George Lawrences Shorts: Karl Mechanics

Saturday 1 February 2020

Blackpool is a famous place for breaking your duck in a gritty and uncomfortable way. Fittingly, Oxford popped it’s 2020 league victory cherry on Saturday with a tough 2-1 win against the Seasiders. Afterwards KRob confirmed that he wasn’t planning to bring in any free-agents unless there were any legends in the Oxford area who fancied a game. Martin Keown is adjusting his shin pads as we speak.

Sunday 2 February 2020

Half-man, half KFC Family Bucket, Gillingham boss, Steve Evans, says he fended off an unnamed Championship team to land former Oxford loanee Jordan Graham who has joined them until the end of the season. The reason Evans hasn’t named the club is due to professional integrity, ethics and the fact he’s lying.

Monday 3 February 2020

Mystery injury magnet and former Oxford winger, Marvin Johnson has definitely not been talking about getting a new contract at Middlesborough. ‘Of course I want to stay’ he said, not talking about it, ‘it’s not in my mind’ he added firmly putting it out of his mind, ‘It’s not important to me right now’ he said, shutting down the very thought of it.

Meanwhile, GLS feared the worst when Joey Beauchamp’s name appeared in a news story with 15 school children from Cardiff. It turns out he was listed as a ‘famous’ member of MENSA alongside TV critic Gary Bushell and former Miss Rochdale Laura Shields.

Tuesday 4 February 2020

It was an avalanche of Lonsdale tracksuits and Donnay golf shoes on Tuesday as Sports Direct’s Newcastle returned to the Kassam for the FA Cup replay. It was an emotional rollercoaster as we battled back from 2-0 to force extra-time before going down 3-2.

Extra-time created a cultural earthquake as Holby City and Silent Witness were both cancelled. Nobody embedded themselves into the national psyche like the Newcastle fan who ingratiated himself with the locals by doing the patented Gavin Whyte Wave while celebrating The Toon’s winner.

The Telegraph has been talking to Gary Bloom who has been working with the club as a psychotherapist. Psychotherapy is about getting inside a someone’s head, a shuddering thought when it comes to Jamie Mackie.

The step-over kid Tariqe Fosu has been talking about his move from Oxford to Brentford, like a 56 year old lottery winner dumping his family for a pneumatic 22 year old pole dancer, he says he was gutted to leave Oxford before shrugging ‘but that’s football’.

Wednesday 5 February 2020

KRob was omnipresent on Wednesday. During the day he met the flippin’ Duke of flippin’ Cambridge to discuss mental health issues. The two shared stories of their mental health challenges. The Duke talked about his uncle befriending a convicted sex trafficker and his brother being hounded out of the country by the racist right-wing press, KRob spoke movingly about the mental challenges of dealing with a foul throw that was wrongly given against Rochdale last season.

This was a mere aperitif as KRob then headed for Oxford’s Senior Cup defeat at Banbury in the evening. There was more cup heartache as a young side went out after penalties. On the upside, KRob drew the half-time raffle with the winner receiving nearly nine pounds in prize money.

Elsewhere, your daughters are safe as Jedward orphan, Mark Sykes may have to pass up his lost week in Magaluf this year to head off to Euro 2020 with Northern Ireland. Meanwhile, Tariqe Fosu could be lollypopping his way to a place in the Ghanian national team.

Thursday 6 February 2020

It was the Seven Minute Fifty-Seven Second Fans Forum on Thursday with, who else? KRob. With the club playing as well as it has for decades, one ray of sunshine asked how he can convince his daughter to support Oxford rather than Liverpool when the club sells its best players. You don’t need to sell it to her, mate, just put her up for adoption.

Friday 7 February 2020

It’s Peterborough tomorrow who are managed by Darren Ferguson, the son of legend Sir Alex Ferguson. Dazza is a chip off the old managerial block being a garralous Scotsman. But don’t let that fool you, he’s his own man as well, one thing that really sets him apart from his dad is his lack of managerial success.

Oxford United’s attempt at taking over the world took one-step closer when it was announced that former yellow Craig Harrington has become the new head coach at the Utah Royals. This answers the questions ‘whatever happened to Craig Harrington?’ and ‘who the hell is Craig Harrington?’.

Midweek Fixture: The top 50 players of the 2000s – Ranked

It was the worst of times, it was the worst of times. The 2000s was a bleak decade for Oxford United, we dropped into the bottom tier of the Football League in 2001, then just when we thought it couldn’t get worse, out of the Football League altogether.

At the back end of last year, I asked you to vote for your favourite players from that godforsaken decade. This is how the top 50 ranked.

50. Matt Robinson

A friend of mine once asked why Matt Robinson wasn’t playing in the Premier League. The bald wonder had magic in his boots, if he had a decent striker to get on the end of his crosses, or alternatively Julian Alsopp, we always threatened.

49. Alan Judge

The first of many whose ranking is probably not down to his performances in the decade in question. Alan Judge played just two games as emergency cover in 2003 and 2004 and while that had a certain something about it, his ranking is probably more down to his Milk Cup Final appearance in 1986.

Defining moment: In the decade in question, let’s go for his last game for the club 19 years after his debut, aged 44. A 4-0 defeat to Southend.

48. Eddie Anaclet

A spritely full-back from our first season in the Conference. I had him down as the player of the season that year, another poll ranked him as the worst player in the squad. A breath of fresh air in a squad of has-beens and never-wases.

47. Scott McNiven

Once Scott McNiven got his backside between a striker and the ball, there was no getting around it. It was that big. A full-back – with Matt Robinson (50) on the other side – of the Ian Atkins vintage. 

46. Andy Scott

Endlessly likeable striker bought by Firoz Kassam in a panic from Brentford in 2001. Scott had scored a bucket load in the first half of that season, but never really hit the groove for us in what was a hopelessly failing side. 

Defining moment: Scored in a Boxing Day game against Luton Town in front of a full-house (we still lost).

45. Sam Ricketts

Angular faced full-back and academy product, Ricketts was squeezed out of the club in 2002 due to competition for players. He stepped down a few levels, but worked his way back into the Football League before playing 52 times for Wales. One that got away. 

44. Andy Burgess

A mercurial talent, but when the going got tough, Burgess went missing. Scored a wonder goal in the first game of the Conference season, but spent most of the rest of the season with his sleeves over his hands like a reluctant goth playing 4th Year house football.

