather got lost in the fuzz, at times like this I particularly appreciate the bubble that the club and its community provides; the familiarity of a game on Saturday, the simple consensus of our common cause, it provides welcome, necessary insulation from life’s less predictable challenges.  

But, what was Saturday’s game against Newcastle? People talked about it being a great occasion, making a day of it, on the Friday night the club had Karl Robinson, Matty Taylor and Cameron Brannagan do a meet and greet at a local hotel. There were a few who fetishised the dystopian presence of VAR, like we were going to a Premier League theme park with all its horrors. The whole thing could easily have been treated as a fantasy or a PR exercise, because in a sense, we couldn’t lose, even if we’d lost.

Would we remember there was a game to play? What kind of game? Newcastle are a curious club; in the same way we were defined by the Firoz Kassam business model; tenants to a slum landlord, Newcastle United are defined by Mike Ashley’s business ethos; take a premium brand past its sell-by date, strip it of its value and sell it cheaply back to any remaining customers.

So, after a sluggish week, Friday slipped into Saturday and the yellow caravan mobilised; by car, by train, by coach. The giddy excitement of the adventure. Into the bubble, moving north. But for what purpose? In hope? Simply because it was there to do?

St James’ Park looked great, a true cathedral of football; 52,000 fans, 3,700 of us packed into the seventh tier of their huge Leazes Stand. We even loved the indignity of being exiled to a spot closer to the moon than the pitch, like captives with Stockholm Syndrome. Apparently in awe, it could all have gone horribly wrong come 3pm.

As it turned out, with the battle finally joined, we were ready. Newcastle are on the right side of the financial chasm between the Championship and Premier League and are built for one thing, to stay there. Not the entertainers of the 1990s, they’re survivors of the 2020s. Like one of Ashley’s high street shops, chugging away doing whatever it takes to survive. Steve Bruce is the perfect manager; focussed and pragmatic, building his team around formidable physical units; Allan Saint-Maximin and Joellinton as much the front line of defence when faced with Manchester City and Liverpool as an attacking threat. 

They’re not built to win games, snatch them, yes, but there are few teams in the Premier League that Newcastle would simply try to outplay. Points in their last two games, causing an upswing in optimism, have come from last minute goals. A team of elite desparados.

Playing our third Premier League team of the year, our own well-disciplined conservatism is partly drawn from our surroundings, but also from our personnel. Sam Long and Elliot Moore are building careers on doing their job, not thrilling the crowd. We’re becoming accustomed to how this works now.

We allow Newcastle the ball, but they don’t know what to do with it. They’re simply not used to it. Set plays are a threat, sheer brutish physicality stretches us from time to time, but we’re not outclassed. Karl Robinson talks about exhausted bodies, we’ve played 11 more games than them this season, but our minds are fresh.

Their hope is that we might eventually wilt under the pressure, succumb to mental and physical tiredness, the occasion and the prize on offer. But, there’s no craft, Saint-Maximin burns himself out despite a couple of forays against Sam Long, Joellinton grows frustrated at his own short-comings. This is a player who might realistically hope to score no more than ten times a season, for a striker, it must be maddening; doubly so when your supporters expect double.

We don’t wilt, later on Alex Gorrin has the clarity of thought to draw a foul and a booking when caught out of position, Mark Sykes does the same a couple of minutes later. It’s a pivotal moment; when you’ve got 52,000 people howling at you in disgust it takes a brave, clear headed and mature man to accept the berating for the greater good. Sykes comes of age in that moment, Gorrin is his mentor. The fouls were cynical, but necessary, a reward for the discipline; any early bookings and those moments wouldn’t have been an option.    

Into the final moments and the game loosens up, it feels like we’re growing into our more natural game while they seem to be falling apart. Marcus Browne, who looks like he has the physical match of his highly paid opponents, sees a gap, but can’t quite re-organise his feet and shoots weakly. Nathan Holland, more slender and louche, nearly converts. Far away in the sky, the noise of 3,710 fans tumbles down the stands. 

