George Lawrence’s Summer Shorts: Durnin time

Monday 15 July 2019

What. A. Week.

Of sport.

We’re all recovering from a mind blowing few days of sporting endeavour; there was Lewis Hamilton winning the British Grand Prix, England winning the cricket World Cup, Benji Buchel keeping a clean sheet in FC Vaduz’s Europa League qualifier, Federer and Djokovic duking it out at Wimbledon over five hours, England trouncing everyone in the Netball World Cup and Thomas De Gendt’s epic breakaway win in the Tour de France.

Wait, what? Yes, the master of the scrambled corner clearance Benji Buchel is now with FC Vaduz who drew 0-0 in the Europa League against Icelandic giants Breidablik. As we said: What. A. Week.

Tuesday 16 July 2019

The two most feared letters in any pre-season are X and I, when put together it transforms a prestige friendly against a progressive, glamorous league club into a meaningless husk of a kick around featuring four trialists, six teenagers and a competition winner from a local school. Sure enough, tonight’s Charlie Methven ‘check out these loafers’ derby with Eastleigh was cursed with an XI as an Oxford United XI went down 0-3.

Wednesday 17 July 2019 

If you’ve endured more than a week of GLS, then you’ll know of Jill Sharp, the loon-eyed Rangers fan spotted at Ibrox a couple of weeks ago for our friendly gubbing from Steven Gerard’s Tax Avoiding army. Well, that game was her last taste of freedom, as she’s been sentenced to a year in prison for stalking some poor sap. Now her cougar-like tendencies have been pegged back, expect Jamie Mackie’s injury to clear up rapidly.

Thursday 18 July 2019

The immovable object meets the irresistible force after PClot signed Dan Crowley from Dutch side Will.I.Am. Quite how PClot’s tactical rigamortis will align to Dan Crowley’s more fluid professionalism and his Trump-esque appreciation of his own abilities (I am great, which has been proved because I say I am, and if you say I’m not you’re lying) remains to be seen.

Friday 19 July 2019

Is it Friday already? KRob described this week as a big one for transfers, and sure enough, the two big additions to next season’s effort have been revealed – Shandon Baptiste is ahead of schedule with recovery from injury (it’s like having a new signing, while not having a new signing) and we have a brand new, er, pitch which is apparently going to give us an advantage. A 20-goals a season advantage? OK, then.

So, we have to look to Europe for our good news (suck on that BoJo). Benji Buchel’s Europa League adventure continues after FC Vaduz beat Breidablik 2-1 in the second leg of their tie. They go to Hungarians Vidi in the next round.

Saturday 20 July 2019

There is no more evocative fixture in Oxford lore than a game against Queens Park Rangers. The Peter Hucker derby was held on Saturday with QPR strolling to a 2-1 win.

Earlier, the club revealed their new away kit, a white number with a blue and yellow sash. The launch was only available to personal callers to the club shop who put photos of it on Twitter. The club promised lots of ‘content’ would be given to internet people later, which turned out to be slightly better photos of the previously revealed new shirt.

Sunday 21 July 2019

We end the week with a wholesome story of all round fun guy Johnny ‘lager’ Durnin. Durnin has been convicted of racially aggravated assault after he grabbed a 74 year-old pensioner by the throat and punched him in the face calling him a ‘Paki bastard’ at a drive-through McDonalds. Durnin denies the charge, claiming it was mere aggravated assault. So that’s OK then. However, afterwards it was revealed that Durnin had thrown a coffee cup at a cyclist a week earlier, perhaps it wasn’t even aggravated, but the charge of ‘habitual assault’ doesn’t currently exist.

George Lawrence’s summer shorts: fixtures and flittings

Monday 17 June 2019

So, that’s settled; Curtis Nelson is heading for Cardiff City. Nelson hasn’t signed a new contract with Oxford due to his ambition to play for a Championship club. This alerted Sunderland, who admitted defeat in the race after remembering that they weren’t one. Gammon fanzine The Daily Mail are now reporting that Nelson’s off to South Wales.

Meanwhile in Costa Rica, Jonte ‘Angle’ Smith drew on the ineffectual cameo experience he gained during his time at Oxford by coming on for Bermuda in their 2-1 defeat to Haiti in the CONCACAF Gold Cup.

On the internet, Oxford United blogging sensation Oxblogger has launched The Absolute State of Oxford United Survey, which you can take part in here.

Tuesday 18 June 2019

Negotiations are hotting up to keep Gavin Whyte at Oxford United following interest from Nottingham Forest. The too and fro is like watching the mating ritual of a pair of particularly amourous flamingos. KRob did the ultimate mic-drop by giving Whyte the number 10 shirt next season. Whyte’s considered response was a high-fives emoji on Twitter. That’s some high stakes negotiating right there.

In a, *squints*, Morrisons near Wembley, the baked beans are being tidied in preparation for the Carabao Cup draw which will be held there on Thursday.

In foreign climes, Curacao didn’t make Gino van Kessel run in their defeat to El Salvador.