Defining moment: The moment of magic against Chris Wilder’s Halifax Town in our first game in Conference.

43. Chris Tardif

Perpetual understudy to Andy Woodman, Tardif was a bit of a luxury in that he was too good to sit on the bench, though that’s what he did. Watching him and Alan Hodgkinson checking out the half-time scores instead of warming up was a staple of the Kassam Stadium mid-2000s experience.

42. Mark Watson

Our collapse down the league could be plotted in the quality of our centre-backs. From Elliot and Gilchrist to Wilsterman and Whelan. Mark Watson was the last of the great stoppers. Walked out of the club in 2000, and given what happened next, understandably so.

41. Barry Quinn

Barry Quinn was one of those salt-of-the-earth kind of players. He battled against hope to keep our promotion hopes alive during the mid-2000s. 

40. Rob Duffy

Perhaps the most divisive player of this or any decade. Jim Smith brought Duffy from Portsmouth to spearhead our fight back to the Football League in 2006. Duffy immediately started to repay him in goals, many from the penalty spot. Otherwise, he didn’t seem that bothered. Nobody could decide whether he was a goal machine or a lazy sod. In the play-off against Exeter in 2007 he found himself clean through only to weakly tap the ball back to their ‘keeper. It summed him up perfectly.

Defining moment: Rolling the ball into the hands of the Exeter ‘keeper in the play-off semi-final when clean through.

39. Sam Deering

A pocket sized ball of trouble. There was much wrong with Sam Deering; his racist comments about nurses, his Ugg boots, the fact he couldn’t get the ball in the box from a corner. When he broke his leg in Chris Wilder’s first game, Wilder – who called him ‘our best player’ – used it as a way of leveraging support for his way of working. In 2010 at Wembley he picked the ball up from Rhys Day on the edge of the area exchanged passes with Alfie Potter and the rest was history.

Defining moment: Best supporting actor in the third goal at Wembley.

38. Danny Rose

An absolutely solid, if unremarkable midfielder who joined in 2007 from Manchester United where he was their ‘reserve captain’. Too much was expected of him. Returned later to play his part in our 2015/16 promotion campaign. Then ruined it all by going to Swindon.

37. Paul Wanless

Another two-spell man. Having cut his teeth at Oxford, Wanless headed off to Cambridge where he became something of a legend. Returned at the tail end of his career in 2003.

36. Nigel Jemson

Yet another two spell man and, like Alan Judge, probably not at this level because of what he did during the decade. In his pomp, Jemson spearheaded an attack which kept us in the Championship during the late 90s. His return in 2000 miserably yielded no goals from 18 appearances. 

Defining moment: Screaming in the face of a kneeling and crestfallen Paul Moody for not passing to him when clean through on goal.

35. Manny Omoyimni

Manny Omoyimni was famous before he reached Oxford, while at West Ham he featured in a League Cup game for the Hammers having previously turned out for Gillingham in an earlier round. As a result, West Ham were thrown out of the competition. Omoyimni, didn’t really do much at the Manor in another failing team, but he tried hard and around that time, that was all you could ask for.

34. Matty Taylor

Memorable though they were, I’m speculating that Matty Taylor’s two appearances in the Setanta Shield in 2008 were not the prime reason for making number 34. Slipped off the radar, made his name elsewhere; a return this season has propelled him up the ratings.

33. Mateo Corbo

A surprisingly enduring spirit. Corbo’s defining characteristic during his thirteen game spell at the club was his ability to get booked. 

32. Lee Bradbury

A striker who was too good for the team that he played with; or so the argument goes. Bradbury signed from Portsmouth with a reputation for goals; signing him was quite a coup. The problem seemed to be that he was so ahead of his team mates that he was never in the right place to put the ball in the back of the net.  

Defining moment: A bicycle kick from point blank range against Torquay.

31. Matt Murphy

Very much a nineties man; his career just about dipped into the 2000s, but it was what he did before that really made his name.

30. Jefferson Louis

Before characters like Danny Hylton and Jamie Mackie, there was Jefferson Louis. Signed from Thame United after a spell in prison, Louis was all arms and legs. In 2003 he got on the end of a James Hunt throw-in the 2nd Round of the FA Cup against Swindon Town to score the winner. He was then filmed stark naked live on daytime TV celebrating the fact we’d drawn Arsenal in the next round. Not exactly a one man club, at the last count he’d played for 45.

Defining moment: His glancing header that beat Swindon in the FA Cup in 2003.

29. Andy Woodman

When Ian Atkins became manager in 2001 he rolled into town a battalion of proven players. Andy Woodman stood behind an impenetrable defensive unit and never looked flustered. It wasn’t pretty, but it was effective.

Defining moment: Saving a key penalty in 2002 to dump Charlton out of the League Cup.

28. Simon Clist

Not all heroes wear capes. Simon Clist was integral to the 2010 promotion team as the balancing force in midfield. Dannie Bulman won the battle, passed it to Clist, who passed it to Adam Chapman or Adam Murray to create something. It was fantastically effective. Clist was integral to that machinery.

27. Mike Ford

Another player whose position is probably more down to what he did outside the decade than what he did in it. Mike Ford was never the nimblest of players and by 2000 he was on his last legs. But, in terms of what he gave to the club before that, he’ll never be bettered.

26. Tommy Mooney

Notoriously tight with his money, Firoz Kassam was prone to the odd panic buy – Paul Moody, Andy Scott, Lee Bradbury. Tommy Mooney came with baggage, a former Swindon striker, but at a time when we were so self-possessed, that didn’t matter too much. Mooney came with an excellent reputation. He didn’t let us down scoring 15 goals in the season he was with us. In reality he was just squeezing out a few more signing-on fees before age caught up with him. In a flash, he was gone. 

25. Matt Green

Matt Green would have been much higher up the list had his Oxford career been more straightforward. His first stint was in 2007 on loan from Cardiff, then he was all set to sign on a permanent deal, but took a diversion on the way to the ground and spent a year at Torquay. Eventually Chris Wilder signed him to make up part of a devastating three pronged attack in our Conference promotion year. 

Defining moment: His sensational volley to open the scoring at Wembley in 2010.

24. Adam Murray

Something of a forgotten man; Adam Murray joined in 2008 and skippered the promotion side for a good chunk of the season. Sadly injury meant he missed the last 4 months of the season meaning James Constable picked up the arm band and Adam Chapman pulled the strings in midfield. A creative talent that dug us out of the hole we were in at the time.

