George Lawrence’s Shorts: International bright young things

Saturday 7 September 2019

There was a right old punch in the guts on Saturday and for once it wasn’t administered by Joey Barton. A late goal against Barton’s Fleetwood Town saw Oxford go down 2-1.

Sunday 8 September 2019

Oxford’s greatest ever Lichensteiner, and hero of George Lawrence’s Summer Shorts, Benji Buchel returned to the white hot heat of international football on Sunday with a 1-1 draw against Greece in Athens. The 68,000 seater stadium was throbbing for the encounter being just 65,000 fans short of a sell-out.

Monday 9 September 2019

Having missed the opportunity to miss Saturday’s Fleetwood game, Jedward orphan Mark Sykes missed the opportunity to sit on the bench for Northern Ireland’s plucky 2-0 defeat to Germany in Belfast. Sykes sat in the stand while his fellow former Oxford Jedward, Gavin Whyte, came off the bench after the Irish back-stop had been breached.

Giving a new slant on the term ‘international break’, Ben Woodburn also didn’t play in Wales’ 1-0 win over Belarus. It’s a shame really, we think he’d have asked some searching questions of the opposition. Questions like: ‘Would you like me to introduce you to Gareth Bale?’

Tuesday 10 September 2019

Operation YellowCadden has revealed that Motherwell’s hopes of sunlit uplands is likely to end in a great pile of dung while venal rich fatcats make a financial killing. Cadden is, of course, on loan from Columbus Crew having left Motherwell in an entirely legitimate move which wasn’t in any way designed to avoid making a solidarity payment in lieu of Cadden’s development in Scotland. Motherwell’s boss has revealed he is in dispute with the Crew and is not expecting any resolution in the next couple of years.

Wednesday 11 September 2019

It was centre-back central on Wednesday as two former Oxford defenders opened up about their latest career moves. The top man’s top man Jakey Wright wright wright explained why moving to Bolton is the right right right move for him. In Leicester, Phil Gilchrist was chased down the street for an interview for their club website revealing that he nearly left Oxford at the same time as Matt Elliot, but wasn’t allowed to until they got in a suitable replacement. In the end, they didn’t get one, so they signed Brian Wiiiiiillllllsterman instead. 

Thursday 12 September 2019

KRob was in the hot seat for Radio Oxford’s Six Minute Eighteen Seconds Fans’ Forum, which ended up sounding like the lottery numbers being announced. The stadiumsituation played second fiddle as fans wanted their say on the club’s woeful form. Maureen from Witney thinks we should play 4-3-3 while Brian from Abingdon prefers 4-2-3-1, perhaps KRob should go with Beverly Hill’s 9-0-2-1-0, though Flavor Flav phoned to say that 9-1-1’s a joke in our town.

Friday 13 September 2019

The club said there was good news and bad news on the injury front. Matty Taylor who has had so many Oxford comebacks he might be Benedict Come-ber-back, could feature against Tranmere on Saturday while Jamie Hanson will be out for three and a half months. They didn’t say what the bad news was.

No, you’re a cheap shot, mate.

George Lawrence’s Shorts: Parker, Pens

Saturday 24 August 2019

Like your gran after she’s eaten her bodyweight in Turkish Delight, there was some pretty obnoxious Gas around on Saturday. The club put on extra security for Matty Taylor’s return to his former club, Bristol Rovers. Fantasies around Taylor’s return turned out to be just that as he limped off after half-an-hour and we went down 3-1

Monday 26 August 2019

Like a railway announcer during autumn leaf fall; KRob has pinpointed why we’ve gone 3 games without a win – the wrong kind of goals. Our problem is that we’re scoring great goals, not scruffy ones, ‘if you take away the goals, we dominated’ he said possibly ignoring a key aspect of professional football.

Tuesday 27 August 2019

Oxford entertained East London millennial snowflakes Mi’Woh in the Type 2 Diabetes Cup on Tuesday. After going 2-0 down, two super-late goals from Jedward orphan Mark Sykes and James Henry forced the game to penalties which were won by Jose’s son John Mousinho who broke the net to settle the tie. They didn’t like that, but they don’t care, though they really do, because they’re actually very sensitive.  

Wednesday 28 August 2019

Dean Saunders is a former Oxford United goal machine turned TalkSport shock jock – the shock being how little he knows about football. On Wednesday Deano followed a well trodden path for Oxford goalscoring legends like Steve Anthrobus and John Durnin by being sent to prison, this time after refusing to take a breath test when stopped by the police. Saunders is appealing the decision on the grounds of diminished intelligence. 

