George Lawrence’s Shorts: Rumpy Pompey

Saturday 20 February 2021

There was a dull stalemate on Saturday when Oxford’s trip to Ipswich Town resulted in a 0-0 draw. The game was decidedly underwhelming, particularly given that both clubs had been on fire the previous week. We mean, literally on fire

Meanwhile, Luton Town boss Nathan Jones has backed former Oxford striker Danny Hylton, saying he’d have scored more that ten goals this season despite a goal drought stretching back nearly two years. He just needs games, says Jones, and to stop living in a badger hole wearing shoes made of straw.

Sunday 21 February 2021

Former Oxford striker Andy Scott has been talking to Wales Online about his role as Head of Recruitment at Swansea City. Scott felt right at home when he walked through the door at The Liberty Stadium. “I inherited a recruitment department that was non-existent” he said “We were left with no analysts, no scouts, no reporting system.” In other words, it was totally David Kemped.

Monday 22 February 2021

March 26 is a date to mark in your diary and for MApp to tattoo on his forearm in Comic Sans. The big showdown between his Lincoln City table toppers and KRob’s Oxford has been moved for TV. The change to a Friday night gives fans the opportunity to get off their laptops for once and see football as it’s really meant to be; on an overpriced disinterested subscription TV channel.  

Tuesday 23 February 2021

Tuesday saw us slide to a narrow 1-0 defeat to Portsmouth. Oxford fans are aghast at our dramatic collapse in form following our best run of wins in 128 years. Is it too much to ask that we break that record twice in the same season? 

In brighter news, The Independent have done a profile of former Oxford United director and alleged child sex trafficker Ghislaine Maxwell, who is currently in jail in New York. In it, they reveal that one of Ghislaine’s successes was to establish an Oxford United supporters’ club. Wait, not seen in months? Has their own supporters’ club? Good with the kids? Olly the Ox, is that you?  

Wednesday 24 February 2021

Brandon Barker’s loan is in crisis according to Rangers News. They’ve expressed their concern that Barker is not getting game time at Oxford when he could be not getting game time back up north. Barker has only featured in six of the last six games and none of them against part-timers Tunnock Teacake Academicals. How is that going to prepare him for the structural unfairness of the Scottish Premier League next season? 

Thursday 25 February 2021

It was the Eight Minute Forty-Five Second Fans’ Forum on Radio Oxford on Thursday with Josh ‘don’t call me ruffles’ Ruffels. Ruffles, er, Ruffels discussed his favourite game, not searching his name on social media – it’s Ruffels, not ruffles – and the car PClot bought the squad which looked OK until you tried to go anywhere and then it fell apart. PARP! PARP! PARP! – ANALOGY KLAXON. 

Elsewhere, MApp will be kept in dumbbells and high protein milkshakes for the next few years as he’s signed a new contract with Lincoln City until 2025

Friday 26 February 2021

It’s the KRob derby on Saturday at MK Dons. The Oxford manager is considered a god in Milton Keynes after guiding them to The Championship in 2015. Current manager, Russell Martin was asked whether the return of The Roundabout Bill Shankly added a bit of spice to the game “Not for me,” he said staring up at a bronze statue of KRob stripped to the waist astride a mighty stag outside the stadium “Coming back here probably adds a little bit for him – but it’s the same for me.” It really doesn’t bother him does it? And it’s absolutely fine that his wife calls out ‘Karl’ when they’re making love. Absolutely. Fine.

Meanwhile, junior glovesman Jack Stevens has signed a new contract keeping him at the club until 2024. Stevens has become well established in the first team since taking over the family business from, dad, Sensible Simon Eastwood. 

George Lawrence’s Shorts: Your shirt, AAAAHHH

Saturday 28 November 2020

A gross misjudgement, a calamitous last minute mistake, grabbing defeat from the jaws of victory. Those were just some of the comments aimed as sWInD0N tOwN who issued a commemorative t-shirt and mug on Saturday night for no apparent reason.

Meanwhile, spellcheck’s worst nightmare and former Oxford no man, Fiarce Kelleher, has been opening up about his increasingly bizarre career. After being accidentally signed while delivering pizza to Oxford United, he went to Macclesfield and was promptly made redundant. Now he finds himself at Wrexham under the charge of Hollywood superstar chancers Ryan Renolds and Rob McElhenney. The duo plan to make the Wrexham story into a redemptive Netflix tearjerker. We’re looking forward to the spin off series – ‘Kelleher’ – which critics are expecting to be like The Littlest Hobo in shin pads.

