Midweek fixture: 2010 play-off winners – where are they now?

Ryan Clarke

A goalkeeper who saved his team more times than any other player is ironically most well known for dropping the ball into his own net with the score at 2-0. Clarke went on to play more than 200 times for the club before moving to Northampton Town. His career stalled a bit and he failed to make a single appearance, later admitting to depression. After a brief spell at Wimbledon he moved to Eastleigh and Torquay and is currently at Bath City.

Damian Batt

A full-back with pace and a prodigious engine, Batt played on for three more years before briefly claiming a move to Vancouver Whitecaps. It came to nothing and he announced his retirement allowing him to focus on his business Alexander Du’Bel. He made a brief return at Eastleigh and then Dagenham and Redbridge before fully retiring in 2015. In 2017, the Telegraph raised a series of concerns about his dubious claims to be raising money for charity.

Mark Creighton

The Beast who kick started the season with a last minute winner over York was a wall of a central defender. Almost as soon as the following season started Creighton was loaned out to Wrexham, before moving to Kidderminster Harriers permanently. After two years he retired due to injury and set up his tattoo business Raw Ink Studios.

Jake Wright

Signed midway through the season to replace Luke Foster, Wright evolved into a formidable centre-back and leader. Wright steered the club through the League 2 years and into the Appleton era where he captained the team to promotion in 2016. He signed for Sheffield United, rejoining Chris Wilder during that summer and promptly won promotion with them to The Championship.

Anthony Tonkin

A sanguine full-back signed in the January before the play-off final. Tonkin drifted out of the team after promotion, but had a moment in the sun against Swindon Town. In 2012 he moved to Aldershot Town before moving onto Frome Town. A business graduate, he had a sideline as a property developer during his playing days. He became a Financial Advisor on retiring before becoming a Quantity Surveyor.

Dannie Bulman

Bulman was signed at the start of the promotion season after leaving Crawley Town. He had already played over 350 games for Wycombe, Stevenage and Crawley. Bulman was quickly moved on back to Crawley following promotion; Chris Wilder’s biggest mistake. After that he moves to Wimbledon where he was the Football League’s oldest player in 2018. Currently back at Crawley.

Adam Chapman

Signed from Sheffield United, Chapman took over from the injured Adam Murray as the creative force in midfield. Immediately before the final it was announced that Chapman was set to stand trial for killing someone in car accident. He was convicted and spent a year away in a young offenders institute. He returned and played spasmodically before moving on, at one playing a game against Wycombe with a burnt his nipple from baby milk. He now plays for Sheffield FC.

Simon Clist

An invaluable water-carrier in the middle of midfield. Clist became our unlikely first goalscorer on our return to the Football League. In 2012 Clist moved to Hereford on loan and then permanently. The trail runs cold at this point, although he reappeared as guest of honour at the club in 2018.

Jack Midson

A player with a deft touch and great poise; Midson was another player who undeservedly was moved out of the club by Chris Wilder following promotion. He eventually settled with Wimbledon, taking them back to the Football League and having the honour of scoring against the Dons’ nemesis MK Dons. Following a number of moves he became assistant manager at Concord Rangers. He’s also a director of M&M Sports Coaching with his team mate Sammy Moore. Recently appointed manager at Hemel Hempstead Town.

James Constable

A bona fide club legend. Constable scored over 100 goals and just one short of the club’s goalscoring record left for Eastleigh. After four years he moved to Poole Town one loan, recently announcing his semi-retirement and became a patron of Oxford United in the Community. Left Eastleigh permanently in May 2019.

Matt Green

A peculiar career which started at Cardiff, he had a brief loan spell at Oxford before controversially moving to Torquay. He came back in 2010 and became part of a formidable three pronged attack. Another player who was moved on a little too quickly, in 2013 he scored a bucketload at Mansfield earning him a move to The Championship and Birmingham City. Injury stalled his career and he moved back to Mansfield before moving to Lincoln and Salford.

Subs:

Billy Turley

A character and a dying breed, Turley lost his place to Ryan Clarke at the beginning of the season. He was released immediately after the final before spending some time at Brackley Town.

Kevin Sandwith

An early Chris Wilder Signing, he lost his place to Anthony Tonkin at Christmas. Released after the final he went to Mansfield before drifting around the non-league and disappearing.