Wednesday 19 June 2019

Birmingham City have sent former loanee Garry Monk back to his monastery due to the fact they’re making too much progress or something. In his wake comes PClot as caretaker head coach.

The meticulously crafted Spanish marketing construct, and Oxford United record breaker, brings a wealth of experience focussing on football fundamentals; the obsessive recreation of early 2010’s Malmo, soporific tactics and posting vaingloriously thoughtful photos on Twitter.

Thursday 20 June 2019

Fixtures Christmas! A day when randomly assorted list of obscure northern towns starts to address the issues you have with your father’s lack of love and attention when the teenage you was addressing conflicting feelings surrounding your sexuality. Or is that just us?

Football League copyright restrictions prevent us from letting you know who we’re playing, in fact we’re not sure we should even be telling you that football exists. We open the season with the Marco Gabbiadini derby, Boxing Day sees us play in the Wayne Biggins Trophy. The last game of the season will be the Sam Ricketts Invitational.

The Type 2 Diabetes Cup first round was drawn at the home of football (Morrisons, Colindale). The removal of unexpected items in the velvet bagging area resulted in us drawing, a two-for-one offer on Branston Pickle.

Or, Peterborough United.

And then, if there wasn’t enough football for the day, we only went and signed a real life player; Alex Rodriguez Gorrin, whose has a record as a tough tackling midfield ball-winner. He should provide lots of protection for the shrinking wallflower Cameron Brannagan.

Friday 21 June 2019

Back in the real world of losing games, the ever-consistent Jonte ‘Angle’ Smith made a brief and ineffectual appearance for Bermuda in their defeat to Costa Rica in the Gold Cup.

Saturday 22 June 2019

The technical sports bras were back out on Saturday as the players returned for what was nebulously called ‘testing’. We assume this was to see whether they’ve gone up a cup size or two during their down time. Judging by pictures on Twitter, none of the players have gone full Matt Day who appeared to use his summers during the Conference years supplementing his income as a doughnut eating competition professional.

No, you’re regretting finding out it was on… in The Gold Cup, Gino van Kessel featured as a substitute in Curacao’s 1-0 win over Honduras. What’s worse, it means they can still qualify for the knock-out rounds.

Still, you could console yourself by filling out an Oxford United survey, couldn’t you?

Bury wrap – Oxford United 1 Bury 2

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; the longer an unusual streak goes on, the more likely it is to end. If a sprinter breaks the 100 metres world record, their next race is most likely to be slower, even though their performance trend is in the ascendency. Bury losing 8 games in a row and not scoring for 14 hours was an extraordinary streak, it was increasingly likely that sequence would end sooner rather than later. It was just a question of who their victims would be. In turns out it was us.

The performance on Saturday, though, was worse even than the 7-0 defeat to Wigan before Christmas. There, we faced a very good team who won the game early and, unusually, kept the hammer down. Against Bury, we’d won the game and then conspired to self-destruct. Ironically, one of Pep Clotet’s dependables, Dwight Tiendelli has had a big hand in his demise with the suicidal back-pass that eventually led to the Bury equaliser.
I have a lot of sympathy for Clotet. Firstly, he seems like a thoroughly decent bloke. A truly excellent assessment by the Oxford Mail implied he was awkward to work with, but he didn’t come over as combative or aggressive towards the fans or the press, despite the mounting pressure. He was resolutely supportive of his players and was always focussed on the process of improvement, not on finding blame.

I could even see glimpses of what he was trying to do – our goal on Saturday was typical of a style he was trying to instil – patient build ups designed to draw opponents on, then super-fast in attack. When it worked, it looked OK. It just didn’t work as much as we needed it to and the patient build up was often dull to watch and looked listless.

He’d had his squad ripped to shreds with injuries and transfers and was only been given eight weeks of transfer window activity redress the imbalance. Those coming in seemed to simply be the players he could get his hands on at the time. He couldn’t be blamed for the transfers going out, but the injuries? There did seem to be a lot. Was it something in the way he did things? Overtraining? Who knows.

There were moments on Saturday when Clotet showed his frustration; I’m not sure he really wanted us to play like we did; patient? Yes. Ponderous? No.

We lack pace on the pitch and maybe a bit of leadership. But that’s a consequence of two lost captains, and potentially a third in Christian Ribiero, since he arrived. None of his failings are black and white.

It’s difficult to know if comparisons with Michael Appleton’s first year are helpful or a curse. If they are helpful, then Clotet’s Bury was Appleton’s Hartlepool. They came to the Kassam in 2015 bottom of the table and adrift, but with a new manager. We slopped around sluggishly while they smash and grabbed us with a miserable 2-0 defeat.

I thought Appleton’s goose was cooked after that, but he turned it round; losing the next game then going eight games undefeated. After that, we, and he, didn’t look back. Could Clotet have done the same after Bury? I’m not sure.