23. Jamie Cook

Jamie Cook had a curious Oxford career; he emerged in the 90s but played second fiddle to brighter homegrown stars. Left to pursue a very serviceable career. Returned in 2009 where he again played a bit part in our promotion campaign. Despite this, will always be fondly remembered at the club.

Defining moment: A 25-yard screamer against Luton Town in 2009.

22. Chris Hargreaves

A warrior who led his team into a hopeless battle to avoid relegation from the football team in 2006. Vowed to right a wrong in the Conference, but was last seen kicking a water bottle in frustration as we fell to Exeter in the play-off semi-final. Came back 3 years later mostly as a cheerleader to finally see us get back into the Football League in 2010.

21. Andy Crosby

Sometimes you just need to be held in the arms of a big strong man who will protect you. Andy Crosby was a colossus in Ian Atkins’ pragmatic team of 2001-2004. A metronomic ability to score penalties also meant that he threatened the goalscorers charts as well as held the back line together.

20. Bobby Ford

An enigmatic lost soul who seemed blighted by his talent. Returned to the club in 2002 having played in the top flight with Sheffield United to play in a team barely suited to his style.

19. Jack Midson

Gentleman Jack Midson first floated into view scoring an imperious lob over Billy Turley while playing for Histon in 2008. Eventually Chris Wilder brought him to the club, where he provided all the craft we needed to see us promoted in 2010. Quickly ejected by Wilder, Midson returned from a loan spell to score a hat-trick against Torquay in the Miracle of Plainmoor. And that was pretty much him done.

Defining moment: His winner versus Yeovil Town in the FA Cup in 2009

18. Les Robinson

Les Robinson wasn’t a millennium guy; he only played 26 games in the 21st Century, just 6% of all the games he played for us. But it’s a lasting testament to his legacy that he was still better than over 200 players who did play during the decade.

17. Dannie Bulman

Dannie Bulman was key to Chris Wilder’s rescue effort in 2009 being the tenacious ball winner that galvanised our promotion effort. He quickly fell out of favour and we spent much of our first season back in the Football League trying to replace him. Chris Wilder’s biggest mistake?

16. Paul Powell

Paul Powell was long past his best as the century turned. At one point he’d been our finest asset and could have played for England. But, a broken leg and erratic temperament meant he never quite fulfilled his potential. He did have the dubious honour of scoring the club’s first ever goal at the Kassam Stadium.

15. Phil Gilchrist

Another one of the 90s guys. Phil Gilchrist was re-recruited in 2006 with the help of a Coca Cola competition winner, who funded his transfer. By this point Gilchrist was mostly being held together with sticky tape and rubber bands. For a season, it worked fine, but he fell apart just as we did. 

14. Adam Chapman

Adam Chapman never did things the easy way; he initially joined from Sheffield United on loan but really came into his own taking over from Adam Murray in the final weeks of the 2009/10 season. A week before the play-off final, it was announced that he was to be sentenced for killing a man while driving and texting at the same time. Chapman put in a man-of-the-match performance before being sentenced to a year in a young offenders institute. He was never quite the same again, but did hit the headlines again when he burnt his nipple on baby milk in 2012.

Defining moment: His party-pooping free-kick at Burton which ruined their promotion celebrations in 2009.

13. Damian Batt

A quicksilver full-back with an unstoppable engine, Damian Batt seemed to be capable of defending in his own six yard box one second, then driving in a cross at the other. A key player of the promotion season, he left in 2013 and pursue a somewhat curious life.

12. Jamie Brooks

Jamie Brooks could have been the greatest of them all. A prodigious talent who sparkled during a grim first season at the Kassam. Arsenal took an interest, and apparently on the verge of a move to the Premier League giants was struck down with Guillain–Barré syndrome which nearly cost him his life. Struggled on until 2006 before being released.

Defining moment: Scoring the first competitive goal at the Kassam Stadium.

11. Paul Moody

Paul Moody had provided the goals that brought us promotion in 1996, he left in 1997 but returned in 2001 as a crowd pleasing folly from Firoz Kassam. Actually made a decent fist of it, coming out as leading scorer but seemed to hate every minute. Left after a season.

Defining moment: Hanging off the crossbar at Wycombe in 1996.

10. Chris Hackett

A product of the youth system and a hare down the flank. Threatened to follow the lineage of Brock, Thomas, Beauchamp, Allen and Powell. When you needed a spark, Hackett was your man.

Defining moment: Probably being sold to Hearts just when we needed him most.

9. Billy Turley

A self-consciously self-styled ‘character’ whose lunatic antics in goal between 2005 and 2010 kept our spirits up during bleak times. At times magnificent, but equally susceptible to the odd calamity as illustrated by his gaff that led to Leyton Orient’s first goal in the relegation decider in 2006 and a missed penalty against Exeter in 2007. I mean, they were biggies; but that was Turley.

Defining moment: Maybe his last meaningful contribution to the club, an unbelievable save in 2010 against Wrexham.

8. Mark Creighton

The Beast. Chris Wilder had a strategy for us in 2009/10 – we were finally going to use our status as a large fish in a small pond to our advantage. Creighton dominated in every thing he did. A rock and a leader, he was surprisingly moved on by Wilder in 2010. 

Defining moment: Last minute goal against York City in 2009

7. Yemi Odubade

Yemi Odubade appeared if by magic during an FA Cup game at Eastbourne Borough. He won a penalty which snatched them a draw and ran us ragged in the replay despite losing. Brian Talbot wasted no time in snapping him up. Possessed blistering pace and was a rare joy in a dark time, his 45-yard goal against Dagenham and Redbridge in 2007 a moment of pure ecstasy.

Defining moment: That goal against Dagenham and Redbridge.

6. Ryan Clarke

There’s a good argument that Ryan Clarke was pound-for-pound the best Oxford player of the decade. Others had goals, Clarke probably saved more than everyone else put together.

Defining moment: Too many to mention, but let’s go with saving 8 out of 14 penalties around 2010 and 2011.

5. Joey Beauchamp 

Joey Beauchamp was not a man of the 2000s, by that point his career was in decline. But it is his enduring legend which has placed him at number 5. Disgracefully dumped by the club without the sniff of a testimonial in 2002; the streets remember Joey.

