Comment: Oxblogger Official Favourite Player

If Chris Wilder threw together his team this season, he fair blew it to bits on announcing his retained list this week.

It’s a heartless business, and in a sense its sad to see the likes of Barry Quinn and Yemi take the bullet. Quinn, I maintain, was never a defender, but he was a good hard working pro. Yemi was given ample opportunity to shine, especially against Northwich, and failed miserably by skulking disinterestedly on the wing like a sixth form goth in a games lesson.

Craig Nelthorpe was a surprise, presumably brought in because his wages were right, and his performances were decent. We all know that wingers’ performances are fitful, but Nelthorpe was a player in the mold of Beauchamp, Cook, Angel and Powell – we’d not had his like for some time. His attitude was spikey, which may have been a reason for his release.

Chris Willmott deserved better. His injury record, lack of versatility and wages will have played against him; but his partnership with Foster this season was immense. Perhaps there is better out there and Willmott’s role would have been as a back up next season, but it still seems wrong.

It also leaves a vacancy for Oxblogger’s Official Favourite Player and post-clear out there’s not masses to choose from. But one man fits the bill. In the same way that Kate Moss is attracted to men who are not classically good looking, the Oxblogger Official Favourite Player is should never be a classically good player. No Turley, Constable, Murray et al. We like our players flawed, but we love watching them succeed; so no bench-huggers need apply. Just one man does it for me; and that’s Mr Damien Batt: Official Oxblogger Favourite Player number 3.

Yellows 1 York 1, Yellows 1 Altrincham 0

As we contemplate what impact Manchester City’s £100 million pursuit of Kaka will have on top flight football, we should also contemplate what the long term impact of our five point deduction and defeat to York will have on us.

The reality is that it could well have set us back 10 years. The next new tranche of money (aside from a cut of any future Dean Whitehead transfer) will come in the summer with the season ticket renewals. By this time we’ll be a below midway non-league team in its fourth year of Conference football… deep in a recession.

The recession is all relative of course, we’ll still have the biggest crowds and income, but we’re also living relatively way beyond our means. It’ll take some feat to lever us out of the league in that situation.

The departure of Phil Trainer prior yesterday’s win over Altrincham leaves Oxblogger without an official favourite player. I spent most of yesterday’s game trying to decide on who should replace him.

Turley, Foster, Constable and Yemi are all too obviously ‘good’, although Yemi has a bit of the Vern Troye about him. He may be ineffective, but he’s sooo cute. Dress him up in a teddy bear outfit and he’d win player of the season every year.

What’s more, the Oxblogger Official Favourite Player is a player that stands for something. Phil Trainer appealed because he punched some way above his natural talents. It was this sense of achievement in adversity which appealed.

Lewis Haldane is the complete metaphor for the whole club and therefore was a candidate. He’s got a great infrastructure that we don’t own but manages to disappoint week after week.

Others are either too young or too injured. Which makes Oxblogger’s Official Favourite Player… Chris Willmott.

Yesterday, as I looked around me to see a sea of acne’d faces, I’ve sat in my seat since we moved to the new stadium, but all others around me have moved on and been replaced by another tranche of teenagers lured by an afternoon out with their mates (only to eventually find out that girls are much more interesting). I feel like an old oak tree in the middle of a new business park that has a preservation order on it.

And, this, pretty much describes Willmott. All others around him change, but he keeps plodding on. Presumably he’s learnt that it’ll never get much better than it is at the moment, this is it for him, this is his job. He is me, and I is him. I feel we have a connection. Congratulations Chris.

Comment: Player of the Year

So, the club have announced a 5% drop in season ticket prices. I find the official site headline “Loyalty brings its reward” faintly patronising. Aside from a good run-in and Darren Patterson’s manager of the month award, it has been a dismal season. The very idea that the club deign to reward us is pretty galling. What it should have said was “We’ve served up a pile of absolute shite for 10 years, we simply can’t get away with charging you this much anymore”.

There were times this season when it was difficult to see how anyone could be rewarded a plaudit like ‘Player of the Season’ after the dross that was served up.

Pound for pound, it’s difficult to argue against Luke Foster, who has been, by far the best player of the season. However, I like my players of the season playing for a whole season and so prefer to look elsewhere.

The problem with this season is that only Turley, Quinn and Trainer can be described as first team regulars. Some (Twigg et al) made it to Christmas, others (Green and the like) only appeared later in the season. Some, (Day, Yemi) flitted in and out.

Trainer’s continued presence is a surprise; he looked heavy legged earlier in the season and a prime candidate for the chop come the revolution. In some ways he’s the perfect player of the season, as he’s a bit of a barometer – when we’ve struggled so has he, when we improved, so did he. I like him, he’s no player of the season in the traditional sense, but he’s the kind of player you can relate to. On that basis, I’m making him the first Oxblogger Official Favourite Player. An honorary position he shall carry until he leaves the club.

Back to the task at hand. The short list, then, is Turley or Quinn. Quinn has been Mr Consistent. 12 months ago I was advocating that he be released; but in cases of turmoil, his continued presence has been essential. Turley has been more erratic, his performances have been spectacular and frustrating in equal measure. His eccentricities are starting to get the better of him and its good to hear that Darren Patterson is planning to bring in some competition. But in a season where we contrived to score 1 goal in 13.5 hours, entertainment has been at a premium. Turley’s distribution may be a bit ropey, but his shot stopping has been superb. On this basis, Turley gets my vote for brightening up some pretty grey months.