Yellows 1 Kidderminster 2

The fact I listened to the Kidderminster defeat while shuttling back and forth to the local dump gives some indication where my subconscious prioritises the FA Trophy. Don’t get me wrong; winning a trophy at Wembley would have been great, and I wanted us to win. But when the scores were level and the discussion turned to fixture scheduling, I found my interest waning; when Kidderminster scored, I was relieved it was going to be resolved on the day. It was like the death of a frail elderly relative; ideally you want to keep them going but, in the end, artificially sustaining their life, delaying the inevitable, benefits nobody and it becomes a relief to see them go.

Talking of which, surely it’s time to kill Chester off. As much as I hate to see a club going under, and whatever the reasons for the doom, there is a point where the option of starting again is far more preferable to chasing down a lost cause.

They’ve continuously proven that they are a stricken ship; even if they do survive the chucking-out order on Friday, what chance they’ll complete their fixtures in anything resembling a competitive way? And what would the point be anyway as surely the prospect of surviving the summer remains wafer thin. The greatest they can hope for is to shift from one farcical situation to another. In the meantime, everyone suffers from their continual ineptitude.

Instead of getting wrapped up in the minutiae of saving a grand old club or the evil doings of dodgy businessmen, it’s time to look more broadly; for everyone’s sake, why can’t we just wring its neck and be done with it. Let them start afresh, let us get on with the season.

Chelmsford 1 Yellows 3

They say you should dress where you want to be, not where you are. Although if I drive a Ferrari and sleep with the girlfriend of someone at work; that doesn’t make me John Terry, it makes me a twat. Hmm, on the other hand…

For all the talk of what a Mickey Mouse competition the FA Trophy is, the fact we’re treating it with the same focus and seriousness as any league game is proof our success is based on focussing on where we are, not where we want to be. If it’s Chelmsford we’ve got to beat, then let’s stop worrying about whether they’re worthy of playing us and go and beat them.

And why not? Should we miss promotion for any reason, but end up lifting the Trophy at Wembley, it will still rank amongst the top 5 highlights of my 34 years of following the Yellows. As a football fan you don’t get the opportunity to be happy very often, I’ll take what I can, thanks very much.

We can take our status way too seriously. Should we ever reach the Premier League again, we will most likely be subject to a complete pounding week after week. If the necessaries are put in place to actually succeed in that bear pit, it’s likely to end in crippling debt and disenfranchised fans. For every silver lining there’s a cloud.

So, let’s enjoy this for what it is; success. As they say, you can only play that which is in front of you – although with the fixtures in the mess they are, who knows who that might be from one week to the next?

Yellows 1 Woking 0

I think we’re all agreed that it’s good to get back to winning ways after the Tamworth shock so let’s instead talk about Fozziegate.

For all Chris Wilder’s ‘ecky thump northern dourness he likes to create a drama like a drag queen with a broken heal. On the face of it, there was absolutely no reason to disrupt the best defensive unit in the league. We have been the best team by a country mile, and the defence has been the best of that team.

On the other hand, Wilder isn’t the first to take a dislike to Foster; both Jim Smith and Darren Patterson dropped him during their reign. What’s more, when there were rumours of Coventry being interested in him a few years ago, nothing came forth. In fact, as good as Foster has been, he’s consistently failed to generate any league club interest at all. Something’s not right there.

When Smith and Patterson got the hump with him, it was early in the season and it seemed that his fortnight in Magaluf had taken an extended toll. Eventually he got in his groove and proved to be one of the best and most consistent players at the club.

And it’s not as if Foster’s performances this season haven’t been first class. But, when push comes to shove, he was ultimately responsible for us drawing and eventually being knocked out by Barrow. And was one of those at fault for the equaliser against Salisbury.

In addition, one of the big problems with the 2006 collapse was the lack of a Plan B. Perhaps Wilder saw that Foster and Creighton were vulnerable when put under pressure. If that got out, the second half of the season could prove very uncomfortable. Perhaps the reconstruction of the back-four is just about changing the dynamic of the team.

