Midweek fixture – Jamie Guy’s summer of love

Football can leave an indelible mark on the consciousness of fans. Stories of great seasons, games and moments are told and re-told, embellished and changed until they blend into the folklore of your club. The stories that endure are played out in great theatres in front of thousands of people but there is one story Oxford fans still tell that was played out in front of sparse crowds for no real purpose. How can that be? How did Jamie Guy’s 2007 pre-season goalscoring spree become the stuff of legend? 

Guy’s arrival from Colchester United in July 2007 was supposed to help refocus his career, a teenage sensation at Colchester with a couple of Championship goals to his name, things had started to go ary. He was struggling to get a starting berth at Layer Road and had just been convicted of a number of driving offences, a fresh start was just what he needed.

To a club like Oxford, Guy’s shortcomings were easy to overlook. No player in the fifth tier is flawless, but a goalscorer can be the key to promotion. Manager Darren Patterson had set about building an exciting, attacking side to release the club from the mire which had been decades in the making. He brought in Lewis Haldane, James Constable, Rob Davies, Chris Carruthers and Joe Burnell, but Guy was his marquee signing.

In the Conference, looks count, an asymmetric haircut and neat line in free-kicks could win you a contract just because you looked a bit like David Beckham. Guy was strong and bullish, quick with a low centre of gravity, squint and his style could have been mistaken for Wayne Rooney.

His Oxford debut was in the first pre-season game against Brackley Town. Despite a 2-1 reverse to the Southern League side, Guy, though not fully match fit, was only denied a debut goal by a fine save from ex-Oxford keeper Richard Knight. His assist in Lewis Haldane’s consolation goal was a promising start.

Days later, the squad headed to Banbury United, after quarter of an hour, Guy burst from his own half to set up James Constable for the opening goal, seconds into the second half he smashed home his first goal for the club. Later, he netted his second, showing his class by rounding the Banbury goalkeeper to make it three in a 4-0 rout.

Another goal in a 3-1 win over Maidenhead United solidified Darren Patterson’s thinking, Guy and Constable were his first choice strike partnership, a decision he sealed by giving Constable the number 9 shirt for the season and Guy number 10. 

With things looking promising, attention turned to the first home friendly of the summer against a Manchester United XI. Two years previously Jim Smith’s friendship with Sir Alex Ferguson had secured a pre-season game against a full strength United including Cristiano Ronaldo. The rassible Scot was less benevolent this time sending Ole Gunnar Solskjær down with a team of junior players including future England international Danny Drinkwater. 

None-the-less the lure of the Red Devils persuaded a crowd of 6,000 to brave the blistering heat of mid-summer. Patterson, playing his strongest eleven, saw his side race into the lead with Yemi Odubade scoring the opener. After 52 minutes Guy picked up an Odubade pass, drove forward, cut inside the fullback and took aim, his first shot was blocked on the line but instinctively he followed up to fire home the rebound. Although Manchester United fought back to 2-2 the result, and Guy’s performance, was making waves. 

The goal spree continued a few days later as James Constable back-heeled a lost cause to set Guy up to blast the ball past Wycombe keeper Scott Shearer in a 1-1 draw. With five goals in five games, Guy was the one-to-watch with his pace and power. If he could do this to League teams and the best youngsters in the country what might he do to Conference defenders? 

Next up was more League opposition as Cheltenham Town visited the Kassam. It was a humbling experience to welcome a team that many Oxford fans considered beneath them, but they were sure to be another stern test.

The newly gelling side were more than a match for the League 1 side. Just before half-time, Guy sprinted 40 yards to convert an Adam Murray pass for the opening goal. A quick Cheltenham equaliser didn’t deter the Yellows as Guy drove home from inside the box to restor the lead before half-time.

The opening day of the season and a long trip to Barrow was looming, but for fans, it couldn’t come quickly enough. Patterson had built a side with real attacking potency able to frighten teams way above the Conference. Guy had converted seven goals in six games – a tally that would have made him the previous season’s third top scorer.