Defining moment: Joey’s 35-yard screamer against Blackpool in 1996.

4. Steve Basham

Blighted by injuries, Steve Basham was too good for a club falling apart. A striker who played with his head, which was somewhat out of keeping during the brutish Ian Atkins years. Always scored goals, but at the same time looked a little out of place.

Defining moment: Scoring the winner to knock Millwall out of the League Cup in 2003.

3. Dean Whitehead

The nineties produced a raft of great homegrown talents, it was a machine that helped keep the club afloat. It was dismantled in the 2000s, which makes Dean Whitehead’s talent all the more remarkable. Not only did he possess a skill with the ball, he developed a work ethic and discipline which saw him play at the very top of the game.

Defining moment: A breathtaking farewell free-kick against Rochdale in 2004

2. Alfie Potter

Alfie Potter arrived in 2009 and only played 13 games in the decade, but while he wasn’t the most regular of starters, nearly everything good that happened involved him. Scoring the iconic third goal at Wembley in 2010, destroying Portsmouth 4-1 in 2013 and scoring the winner against Swindon in the JPT in 2012, Potter’s career was defined by magical moments.

Defining moment: The third goal at Wembley.

1. James Constable

Was James Constable a player for the 2000s? Or the 2010s? Or was he just the greatest Oxford United player of the century (so far). Let’s go with that. A goal machine, a loyal stalwart, a thoroughly nice bloke, there’s nothing Beano couldn’t do.

Defining moment: Where do you start?

Midweek Fixture: Every Oxford United player from the 90s ranked – 50-1

It’s the final countdown of the top 50 players of the 1990s. You can read Part 1 here, and Part 2. But, here come the heavy hitters that took us through to the end of the millennium.

50 – Anton Rogan

A tidy and assured full-back who signed from Sunderland. He didn’t quite get us promotion, but was part of the squad that turned us around before we went up in 1996. 

They walk amongst us: Now owns a taxi company in Woodstock.

49 – Andy Thomson

There were moments when Andy Thomson showed what a light touch and natural eye for goal he had. Sadly those times weren’t very often.

They walk amongst us: Now an assistant coach for the Scottish Women’s national team.

48 – Andre Arendse

A South African international who played in the World Cup, Andre Arendse was a master of the goalkeeping arts. Those he chose to get involved in; diving, shot stopping and catching were all beneath him.

They walk amongst us: Is now a pundit on South African TV channel Supersport as well as a goalkeeping coach.

47 – Steve Foster

A brand as much as a player; Foster’s trademark headband and tight curly hair made him one of the most recognised players in the country. Sadly, by the time we got him he was past his best, but still a formidable leader in his time.

They walk amongst us: Now lives in Brighton.

46 – Simon Marsh

Simon Marsh had a strange career. A contemporary of Paul Powell and Joey Beauchamp among others, Marsh looked all set to be a marginal character. Then he managed to get a run in Malcolm Shotton’s team that vaguely threatened the play-offs in 1998. It resulted in an England Under-21 cap and a transfer to Birmingham City at which point his career hit a brick wall.

They walk amongst us: Now runs the sports coaching business

45 – Nick Cusack

During quieter years, fans start to look for things to entertainment themselves; that’s when cults rise. The cult of Nick Cusack grew out of the fallow early-90s; an attacking midfielder who couldn’t really score in a team that did even less. At first it was frustrating, then it felt rather appropriate.

They walk amongst us: Is literally the deputy chief executive of the PFA.

44 – Mark Stein

Mark Stein was one of those players; had the pace and skill to be a world class, and the temperament to disappear. But, he won the League Cup with Luton and played in the Premier League and a Cup Final for Chelsea. Somewhere in amongst it all he played for us. 

They walk amongst us: Now works in a school for deprived children.

43 – Mark Angel

Mark Angel looked like he played bass in a marginal Madchester baggy band with his mop of curly hair gelled into a centre parting. He had his moments but was always overshadowed by other wingers at the club.

42 – Gary Smart

During the 90s we were a tidy club made up of tidy players, we had to be, we couldn’t afford to gamble. Gary Smart was one of the tidiest of them all. 

41 – Alex Dyer

Alex Dyer was a talented and sometimes frustrating player; what he lacked in pace he made up for in his head. A slow burner who earned the respect of the London Road through is relentless consistency. The London Road would echo to the tune of Alex Dyer M’Lord, Alex Dyer.

They walk amongst us: Is now the assistant manager for the Scottish national team

40 – Jimmy Phillips

The early-90s are a bit of a blind spot for me, I didn’t get to a lot of games because of university and so a number of players swirl around my head as though one. For me, Dave Collins, Nick Cusack, Jimmy Phillips all merge into one. Jimmy Phillips isn’t the other two.

They walk amongst us: Is under 23 coach for Bolton Wanderers and managed them briefly last season.

39 – Dave Smith

The 90s Simon Clist; was once subjected to a racial slur from Mike Ford in the matchday programme – something to do with his complexion and taxis. He frustrated fans a lot of the time due to his conservative style, but provided a solid platform for Joey Beauchamp, Chris Allen and Stuart Massey during our promotion season.

They walk amongst us: Rumour has it, somewhat ironically given Mike Ford’s joke, he set up a chauffeur company for celebrity footballers

38 – Robbie Mustoe

Mustoe was one who got away. He broke into the team in 1987 from the youth ranks, but couldn’t get any traction. Eventually, he slipped away to Middlesbrough where he played over 350 games and ended up enjoying a lengthy career in the Premier League.

They walk amongst us: Is a Premier League football pundit for NBC in the US

37 – Paul Wanless

One of those players whose ranking was probably more down to what he did at other times. A marginal player who graduated from the youth ranks in 1991, but never quite made it and headed off to Cambridge. Returned in 2003 for a few solid years at The Kassam before retiring.

36 – Martin Gray

Scuttling midfielder who dedicated his life to perfecting the sideways pass. An unrelentingly frustrating player to watch, yet alongside Dave Smith (39) was the bedrock of the 1996 promotion team.

They walk amongst us: Now teaching kids the value of the conservative sideways pass in his own academy.

35 – Pål Lundin

Aka – porn star. Comedy Swedish goalkeeper who shared responsibilities for letting in goals during 1999-2000 with Andre Arendse (48). Perhaps most famous for scoring a penalty in a Football League Trophy game against Wycombe. Yep, that was the high point.

