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.
You know what it’s like rushing around getting all those little jobs finished before you scoot off on holidays. Before Merry and Jim fly off to top up their not inconsiderable tans we’ve had a slew of announcements. The programme of friendlies has been announced. The stadium and pitch will always help secure Premiership opposition; so Birmingham are the big boys in town, but there’s also the ignominy of hosting Wycombe in a friendly; how we’ve fallen.
Season ticket prices have been frozen for the umpteenth year running. At some point either inflation will align Kassam Stadium prices to the level of football on offer, or we will actually improve to the point where value is being offered. Yes, yes, yes, Boo, it’s a disgrace, £20 for this pile of crap etc. You (and me) will have our season ticket forms in before long.
Contracts are being tied up, Quinn, Yemi and Willmott are all in, leaving just Corcoran and Foster as ‘rebels’. For me, getting these two on board will signal real hope for next year.
It’s a bit disappointing to see Braveheart Hargreaves complaining about being released. Yes, at his age he now has some real life decisions to make; like does he continue the increasingly desperate scramble to make a living from football, or should he go and get a proper job. Perhaps it’s one last desperate hit of narcissism; as professional footballers are always fed a disproportionate sense of worth when they’re playing. As previously mentioned, given a free range I would have kept him, but as a veteran of eight clubs, he understands the peculiarities of professional football resource planning.
As shambolic as the club has been, if Hargreaves et al had been good enough then there wouldn’t be concerns over contract renewals. If you’re not part of the solution and all that.
And finally, in the first of possibly many vacuous rumours in the close season, it seems we’re fighting with, um, Mangotsfield to land Devises hotshot Nick Stanley. Expect a big money move to Malborough Rovers in the next few weeks.
Good news all round this week; the big Zebowski signs up for another month, Hutchinson, Santos, Willmott and Basham all making good progress recovering from their various injuries. Corcoran is in negotiations to join on a permanent basis. A suggestion that the club might build a temporary fourth stand for the home leg of the play-off – an economic and logistical improbability to me. Even the £560k deficit from last year will delight many fans – after all you can’t argue that we’re suffering a lack of investment.
I may be cynical or over analytical, but this flood of good news has been timed perfectly to get everyone up for the play-off onslaught. Hell, why not, the amount of energy wasted on counter productive booing and general cynicism would power Sellafield. Channelled in the right direction could make a world of difference.
What’s more, if we don’t do it, sure as hell no one else will. The BBC 606 message board discussing the conference team of the season shows as much. Barely an Oxford player is mentioned. It’s not a total surprise; we’re not part of the “conference family”; outcasts who are not worthy of consideration.
This is a shock to me; because Oxford used to be a club who played attractive football and punched above its weight. People used to like us. Now people delight in our failings. There’s an opportunity to galvanise a seige mentality; which will bring the club back together again.
No news round-up this week, simply because there’s been no news. So, a couple of thoughts instead. We’re currently 9 points clear of 6th with a far superior goal difference. So, make that 10 points.
If, and in this league it is a massive if, Morecambe, Burton, Exeter and Stevenage all win all their games, we will be five points clear with superior goal difference (make it 6).
However, this assumes that everyone wins every game. One of the obvious characteristics of this league is inconsistency; so the true likelihood of York pulling back 4 points and Morecambe and Burton both 6 AND Exeter 9 OR Stevenage 11 therefore pushing us down to 6th is beyond comprehension.
For all the ‘massive games’ rhetoric, we are in the play-offs. I’m a fan of the play-offs; in the Conference seven, possibly eight, teams are still in contention for them. If it was simply the top two going up, only two teams would really still have something to fight for.
What I’m not a fan of is the high bar that’s been set for promotion to the Football League. There’s no logical meritocratic reason for restricting automatic promotion to just one club. No club that has been promoted has ever come straight back down again; so it’s not a question of whether Conference teams are good enough or not.
It’s politics and protectionism, of course, but I see no reason why it shouldn’t be 3 up 3 down from Premiership down, with the third team decided by play-off.
In – The Big Zeboski
By my reckoning Jim Smith made his 10th signing since drawling something about bringing in ‘one, maybe two’ players due to the wage cap. The magical transfer elixir; The Dexter Blackstock Transfer Money has been stretched to the signing of Chris Zebroski on loan from Millwall.
Zebroski looked a decent signing on Wednesday and should certainly offer some much needed mobility up-front once properly fit.
Perhaps less well documented was his reason for leaving Plymouth…
Out – Coombes
Gregg Coombes is on his bike, and joins a host of players (Slabber, Grebis…) who barely unpacked their bags before being told to take a hike. Coombes arrived as Jim Smith looked for some meat in midfield due to injuries of Hutchinson and Pettefer and the patchy form of Burgess and Hargreaves. Smith seemed to hedge his bets by signing both Coombes and Martin Foster. Foster has be the unequivocal victor.
In – Corcoran
Michael Corcoran has signed up for another month. This will be his last loan due to one of those unfathomable transfer rules which says you can’t have more than three consecutive one month loans. This all means he won’t make the play-offs. There’s no doubt Corcoran’s quality; presumably he’ll help to secure the play-off place before handing over to Luke Foster (who has also looked pretty solid) for the final run-in.