A prestige friendly completed pre-season as Harry Redknapp brought FA Cup holders Portsmouth to the Kassam. Pompey were showcasing their new £11m striker, England international Peter Crouch, who’d signed over the summer. For Oxford, securing the friendly was a coup, showing that we still mixed in the right circles, plus we had our own striking revelation to show off. The mood was celebratory, a final farewell to the summer before an assault on promotion.

Patterson fielded his strongest team with Guy and Constable once again up front. The opening minutes saw Guy, now full of confidence, showing his class against his illustrious opponents. The crowd buzzed contentedly.

Suddenly there was a deathly hush, the buoyant mood evaporated. Guy was gesturing to the bench and clearly limping. Darren Patterson hurriedly prepared Michael Husbands as Guy disappeared down the tunnel, nobody was ready to make a substitution after just eight minutes. The team battled to a creditable 2-1 defeat but all the talk was of the striker’s injury, the start to the season and how Oxford’s promotion plans were in tatters.

The hamstring injury initially ruled him out for a month, days later the team made the long trip to Barrow for the opening game of the season. Live on TV, Oxford were ominously swept aside 3-0. Guy didn’t return until the fifth game of the season by which time Oxford had won one game and failed to score in four. He returned for the August Bank Holiday draw against Woking looking a shadow of the wrecking ball striker the fans had seen over the summer. 

His first goal came against Cambridge United in a 3-1 win at the end of September, but the writing was already on the wall. He showed moments of what had been, scoring in the FA Trophy and FA Cup, but mostly he seemed slow and unfit. Oxford were third from bottom and floundering. He’d get back in the side, but then slip out again with another niggling injury, more importantly he wasn’t scoring. 

By early December it was all over for Darren Patterson, his promising attacking, entertaining side couldn’t pull themselves from the tractor beam of the relegation zone. Jim Smith took over as caretaker manager and Guy scored his final league goal in a 3-1 win over Mansfield, his first since the Cambridge game. But the writing was on the wall, whispers were that he was surplus to requirements. 

Guy’s last game came on New Year’s Day away at Salisbury as new manager Chris Wilder took charge. Colchester cancelled his loan deal but that suited everyone just fine, a glorious summer romance had turned sour.

Guy lasted at Colchester for another year before slipping into the whirlpool of non-league, each new club hoped to reignite the promise he’d shown during that summer in Oxford. In 2011 he shattered his leg while playing for Braintree Town and was never the same again. While working as a hod carrier, in 2016 he received a suspended sentence for attacking his girlfriend during a row. Things seem to have stabilised since then, last year, aged 33, he could be found plying his trade in the Chelmsford Sunday League for Priory Sports.

There are a million footballers with Guy’s story; bad luck and bad decisions blighting the potential of a rare talent. Their stories are frequently lost in the noise, although for Oxford fans, they’ll always have that glorious summer.

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.

Kassam All Star XI – Strikers part 3

Yemi Odubade and Steve Basham took us into the Conference era and were joined by the enigma that was Rob Duffy. Duffy’s extraordinary achievement was to score 20 goals in a season and still fail to impress an Oxford public starved of success.

Duffy’s goal tally was inflated by a large number of penalties. When these eventually dried up, he quickly fell from favour. His coup de gras was rolling the ball gently into the arms of the Exeter keeper when clean through and facing promotion and immortality in the face during the play-off semi-final in 2007.

Duffy’s impotence meant a number of replacements were tried to save our season. Marvin Robinson was a massive battering ram who eventually wrecked himself in a car crash. Chris Zebroski was the real deal and very nearly made the difference.

These paled into insignificance in comparison to Kristaps Grebis. Grebis was a Latvian with Champions League experience. He arrived midway through the 2006/7 season and looked utterly lost. Which pretty much describes our decision making at the time. He made just four appearances, but goes down in Oxford history as one of the all-time worst signings.

2007/8’s big summer signing was Gary Twigg. That fact alone proving how destitute we were . The myth of our largesse within the Conference remained, we signed Paul Shaw, but as soon as he realised what a mess we were in he moved to Hungary. Hungary, I tell you.