Sunday 29 November 2020

The club have been looking into ways of those helping fans faced with the prospect of five days in a Christmas bubble with flatulent Auntie Sheila and her current boyfriend with the chunky gold necklace. One way out could be a solid viral load of the novel coronavirus pathogen so they have announced that Saturday’s defeat to Hull City will be a superspreader event for 1000 lucky punters

Monday 30 November 2020

Like Bono hanging off the back of a transporter plane sprinkling grains of wheat onto the savages below, the 1000 tickets were distributed online to the football starved masses on Monday. The arrangement was branded unfair by some loyal fans particularly for those without fingers or the internet or who live in 1978.

Elsewhere, if you’re wondering what those grunts and whistles are, it’s SwINdOn fans reacting to Saturday’s result on the website grammar forgot, The Swindon Advertiser.

Tuesday 1 December 2020

It was bitterly cold on Tuesday for the game against Ipswich Town, sensible Simon Eastwood’s mum phoned to tell him to put on his big coat and let junior Jack Stevens take over between the sticks. A new defensive unit, alongside an Ipswich attack who found it morally and ethically abhorrent to shoot, resulted in a 0-0 draw and the most welcome clean sheet since GLS’s first dry night after he got his new adult diapers.

Meanwhile, pre-season wonder Jamie Guy has lifted the lid on his so-called career. This includes how he amassed no less than three whole goals in a mere 34 games one season at Colchester and how Premier League sophisticate Čhrîßtøphë Wįłdė and Jim Smith both accidentally managed him at Oxford. Guy reckons Wįłdė could see his potential ‘I look forward to working with you.’ he said a week before letting him go back to Colchester. 

Wednesday 2 December 2020

Ipswich fans have been reacting to their heroic draw with Oxford last night. Tractor Boys fans were agog with the scintillating football on show describing it as ‘tripe’ and an ‘insomnia cure’. We should be so lucky, we’d kill for football as good as tripe.

Thursday 3 December 2020

I was The Nine Minute Twenty-Nine Second Fan Forum on Radio Oxford with KRob and Niall, don’t call me Niall, it’s Niall McWilliams. With the equivalent of a jumbo jet full of people dying every day from coronavirus related illness, one fan really got to the nub of the global crisis we’re currently engulfed in. If he has to wear a face mask at the game his glasses will steam up. McWilliams promised to look into changing the laws of thermodynamics for future games. 

Then it was over to KRob, who really set about showing how much he cared and got ‘it’ after the sWiNDoN tOwN defeat with a series of short, terse, caring and getting it answers. Did he regret singling out Mark Sykes? No. Are we too good to go down? No. Will Gavin Whyte come back on loan? Let’s see. So, also no.

Friday 4 December 2020

Hull City manager Grant McCann is wary of the trip to Oxford on Saturday, “They’re a good footballing team. They’re similar to Doncaster, Karl Robinson has done a tremendous job there the last year.” before bursting out laughing and revealing the real reason for his wariness; “It’s a long drive to Oxford”.

One person who is happy about the lockdown is Jack Midson, who claims that the suspension of football has prolonged his playing career. Us too Jack, our own thirty year career in top flight football particularly benefited from not having to play any games.

Match wrap: Oxford United 0 Ipswich Town 0

Football kits can speak volumes about a club’s state of mind. Block colours and classic designs suggest confidence and stability, outlandish combinations scream of a club wanting everyone to believe they’re OK, when probably they’re not. This season Ipswich Town have gone for a beautifully classic Adidas home strip and a grotesque away kit which looks like it’s been washed with a tissue in the pocket. It seems to characterise them well.

I hadn’t realised what a mess they’re in until I read this article in the Guardian yesterday. On paper, they’re one of the bigger teams in the division and sitting in 6th you’d think they were a solid promotion candidate. 

It’s clearly a climbdown from the team of the early 1980s which I supported before being seduced into the world of Oxford United. At that impressionable age, I thought all clubs won the FA Cup and conquered Europe before their manager and captain headed off to lead England. It was a heady few years, until Oxford turned my head and nearly did the same in the latter part of the decade. 

I suppose most League 1 clubs are on the brink of one disaster or another, it’s why they’re in the division they are. They live beyond their means and operate on short horizons, they fear League 2 or worse, but crave The Championship or better. Volatility is baked in. But, there’s something about Ipswich which always suggested a certain stability. Unlike Sunderland, Wigan or Bolton, who plummeted into League 1 like falling from a sixth floor window, Ipswich seemed to glide in by parachute destined to dust themselves off and glide back up again.