34 – Ceri Evans

A Crewe fan once told me that he’d heard a fan ref heckle the ref at The Manor asking whether he’d been bribed with a place at the University. Funny right? His head would have exploded if he’d known we had a Rhodes Scholar in the back-four.

They walk amongst us: Looks like a Bond villain, but now runs his own medical practice.

33 – Martin Aldridge

The saddest story; Aldridge was a natural goal poacher; in any other era, he’d have been a first choice striker, but in the merry-go-round of Paul Moody, David Rush and Nigel Jemson he was mostly used as an impact player. Left the club in 1998 and was killed in a car crash two years later.

32 – Brian Wilsterman

The 1990s saw the emergence of the Premier League and all its cosmopolitan spirit. At Oxford United it was a time of great centre-backs. At the intersection of those two things was Brian Wilsterman. We loved him because he was from the same source as Cruyff and Bergkamp, we hated him because he was calamitous.

They walk amongst us: Ever the defender, he now runs a security company, while his son plays for FC Lienden.

31 – Paul Reece

The more I think about Paul Reece, the smaller he gets. A particularly spongey goalkeeper capable of pulling off remarkable finger-tip saves, even from back-passes. Much of his ranking comes from perhaps the greatest Oxford United goalkeeping display of all time; away at Derby.

They walk amongst us: Currently goalkeeping coach in the US.

30 – Mark Watson

A majestic centre-back and Canadian international who got caught up in the slow collapse of the club in the late 90s. When the club wanted to give him a new contract in 2000, he simply ran away.

They walk amongst us: Is part of the coaching staff at MLS side Minnesota United

29 – Christophe Remy

As we teetered on the edge of financial crisis, the presence of the endlessly likeable Frenchman lightened the mood around the place. A very capable full-back and our favourite non-British player of the 90s. 

They walk amongst us: His Twitter profile says he’s an entrepreneur

28 – Alan Judge

A vote more for what he did outside of the 90s. By 1990, Alan Judge’s Oxford career was winding down. But he’d been first choice keeper in Division 1 and played in the Milk Cup winning team. Briefly revived his career in 2003 during an injury crisis.

They walk amongst us: Now a driving instructor in Bicester.

27 – Martin Foyle

He looked like your dad, but was probably younger than you. There was nothing sexy about Martin Foyle, but he had a knack for scoring goals.

They walk amongst us: Head of recruitment at Motherwell in the SPL

26 – Paul Gerrard

The best loan player of the 90s; signed from Everton and only played 16 games, but left a lasting impression. Attempts to sign him permanently were thwarted, he was just too good for us.

They walk amongst us: Goalkeeping coach at Doncaster Rovers

25 – Les Phillips

Probably not the 25th best player of the 90s in truth, but being a member of the 1986 Milk Cup winning team gives you a bit of a boost in these things.

24 – Jamie Cook

There was Beauchamp, Allen and Paul Powell and there was Jamie Cook. Often the third wheel in a merry-go-round of wingers during the 90s, he eventually headed off to Crawley and enjoyed a decent career. Returned in 2009, funded partly by the fans, and scored one of the greatest goals at the Kassam against Luton.

They walk amongst us: A golf club manager at Heythrop Hall.

23 – Andy Melville

The 90s was full of great centre-backs, Andy Melville was among the best. The Welsh international and captain led the team through the early 90s before moving onto better things. Returned as a coach for five years.

They walk amongst us: Now works for a sports agency.

22 – Nigel Jemson

Arrogant and unpleasant, it was a good job Nigel Jemson scored goals. Nothing dented his belief that the world revolved around him. There were very few who were sad to see him leave. In our second game at the Kassam, Jemson, by that point at Shrewsbury, ran the game, goading us to defeat. Suddenly we missed him dearly.

They walk amongst us: Is an estate agent back in Nottingham.

21 – Stuart Massey

I’m not much of a fighter, but I will kill and kill again if anyone tries to argue against my view that Stuart Massey is the reason we were promoted in 1996. Beauchamp was too passive, Allen too raw; Massey demanded that players played to his strengths. When he got the ball to his feet he could drop a cross onto Paul Moody’s head from anywhere on the pitch.

20 – Darren Purse

Darren Purse was our back-up centre back behind Matt Elliot and Phil Gilchrist. But that masked the real talent he was. Occasionally fiery, it was clear from his early days that he would go onto greater things.

They walk amongst us: Director of football at Malcolm Arnold Academy in Northamptonshire.

19 – Kevin Francis

Not the most multi-dimensional player we’ve ever seen, but what Kevin Francis did, he did well. I’ve had Amazon Prime deliveries which have arrived quicker than it took for messages to make it from his head to his feet but when you launched a ball into the box usually bounced off his head into the goal.

They walk amongst us: Is now a policeman in Canada.

18 – Matt Murphy

Matt Murphy was considered an intellectual because he once worked in a bank. The go-to boo boy for any 90s London Roader, nobody around that time thought they were watching the 18th best player of the decade. Yet, that’s what he was, and someone who has rarely been bettered since.

17 – John Byrne

A beautifully complete player who was the perfect complement to Paul Moody in attack, it was a partnership too pure to last. But while it did, Byrne, with his trademarked goal celebrations and perfectly quaffed mullet was the cool cat to Paul Moody’s nerdy big brother.

They walk amongst us: Always great with his feet; he’s now a musculoskeletal podiatrist.

16 – David Rush

After Johnny Byrne (17) left, David Rush was the perfect foil for Paul Moody; he had all the movement Moody didn’t. If you were a defender, even if you could deal with one; the other was a completely different challenge. In the roistering final stages of the 1995/6 season; David Rush was just the player we needed. 

They walk amongst us: Manager and coach at GPS Academy in Malta.

15 – Paul Simpson

The early 90s didn’t create many stars, but Paul Simpson was undoubtedly one. A winger with an eye for goal and a darling to fans of a certain vintage. 

They walk amongst us: World Cup winning coach of the England Under 20s.

14 – Mickey Lewis

Everything that Mickey Lewis lacked in ability he made up for in commitment. In 350 games, he gave everything to the cause. His career petered out where he took up a number of coaching roles and, on two occasions 4 years apart, caretaker manager.

13 – John Durnin

The 90s were synonymous with lad culture, so there was nothing better than a player known to enjoy a pint and a fight. So, there was David Rush (16), and before that there was John Durnin.