With Darren Patterson’s appointment came a flurry of loan deals including one Matt Green from Cardiff. Despite a troublesome knee, he just kept scoring. That summer it looked like he would make his move permanent. As people queued for their season tickets, and Nick Merry preened himself preparing to parade his new star, Green headed south and signed for Torquay. It was one of the greatest swindles in nothing-league football. He’d be back, though, being part of the strike force that got us to Wembley and back to the league.

Darren Patterson really knew how to sign a striker. At the start of 2008/9 he signed two loanees; Jamie Guy was one, the other James Constable.

Guy was an instant hit, storming the pre-season but was injured just before the opening game. He wasn’t the same when he returned, chugging his way to Christmas before being dispatched back to his parent club with just five goals to his name.

Constable was a slower burn, the catalyst for him coming to the fore was Chris Wilder. Sometimes Wilder’s decisions are moments of genius. An early decision was to invest his spirit and philosophy into Constable. Constable was Wilder on the pitch, someone he could trust and we could follow. He is so much more than a striker; he’s the only true icon of the Kassam Stadium era so far.

Around Constable Wilder built a powerful strike force. Perhaps it was a way of buying himself some time by announcing that Sam Deering was our best player days after we lost him to a broken leg. Fans wanted so desperately for Deering to succeed, but he, um, came up a little short.

Deering has his little part in our history; exchanging passes with Alfie Potter at Wembley before Potter slammed home the third decisive goal. Potter too is somewhat of an untouchable amongst fans and seemingly the manager.

Jamie Cook, The True Carrier Of Hope, had his moment of fame. But the classic trio was Constable, Green and Jack Midson, who will always be fondly remembered for his titanic performance at Wembley, but also The Miracle of Plainmoor.

The trio didn’t last long. More guile was needed for the league and Chris Wilder brought in his favourite ever toy; Tom Craddock from Luton and the mercurial Steve MacLean.

But throughout all of this was Constable, no Kassam Stadium XI will be complete without him. When we come to review the 20th anniversary of the Kassam Stadium; his name will be first on the teamsheet.

News round-up: loan stars

I was going to open this post by making out that I was slapping myself in the face trying to resist the temptation of being optimistic about the coming season. Luckily the Brackley result poured the necessary cold water on that.

Friendlies are horrible; if they’re meaningless then why do all teams play them? Fitness is one obvious reason; which is why Matt Day should expect to play a lot this summer. How do you manage to be a professional footballer and put on (as rumoured) a stone in weight during the close season? Especially shortly after being publicly told that he was on his way out of the club if he didn’t change his attitude. How stupid is Matt Day? Or is this why we love him so?

The other reason for friendlies is an opportunity to walk through some patterns of play – which is why James Constable’s winning goal against Oxford City is encouraging. At least he and the ball were in the right place at the right time to score.

Most of the week was taken up with the flurry of signings 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 although none of them are actually ours. I’m not sure of the ins and outs of the loan system. It seems we pay the salary and get a decent player – but we don’t get to keep them. I’m not comfortable with this idea because it seems to dilute the club’s identity (e.g. its best players aren’t really its players at all). On the other hand, I’ve never professed to being totally au fait with modern football and – like people using lower-case text message language in work emails – perhaps it’s the way things are done nowadays. It is, I suppose, a short term investment in a long term future.

Certainly Lewis Haldane and James Constable seem to have the backing from the fans of their parent clubs, which is a good sign. Jamie Guy, on the other hand, appears to be yet another ‘bad-boy’ (Robinson, Jeannin, Zebrowski). Although if he turns out to be a John Durnin, then who cares? Nicky Wire from the Manic Street Preachers once said of the Italians “As long as the manager wins the title it doesn’t matter if he’s caught sniffing cocaine out of the arsehole of a whore” which is kind of how I feel about Guy. One of the benefits of the loan system is that if he does make us successful, its because we’re a great club – if not, he’s from Colchester.

I wonder whether the signing of Jake Cole suggest that cracks in Billy Turley have started to show. Certainly Turley had is eccentric moments last season, although in the main he was excellent. The length of Cole’s signing suggests that Turley’s injury may be worse than originally perceived. Although goalkeepers are able to play into their forties, you have to question whether an injury that keeps him out for a total of five months throughout the summer and first two months of the new season may actually signal the beginning of the end.