Appleton had inherited talismen. Danny Hylton was a player fans could already relate to, who appeared to buy into the new regime. I don’t think Clotet had that player – Ryan Ledson or Rob Hall, maybe, but neither have quite the qualities Hylton had.

Key to the turnaround in 2015 was Kemar Roofe, whose goals dragged Appleton through to the end of that season and then catapulted us into the summer by signing permanently. Clotet implied that he didn’t expect much more transfer activity before the end of the month, which suggests he didn’t have a similar hail-Mary signing up his sleeve.

And Appleton had the unflinching support of Darryl Eales and Mark Ashton, and that, above everything dragged him through the darkness. Clotet didn’t seem to have had the same backing.

I’m not ‘pleased’ to see the back of Clotet, that’s the wrong word, it just feels like everyone had got stuck and the gloom was setting in. Once that happens, it’s much harder to get the momentum going again. The club, fans, players and Clotet himself seem to have lost the appetite for the fight. A new manager, signing or owner can all spark a revival. It looks like our next managerial appointment will be the clearest indication yet as to where Darryl Eales’ ambitions lie.

It’s Pep

After what feels like weeks of speculation, we finally have a new manager.

A good appointment? Time will tell. A logical appointment? That’s the most you can hope for in any recruitment. One way of looking at it is to assess those who didn’t get the job, and why.
The English manager – Alan Pardew
Clotet’s background is more as a coach than a manager, Darryl Eales knows that he has a successful infrastructure in place already, what he wants is a key cog in the machine, not the machine itself. The English tradition of an all-consuming team manager, like Alan Pardew, has become increasingly outdated. The issue is not so much about the manager, but what might happen after he leaves. Look at Nottingham Forest after Clough, Manchester United after Ferguson or us after Wilder. Despite standing by his side for 5 years, it seemed that Mickey Lewis hadn’t even caught onto the idea that James Constable was a goalscorer, such was the degree of control Wilder had. The manager model promotes rollercoaster of revolution after revolution as new styles, backroom staff are introduced. What Eales wants to do is build on the Appleton legacy and benefit from the corporate knowledge that already exists in the club.
It is easy to slip into the idea that a Catalan called Pep has somehow been born with the Barca gene, but there’s more to it than that. The idea of the manager being a cog in a corporate structure is much more common on the continent. The Barca gene, if such a thing exists, results from a long period of cultural stability which can be traced back to Johan Cruyff and the Ajax team of the 1970s. If we can establish a similar rolling programme, then we’ll be in really good shape.

Facebook, which is beginning to make Yellows Forum look like the Ecclesia from ancient Athens, lamented the idea of a foreign coach. I understand the whimsical idea of English teams being managed by English managers, but for the club to limit its search to less than one percent of the globe seems a bit like complaining that you can’t buy mackerel at the butchers.

The superstar – Frank Lampard

For a period, Frank Lampard was the name on everyone’s lips. There’s something seductive about attracting a name like Lampard. It says something about your club as he offers an instant media profile. But, as many bankrupt TV reality stars have found out, media coverage is rarely an end in itself. The risk with Lampard is that although he’s played at the highest level, does he remember what got him there in the first place? There are stories of Glen Hoddle at Swindon getting frustrated that his players couldn’t spray forty yard balls across the pitch like he could. His ability had become so subconscious and natural, he couldn’t break it down to the point where he could teach it to others. While Lampard is generally considered to be one of the more intelligent ex-professionals out there, there are far too many cases of those with the most ability off the field, floundering off it.
Lampard might like to consider the route Patrick Kluivert has taken since giving up the game. His name appeared from left-field shortly before Clotet was announced. It was probably the result of a large speculative bet rather than too much concrete evidence, but at least Kluivert has done his time as a coach. It might have been a surprise to see him at the Kassam, it would have been a logical selection.

The journeyman manager? – Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink
Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink is both a former international and foreign, but his managerial career currently teeters between upcoming coach and journeyman manager. At Burton, he sustained the momentum which took them out of League 2, but at QPR he looked more limited. It’s unfair to instantly label Hasselbaink a hired gun, but we don’t want to become just a notch on anyone’s managerial bedpost.

Clotet’s managerial career is complicated; he’s 40 but has been managing and coaching for 17 years. But, this appears to be his first proper management role. Some point to failures elsewhere as a concern, but it’s difficult to tell whether they’re comparable to the situation at Oxford. In the end, as we found with Michael Appleton, it’s the mix of the right person in the right place which defines success. Darryl Eales should be able to give Clotet the environment he needs to be a success.

If Darryl Eales wants to sustain success at the club, then his coaching appointments should follow a similar pattern to the club’s recent player recruitment successes. Find someone on an upward trajectory, utilise their skills while you can, accept that they will eventually move on and be ready to replace.

The general regard for Clotet among Leeds fans seems to be that he very much fits the profile of the man he’s replacing at Oxford. It is easy to think when starting a new job that you’ve been brought to fix something broken, but that isn’t the case with us, what we do works, Clotet is there to build on that.