In less incarcerated news, The Type 2 Diabetes Cup draw had an extra shot of insulin in it when we drew bubble-based buffoons We’stam at home in the next round

Thursday 29 August 2019

Former Leicester City player and Kidlington local Garry Parker, has been appointed Head of Setting Up The Reserves To Play Like The Opposition. The new role will be a blessed relief to Parker, who – if his club photo is anything to go by – got lost on a holiday trek through the jungle wearing just shorts and a pair of flip flops this summer only to be found looking tired and bewildered by local tribesmen.

This year’s Tsun Dai Remind Me Why We Signed Him has been announced as Kash Siddiqi. Siddiqi is a 33-year-old Pakistani international who will instantly be sent out on loan and forgotten. A sub-continental Tony McMahon. 

Friday 30 August 29

Tomorrow sees the visit of Coventry City in which Oxford are hoping to break a losing league streak longer than Jimmy Hill’s chin. Meanwhile in last night’s Six Minute 29 Second Fans Forum on Radio Oxford it was Tiger who came to tea. On the stadiumsituation nothing has changed since the club were asked about the stadiumsituation last week, but Mr Chairman did imply another signing might be on his way.

George Lawrences’s Shorts: Cam and Agyei

Saturday 10 August 2019

Time warped in on itself on Saturday. The club announced a contract extension for KRob which was announced last week and reported the signing of Dan Agyei that was reported last week. On the pitch, Cameron Brannagan scored in the 1-0 win over Peterborough in next week’s League Cup game. C U Next Tuesday, I guess.

Sunday 11 August 2019

Disappointment at the annual photo day when 130 of our newly minted squad members didn’t turn up. Afterwards the players got a trip around Oxford’s Natural History Museum. Cameron Brannigan coloured in his worksheet without going over the lines, bored dad, John Mousinho, secretly checked the football scores on his phone and Derek Fazackeley spent some time with a set of diplodocus bones that reminded him of the pet he had when he was a boy.

Monday 12 August 2019

There was feverish speculation that Matty Taylor was set to sign from Bristol City. Taylor played seven games for Oxford in The Conference. He was released in 2009, placing him in a file marked ‘Phil Trainer et al’. Inexplicably the player the club prematurely wrote off has resisted attempts to re-sign him when he got good. But, he was seen at The Kassam on Saturday, so perhaps KRob has got his man.

Tuesday 13 August 2019

On Saturday, the press in Peterborough said nothing is won in August, and for their football club, they’re not wrong. The theory that the world was destroyed by the Higgs Boson in 2012 leaving just our consciousness suspended in an endless vortex of nothingness gained further traction in the Type 2 Diabetes Cup. Cameron Brannagan scored again as we won 1-0 again over Peterborough again, setting us up for a mouthwatering second round game probably at home to Peterborough again. What the Fiarce Kelleher is going on?

Wednesday 14 August 2019

Cosmopolitan sophisticat Çhrïš Ŵįłdé is heading for a no-deal Oxit at Sheffield United. He’s realised his Oxford United fetish is a closet full of skeletons he needs to empty. In an attempt to shame them into walking out of the club so he can play with his new expensive toys, he has told Samir Carruthers, Jake Wright and Ricky Holmes to think beyond the salaries that pay their mortgages and feed their children and think nebulously about ‘their careers’.

Thursday 15 August 2019

KRob was on The Six Minute Fifty-Five Second Fans Forum on Radio Oxford on Thursday where he confirmed that he wasn’t looking to replace Shaun Derry as deputy head of pointing and shouting. ‘I like being on the grass.’ said KRob, in a joke which writes itself. Pass the Wagon Wheels.

Benji Buchel’s summer tour of countries Nigel Farage is scared of has concluded in Germany with a creditable 0-1 defeat to Eintracht Frankfurt in the Europa League.

Friday 16 August 2019

Anyone who has seen GLS rummaging around in his rhinestone covered cod piece will know how much he loves ballroom and chlamydia. So we’re beyond excited to be going to Blackpool this weekend. The Seasiders’ manager Simon Grayson has been giving some insight into how he’ll defeat KRob’s unbeatable army. “We will do what we normally do and that’s focus on their weaknesses and try and use our strengths to go and win the football match” It’s that kind of tactical genius which us two world wars.

Midweek fixture: Just how does Karl Robinson keep getting away with it?