They walk amongst us: Living a quiet life being a violent racist.

12 – Paul Powell

There were times when Paul Powell was the best player I ever saw, with the ability to turn a game on its head with a drop of the shoulder and a jinking run. I thought he’d play for England. But it all seemed a bit too much and he never quite hit the dizzy heights. A broken leg stalled his career and he was never the same again.

11 – Mike Ford

He had the turning circle of a super tanker and the full range of appalling 90s haircuts, but Mike Ford was a true leader.

They walk amongst us: Banbury United manager and lecturer at the Activate Learning Academy in Oxford.

10 – Phil Whitehead

God.

9 – Les Robinson

The definition of a loyal club servant. There was a period when it was difficult to imagine Oxford United ever starting a game without Les Robinson. It is hard to describe a player who never put a foot wrong in 458 games. 

They walk amongst us: Head of education at Swancliffe Park, a specialist autism school. So, still being brilliant.

8 – Bobby Ford

Bobby Ford looked like the captain of your school’s second eleven. A graceful playmaker, he was one of those players who seemed to loath his talent. Inevitably made his way to the top flight with Sheffield United, but gradually fell out of love with the game.

7 – Dean Windass

A brief, ill-advised fling during a period of despair. Windass was bought with money we didn’t have from Aberdeen. He snaffled a pile of goals, including one against Chelsea in the FA Cup which nearly put them out. Was sold to Bradford within a year and the proceeds went into paying Aberdeen the money we hadn’t paid for him. A moment of glorious madness.

They walk amongst us: Got caught up in a tax avoidance scheme and now manager at East Hull FC.

6 – Phil Gilchrist

With Matt Elliot he made the greatest centre-back pairing the club has ever seen; including Shotton and Briggs. Blessed with pace and strength, Gilchrist was an absolute powerhouse during the mid-90s.

They walk amongst us: Senior housemaster at Ratcliffe College in Northampton

5 – Chris Allen

The very definition of raw talent. When the pitches were good and there was a Unipart sign to run into there was simply nobody who could touch Chris Allen. With Joey Beauchamp on the other flank, we were flying. Sadly things went sour in 1996 and Allen headed for Nottingham Forest where his career rapidly went downhill. After a period working in a leisure centre, he gradually worked his way back to the club and became one of its most respected coaches.

They walk amongst us: Oxford United coach.

4 – Jim Magilton

Given the manner of his departure, within 24 hours of putting Leeds United out of the FA Cup in 1994, fourth is a pretty good result for Jim Magilton. Signed from Liverpool, Magilton possessed a touch and fitnesse which propped up an otherwise average mid-90s team.

They walk amongst us: Now Elite Performance Director at the IFA.

3 – Paul Moody

A battering ram of a striker who looked like he hated the game. Given that he played with Nigel Jemson (22) that was probably true. Yet, despite this he conjured up iconic moments including a sublime hat-trick at Cardiff, the second goal against Peterborough to clinch promotion and an Arab spring which looked like a bag of snooker cues being thrown down the stairs.

They walk amongst us: Runs his own building and renovation business.

2 – Matt Elliot

Anyone who saw him play compares every Oxford United defender to Matt Elliot. An impenetrable force at the back; unbeatable in the air, calm and cultured on the floor, an attacking threat as much a defensive rock. It’s difficult to imagine a better all-rounder.

They walk amongst us: Now runs ME Sports.

1 – Joey Beauchamp

Well, obviously. This list was never about Joey Beauchamp who was pretty much guaranteed top spot from day one. A better player than Matt Elliot? Maybe not, but nobody has the narrative Joey Beauchamp does. Preston have Tom Finney, Everton have Dixie Dean, we have Joey Beauchamp.

Midweek fixture: The Absolute State of Oxford United Part 4 – Your favourite players

It feels like an age since the Absolute State of Oxford United survey went out; you can read Part 1 – Ratings, Part 2 – Predictions and Part 3 – Expectations (folded into the season’s preview). Part 4 looks at one of those perennials – favourite players.

Of the current crop, Gavin Whyte, when he was still at the club, was your overall favourite players. Now he’s gone, Cameron Brannagan takes the reigns with 18.4%. Brannagan ticks a lot of boxes for fans; he’s committed and passionate; there’s never a game where you feel he’s phoning it in. Moreover, he’s got that profile of players from Michael Appleton’s time – Lundstram, Rothwell, Ledson and Roofe – players who came to Oxford from bigger clubs looking to progress their careers. He wasn’t an Appleton player, but it feels like he was.

Next up was Josh Ruffels (16.7%) with Simon Eastwood clocking a solid 11.9%. The appeal of Eastwood and Ruffels is their longevity, their apparent commitment to the cause. Neither are homegrown as such, but it feels like they are.

I wasn’t sure whether asking the question about your least favourite player was a good idea and people agreed; it was a mistake with lots of people refused to answer. I will say one thing; it probably isn’t a surprise to hear that Jamie Hanson was identified by a large minority as a least favourite. He came in with a big fee and didn’t perform last year; but here’s a prediction for next season – I reckon if he’s given a chance, Hanson may become a fan favourite next season in the vein of Andy Whing. Everyone loves a tough tackler who wears his heart on his sleeve and if he can get a run in the team, I can see him thriving.

All time favourites

When it comes to favourite players of all time, no fewer than fifty-seven players were nominated, although I’m guessing that Juan Pablo-Raponi and Justin Richards were a joke and there were one or two nominated because they were nice to the respondents kids once outside the ground.

Thirty-one of the fifty-seven received a single vote; and there’s clearly a story behind every one.

It’s tricky to compare players of different eras and easy to conflate ‘favourite’ with ‘best’. Danny Hylton is one of my all time favourite players – but only received one vote. Paul Powell was one of the best players I ever saw and didn’t receive any. Forced into making a choice of one player, favourite always trumps best.

The votes inevitably favour more recent players – if you’re younger, they’re the only players you know, if you’re older, your memory fade.

There is very much a holy trinity that spans the eras – John Aldridge took 9% of the vote, followed by James Constable (17%) with Joey Beauchamp (20%) topping the lot. 

Beauchamp’s last game for Oxford was in 2002, but he hits the sweet spot for a favourite player – genuinely homegrown, loyal (apart from his Swindon apparition), and above all, breathtakingly good at football. I don’t understand why the club don’t capitalise on his legacy and legend as other clubs have done (benefitting him in the process). In many senses, Beauchamp is Oxford, he should be revered and remembered. 

