George Lawrence’s Shorts: Hally’s Crawley bally

Sunday 10 November 2019

The bragging rights were all ours on Sunday, as well as breezing to a comfortable 2-0 win over Hayes and Yeading in the FA Cup, it was the first time in nearly 20 years that Oxford United have played a first class game against a team with less stands in their stadium. Many Oxford fans sang ‘You’ve only got one side’ while secretly admiring the stadium’s fencework.

Goals came from Headington United’s Sam Long and the Aylesbury Ashley Young; Rob Hall.

Monday 11 November 2019

GLS was a student last time he spent a Monday night watching a part-time landlord caressing his velvet ball-bag expectantly. A quick dash to the cash machine to pay three months of rent arrears and the problem was solved. This time it was Dion Dublin who drew our name out of the bag for the FA Cup 2nd Round away to Walsall or Darlington

Tuesday 12 November 2019

Like wondering what it will take for people to realise that Nigel Farage is a self-serving narcissist, it is difficult to know what would dissuade some people from attending a dead rubber Trophy game against Crawley Town on a freezing Tuesday night.

But attend they did, 412 (FOUR HUNDRED AND LITERALLY TWELVE) of them, KRob fielded a team of such marginal players, Ross Weatherstone and Rob Folland were hoping for a game. The Aylesbury Ashley Young Rob Hall bagged a hat-trick in a 4-1 win.

Wednesday 11 November 2019

The press continue to look at hipster’s favourites John Lundstram and George Baldock with all the puzzled curiosity of a Massai tribesman returning a burgundy corduroy skirt at a moderately sized branch of FatFace. The Yorkshire Post can’t quite figure out how players who have played at lower levels are able to cut it in the Premier League – hard work and talent, perhaps?

Thursday 12 November 2019

Confidence is the habitual voyeur of what is known as Sports Park Life! The club have announced that they will be ensuring there’s no heavy petting or bombing, after they took over the lease of the Oxford Sports Park. As well as being the permanent training ground for the club, it’ll also host community activities. Grandma GLS has already signed up to Jamie Mackie’s over-60s badminton league.

There was a grrreat the Six Minute Thirty Seven Second Fans Forum with Tiger on Thursday. Brenda from Eynsham phoned up to ask whether pilates was on tonight before asking about the stadiumsituation (has never been asked about it before? We can’t remember).

Friday 13 November 2019

No game for Oxford this weekend, but that doesn’t mean the Oxford’s alumni have got a rest. Pocket racist Sam Deering is on the comeback trail, having signed for Dagenham & Redbridge following a period navigating the wastelands of the lower-leagues. Elsewhere, goal machine Sam Smith is enjoying his time at Oxford’s local rivals Cambridge having scored seven goals this season. 

George Lawrence’s Shorts: Up Pompey!… Ooh you are awful

Saturday 2 November 2019

Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Portsmouth was preceded by a Remembrance ceremony so shambolic, it made the First World War look like an episode of Great British Bake-Off. After a minute’s silence, which lasted for well over three, the teams appeared for yet another minute’s silence. Then, in the 90th minute, Matty Taylor popped up to nod home Oxford’s equaliser. Portsmouth fans then meticulously observed several more minutes of silence as they trudged home.  

Sunday 3 November 2019

It’s been debated for years and divided families, but finally it seems to be happening. Yes, Lincolnshire sexiest people have been ranked. Our own Mr Big Guns, and new Lincoln manager, Michael Appleton muscled in at number 11. 

Who is he sexier than? it’s…… Rebekah Vardy (45th), Nicholas Parsons (31st) and Rob Lowe – an America who once played a policeman from Lincolnshire.

Michael isn’t as sexy as Sergeant Mike ‘Tempo’ Templeman from Channel 5’s Police Interceptors or number 1 – Bhasha Mukherjee who is A beauty queen! A woman! and a Doctor! A combination we all know is not actually possible.

Monday 4 November 2019

We were thrust into the vice-like jaws of Big Football on Monday as it was announced that our Type 1 Diabetes Cup Quarter-Final against cash bores Manchester City will be Live! On! Sky! On! Wednesday! 16! December! This will allow the club to suckle on the teat of Sky’s cash cow to the tune of £125000. The game they’re calling ‘Man City Covets Thy Neighbours Ox’ or something, accommodates City’s big game against Arsenal on Sunday, which Sky are billing as ‘The Big Man’s Arse’ – which we all thought was Scott McNiven. 

