No-news round up

What do professional footballers do during their summer holidays? Not those who have OK! sponsored weddings, normal ones.

Presumably some go off with their families on holiday, catch up with a bit of DIY and watch the football. Others will inevitably disappear off to some party island and do things that professional athletes shouldn’t do. This latter approach illustrated by Yemi in an interview in last year’s programme – “where did you go on holiday and what was it like” to which he replied darkly – ‘Corfu with Danny Rose, one word – quality.’

You know things are quiet when Chris Willmott hobbles out from the physio room for his annual ‘I’m fit and raring to go for the new season’ interview before stubbing his foot on a table leg.

No new signings will worry some; although this follows the pattern of the last two years. Most contracts run out at the end of June, so it’s still a bit early. However, whilst the post-June signing splurge worked(-ish) two years ago, it clearly didn’t last year.

Still at least we’ve got Portsmouth coming down for a friendly – and a Manchester United XI (for this read – a team of Danny Roses – one word, quality), which relieves the ignominy of hosting glamour friendlies against Wycombe and Cheltenham. Jim Smith’s powers may have weakened in recent years, but on some fronts he is second to none.

News round-up: Ready Eddie Go

I’d had Eddie Anaclet down as a banker to re-sign this summer, instead he’s gone to Stevenage. Why? Glory? Well, Stevenage are Conference troupers; not a bad team, but not one that’s more likely to gain promotion next season.

Money? Aside from the likelihood of a tempting though moderate signing on fee, it seems unlikely that they offered significantly more than we did.

Something else? Anaclet always struck me as the kind of player who needed an arm on his shoulder. Even though an Oxford crowd would forgive a man for being caught buggering a dog in public if he could jink down the right wing and stick a cross into the mixer, Anaclet seemed the kind of character who would dwell on his mistakes and ignore his occasional brilliance.

Last season he played with injury in front of an unforgiving crowd and was constantly barracked by the likes of Turley. Oxford is the kind of club where a player has to deal with such a harsh reality and a young man has to build a strong backbone to deal with a pack of 30-something battle-worn old pros. I don’t condone it; a bit more togetherness wouldn’t go a miss down the Grenoble Road, but for now it’s a fact of life.

So perhaps we’re not a nice club to work for and Eddie has moved on for a quieter life. A massive shame; I liked him and what he did, he seemed like a player who just wanted to play and someone who would have enjoyed playing in the football league as the privilege it is. Hopefully the little man will do well at Borough.

News round-up – Smith departs

I thought he’d make the week, but in the end he didn’t. The timing makes sense, we should win tomorrow and even if we don’t, then it doesn’t make a lot of difference and it’s hardly going to be the new man’s fault.

For weeks we’ve been waiting for the black smoke to billow from the Quadrangle; the inevitable announcement of Smith’s departure. He promised promotion and didn’t provide it, he promised to love us, but grumbled, mumbled and shuffled around the place. If we’d been winning, he’d have been viewed as a loveable grandfather, when we didn’t the knives came out.

There are a lot of yokels dancing around with pitchforks and flaming torches celebrating his demise. But hopefully in the writing of history, the last few months will be scrubbed and the Smith legacy will remain largely unblemished.

The messianic return against Peterborough was an adrenalin shot just when it was needed. There’s no doubt it was good for business. Even now, without his presence, there would be considerably fewer people coming through the turnstiles every week.

However, on the pitch there was something not quite right about his return. Nick Merry’s blind faith in Smith overlooked one thing; even a good manager is mostly good most of the time. There are too many factors outside his control to replicate a successful formula over and over. It would have been some sort of miracle to see him conjure up the success of the 80’s. Which means, the chances of it all ending well were slim at best.

Such is the life of the football manager – who can lose a star striker and see his career evaporate before him – that wizened old managers like Smith appear so belligerent. Most of the time they will ultimately fail. They’ve got to believe in their own abilities because they know results don’t always reflect effort.

Although the press statements suggest he’s moving upstairs. Reading between the lines, it sounds like he’s gone. His contribution shouldn’t be underestimated, but its time to move on. Over to you Darren, let’s see what you can do.