Last week Karl Robinson was having one of his rants. Characteristically, the vexations came thick and fast; no, signings hadn’t been easy; yes, we do know the season’s coming; yes, we are about to lose our best player. It was a thinly veiled, probably unplanned attack on the keyboard warriors of Twitter and Facebook who constantly demand instant success.

Twenty-four hours later, with Gavin Whyte leaving, he signed Ben Woodburn on loan, then a day after that, Anthony Forde joined, Rob Dickie signed a contract extension and, perhaps most surprisingly Karl Robinson himself signed a three year contract. The following day, Elliot Moore signed to fill the vacant centre-back role.

It’s difficult to know which is more surprising, that Robinson was offered a new contract, that he chose to sign one or that he’s still here at all. This is a man who led the team to a lengthy relegation scrap last year and who, on a regular basis, shoots his mouth off to the evident frustration of the fans. Put all that into the context of a distant owner who, if you believe a stereotype, will not tolerate humdrum performances, particularly from an English manager.

So how, despite everything, is he still getting away with it? 

Of course, the phrase ‘getting away with it’ implies that he’s managing to avoid the most logical conclusion that he shouldn’t be in post. This might be the heart of the issue, perhaps we need to challenge our norms to find an explanation.

Let’s start with our owners. It’s easy to paint a foreign owner as being untrustworthy and impatient. It’s easier still to paint our owners as conniving fraudsters given the problems they’ve had with paying bills and signing players.

But, perhaps they are doing things the right way, there has been investment in the training ground and the youth team set up. Results improved last season once the training ground was in a fit state. Signings, though slow this year, seem more sensible and robust.

The fans too are perhaps not as anti-Robinson as it may initially appear. The Absolute State of Oxford United survey rated him only a fraction behind the squad. In the main, the squad are considered positively, and so – according to the numbers – is the manager.

Then there’s Robinson himself; I’ve always said that he improved both MK Dons and Charlton in less-than-perfect circumstances. You might even argue that he has improved Oxford in a post-Clotet world where he had to shed the squad of the likes of Tiendelli and Mehmeti and deal with key players with itchy feet from the Michael Appleton era such as Ledson, Johnson, Rothwell and Nelson, while achieving, if not stunning progress, then stability.

There’s absolutely no doubting Robinson’s work ethic; his desire to succeed spills out in interviews, which doesn’t always serve him well. He’s barely gone a few days without talking to the press this summer and at times he’s looked exhausted. He understands the system – he knows that he can’t stop Nelson and Gavin Whyte pursuing their careers elsewhere – or Ledson or Rothwell – but he kept them all performing right up to the point they left. In addition, the signing of Woodburn – like Marcus Browne and Luke Garbutt last year – shows he has contacts in the right places. How much did his links to Liverpool secure the friendly with Steven Gerrard’s Rangers?

The Radio Oxford pre-season special with Robinson, Zaki Nuseibeh and Niall McWilliams saw the trio, if not finishing each others’ sentences, then at least starting them. What it seemed to show was a cohesive group with a shared vision of the future. Robinson’s signing of a new contract is perhaps the most telling; concepts of loyalty and ambition are probably over-stated in League 1, but Robinson evidently trusts the club to protect his reputation, which is critical to sustain his career long-term.

McWilliams, who I’ve been critical of, also made a tellng contribution. He said that when people asked him about the club’s strategy, he tells them about the ‘six pillars’ only for them to ask when they’re going to sign a new winger.

Which might be why Karl Robinson is ‘getting away with it’; because there is a shared long term vision for the club which will deliver its benefits more slowly than many fans (and many other managers) would want. That vision, alongside a robust, sensible, sustainable strategy, is more likely to deliver sustained success than the abilities, or otherwise, of a single individual. Perhaps Robinson is getting away with it, because he is not the genius with a gift of footballing alchemy, but because he understands his role in a bigger machine, a strategic thinker, which might be just what we need. 

George Lawrence’s Summer Shorts: Rob(in)son and Jerome

Monday 24 June 2019

Someone needs to turn KRob off and back on again; we downloaded the new KRob 2.0 app in May which promised less talk about transfer targets, but we’ve woken up this morning to find that’s all he’s talking about. Not only that, he’s talking about last year’s transfer targets albeit in some kind of encrypted code. He’s interested in bringing back Jerome ‘Jerome’ Sinclair and Luke ‘Garbs’ Garbutt who he wants to play alongside Sykes-ey, Hally and Henry-ey. 