Tickets are on sale to season ticket holders and members, and will be available to half-and-half scarf wearers in a couple of weeks. 

Tuesday 5 November 2019

We’re not suggesting that Lancashire has slow internet, but The Lancashire Post were reporting a game from 49 years ago on Wednesday. The game between Oxford and Preston resulted in an outfield player in goal and a goalie on the wing in a sling. 

Former Oxford captain John Lundstram is rapidly becoming hipster’s choice in the world of Fantasy Football. Once celebrated as a master of the passing craft, he’s now revered for being cheap and mistakenly labelled as a ‘defender’ in the fantasy parallel world, thereby clocking up plenty of unexpected points. What a life.

Wednesday 6 November 2019

Ipswich are on the run from the rampant Yellows after they (Ip)switched the game between the two sides on the 16th November due to international call-ups. The international break would have seen the Ipswich Galacticos stripped of their Cypriot international, a Tunisian Under 23 and Albanian Under 19.  

Thursday 7 November 2019

It was the Six Minute Ten Seconds Fans Forum on Thursday with Jamie Mackie. ‘Who winds you up in training?’ was the first question which caused Mackie to collapse on the floor holding his head, theatrically check his forehead for blood and moan for the rest of the interview about how he’s not getting any protection from the rough-housing.

Friday 8 November 2019

You have to feel for Sunderland, it’s like they live in a parallel universe. One website has suggested that the benevolent failure-magnets could be good enough to take Cameron Brannagan off our hands in January. This is due to us ‘punching above our weight’ (aka punching above Sunderland). The Mackem’s would walk League 1 if less entitled clubs would get out of the way and let them do it.

Saturday 9 November 2019

Going to football is cold and miserable; we should just stay at home with a spreadsheet. That’s what data driven Five Thirty Eight have done; they’ve plugged all their numbers into Excel and predicted that we’ll finish third behind Ipswich and Sunderland. A lot of factors are considered; expected goals, defensive qualities, number of seats in your stadium, Charlie Methven’s loafers, that sort of thing.

Lun gone silver

It is hard to believe that following John Lundstram’s move to Sheffield United this week that only three players remain from the 2015/16 promotion squad. Josh Ruffels, Sam Long and James Roberts played a total of 14 games between them during that glorious year, the rest have gone. If it feels like we’re losing players like sand through our fingers, you’d be right, it’s the equivalent of losing a player from that squad every two weeks for a year.

What does this tell us? Is it that Darryl Eales is impatient for success and the constant replacing of one player for a better one just a necessary part of the squad progressing. Or, are we simply falling apart due to a lack of ambition and an unwillingness invest properly? Have we promised the players something we can’t fulfil?

Lundstram was peak Michael Appleton; he was sprung from a overheated talent factory at Everton and persuaded to drop down the divisions, changing course to find his way in the game. Ultimately, for him it was a worthwhile detour.

Lundstram offered an array of passing that we’ve rarely, if ever seen before at Oxford. He lacked pace, so the ball did the work. Joining the party slightly late in 2015, once he was up to speed he showed an ability to link play from the centre of midfield giving freedom to his partner Liam Sercombe who filled his boots with 17 goals.

Last season he struggled initially, perhaps because of the added responsibility of having the captain’s armband, but also because he had to pick himself up from an intense promotion season and, as they say in these parts, go again.

The arrival of Ryan Ledson steadied the ship in midfield, he offered the platform and Lundstram became a more conservative attacking option, at least in terms of distributing the balls that Ledson won. It’s difficult to say that it was overwhelmingly successful, but it did seem that when Lundstram played well, so did we.

Lundstram is another product of the Eales business model – unearth talent, develop, then re-sell. It’s worked well, to the tune of something like £5m over the last year. That’s the equivalent of a year’s revenue for the club, something that many people forget. The great challenge for the club is to keep that conveyor belt moving, Marvin Johnson is surely next to go, then Ryan Ledson, but then who?

Pep Clotet’s big challenge is not replacing Lundstram, but keeping the machine going. We’re well served in midfield and so the truth is we don’t need another Lundstram-type to be successful next year. However, we are reliant on continually unearthing bankable young talent to keep the money rolling in.

Or are we? Looking at signings made this summer there may have been a move away from the previous policy – Williamson looks set to sign and is 33, James Henry is 28, Dwight Tiendalli is 31, only Xema is in the bracket of Kemar Roofe, Callum O’Dowda and Lundstram and we wait to see whether he can play in England, let alone be valuable enough to be sold on. Perhaps the focus is not to so much to develop players to sell on a continual basis, but to get an efficient squad together which achieves promotion and gains the financial benefits of the Championship.