Notable others? Kemar Roofe was the highest ranked player of the most recent era (Appleton – Clotet – Robinson) with 7% of the vote. Roy Burton is the stand out name from the pre-TV era with 2% nestling alongside the likes of Billy Hamilton and Trevor Hebberd. Of the current squad, only Josh Ruffels made the list with a single vote. It seems to become a favourite player, you need to no longer be at the club, allowing for your legend to be re-edited with all the bad bits taken out.  

I don’t know why I asked for three nominations for a Hall of Fame, it’s a nightmare to analyse and produces similar results to the Favourite Player question. It does give some more latitude in the voting with seventy-one different names nominated. 

The top three all clocking over 100 votes were again James Constable, Joey Beauchamp and John Aldridge. Fourth (Kemar Roofe) polled less than half that (48). The top 10 was completed by Matt Elliot, Ron Atkinson, Paul Moody, Gary Briggs, Roy Burton and Trevor Hebberd. A pretty era-spanning bunch. Malcolm Shotton was 11th, one vote behind Hebberd, clearly that goal at Wembley made all the difference.

Halls of Fame, like the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame, only really get interesting once you’ve got the obvious ones out of the way. Yes, get The Beatles and Rolling Stones in, but also recognise Metallica and Run DMC. 

From the Headington days, Maurice Kyle, John Shuker and Graham Atkinson all got a number of nominations. From the 1980s Kevin Brock, Peter Foley and George Lawrence. In the 90s Paul’s Simpson and Paul Reece were mentioned, though barely troubled the scorers. Dean Whitehead and Billy Turley were the only players from the early 2000s to pick up votes, but perhaps that’s no surprise.

Midweek fixture: Naughty boys

On paper, Gavin Whyte is one of the best prospects to come out of Northern Ireland in years. When he scored 106 seconds into his international debut against Israel last year he was being hailed as the future of football in the country.

Gavin Whyte is also, at least on paper, a normal functioning human being. If normal functioning human beings pull their trousers down and pull their willies while someone films them on their phone.

Whyte’s antics were posted in Twitter shortly after he was handed the George Best Breakthrough Award at the Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards. What precisely has ‘broken through’ is now subject to some speculation. Best would have been proud.

Whyte isn’t the first, and won’t be the last of the Oxford United naughty boys, here are a few more.

Ross Weatherstone

Ross Weatherstone was not even the best Weatherstone to play for Oxford in 2000. The younger brother of Simon was a solid, but unremarkable, full-back who made his debut in 1999. At the start of the 2000/01, Ross the Younger chose an odd way to upstage his brother when he was convicted for a racially aggravated assault on a taxi driver.

Adam Chapman

Days before our pivotal Conference Play-Off final, it was announced that midfielder Adam Chapman was due to face trial for causing death by dangerous driving. The conviction pivoted around the fact he was texting before ploughing into 77 year-old Tom Bryan. Chapman put in a virtuoso display at Wembley winning man-of-the-match and left the field in tears. He was sentenced to 30 months in a young offenders institute. Chris Wilder re-signed him on release and he periodically returned to the first team, making more headlines when he missed a game after scolding his nipple on baby milk.

Luke McCormick

Chris Wilder was never one to let a conviction get in the way of a decent signing. He signed Luke McCormick in 2013 when Ryan Clarke’s season was ended by injury. To be fair to everyone, McCormick was a free man having been released from prison following his conviction for causing death by dangerous driving which resulted in the death of two children. Driving while over the limit and without insurance he was sentenced to seven years in prison. After his release, Wilder needed an experienced keeper he could sign outside the transfer window; McCormick was playing for Truro City meaning he was free to sign.

Firoz Kassam

The shadow that has hung over Oxford United for nearly 20 years is Firoz Kassam. Kassam was never one to avoid a fight if he could help it. In 2002 he used a spurious technicality to get out of a speeding fine. Which is just the kind of upstanding guy he is.

Joey Beauchamp

Joey Beauchamp is a bona fide club legend, voted The Oxford United Player of the 90s. The following decade didn’t treat him so kindly. In 2009 he was convicted of being three times over the drink drive limit while driving along The Banbury Road. In mitigation, Beauchamp said that his life had gone down hill and he’d turned to drink after ‘an incident over an MFI kitchen’. The mind boggles.

Mark Wright

Mark Wright was an Oxford boy done good. Making his debut in 1981 he was sold to Southampton before moving on to Liverpool where he lifted the FA Cup screaming ‘You fucking beauty’ live on television in front of the grimacing dignitaries. After playing a pivotal role in England’s fabled 1990 World Cup campaign he became Oxford manager as the club moved to the Kassam Stadium in 2001. In the October, he was accused of racially abusing a linesman, Joe Ross in a game against Scunthorpe. An act made more unedifying in that it was ‘Kick Racism Out of Football’ day. Shortly after he was sacked.

Jefferson Louis

There’s little doubting Jefferson Louis’ conviction… for dangerous driving while disqualified. After his release, Ian Atkins signed him from Aylesbury United in 2001 where he became a cult hero almost before he’d made his debut. All arms and legs, his legend was cemented when he scored the winner in a 1-0 FA Cup tie over Swindon before he was seen, live on TV, flashing his bare arse while celebrating being drawn against Arsenal in the next round. Louis is still playing for Chesham United, his 37th (THIRTY-SEVENTH) club.

Steve Anthrobus

One thing Steve Anthrobus wasn’t known for was scoring, in 69 hopeless games he managed a total of four goals. It was something of a surprise, then, to find Anthrobus scoring in a very different way when he was caught having sex, on a picnic blanket indeed, with a woman who wasn’t his wife. He was convicted in 2007 for ‘outraging public dignity’.

Julian Alsop

Julian Alsop was a great steaming lummox. A footballing Hagrid, part-striker, part-Wookie. He was signed by Ian Atkins as a target man in his team of long-ball merchants. In 2004, while already on his way out of the club, Alsop was fired for unprofessional conduct. Legend has it, he was caught engaged in some harmless banter, shoving a banana up the arse of a young apprentice.