Tuesday 25 June 2019

Nico Jones has given up his paper round and signed his first professional contract having broken into the first team at the end of last season. It’s a major first step for the seventeen-year-old whose ambitions to play in the Champions League final, appear in a World Cup and above all, be old enough to wear a football shirt with a beer logo on it. 

Meanwhile in the early hours of the morning, Jonte Angle Smith didn’t feature as Bermuda bowed out of Gold Cup despite winning against Nicaragua.

Wednesday 26 June 2019

Let’s face it, the CONCACAF Gold Cup is the last strand of knicker elastic holding up George Lawrence’s Summer Shorts at the moment. The gift keeps giving after Gino van Kessel’s Curacao snatched a last minute draw against Jamaica to progress to the next round where they’ll play the USA. Van Kessel enjoyed a short run out, coming on as a substitute.

Thursday 27 June 2019

KRob’s been talking. And talking. And talking. 80s pop sensation Danny Wilson who was linked with us is so enamoured by KRob he’s decided to stay in the US to continue what one website described as his MLS nightmare, the Sloth in the Box Jerome Sinclair is off to play in Holland while Chris Cadden has done a bit of a Matt Green (first time) and gone all quiet on a potential deal.

The good news is that former Charlton manager Lee Bowyer has admitted that Tariq Fosu is set to join. “He knows Karl Robinson…” said the reformed nasty piece of work “…and it still hasn’t put him off.” He didn’t add.

Meanwhile, creepy Uncle Warnock has got his man as Curtis Nelson turned into a Bluebird.

Friday 28 June 2019

Eric Thohir may look like a teenager featured on local news because of his thriving antiques business, but there are few moves he can’t shake. Having recently managed the election of Indonesian president Joko Widodo, he’s turned his attention to their Olympic bid by becoming a member of the IOC committee. This is all setting himself up for the biggest challenge of them all; having a cup of tea with Firoz Kassam which doesn’t result in a court order, but don’t run until you can walk.

Saturday 29 June 2019

Those of you concerned we haven’t signed an under-23 player for about 25 minutes will be reassured to hear that we’ve signed Yoav Sade. The club, who seem to collect under-23s like GLS collects tea lights from Ikea, is hoping he’ll play with Salvi Spasov. ‘Yoav sade slavi spasov’ is what GLS says when confronted by his wife at 3am when he gets home after 14 pints of Strongbow.

Sunday 30 June 2019

We close the week pretty much where we started. The Sloth in the Box Jerome Sinclair has signed for Dutch stutterers VVV-Venlo. It’s a brave move, and who knows he may regret it. But, he should never look back – as we had to look back into midfield to find out where he was every time a tantalising cross dropped harmlessly into the hands of the opposition keeper. Sick burn.

Midweek fixture: A defence of Karl Robinson

Karl Robinson is not always easy to love; he’s an ebullient character who loves to talk. Like the bloke in the pub who is really fun to be around at first, but then tries to instigate games of strip Monopoly at 4 in the morning when you’re trying to get to sleep on the sofa.

A typical Liverpudlian, he wears his heart on his sleeve and wants people to know how much he cares. I don’t have the same aversion to Liverpool that other Oxford United fans have and their the faux outrage of missing out on a UEFA Cup campaign in 1986. But, I can see how the scouse character grates with some Oxford fans, looking back we’ve always preferred the more considered, cerebral managers like Maurice Evans or Michael Appleton.

But, incompetent he is not; put aside the toxicity of the MK Dons brand and you see a lot of success – promotion to the Championship and a League Cup win over Manchester United – then at Charlton in a difficult environment, he steered them to the edge of the play-offs. In that sense, he’s not dissimilar to Michael Appleton; cutting his teeth on difficult jobs before arriving here.

Appleton fell on his feet at Oxford; he was given time, money and support to turn the club around. Robinson has not had the same stable platform to work from, but assuming we do secure a mid-table finish; he’s still delivered a reasonable result despite, not because of the environment he’s in.

I think there is another layer to Robinson that peeks out from time to time and which is a rare quality in a football person. There are many football autobiographies which reveal how being in the game destroys any love for it. Politics, rivalry and jealousy overwhelms people, extinguishes the joy of the game. It turns people into mercenaries. Robinson, despite the batterings he’s received from the game, not only does he recognises that as unpleasant as it is inside football, for fans on the outside it, the appeal remains.  

Robinson has been at pains to impress his responsibility in managing the club. He’s under no illusions about how long he might stay, or that he’ll ultimately be another grain of sand in the beach of Oxford’s history. But while he is in position, he has a responsibility to protect the history of the club and, hopefully, improve it in preparation for the next incumbent.