Oddly, our own position is much better, although our league position suggests otherwise. We seem to have a stable base and a proactive and ambitious board which is quite the opposite of the ghost club that fell asleep on the job, as the Guardian puts it. 

We are, however, going through something akin to a period of mourning after the defeat to Swindon on Saturday. It’s understandable, to some point, the end of a near-twenty-year unbeaten run is a shock. The specific nature of the collapse makes it all the more galling. 

Another way of looking at it, of course, is that we were also seconds from extending that unbeaten run, though there’s little comfort in saying that now. Like saying a dead loved one had a good innings. 

There’s been a lot of over-reaction to the defeat, accusations of people not caring or not getting ‘it’. Suddenly everything is wrong and someone has to be to blame. Inevitably there has to be a scapegoat and a lot of that anger has been directed at Simon Eastwood.  

Yesterday, almost everything Jack Stevens did was, according to someone or other on Twitter, something Eastwood could never do. Peter Rhodes-Brown described a routine clearance by Stevens as though Eastwood had never successfully kicked a ball in his life. Granted, his form has been sluggish, but his miskick against Swindon was a freak, not a sign of universal incompetence. 

I feel for Eastwood, a recent interview suggested that he had a healthy attitude to the game and that football was a job to him. His family are based in the north, it seems likely they’ll be in, or close to, a Tier 3 region. With the current frequency of games, it must be hard to see his family, recover from games and get his head right mentally. It’s harder to perform when you’re not happy. The temptation is to demonise him to satisfy our own frustrations, perhaps we need to think about what he needs.

Jack Stevens was largely untested on Tuesday and the game felt like an EFL Trophy tie at times. Ultimately, both teams needed a result to stem the tide of defeats they’ve suffered recently. On paper a clean sheet against a top six side looks like a good result, but looking below the surface, at all Ipswich’s problems, we might have expected more. Ultimately, it represented a symbolic victory over our inner demons, in another circumstance we might have demanded more, but at the moment, it’ll do. 

There were opportunities to win the game in the first half. On Saturday we took a chance, on Tuesday we hit a post. That’s the way it is sometimes. In the second half we did what we should have done against Swindon and strangled the life out of the game, Ipswich too seemed to be of a similar mind, and understandably so. Neither team needed the win more than they needed to avoid defeat. 

It wasn’t a great spectacle, but it met our immediate need. I, for one, will take that given the circumstances. Sometimes you can reignite a season with a jolt, as we did last year with a blistering win at Lincoln, other times you need to turn the corner more gently. These are strange times, and people are facing all sorts of struggles, perhaps we need to ease our way to recovery.

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: Karlito’s away

Saturday 22 February 2020

The big back wheels fell off The Tractor Boys’ promotion hopes on Saturday as Oxford strolled to a win 1-0 at Ipswich Town. Matty Taylor and James Henry combined to harvest the winner just before half-time.  

Sunday 23 Feb February 2020

Shandon The Baptiste has been talking about his step up to the Championship. ‘It’s the intensity that’s different’, said Baptiste reading from his Beginners Guide To Things To Say When Stepping Up A Division. The mind boggles when KRob’s ‘low intensity’ is like having colonic irrigation from a Karcher jet washer.

Monday 24 February 2020

Accrington are in town tomorrow and we’ve got some injury woes. Nathan Holland, Jedward Orphan Mark Sykes and Anthony Forde are all doubts. As a result Rob Atkinson has been recalled from Eastleigh. If Oxford United do throw away their chances of promotion, it’ll probably hit one of our midfielders and put them out of the game for six months.

Tuesday 25 February 2020

Accrington, a team that was formed solely for the purpose of being a punchline to a milk advert, were semi-skimmed alive on Tuesday in a 3-0 win. Matty Taylor delivered the first before James Henry had the bottle to add a second, Taylor gold-topped it off with the third. We are now in such great form only a global pandemic can stop us.

The game was marred by the news that the club have turned down a move from Blackpool for KRob. It was the most unwelcome proposition in Blackpool since Rear View Rita, the landlady of the Seafront Vista B&B, suggestively offered GLS an extra special donkey ride on holiday last year.