What’s more, the squad does have to keep evolving, and for the first time in several years, the squad has reached a point where even the best players must be scrutinised. The likes of Rhodes and Kelly have gone; but there isn’t a name in the first team squad that wouldn’t raise an eyebrow if they were let go. It’s still a big call though.

Few can deny that Mr Wilder deserves our trust. He’s paid to make decisions, and it’s his job that’s on the line if he gets them wrong. Let’s face it; if it were down to our collective wisdom, then we’d be Ebbsfleet, and that’s a fate worse than death.

Yellows 1 Hayes and Yeading 0

Can you feel it? The distant carol song, the nip in the air? It’s unmistakable, that feeling of inevitable and impending doom. It’s been brewing for a few weeks; we’re not scoring enough, winning with enough style, then came Chris Wilder’s ‘enjoy it’ rant. Now we have a penalty crisis.

I don’t blame Wilder for being bewildered by the temptation to press the panic button when things are going just too well. Quite justifiably we have a reputation for capitulation, not just the collapse three years ago, it’s been a long time since we had a whole season of success.

Those of us that remember the 95/96 promotion run, will recall that it came off the back of half a season of spectacular results. We were no better than ordinary in the early part of the year.

You have to go back to 84/85 to see a season, which consistently delivered good results from August to May. It’s no surprise that we can’t sit back, relax and watch the success.

But, so far, every apparent wobble – Mansfield, Kidderminster and Barrow – has been followed by confident victory. The latest, 1-0 versus Hayes and Yeading, was important because it chased the fear from the door. Let’s be honest, the players are performing against a tidal of doubt, not in their ability to play football, but also in our ability to hold our nerve.

Yellows 1 York 1, Yellows 1 Altrincham 0

As we contemplate what impact Manchester City’s £100 million pursuit of Kaka will have on top flight football, we should also contemplate what the long term impact of our five point deduction and defeat to York will have on us.

The reality is that it could well have set us back 10 years. The next new tranche of money (aside from a cut of any future Dean Whitehead transfer) will come in the summer with the season ticket renewals. By this time we’ll be a below midway non-league team in its fourth year of Conference football… deep in a recession.

The recession is all relative of course, we’ll still have the biggest crowds and income, but we’re also living relatively way beyond our means. It’ll take some feat to lever us out of the league in that situation.

The departure of Phil Trainer prior yesterday’s win over Altrincham leaves Oxblogger without an official favourite player. I spent most of yesterday’s game trying to decide on who should replace him.

Turley, Foster, Constable and Yemi are all too obviously ‘good’, although Yemi has a bit of the Vern Troye about him. He may be ineffective, but he’s sooo cute. Dress him up in a teddy bear outfit and he’d win player of the season every year.

What’s more, the Oxblogger Official Favourite Player is a player that stands for something. Phil Trainer appealed because he punched some way above his natural talents. It was this sense of achievement in adversity which appealed.

Lewis Haldane is the complete metaphor for the whole club and therefore was a candidate. He’s got a great infrastructure that we don’t own but manages to disappoint week after week.

Others are either too young or too injured. Which makes Oxblogger’s Official Favourite Player… Chris Willmott.

Yesterday, as I looked around me to see a sea of acne’d faces, I’ve sat in my seat since we moved to the new stadium, but all others around me have moved on and been replaced by another tranche of teenagers lured by an afternoon out with their mates (only to eventually find out that girls are much more interesting). I feel like an old oak tree in the middle of a new business park that has a preservation order on it.

And, this, pretty much describes Willmott. All others around him change, but he keeps plodding on. Presumably he’s learnt that it’ll never get much better than it is at the moment, this is it for him, this is his job. He is me, and I is him. I feel we have a connection. Congratulations Chris.

Weymouth 2 Yellows 2, Sudbury 0 Yellows 2, Yellows 1 Stevenage 1

Cooper, Osman, Mills, Thijssen, Butcher, Murhen, Wark, Mariner, Brazil, McCall, Gates.

For reasons I may have previously gone into, but can’t be bothered to check, I did go through a period in the late seventies, early eighties of being an Ipswich Town fan. It coincided with their glory years under Bobby Robson.

Although I’ve had an association with Oxford since I was tiny, my interest really turned in the early eighties at which point we also entered a period latterly known as the glory years.