Alfie Potter

Potter came on to score the iconic third goal at Wembley. He played on until 2015 enjoying moments in the sun such as a winner over Swindon and a leading part in a 4-1 win over Portsmouth. Joined Chris Wilder at Northampton in 2015 before moving to Mansfield and Billericay Town.

Rhys Day

Day came on with three minutes to go and won the header which set up the breakaway for the third goal. Another player who played briefly for Mansfield before popping up at Hyde. Currently an Operations Manager in Manchester.

Sam Deering

A diminutive forward who set up Alfie Potter for the third goal. Deering drifted in and out of the team until 2011 before moving to Barnet. Enjoyed an FA Cup giant killing with Whitehawk before ending up at Billericay.

Manager: Chris Wilder

Battled on with the club until everyone forgot what a remarkable job he had done. Left acrimoniously in 2014 for Northampton who were, at the time, bottom of League 2. He saved them by beating us on the last game of the season. He followed it up by winning the title while we came second. Shortly after, he moved to Sheffield United where he won promotion to the Championship and then, in 2019, The Premier League.

Kassam All Star XI – Strikers part 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The season in review: the attack

The revolving door in the striking department has ensured that we go into the close season with just four strikers vying for three slots.

Of those discarded, Simon Hackney was the HD Sam Deering. Like Deering he looked like the best player you ever played against at school, but some way from truly being a first team regular. Ryan Doble disappeared faster than he arrived, so you can hardly say he was given a chance.

Jack Midson is held in some reverence amongst Oxford fans. Part of the Conference Play-off team, he’ll always been fondly remembered. Due to the Miracle of Plainmoor, and the fact he’s a thoroughly decent and articulate bloke, some consider him hard done by.

Rationally, during Midson’s Indian summer post-The Miracle, his endeavour wasn’t enough to make him look like a player capable of challenging James Constable over the next 2 years. Likewise Matt Green, whose later aimless performances cast a shadow over his otherwise essential contribution to our renaissance.

Constable himself was questioned by some as to his ability to ‘step up a level’. Mostly this just seemed like self-fulfilling prophecies. Every game he drew a blank was considered proof. In reality we were always better when he played, although his role was as much a foil for McLean and Craddock as it was as a target man. It was bit of a surprise to see him getting player of the season given the scrutiny he was put under.

Despite Tom Craddock’s 15 goals, he still doesn’t seem yet to have been fully accepted by the Oxford fans. Perhaps it’s the Luton connection; maybe it was the way he was so coveted by Chris Wilder to the expense of the likes of Midson and Matt Green. He offers something no other player can offer; movement, awareness and finishing are all some way above others in the squad. I think he’ll flourish next season.

For a period Steve McLean was the quality mark that all others were supposed to be aspiring to. Latterly, however, he portrayed sniffy diffidence. He’s never going to be a player who pops a lung chasing back, but he’s a smart and gives us another dimension. Should we sign him? Yes. Should we bet the farm to do so? No.

Last year, I put Sam Deering on death row, saying that despite his popularity, he didn’t quite fit in. I’m not going to be popular when I say that Alfie Potter is this year’s Sam Deering. Potter is what Potter does. I like what it, but there is a point where he’s got to decide what’s he’s contributing. He’s certainly no goalscorer, and his assisting in patchy. Mostly he can seen dancing through the opposition’s midfield in a neutral zone about 20 yards outside their penalty box. It’s all very pretty but ultimately unproductive. There’s time to change, but he’s got work to do to become indispensable, I think we’ll see him out on loan sometime before next May.

Yellows 0 Forest Green Rovers 0

It’s not easy thinking of what to write about when things are going well. You need a bit of drama and farce to get your teeth into. Everyone loves a good moan, but nobody’s given us a freakin’ bone this year.

So if there’s a void, then fill it. Before yesterday’s drab 0-0 draw with Forest Green Jerome Sale (I think) and Peter Rhoades-Brown engaged in a baffling conversation about the need to freshen up the squad within the next couple of months. And that was before the game.

Well, the soothsayers they spake the truth. Collapse! Catastrophe! A bloke behind me declared Potter ‘not as quick as Yemi’ and Green ‘just shit’. A caller to the phone said he didn’t agree with the signing of Green anyway, which suggests he’s spotted an otherwise imperceptible link between Green’s ‘greedy’ past and his profligacy in front of goal.