Wednesday 26 February 2020

The club have acted quickly to quash those Blackpool rumours as KRob stood by smiling awkwardly like a Tory MP’s wife after he’d been caught in a flat in Streatham wearing a nappy and snorting talcum powder. 

Elsewhere, Shandon The Baptiste has continued his goalscoring form at Brentford neatly slotting past his own goalkeeper after nine minutes against Luton Town.

Thursday 27 February 2020

It was the Six Minute Forty One Second Fans Forum with KRob on Thursday, who at the time of writing is the manager of Oxford United. In it he removed all doubts about his future saying that the board hadn’t given him any reassurances and he didn’t want a new contract. He also reminded us how he walked out on Charlton mid-season. He’ll be on holiday when the club have their pre-season training camp in Spain and if we end up playing Swindon next season getting a good result it’ll be ‘nothing to do with him’. So that’s quashed that one.

Friday 28 February 2020

The greatest mind in football, Brexit Sol Campbell brings his Southend side to the Kassam on Saturday. Brexit Sol is on a different paradigm to us mortals, he joined the Shrimpers with the explicit intention of getting them out of the division as quickly as possible. So, while everyone else tries to get out via the top, Sol’s found a secret exit at the other end nobody else has thought of. Genius. He reckons with the application of his great intellect, he’ll be out of there by March.

Match wrap: Ipswich Town 0 Oxford United 1

To paraphrase Half Man Half Biscuit, I was a pre-teen armchair Ipswich fan. When I was three, my dad let me choose my first football kit, and given the choice between old gold and black – his preferred Wolves option – and a blue and white ‘other’ – I picked the blue. When I asked who played in blue, dad said Ipswich Town and that was that.

It coincided with their glory years and fuelled many little obsessions I have about football. The FA Cup, flags, shirt number fonts, sponsors, penalty saves – Paul Cooper was the king – and a whole range of kit related things from away shirts to alternative coloured shorts.

I cried when Ipswich lost the 1981 FA Cup semi-final to Manchester City. Then they threw away the league title when they should have won it. They did win the UEFA Cup, but it was the beginning of the end of everything for me and them. In 1982, Oxford, who I’d been watching in real life, appointed Jim Smith. A few months later Ipswich manager Bobby Robson left for the England job sending them into a steep decline they’ve never really recovered from.

My transformation from Ipswich fan with an Oxford flirtation, to Oxford fan with an Ipswich past was all but complete. We soared as they struggled; in 1986, fresh from our Milk Cup win, we beat Arsenal to stay up sending Ipswich down in the process. It was kind of fitting.

Still, Ipswich Town v Oxford United holds a certain resonance for me. I can’t name any of their players, but I look at them as if staring through an opaque window at my lost childhood and the innocent wonder I used to find in football, most of which is lost never to be recovered.

With their brief period of glory bonded to my DNA somewhere deep down, I wasn’t expecting us to win on Saturday. A team like us, don’t simply go to Portman Road and beat a team like them. Ipswich were pre-season favourites for the title and still feel like an unobtainable benchmark we’d struggle to better. But, like a lot of teams that drop from the Championship, they’re clearly more damaged than they superficially appear. Even then, the club, it’s history and the ground still promotes something, for me, that is beyond us.

But, the win was a timely reminder of who we are and what Karl Robinson and the board have built. It has opened things back up for us as they go into free fall. It reminded me of our 1-0 win at Portsmouth in 2016 on the way to promotion. It wasn’t just the three points, it was the quality of the goal and management of the game in that setting that shows the maturity and potential we have.

It’s no coincidence that the core of Eastwood, Dickie, Brannagan, Gorrin, Henry and Taylor is back together, fit and healthy. That’s the unit that brought success earlier in the season. Keeping them all on the pitch at the same time has been the challenge. It’s a rare combination that we’ll struggle to maintain over the summer, so prepare yourself for more wailing about a lack of ambition, but for now, they have to be amongst the best in the division and we should just enjoy that.

The win turns what had been a daunting month into one of some promise. The remaining two games of February are both at home to lower placed teams and you get a sense there’ll be no complacency. We don’t feel like a team that does complacency. We’re the robust unit that lots of other clubs in this division aren’t, they trade off their great names and great histories, but they have a troubled soul. We probably shouldn’t forget that.

The season’s end is coming into view and it feels like after a brief wobble, we’re steadying the ship ready for the final charge. With fixtures starting to fall our way, we could build a head of steam that will take us into the play-off places leaving behind the more illustrious names the division has to offer. That is a memory that’ll be worth keeping.