George Lawrence’s Summer Shorts: A Chinese takeaway

Monday 8 July 2019

I will drive three-fifty miles 
And I will drive three-fifty more
Just to see my team get mullered by the Rangers 

5-0, that’s for sure.

Purple faces, a belly full of bargain lager and too many Embassy ciggies, and that was just the players after the pounding we got in the Steve Kinniburgh Invitational Shield on Sunday at Ibrox. ‘We’re not where we want to be’ explained KRob, presumably not referring specifically to Glasgow.

Tuesday 9 July 2019

The Scottish Sun, which meteorologists agree is a contradiction in terms, are reporting that a ‘fantasist stalker who loved the champagne lifestyle’ was seen at Ibrox on Saturday. In addition to KRob, loon-eyed Gers fan Jill Sharp, straight out of Loon-Eyed Central Casting, was pictured just behind the dugout with a flag referencing her so-called luxurious lifestyle. Sharp was given a restraining order after a three-year campaign terrorising another fan in 2019, but she was back looking for another victim for her affections. This probably explains why Jamie Mackie was absent having injured his back ‘doing a back heal’.

Wednesday 10 July 2019

And that sweet city with her dreaming spires
She needs not June for beauty’s heightening

It’s a shame that Matthew Arnold didn’t stick around for July, when one of the great ancient Oxford traditions happens. The amateur fellows of the City try to end the careers of the dandies of United. Like May Day in Oxford, where quadriplegia from jumping off Magdalen Bridge was once considered a right of passage, the modern tradition is a more sedate affair.

Nowadays it’s less about snapping your opponent’s ankle ligaments and more about ritual humiliation. The City fellows gave it a decent shot this year going 2-0 up before the dandies regained an ounce of respect dragging it back to win 5-3.

Thursday 11 July 2019

Pre-season friendlies are where Gammon Pride happens; there was another gathering of pasty overweight men in ill advised shorts at Thame United last night for another pre-season thrill-fest. The game ended with a 2-0 win after goals from Gavin Whyte and the Aylesbury Ashley Young Rob Hall.

Chinese brand expansion pack and bottomless pun bucket Tsun Dai has signed for actual Wolves for real money. Wolves fans greeted the news with the same Sunday puns we did last year. The consensus is that Wolves’ Chinese owners are stockpiling players of Chinese origin hoping to stumble across an Oriental Beckham to propel them into the Chinese market. KRob is currently in the Dragon’s Pearl in Witney, where he’s hoping to sign a couple of £30 million rated “full-backs” from their kitchens. 

Friday 12 July 2019

‘I wish it could be football every day’, sang Roy Wood in the little known follow-up to his Christmas classic. KRob is faithfully trying to make his wish come true having arranged their fourth friendly of the week, last night’s 2-1 win over Brackley Town. The world is so sick of Oxford United friendlies, even Twitter decided to shut down for a good proportion of the game. 

Saturday 13 July 2019

In what felt like the four hundred and thirty seventh game of the week, Oxford drew 1-1 with Woking in the Harvey Bradbury derby. KRob blamed a lack of cutting edge up front, ignoring the seven and a half hours of football and 1000+ miles of travelling he’s insisted the squad do this week.

Pre-season – on the pitch

Pre-season has been like going to a gig of your new favourite band. Not during the tour to support their multi-platinum selling breakthrough album, you couldn’t get tickets for that one. This is the tour for the much-anticipated follow-up; arenas and stadiums only. Like Blur touring The Great Escape, or Stone Roses with the Second Coming, or Nirvana with In Utero.

The 6-2 defeat to Didcot is the new album’s big opening number, not necessarily the best song but one that gives you a sense that you’re listening to something big. The 2-0 victory over Dumbarton is the new album’s first single. A big hit simply off the back of the previous album’s success. The band’s artistic input has been curtailed by the record company who want more of what made the first album successful. It’s our Country House, a good song, but nothing new. A reminder of why you’re a fan.

Livingston and Winchester are the songs from the new album that made you realise that the new album is, well, just a bit boring and pedestrian.

As the crowd are thinking about heading to the bar, they play Leicester, the big breakthrough single, our Wonderwall. Suddenly everything is bouncing again.

Brackley is a forgettable ballad, then Manchester United XI is the big anthemic hit. A 12 minute set closer. You’re buzzing, what a tune. The lights go down. Bring on the encore, it’s going to be amazing.

Sadly, the band come back on to play Oxford City, a cover version of an old punk classic involving some guest who is probably the drummer of the support band on mouth organ. It wasn’t really the kick-ass encore you were expecting, but you cheer politely in anticipation of the big finale.

Instead, they play Banbury, a sentimental acoustic number they’ve been writing on the tour bus. It’s a paean to the lead singers’ dead grandma. It doesn’t really have a hook or chorus and nobody’s ever heard it before. Quite frankly it won’t even make the next album, it might, possibly, make the bonus CD of the 10 anniversary reissue of the big breakthrough album. The band depart satisfied they’ve discharged their artistic responsibilities. We, on the other hand, go home a little short changed.

So pre-season has passed me by a little. But so did the World Cup and Tour de France in what should have been a top summer of sport. But then, from time to time, I think of Wembley and still get a little frisson of excitement. And then I realise that in the past the summer has been a break from the drudgery of the season and the pre-season campaign has been for vainly trying to spot signs of recovery. This season, however, the recovery is underway and the summer is just a pause in the story. Screw pre-season, I just want to get going again.

News round-up: loan stars

I was going to open this post by making out that I was slapping myself in the face trying to resist the temptation of being optimistic about the coming season. Luckily the Brackley result poured the necessary cold water on that.

Friendlies are horrible; if they’re meaningless then why do all teams play them? Fitness is one obvious reason; which is why Matt Day should expect to play a lot this summer. How do you manage to be a professional footballer and put on (as rumoured) a stone in weight during the close season? Especially shortly after being publicly told that he was on his way out of the club if he didn’t change his attitude. How stupid is Matt Day? Or is this why we love him so?

The other reason for friendlies is an opportunity to walk through some patterns of play – which is why James Constable’s winning goal against Oxford City is encouraging. At least he and the ball were in the right place at the right time to score.

Most of the week was taken up with the flurry of signings 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 although none of them are actually ours. I’m not sure of the ins and outs of the loan system. It seems we pay the salary and get a decent player – but we don’t get to keep them. I’m not comfortable with this idea because it seems to dilute the club’s identity (e.g. its best players aren’t really its players at all). On the other hand, I’ve never professed to being totally au fait with modern football and – like people using lower-case text message language in work emails – perhaps it’s the way things are done nowadays. It is, I suppose, a short term investment in a long term future.

Certainly Lewis Haldane and James Constable seem to have the backing from the fans of their parent clubs, which is a good sign. Jamie Guy, on the other hand, appears to be yet another ‘bad-boy’ (Robinson, Jeannin, Zebrowski). Although if he turns out to be a John Durnin, then who cares? Nicky Wire from the Manic Street Preachers once said of the Italians “As long as the manager wins the title it doesn’t matter if he’s caught sniffing cocaine out of the arsehole of a whore” which is kind of how I feel about Guy. One of the benefits of the loan system is that if he does make us successful, its because we’re a great club – if not, he’s from Colchester.

I wonder whether the signing of Jake Cole suggest that cracks in Billy Turley have started to show. Certainly Turley had is eccentric moments last season, although in the main he was excellent. The length of Cole’s signing suggests that Turley’s injury may be worse than originally perceived. Although goalkeepers are able to play into their forties, you have to question whether an injury that keeps him out for a total of five months throughout the summer and first two months of the new season may actually signal the beginning of the end.