It was a symbolic act parading Sam Deering around at shoulder height after his goal. Aside from looking like the player of the season trophy for a Sunday League team, his presence on the field may be a defining factor this season, although not for the reasons most people think.
Deering is revered in the stands, and Chris Wilder was once on record as saying that he was the most talented player in the squad. Yet, he hasn’t proved much of a goalscorer, nor a goal provider. Statistically, he’s not been much of a player. That said, he does put defences under constant pressure – a characteristic of yesterday’s win against Histon.
But, Deering’s role transcends his position on the pitch. He represents the man in the stands – if he’s alright, we’re alright. He’s (sort of) homegrown. He’s young and small and nippy. He’s a cheeky, chirpy, (sometimes racist), chappy. He proved that the God of Flukey Dead-ball Goals that so cruelly smited us on Tuesday, is an even handed overlord.
He gives the fans a focal point through which to channel their energy, and because he’s so charismatic, the energy is typically positive. It meant that the likes of Hargreaves, who was sensational yesterday, and Midson were able to grind away and establish a foothold in the game which others – Tonkin in particular, were able to exploit.
The Oxford crowd is notoriously edgy and with the scores level at half-time it would have been easy for the post-Luton panic to seep onto the pitch. But Deering’s presence kept the baying crowd back until we regained our step. We are the best squad in the league and the title has been in our hands all along, the fans can draw us away from that fact. Every game from here on in is ‘crucial’, but there is no need to fear any one of them. Deering is the regulator of our expectation.