News round-up

What is most galling about Paul Shaw’s departure, aside from the evident loss of a bit more craft is the dull transience of life in the Conference.

In a league where a good number of teams are part-time it shouldn’t be surprising to see players leave one mundane job for another. It happens in every workplace in the country. Footballers are almost unique when they say they’re moving jobs to ‘win trophies’. If only we could all say that about the jobs we do. Most people are more prosaic, distilling their requirements down to pay packets, distance to work and getting away from the bastard boss.

Money and greed are regular criticisms of modern football although at the top of the game it isn’t the money that’s as important as the number. Ashley Cole didn’t want an extra £5k a week from Arsenal because he wanted to buy a bigger house, it’s because he wanted to be viewed alongside the other stars in the squad. If Thierry Henry was paid 200 piles of cow dung, Cole would have wanted 201. It’s about respect; though what Cole and his kin miss is that they are afforded respect just by virtue of the privileged position they find themselves in.

Shaw has cited money, security and cultural enrichment for his children as reasons for moving to Hungary. He’s not gone to win things. Football is the job he does, and he’s gone looking for the things we normal people look for when looking for a job. This is where the magic and sheen is slipping. In the past players who left either were rubbish, or moved, if not to win things, but at least to appear regularly on TV – Whitehead, Elliot, Aldridge, Houghton, Saunders, Windass et al. The players on the pitch may not have been superstars, but we were, occasionally, a gateway to stardom. We were the fans who watched the players on the pitch battling to achieve that. The roles were clearly delineated.

At the time, being a ‘feeder’ team was galling, but at least it was something. Now we’re culturally closer to the players, which might encourage greater camaraderie. It’s likely that the average salary in the squad is similar to the average salary in the stands. They may have a sexier job, but the players’ value is akin to your average mortgage advisor. We want them to do things that are magical and different, but, when thinking of it in those terms, can we expect much more than competence?

And can we expect players to be loyal, or contribute to a cause that is not theirs? Shaw’s not stupid, his needs are a normal as ours, that’s why he’s moved – he’s just got himself a better job. We shouldn’t be surprised to see him go, as depressing as it seems.

News Round Up

Stadium heckles have got to be short. The bloke next to me, besides constantly clearing his nose, reverts to a very simple (and annoying) “OyOy!” when expressing, well, just about anything. Heckling is completely different communication tool to a blog or messageboard, where the analysis can be more considered and verbose, if you’re lucky. I’m not expecting anyone in the heat of the game to scream “SMITH, PUT IN PLACE AN EFFECTIVE ACADEMY SYSTEM BUILDING A TEAM AROUND YOUNG LOCAL TALENT COMPLEMENTED WITH A SELECTION OF MORE EXPERIENCED PROS” but I do hate; “SMITH, SORT IT OUT”.

Perhaps recent machinations is Smith sorting it out. The eviction of Time And Relative Dimensions In Football – Chris Tardif, is not really a surprise. The only surprise is that he’s hung around as long as he did. In fact, he was beginning to irritate me. He seemed to be a ‘Lovely Bloke’ who seemed happy helping out where he could. But was also another wage and he’d made it fairly clear he couldn’t really be arsed with the club – a veritable Winston Bogardes of the lower league. When there’s a wage cap and a struggling team I’m afraid being a lovely bloke didn’t work for me.

Robinson’s loan to Cambridge is more of a surprise. Only days ago Smith was heaping praise on him, what he lacked in ability he made up for in effort was the argument. Nobody else was scoring, so you can’t say that his selection was wrong on that basis. I agree. Robinson had a rum deal from the fans. Players of his size always look lumbering, especially when there’s nobody to capitalise on the knockdowns and knock-overs.

But then, he’s off and to all in tense and purpose he’s out, given the terms of the deal. Why the U turn? The Twigglet’s return to fitness has solved all our goalscoring problems? Is Robinson’s influence off the field taking its toll? He does have previous in this area. Or is another striker being lined up, one which will eat up Robinson and Tardif’s wages?