And there you have it. Through all the hullabaloo, there was a match. We were ready. Physically and tactically ready, but more than that, we were mentally prepared in a way I hadn’t expected. In a week where I’ve lived mostly in my own head, it’s a joy to see the team using theirs; the clarity and maturity and the reward at the end. Saturdays are a gift for the difficulties that life can throw at you, players often praise the commitment of the fans, but sometimes we understate the importance of their efforts and the impact they have beyond the 90 minutes on the pitch. Saturday’s result and performance illustrated that perfectly.

Still in the Cup, always in the bubble.

Match wrap: Oxford United 4 Hartlepool United 1

I tend to park in a little side road about 10 minutes from the ground. Apart from the busiest games, there’s always space. Not many people know about it and there’s a small group of us who do know how to make the most out of the space available.

I was looking forward to getting back to normal after three 10,000+ attendances. I left the house at my usual time and arrived at my usual spot. Someone had parked on the wrong side of the road creating a chicane, limiting the space available. There wasn’t space for me, so I had to park in my ‘big-game’ spot instead.

The ticketing strategy for the FA Cup win over Hartlepool undoubtedly worked, but it did create a lot of irregular behaviour. There seemed to be a lot of newbies; kids in brand new merchandise, queues outside the South Stand, which is unheard of. It was a real success.

I happened to be sitting in my regular seat thanks to Brinyhoof, but nobody else was. The unallocated seats seemed to change the dynamic of the crowd, making it a much more passive, expectant experience. At times it felt like we’d turned up to watch a training session or friendly. People were here to be entertained.

The pre-match gathering to recognise mental health and/or John Shuker and/or everyone who died last year was confusing. They were all important things to mark, but all at the same time made the atmosphere even stranger. Thankfully, nothing touched the farce of the Armistice ceremony at Portsmouth. But then, nothing could.

On the pitch, we stroked the ball around reassuringly, Karl Robinson, usually a hyperactive lunatic on the touchline, spent much of the first half rolling his eyes in a professorial way at the incompetence around him. Nobody seemed that bothered about turning it into a competitive, must-win game.

Then, in a moment reminiscent of San Marino’s goal against England in 1993, Rob Dickie scuffed a back pass and they darted in to score. It created an even more peculiar atmosphere; there was an expectation in the stands that this would be put right, like taking back an over-ripe pack of peaches to Waitrose.

But initially there seemed to be no reaction. They didn’t look threatening, but then neither did we. What was needed, and is needed in all games, is someone to grab the game by the scruff of the neck. Usually we rely on Cameron Brannagan or James Henry, but neither were available.

It was possible that we’d simply let the game slip by, compressing the time available to get the equaliser, then a winner. They never looked particularly threatening and they seemed to have vulnerabilities we could exploit. This was no better illustrated by Michael Raynes; a great guy who had a solid game, but let’s not forget he was a second string League 2 central defender for us. Five years ago. They were nothing special. It could have been the strangest giantkilling in history; driven by apathy with the risk staring us in the face.

Shandon Baptiste can cut an insouciant character, he doesn’t dart about finding spaces, driving people on, he’s rarely stretching for balls, he can look like he’s waiting for the game to come to him. Without Henry or Brannagan we needed someone to change the patterns of the match. Their role was to put bodies behind the ball, ours was to find a way through. Baptiste is the one with the tools to do it, but whether he had the will was another question.

Then, suddenly he was finding a breathtaking range of passing with new angles that cut out lines of Hartlepool’s defence and stretched them in ways they didn’t know they could be stretched. One ball out to Sam Long was simply breathtaking. He has such presence of mind, that there was one foul on the half-way line where he fell while staying on his feet until he was sure the referee had given it. He was in complete control.