I’ve not heard a manager talk like that before. Typically, managers want to be recognised for what they achieve, respected for the work they do, they need their own brand to be enhanced. It makes them less interested in their host club. Robinson recognises a responsibility to something bigger than him that will last much longer. I said back during the celebrations for the 125th anniversary, the maintenance of the club’s spirit is crucial. If you let it die, you’ll never get it back. Robinson seems to understand that.

Furthermore, he’s keen to see that philosophy promoted to the players in his charge. The idea to invite James Constable and Joey Beauchamp to train with the first team was a masterstroke. It can be more than a flaccid PR stunt, it promotes the idea that if you work hard and play well for the club, then not only can you progress into higher leagues, you can leave a legacy in the way Beauchamp and Constable have. That might not be important when you’re virile and in your early 20s, but there will be a time when you’re not; leaving your mark when you can gains value when your body won’t deliver any more and ambition is replaced by realism.

Robinson isn’t as refined as Michael Appleton; if we lose a game, he’s prone to reflecting on what went wrong – which is perceived as laying blame. Appleton, looked at what went wrong and projected them forward as things to improve on. Robinson might say ‘We weren’t ruthless enough’ where Appleton would say ‘We need to be more ruthless’. The switch to from past tense to future tense, changes everything.

But Robinson is too quick, words tumble from his mouth. He’s at pains to support the club he’s at, to protect not only its reputation, but the people in it. He’s been protective of the owners and Niall McWilliams when he’d have every right to not be. He seems very conscious of the impact that the non-payment of salaries had on the staff at the club. In short, I think he genuinely cares for the club and people in it. And that’s all you can ask for.

As infuriating as he can be, underneath is a capable and compassionate man. It’s still questionable as to whether the club will find the stability it needs, and it’s possible that Robinson will not survive as it does, but I genuinely hope that isn’t the case. I appreciate his philosophy and work he puts in, accept he has flaws as we all do, but ultimately I hope he succeeds for himself as well as for us.   

The wrap: Oxford United 2 Barnsley 2

There were some predicting that we could fail to pick up a point through most of January and February. Justifiably so, we’ve got a fierce run through to spring.

So, on the face of it, Tuesday’s draw with Barnsley was a pretty decent result; particularly coming off the back of a draw against Fleetwood and the win over Portsmouth.

These results, lifting us just out of the relegation zone, reinforce my belief that we are not a bad side, we just lack numbers. By extension, Karl Robinson is not a bad manager, he just lacks support.

Then he opens his mouth and ruins its all.

I’ve a lot of sympathy for League 1 managers with limited resources during the transfer window. Fans bibble on about the players we should sign, IMMEDIATELY, ignoring trivialities of availability, the will of all those involved or any budget.

But, to be successful you have to be both discrete and planned. Karl Robinson is neither, it seems. Put a microphone under his nose and he’ll tell you who he’s looking at and what state any deal is in. He raises expectations which can only result in disappointment. On Tuesday he implied that the club were ready to spend, only to do nothing of the sort.

Words poured out of his mouth – he talked about ‘women and females’ and how foreign coaches are treated differently. He claimed that the Barnsley manager Daniel Stendel said ‘S.H.I.T’ like a schoolboy dobbing on the big boys.

This is Robinson being open; cut through it all and there’s a lot of sense in there. It’s possible that Stendel swearing in German will be treated differently than if he swore in English. His gibbering about pride in the shirt and the commitment of the fans is what the fans want to hear.

Some of it is wrapped up in some cultural assumptions about scousers. We assume them to be passionate, heart of the sleeve types. Both chirpy and emotional. But if you’re from Oxfordshire, where things are, perhaps, more reserved, it can grate.

He shouldn’t be judged for where he’s from, but he talks himself into trouble. In a club with resources and momentum, his verbal avalanches are, perhaps more tolerable. We’re more likely to enjoy his casual, open nature when the consequences of getting it wrong have less impact. But in a club which needs discipline and focus, where margins of error are much smaller, and where resources don’t appear to be as plentiful as we’d like, he just comes across as panicky and full of excuses.

When this happened earlier in the season, there seemed to be a conscious decision to reign him in a bit. Derek Fazackerley was more visible on the touchline, Robinson stayed back on the bench. It seemed to work and results improved. We’re on an OK run but with difficult games coming up. The margins of error narrow as the season progresses. Maybe they need to try something similar now.