And why has he gone to promotion rivals? Because they’re not really perceived promotional rivals? Because whatever the bigger picture is, it was serious enough to take the opportunity as soon as it presented itself? Because Robinson is sick of Oxford? Because Smith is feeling the pressure?

Time will tell, I suppose, it’s got to start paying dividends; otherwise there’ll be no more ‘Smith, sort it out’, just ‘Smith out’, which would be a terrible shame.

Silence

As people weave their way into the latest anodyne blockbuster at the Vue, the great beast opposite sleeps. It’s mouth gapes wide open as it snores under the dank sky.

Deep inside the belly of the beast, tubby communications specialist Chris Williams, scratches around for more news to feed the website with. No signings, everyone on holiday, there’s nothing to say. Being a corporate automaton he can’t even make up any rumours, which is the newsman’s bread and butter during the close season.

He’s probably busied himself writing all next year’s programmes: ‘Welcome to today’s game which is vital for both sides…’ and secretly trying on Phil Gilchrist’s jock strap, but who can blame him with so little happening.

Mick Brown has been elected to the board of the Conference. Appointed unopposed, it seems a slightly odd move for the club, which surely isn’t planning to stay around the Conference, sorry Blue Square Premier, long enough to instigate any effective change to the competition and how it’s run.

One suspects, the move is less than altruistic, more likely it’s a move to influence enough to give us the best possible chance of going up. One would hope so, anyway.

Braveheart’s signed for Torquay, and good on him. Time And Relative Dimensions In Football – Christ Tardif is quite happy helping out in the club shop until something better comes along. Lazy git. And Luke Foster is on the verge of signing a new contract, though this appears to have been delayed because his car broke down, his dog ate his homework and his granny died for the third time this month.

Rumours flying around (parts of) Gillingham suggest Michael Flynn may be on his way though it seems odd that the Gills captain would drop two divisions and out of the league to join us.

And apparently Samuel Eto’o has been seen looking at houses in Wheatley. Watch this space.

Too little too late

It arrived yesterday morning. This season, for the first time, I opted for the away shirt over the home. The yellow is a bit washed out and the stitching on the Buildbase logo is rubbish. But, when it seemed we would be heading for Wembley, I figured I should join in a sea of (faded) yellow and put an order in. It came yesterday, too little too late, one might say.

Aside from the widely reported news of Rufus Brevett’s retirement, which has been so well covered you would think he was a war hero, there’s little going on at the moment.

There seems to be enough noise about to suggest The Big Zebroski will eventually sign. The runes at Millwall suggest that he doesn’t really have a future there. They have plenty of strikers who can score goals and could do with offloading a few wages. Jim Smith appears to think that if Zebroski can be landed, then he’s all done in terms of strikers. That’s confident talk indeed, given our obvious deficiencies in this department, but Zebroski did look good towards the end of the season. There may be more to this than meets the eye; for example, Jim will have learnt how important the Christmas transfer window is and is perhaps mindful of keeping a bit back for that. Alternatively, he may be trying to keep quiet to avoid other clubs and players trying to capitalise on our obvious need for firepower.

Nobody should be surprised to hear that Danny Rose is talking to league clubs. Rose is well positioned to find a new club, it just depends on if he can impress whilst on trial. He did occasionally go missing last season when the big boys got rough and he may yet struggle to secure a contract. Which is probably wishful thinking.

The biggest blow is the loss of Martin Foster to Rushden, which seems immensely careless. Foster offered some bite in midfield and was the catalyst to the late season improvements. I could understand it if we’d lost him to a league club or one further north, but to be outbid by Rushden is pretty poor. With Braveheart Hargreaves gone, the centre of midfield is suddenly looking a bit weak. Unless the plan is to move Barry Quinn back to his natural home to partner Carl Pettefer (in the absence of anyone new coming in, obviously).

Only Michael Corcoran remains out of radio contact. Meaning we have 13 professionals and three known irons in the fire (Zebroski, Rose and Corcoran). Last season’s signings came later rather than sooner, we probably shouldn’t expect much for the next couple of weeks.