A change of approach? Maybe; or maybe a diversification of risk. Yes, we want to develop talent, but we also need a stable squad we can build on. People love the idea of picking up raw talent and developing it on, but in the voracious world of football, you will typically lose talented players earlier than you’d like. It goes back some way, but Jim Smith certainly adopted the approach of bringing in players who were older, even slightly past their prime, but who would deliver for a short window before being moved on. It put the development of the squad more in the hands of the club and less in the hands of others with fat wallets.

Lundstram is part of a wonderful, if too brief moment in Oxford’s history, but he’s another pawn in the football economy, an asset to be sold at the best price. It’s not the sign of a lack of ambition, it’s just the way it has to be.

Any other business – Six transfer window flight risks

The transfer window is opens and we’re in the unusual position of actually having players other clubs might want. For a club like us, that fills you with dread because there’s a sneaking suspicion that you won’t be able to replace them. It’s not as if we can just plough into the market and pick sign another Kemar Roofe. January is going to be an anxious month. So, who may be of interest to other teams, and what are the prospects of them going?

Kemar Roofe

There’s a lot of hype around Roofe; he scores goals, spectacular ones, and he has two songs about him, apparently Newcastle United are interested. Roofe himself hasn’t been as prominent in recent weeks; partly because he’s playing on the wing rather than down the middle. Plus, while he’s quick and skilful, I’m not sure he’s that different to others out there; I’m no expert, but there’s a reason why West Brom put up so little fight to keep him. I don’t think Premier League clubs are going to take an interest, but I can see Championship clubs sniffing around. There was a suggestion that Hull might be interested, which I think sounds very credible as to the type of team that might try to sign him.

Liam Sercombe

Sercombe’s surging runs through midfield give us a dimension we’ve not had in years, he also scores goals. One of those anonymous Twitter accounts said there were a few Championship clubs taking an interest. I can see why scouts may turn up to the Kassam to get a better look at Sercombe, but they’re watching players all the time. Again, I’m not sure; Sercombe has been on the scene for quite a while with 8 years at Exeter before coming to us. Are clubs going to take a punt based on half a season in a successful team? Plus, he’s on a contract and will cost a fee.

John Lundstram

Lundstram was a bit of a surprise signing for us; he’s played at a good level for England and although he was injured, it wasn’t as if it was career threatening. An Everton fan friend of mine says he was well regarded at the Toffees and earmarked as another to roll off their talent conveyor belt into the first team like John Stones and Ross Barclay. I do think that in a sense we got lucky and he’s playing at a level below which he’s really capable. He’s still young and well schooled. I can’t quite see a clamour for his services, but I judicious financial bid may see him leave.

Callum O’Dowda

He’s one of our own; and he’s got the temperament and skill to forge a very successful career at the top of the game. Is he ready? We don’t play him regularly and Michael Appleton has mentioned a couple of times that he’s been left out of games because he’s exhausted. Clubs will certainly be interested in O’Dowda, I’ve no doubt about that. I don’t know about January, there’s an outside chance of someone buying and loaning back just to secure his services at a later date, but I don’t think he’s going to fill a gap in anyone’s first team at a higher level yet.

George Baldock

He’s not one of our own. Baldock is perhaps the best player in his position in League 2, perhaps in the bottom two divisions. Plus, while the club might be prepared to put up a fight to keep their names, they have no such option with Baldock. I can see a bid coming in for him from a team at League 1 or maybe even the Championship, and I can see MK Dons cashing in on him, because for reasons I can’t quite fathom, they don’t seem to want him. The question is, I suppose, if a bid does come in, will we take on the fight to keep him?

Michael Appleton

Nobody has talked about Appleton leaving, but a couple of managerial movements recently has got me thinking whether he might, eventually, fall into the frame somewhere. There’s no transfer window with a manager so there’s much more opportunity for him to move. He’s well schooled, of course, and well regarded. Has he shaken off any bad reputation gained from him time as Blackpool, Blackburn and Portsmouth… and even us last year? Also, will a team in trouble want an Appleton-type of coach to get them out of the crap? He’s proving a very good analytical coach, but sometimes failing clubs need more of a crisis manager to shake things up a bit. If you’re threatened with relegation, I would choose a Chris Wilder type over Appleton. However, it might be that a successful club with a good infrastructure further up the chain find themselves with a vacancy, I can see Appleton being approached in that situation.