His goal, of course, was the culmination of it all. Barrelling through players with step-overs, dummy’s and a dropped shoulder. Like an extended remix of his goal against West Ham.

In the end, it was all quite comfortable and hopefully some of the day-trippers enjoyed their time enough to come to games which aren’t determined by the size of the opponents or the price of the tickets. That has to be the aim; with Rotherham, Ipswich, Sunderland and Portsmouth to come, as well as the next round of the Cup, there’s plenty of entertainment on offer in the coming weeks.

We have a number of flight-risks this transfer window – Dickie, Brannagan, Baptiste. But, where Dickie and Brannagan are most likely to be targeted by teams in the Championship, teams we could be playing next year, you sense with Baptiste that he has the potential to go higher. My hope is that whatever path he does take, its developmental and he doesn’t find himself stuck in a Championship squad keeping their head above water, his home should be at the very top of the game.

George Lawrences Shorts: Exiter Pity

Saturday 30 November 2019

A master of his craft, even at 35 James Constable still knows where the goal is. He was stood right behind it for our 1-0 annihilation of Walsall in the FA Cup on Saturday. Beano was welcomed into the away end with open arms, but wouldn’t be drawn on his rebuffing of an Italian former Swindon Town manager with right wing peccadillos.

Sunday 1 December 2019

Walsall manager Darryl Clarke is a barrel of laughs isn’t he? He had nothing but uplifting and positive comments for his charges following their exit from the FA Cup “My players aren’t at their level, anywhere near it to be honest at the minute.” said ray of sunshine Clarke.

Alongside the bearded lady and the pushmepullyou, Sheffield United are turning into one of history’s great freakshows. The Telegraph – who always look at outsiders with suspicion – did their 426th profile of Christophe Wilde on Sunday and how he dragged himself up by the bootstraps. The story has acquired magical legend now featuring a magical sprite, pocket racist, Sam Deering; ‘his best player’ when he joined Oxford in 2008.

Monday 2 December 2019

If it’s Monday, then it must be another reference to rummaging in a velvet ball bag. Oxford have been drawn to play either Our Friends in the North – Hartlepool or our friends in the South – Exeter City

Tuesday 3 December 2019

To the Championship, all the way. Stat virgins FiveThirtyEight have crunched the numbers on our current form and predicted that we’ll finish second in League 1 this season.

Wednesday 4 December 2019

Oopsy. Oxford missed out on a trip to Wembley for a game against Bournemouth’s Walking Football Team in the MySpace.com Trophy on Wednesday. The 0-0 draw meant there were only marginally less goals than supporters. We trolled the competition by missing three penalties in a row in the shoot out. That’ll show them.

Before the game KRob said he’d secured the services of a stand-in ‘keeper after Simon Eastwood picked up a boo boo on his knee against Walsall. As an early for Christmas parlour games, KRob mimed some clues as to his identity; four syllables, promoted from League 1, full international. This rules out Alan Judge, which is a shame as he was ironing his goalie gloves in preparation for a recall at the time.

Thursday 5 December 2019

It was the Seven Minute Six Second Fans Forum on the radio on Thursday with charisma hoover Niall don’t call me Niall, it’s Niall McWilliams. Mrs Don’t Call Me Niall McWilliams will be pleased to hear that he mostly plans to do his Christmas shopping in the club shop, so she’ll be stealing herself to smile thankfully when she unwraps her novelty Jamie Hanson thong and bra set on the big day.

Friday 6 December 2019

It’s everyone back to the Kassam on Saturday to watch eager families heading into Vue to watch Frozen 2. The visitors are Shrewsbury who are led by angle faced ex-Oxford full-back Sam Ricketts.

Oxford’s glovesman will be Jordan Archer who has been signed to cover Simon Eastwood. Archer was released by Millwall in the summer and appears to have been scratching a living as a Kane Hemming’s impersonator. The job involves turning up to things which have long been decided and taking credit for its success by making a last-minute meaningless contribution.