Gordon Brown has been warning against protectionism in the fight against recession. I understand the general mechanics of the global economy and how protectionism is the antithesis of wealth creation, but there is a lot of appeal in concerning yourself with only what is close to home.
Half way through the second half today I found myself feeling anxious. The Farrell/Murray partnership hadn’t done enough damage up front for Yemi to exploit and it seemed the gameplan, and with it the win, had gone to pot.
Although we eventually camped in their penalty box and drew blood to take the win, my anxiety wasn’t born out of the impact the draw would have on the season. That’s a side issue for me. My anxiety resulted from a fear of destroying our fragile confidence. I’m wasn’t interested in where it took us in the league; I just wanted to continue the satisfaction of watching winning football.
For too long we have watched the world conspire against us to throw us into the pits of hell. Such has been the procession of awfulness, even the most logically minded of us can begin to feel as though a greater force is dictating our future. This season, I suppose, it has been. It was noticeable today on the radio that the team news was trumped by team-sheet news – they’ve added a column for player registration numbers.
This news proceeded Nick Harris’ typically tortuous pre-match metaphors – last week this game was like Barak Obama, this week like the Nadal/Federer match in the Australian Open.
He’s rather like a kindly reverend – what he says is of no consequence, but his confused naivety is reassuring. He seems utterly bamboozled by the modern world – constantly referring to the ‘Blue Circle Premiership’ and getting every name he utters confused – swatting away his befuddlement as though correctness belongs to another generation. If the world’s greater forces are at work Nick Harris has long given up trying to understand them.
These forces were at work on Tuesday so blame me for the Cambridge draw. I stumbled on an online free stream of the game just as some bloke I vaguely recognise as an ex-pro who probably played in the East Midlands was claiming he could only see Oxford extending their lead. Within three minutes Billy Turley had tipped two stinging shots over the bar, the third flew in. I guess it’s penance for watching an illegal hook-up of the game.
So, the world is too big and confusing, I would rather just protect what I have – and if home wins is all I have, that’ll do for now.
Hopelessly stuttering through the season, we may well be sleepwalking ourselves into a relegation fight if yesterday’s defeat to Lewes is anything to go by.
During times of crisis eventually someone calls for a return to the fundamentals or to get ‘back to basics’. The current crisis in the financial markets illustrates this perfectly. Financial institutions spend years unchecked finding increasingly complex ways of making money. When the inter-relationship between these tools becomes so complex it finally loses sight of the fact that trades should be tied closely to buying and selling real things the world gets the jitters and the markets collapse.
These layers of complexity blur our focus and we lose sight of our purpose for being. We indulgently feed our souls (or our pockets) but forget to feed our bodies. Getting back to basics is a call to return to what keeps us alive.
In getting back to basics Oxford fans may well need to divest themselves of the cultural baggage they afford themselves; the magnificence, the deservedness, the loyalty. This expectancy of reward weighs heavily around the club. But it means nothing. If loyalty is commitment to a cause, and that commitment carries a higher tariff in times of adversity and failure, then Oxford fans are the most loyal in the country. But so, then, are Bucks Fizz fanatics and they, like us, are quite possibly the dumbest mother fuckers in the country.
If Darren Patterson is to go then I fear that Oxford fans are not going to like what is required to replace him. We can no longer talk about ‘winning in the right way’, or succeeding because of our history, fans or size. Our requirements are more prosaic, more functional – and the kind of football needed is the kind delivered by the likes of Ian Atkins.
Atkins may not be available or willing, but he is the kind of manager who understands the needs of the lower leagues. Functional, efficient football based on things you can control; work rate and brawn. One of Atkins’ favourite phrases was about ‘winning the right to play’. I think we need to re-win the right to win.
There’s an interesting article in When Saturday Comes about the changing relationship the top clubs have with their fans in the light of the slew of foreign investors coming into the game. In short, billionaire investors don’t need fans because, a) they have their own money and, b) they have TV money. This means fans become detached customers with little or no engagement in the club, which, of course, makes it not a club at all.
For years my relationship with Oxford United has been pretty well defined. I am an Oxford fan exclusively. A season ticket holder for 12 years, a Manor Club member for years before that. I attend all home league games and a smattering of away games, I also attend FA and League Cup games.
I didn’t attend the LDV Vans/Sherpa Vans/Auto Windscreen/Johnstone’s Paint Trophy – a blue collar branding man’s dream. In part, this was a mild protest against the Kassam-era decline. Not an aggressive protest, I know, but then again I didn’t subscribe to the idea that he was dastardly and evil. I believe he genuinely thought he could apply his successful business philosophies to create a thriving football club. However, in fact he didn’t know what he was doing, became embittered by the backlash and under siege, simply focussed on what he knew he could do – make money from shrewd investments.
By not religiously going to every game, I preserved a degree of sanity. As a fan I don’t have the choices I have as a customer. In the 5 and a half years at the Kassam a vast majority of the games live little in the memory beyond a brisk walk up the Grenoble Road. Though there have been good games, the only two games I remember as being truly great was the Orient game and, for some reason, a ding-dong 3-2 win over Mansfield in 2001. I like being a fan and the restrictions it puts upon you, but I’m not so blinkered to see that two great games in 5 and a half years does not make a good product.
The FA Trophy is a new venture for the Us so I had to engage in some soul searching; was I customer or fan? After much debate with my inner-self I decided that although close, the Trophy appeals slightly more to my customer side and decided take a break from the all-consuming saga in the league. I’ll see you at the final.
The least said about yesterday’s game the better. It probably has little bearing on the rest of the season so let’s move on.
There’s been a bit of movement within the senior squad this week; Time And Relative Dimensions In Football: Chris Tardif has asked for a transfer. It’s not really a surprise he’s a more than capable keeper sitting on the bench at a Conference club; it’s amazing he signed a new contract in the summer.
Everyone seems to like Tardif; fans tend to have a black and white view when it comes to goalkeepers – the likes of Phil Whitehead, Richard Knight and Paul Reece were loved, whereas Paul Kee, Neil Cutler and Ian McCaldon were all universally loathed. Tardif was definitely the former; but in an era of brutish centre backs and failed champagne signings it was probably more to do with his steady ‘nice bloke’ middle manager persona.
Jamie Slabber is on his way, which can come as a surprise to no one. OK, some things worked against him; the team in a slump and a lot of games away from home but at no point did he show that he had anything worth hanging on to. You have got to question the attitude of a player with a Premiership scorecard lounging around the benches of the Conference.
As the January transfer window starts winding itself open, the inevitable rumours are starting to fly. Luke Rodgers may be on his way, apparently. Rodgers was always a pain when he played against us for Shrewsbury and could be a good signing. He was at his best when playing with the old warhorse Nigel Jemson who did all the thinking whilst Rodgers did all the running. He always looked like he should be playing at a higher level, but Crewe is about as far as he’s got. Assuming he hasn’t got a bit of the Slabber in him, he could well be a decent partner for Steve Basham, who is very much the thinker in the striker roster.
I suppose it was inevitable that other rumours are flying around. Andy Burgess to Leeds seems a little far fetched, but the This is United forum rumour that he might be on his way to Peterborough which is more credible, but only because it’s consistent with Posh’s current signing policy.