Yeah, let’s blame everyone else. Let’s blame them for our misery, our wasted money, our bad job prospects, our missed educational opportunities, let’s blame them for our sexless marriages, our worrying embarrassing ailments, our social failings and our addictions. It’s all so much easier that way.

Losing is a dirty addiction; people love losers, they’re so needy and The System is always to blame. Newcastle are on this self-pitying scag; the deeper in the shit they go, the more erratic they become. And we all love it because it deflects you from the truth. Winning is difficult, but it’s built on being boring and corporate. Great teams bore everyone else to tears because their success is monotonous and calculated. When they lose or draw everyone salivates… and then they win again.

We were flat against Forest Green but we didn’t lose and Matt Green missed a bunch of chances, but he was there to take a swing at them. It was generally a pretty awful spectacle, but we’re still top. The short answer to the problem is that we forgot to do the basic things that make us the best team in the division. The answer is not to tear the place to pieces and sign, y’know Jamie Cook or someone, it’s to get back to the basics, work our way through the gears and start winning again.

Stop press: Shit, we’ve only gone and signed ‘son of Joey’ Jamie Cook. Apparently we the fans contributed. Given that the 12th Man Fund was boasting an impressive, but not player-buying, pot of £4,900 suggests that the contribution is either a PR masterstroke or Jamie’s standard of living is akin to a living in a Brazilian favela. Welcome back Jamie, you might find the place has changed a little bit since you were last here.

Yellows 4 Chester City 0

I once worked in a place where a woman who had been fired kept coming into the office. She’d attend meetings, give and opinions, appending her comments with ‘…of course, it doesn’t really matter because I’m leaving’. It was hard to know whether it was an act of cold defiance or she’d gone seriously loopy. Either way, she was dead-woman-working.

It is difficult to make any meaningful judgment following the dismantling of dead-club-walking Chester last night. Has a team looked helplessly towards the bench for guidance and escape more often than them?

What the hey, as my first game of the season, I thought I’d have a look at the new boys.

Ryan Clarke
Clarke did what he had to do; which wasn’t much. He made one decent save and dealt with a couple of defensive wobbles without fuss. Clarke looks like a worthy challenger to Turley, but the real test for him is too come.

Rhys Day
We know that Lanzarote Luke Foster does not summer well. Last year, when he returned in August all tanned up and humming terrace trance anthems, Darren Patterson had to turn to Matt Day, a man who went to a Kit Kat factory for his holidays. This time round its Rhys Day that’s ready to step in while Fozzie sorts his head out. Day looked like a decent ball player, a bit gangly and may be prone to getting himself tied up in knots. But he looked like a worthy first teamer not a make-weight.

Mark Creighton
The way Kidderminster fans eulogised about Crieghton, I had him down as a non-league Matt Elliot – y’know, all good touch for a big man. In truth, Crieghton is a more agricultural centre-back. No bad thing when he’s been paired with Day or Foster. Should be able to sit on all but the most robust strikers this season.

Alfie Potter
Ickle Alfie, as cute as a button. He’s a bit like the kid at school who’d spend all lunch break dribbling, never passing, never shooting. Loads of skill, good on the ball, but a little frustrating in terms of end product; especially when lined up with the goal machines Constable and Green. Eventually someone will get bored of his trickery and kick him to Barton. He’s just lucky that Creighton plays for us.

Danny Bulman
Brilliant. Whenever a linking up or something needed breaking down, Bulman was the man to do it. This allowed Adam Murray to play with more freedom, like he did when Jamie Hand was doing ugly stuff a year ago. Bulman’s work even allowed Clist the opportunity to push forward, which lead to the first goal.

Matt Green
Old Greedy looks like a footballer. He agile, fluid and good on the ball. He stands out a mile against most others at this level. Looking back over the last 10 years, it’s hard to think of the decent strikers we’ve had at the club; now we’ve got 2, 3 even. Do you miss that knotted feeling of frustration and helplessness from the good old days at the Kassam? No? Me neither.

News round-up: Greed arrives, greed leaves

Red Dwarf was a rather limited concept. There is little scope for plot development when your entire premise is that everyone in the universe, bar one, has died. That’s why they invented plot devices like The Time Gate, a hole in time that, on passing through, allows you to meet yourself as a complete opposite. 
It seems we’ve passed through a time gate in non-league football this summer. Big time Charlie, Greedy Matt Green, soberly returned to the small time as a third choice striker. Ronaldo might have the arrogant swagger and talent to engineer a move to Madrid but Greedy has the only just got the skills to pay his telephone and leccy bills, not Ferarris and be-atches. Nobody ever swaggered to Torquay, unless they were over 80 or on a stag do.