Graham Rix

Graham Rix was one of the finest coaches in the country. That’s what Firoz Kassam said, and who are we to judge a man with such impeccable judgement? One of the finest in the country and perhaps THE finest to have been convicted for sex with a minor. In 1999, Rix was literally forty-one years old when he was arrested for having sex with a fifteen year old girl in a hotel. Rix’s defence was that she made no ‘strong’ protest to his advance. Which is to suggest there were some weak protests. But they don’t count, do they Graham?

Coming up: Notts County

The drop

There are typically two reactions to relegation; the first is the development of a sense of entitlement to return from where you’ve dropped. A few good results early in the season and it’s easy to get into a rhythm that drives you to a successful season. We’ve seen this with teams like Chesterfield, Shrewsbury and Swindon in recent years. The other is the sudden panic that ‘the drop’ doesn’t actually mean ‘to the bottom’ and that there is much further to fall. Bristol Rovers, Carlisle, Portsmouth and Hartlepool have all experienced that.
Early season form is an important factor in determining which type of team you’ll be. It’s easy to become optimistic during close season and believe that you’re about to face a wad of inferior teams. But the differences between top and bottom are far smaller than you expect. County are probably still working out how things are; their opening win over Stevenage will have given them confidence, but their defeat to new derby bedfellows Mansfield will have been a shock on a number of levels. It’s a bit like our constant denial that Wycombe isn’t a derby; to some extent to admit it is to admit how far we’ve fallen. To be beaten at home by them is a deeper pain still.
So this is important for a number of reasons. We need a win, of course. We also need to give a potential promotion rival a bloody nose to knock them off of their stride before they get into it. 

Old game of the day

We haven’t played County for nine years, so not a lot to choose from in the archive. I’m going with this from 1994, a time that football kit design forgot. This was our last game of the season and the day we went down after a decade in the top two divisions. Mathematically it was still possible to stay up, but nobody in their right mind relies on maths.

But, it was also notable for a moment of Joey Beauchamp magic in his last game before moving to the Premier League where he would go on to play for England and win the World Cu… oh.

30 years of the Swindon derby – part 2

A number of factors converged to affect a step change in the nature of the A420 rivalry. Firstly, after 10 years lording it up, Oxford finally lost its grip on the upper reaches of the Football League, this coincided with the formation of the Premier League  and the emergence of Oxford’s finest ever homegrown player.

The start of the Premier League in 1992 ignited a gold rush Oxford failed to react to. They’d been stymied by an inability to secure planning permission for a new ground and without sufficient funding or infrastructure, they were always living on borrowed time. Relegation almost came as a relief, it was an opportunity to flush out some of the detritus and start again. It was confirmed at home to Notts County with the club’s most bankable asset, Joey Beauchamp, signing off with a magnificent goal.

Beauchamp’s departure was inevitable, he wasn’t going to slum it in the 3rd division and the club weren’t going to pass up the opportunity to cashing in on him. He left with everyone’s best wishes; we’d enjoy following his career wherever it took him. At least that’s what we thought. Famously, he then joined West Ham and left within 6 weeks claiming to be disenchanted with the commute to East London.

Swindon had hit somewhat of a purple patch. They’d taken a chance on Glenn Hoddle, a player so talented it seemed unlikely he was going to have the patience to coach players whose abilities were below his own. To everyone’s surprise, he turned out to be a natural manager and took the Robins into the Premier League. This could have killed the derby off for good had they not been caught out by the heat of the competition the top flight, and all its new-found riches, had bought. The toxic shock of losing Hoddle to Chelsea before the season began, itself an act of the cynical Premier League elite, and a torrid season in which they were persistently outclassed, resulted in an inevitable relegation back to Division 2.

The Premier League was a slightly different proposition to the one it is today. Debt was investment, and there were no foreign gazzilionaires pumping money into their toys. The supposed opportunity to succeed at the top end of the game remained a possibility, even for clubs like Swindon. They were happy to bet the farm to get a piece of the action and Swindon specifically, were convinced that they were deserving of their place back at the top.

John Gorman set about rebuilding his addled team with an eye on instant promotion back to the Premier League. He needed some impetus and a bit of class and knew of a homesick winger looking for a club. Beauchamp signed. He wasn’t the first to cross the border, Mark Jones had moved directly to Swindon without any fanfare. But there was deep symbolism in Beauchamp’s move. Oxford were failing, Swindon were thriving and the signing of Beauchamp was like us pawning a family heirloom to pay for food.

The lure of the Premier League shouldn’t be underestimated here; the £800,000 Swindon paid would be the equivalent of £5-6 million today. This was being paid by a team just relegated into the 2nd Division, for a player who was untried at the top level of the game and who showed some signs of, well, flakiness. 

The recoil from their Premier League season was just too great and Swindon collapsed to another relegation. They started 1995/6 in the same division as Oxford. The previous season, with an instant return to Division 2 in our sights, we had one of our trademark storming starts followed by a post-Christmas collapse. However, there was class in the squad, with Matt Elliot, Phil Gilchrist, Phil Whitehead, Chris Allen and Bobby Ford all playing. Paul Moody gave the side goals. The failure in 1994/5 spurred us on to believe another crack at promotion was on the cards.

For the first time, Oxford and Swindon were gunning for promotion in the same division. And to add extra spice, our golden boy, the epitome of Oxford United, the player we had all wanted to be, was playing for them.

The two teams met at the County Ground in August in a high quality 1-1 draw. Beauchamp skulked around on the bench absorbing abuse from the Oxford fans about his girlfriend. He made a brief substitute appearance but cut a lonely figure. He was in no-man’s land – disliked at the club he was at, hated at the club he’d left.

With some inevitability, Beauchamp was released and Oxford were happy to take him back. All was forgiven back at The Manor. Swindon fans, of course, could barely contain their loathing of a man they considered to be at the heart of their ignominious collapse. In their eyes, the sulky, homesick, mummy’s boy was the manifestation of what Oxford was about and he’d been a cancer within their club.

Beauchamp’s decompression from the Wiltshire wilderness took some time, but as he found form, our season spluttered into life. Swindon’s big diesel locomotive chugged its way towards the title under the tedious, but effective, reign of Steve McMahon. Our form had been patchy; strong at home, but without an away win until the end of January. By the time we met at the end of March, however, we were on a run which had taken 16 from a possible 18 points. At that point, the play-offs were a vague aspiration, automatic promotion had been largely written off. But something had clicked, and all the struggles of earlier in the season fell away.

The immovable object was about to be meet the irresistible force.

Next… 19th March 1996