On both occasions it was complete happenstance. I subsequently went through my early adolescence thinking that supporting football was about exciting successful teams.

Anyway, as an Ipswich fan I was regularly seduced by their European exploits. Europe was literally miles away, the commentaries were crackily and distant. The teams AZ Alkmaar, Saint Ettienne, Borussia Moenchengladbach wore weird and wonderful kits.

In the back of Shoot magazine there would occasionally be adverts for replica shirts. I’d look at them longingly, those and the NASL shirts, hoping that I would get one for Christmas. I’d make lists of my favourites, narrowing them down the ones that had the Adidas stripes and matching tracksuit top.

On Christmas day I invariably would get a tracksuit, it would be plain blue with two stripes not three. It had probably come from the local sports shop and would now be illegal, such was its fire risk. My mum couldn’t see the subtle differences, but why should she?

Which is how I feel about the Chris Wilder appointment. For all the talk of John Ward, Steve Cotterill and Matt Elliot, Chris Wilder is a pretty underwhelming appointment. When Kelvin Thomas said he wanted somebody who had already done it, nobody thought he meant managing a failing former league team with an x in its name.

Still, let’s face it, we’ve tried everything else in the last 10 years. The returning messiah, the internal appointment, the former legends, the international big name, etc. etc. etc. None of its worked.

So, good luck to him. He’s got a bit of form, we’re at least steady following the draw with Weymouth, win against Sudbury and Saturday’s run-of-the-mill mid-table draw with Stevenage. Let’s give him a go.

Tonbridge Angels 1 Oxford United 0

Let’s face it, the football world, nor any other world is going to tilt on its axis as a result of our defeat to Tonbridge. It’s not so much a case of how do we get beaten by teams like that, it’s how have we ended up playing first team games in competitions which barely feature on Teletext let alone get coverage in the mainstream media.

Like beating a weakened Manchester United in the Carling Cup, it looks much better on paper than it does in reality. Tonbridge beat the Oxford United brand. The former league club, the Milk Cup winners with a big stadium. John Aldridge, Ray Houghton and all that jazz. They haven’t beaten a good side. If the same team wore different coloured shirts and called themselves Droyslden, nobody would be interested – though we’re deluding ourselves to think that because we’re Oxford anyone cares.

The winners, of course, are off to AFC Wimbledon. If Torquay are the ghost of our football present and Ebbsfleet the ghost of football yet to come, then Wimbledon are the ghost of football past.

This is the team that did what Oxford did around the same time Oxford did it, except they came from further down, rose faster, stayed at the top longer and won a better cup against a better team. Even their fall has been more dramatic and cataclysmic; at the party they got wildly drunk, sang loudly on the Karaoke before collapsing in a heap and puking in the taxi. We made a fumbled pass at a girl we’ve liked for ages, got totally humiliated, made an excuse that we needed the toilet and popped off home when no one was looking.

When Wimbledon were pillaged of everything they’d earn’t they were left with nothing but a shell and a spirit of a club, they dusted themselves off and got on with it.

We got lazy; fans, owners, managers and players. We thought the brand would carry us through. We forgot to work for our success; during the pre-season every new signing bar Twigglet were triallists. We got the desperados, the hired guns looking for work. Players no one else wanted.

We may have scoffed at the likes of Phil Gilchrist, Rufus Brevett and Gavin Johnson dragging their fractured frames around a pitch every Saturday. But these were players who understood the work needed to be successful. Physically, they couldn’t do it, but mentally it was all there.

Even the club’s administrators have forgotten the effort needed to keep the club ticking over. Last year a huge amount of effort was put into filling the ground on Boxing Day. This year, they really can’t be bothered.

The fans are turning up to games expecting us to destroy the opposition (We are Oxford, who are you?). When it doesn’t happen in the first five minutes they get on the players’ backs.

Roll on Saturday and a pointless pasting from Aldershot. Hopefully this self-flagellation through the cups will awaken everyone to the task ahead. Signings in January, work on the training pitch, communication with the fans and the fans recognising that without their positive input, there’s no point. Only when the realisation hits that this club needs building from the floor will success come.