The Conference’s Setanta deal was another genius move by the immaculate Brian Lee. The Conference became a Premier League and TV access came through premium rate pay-per-view. The cameras were allowed into the dressing room so that fans could smell the tactical mind of the manager. “Just fucking launch it, Sean” never had so much meaning. Suddenly football being played on a potato field surrounded by four cattle sheds was supposed to be sexy and its precocious talents, like Greedy, were stars.

But that was in the days when the small time was the big time and the big time was the absolutely fucking gigantic time. Now we’ve passed through the time gate, a more sober world beckons. 

For us, Greedy is a good move, a decent third striker who could easily put another 10 goals onto our tally for next season. For the Conference, a re-think is needed. It is small town, localised football but it’s competitive and affordable. If it is sold like the over inflated Premiership it will eventually be found for what it is.

News Round-up: Gulls get Green

Ah, the duplicity of professional football. Despite Matt Green claiming that a verbal deal had been done and that all his family and friends has been telling him to move to Oxford, he’s gone to where all old Oxford players seem to end up these days; Torquay.

It’s difficult not to appear bitter about it. Rationally he should go for the best deal he can get. Equally, there are plenty of strikers in the world and so signing one with a dodgy knee hardly guarantees promotion. So, we should see this as a set back not a disaster.

It would be naive to think that the autistic loyalty that forces you and I to renew our season tickets should extend to the players. However, if he was undecided, then he should keep his mouth shut. Sadly the arrogance of footballers, footballers who are strikers, footballers who are strikers that are in demand, prevent them from aggrandising themselves at every opportunity.

Is this a symptom of the lack of ambition and/or competence at the club? The fans seem to think so. It’s early days, we shouldn’t expect much before July if the last couple of years is anything to go by, but we do seem to be in a worse situation than we were at the end of last season.

Striking has been a problem for the last couple of years. Last season Jim Smith inexplicably thought we were well served despite having a roster made up of Gary Twigg and a bunch of misfiring duds. This year, we have Yemi alone. Prospects for next season aren’t doomed just yet, but there’s a lot of work to do before August.

News Round Up: The retained list

No major surprises in the elegantly named ‘retained’ list. Carl Pettefer was always a bit of an oddity; he did that Paul Scholes industriousness really well but neither Jim Smith nor Darren Patterson seemed to like him. Maybe it was wages, injuries or attitude, but something prevented him from being a more permanent member of the squad.

You always knew when Eddie Hutchinson was about to get injured because he started playing well. His eager bluster did little to disguise a lack of quality. He may have been a useful player to throw in at times of crisis, but salary meant carrying a rarely needed footballing Kate Aide was a luxury too far.

Rob Duffy, The Enigma, will no doubt be seen trotting up and down the touchline as a substitute for some aspirant promotion hopeful in the coming months – “Ooh, he scored over 20 goals for Oxford one year”. His defining moment was his one-on-one against Exeter, the moment he tamely rolled the ball into the arms of the keeper was the moment his Oxford career was effectively over.

The Danny Rose brand – Ex-Captain of Manchester United Reserves – fooled many a Kassam regular who would obliquely comment on how much we needed his ‘creativity’. The sad truth is, as small and cute as he looks, he just wasn’t up to the job.

Richards and Blackwood never looked likely to stay long. Jamie Hand was improving and one wonders whether Patterson may have another look at him if he’s still available in August. One must question just how long Chris Willmott’s contract is for. I was sure his name would eventually surface.

The biggest surprise was probably Craig McCallister; who I thought was a useful foil for speed freaks like Yemi and Matt Green. Whilst he was never going to net 20 goals a season, his ability to hold the ball up and link up with the midfield allowed us to control games much better than we did with the sauntering Duffy.

What’s more, I don’t think we’ll keep Matt Green, it feels like his gaze has gone elsewhere already and there’s a long summer and a lot of clubs looking to take a chance on a half decent striker ahead. With only the recently revitalised Yemi staying, but still not fully redeemed, we could start next season right back where we started.