Aaron Martin, the man who really put the Aaron Martin into the sentence; ‘Did Aaron Martin play for us?’ has continued his tour of the nation’s landmark substitute benches by signing for Hamilton Academicals.
Oxford fans gathered in wonder and trepidation at the big circular thing hanging in the goals against column on Tuesday as Oxford kept their first clean sheet in eight months in their win in the Papa John’s Trophy against Walsall. Some people have mocked the Papa John’s Trophy, but it has a great history; the original Papa John’s Trophy was a small girl called Eleanor who was locked in Papa John’s basement while he made pizzas. Cowboy Derick got on his Osei late-on to score in a 1-0 win.
No game on Saturday, but the good news is the abject failure of both teams this season has meant that the derby against Swindon Town has been rearranged for 28 November. The date had been in doubt after KRob had gone full Donald Trump by refusing to accept it; “Why should there be a new date? You had a date, it was Saturday and you couldn’t play it.” he said under an inch of orange fake tan, standing in front of B&Q while Derek Fazackerley tried to sneak out the side door of the nearby Ann Summers.
How do you measure a rivalry? Location? Envy? Superiority? Or is it just a feeling? A few weeks ago, I asked you who you thought were our biggest rivals. Well, here’s the top nineteen.
19. Peterborough United
Let’s not get carried away; it doesn’t take many votes to become our 19th biggest rival. This one is the result of a brooding dislike following the curtailing of last season and the antics of the Peterborough hierarchy.
18. Cambridge United
Really? I’m surprised so many lazy Sky Sports commentators voted. The tenuous varsity link between the two cities has never turned made it into the stands in terms of a rivalry.
17. Queen’s Park Rangers
While many of these lower rivals are based on a single issue, any rivalry with QPR is surely based on a single game, 34 years ago at Wembley.
16. Coventry City
Maybe a bit of a surprise to some, but if you live in the north of the county, you may be more familiar with Coventry fans than other parts.
The biggest team in our division probably attracts a few ‘pick me’ votes, but the added link of Stewart Donald, Charlie Methven and Chris Maguire, mean that Sunderland make the list.
The team that denied us promotion from the Conference in 2010, but most likely, any rivalry is down to one man and his drinks break; Graham Westley.
Familiarity breeds contempt, Oxford and Wimbledon have shared many seasons together over a very long time. Alongside Luton, they’re the only team we’ve played in both the top flight and the Conference.
12. Bristol City
I can’t fathom this one, we’ve played each other once in the last eighteen years.
11. Crewe Alexandra
In almost any other season, Crewe wouldn’t attract a vote, but the vitriol surrounding their double postponement earlier this season adds a bit of spice to an otherwise dormant relationship. The only rivalry based on not playing any games.
10. Cheltenham Town
Into the top ten and we’re beginning to touch on more sensible rivalries. Cheltenham Town’s relationship must be down to location.
9. Leyton Orient
Some will never let it go; some fourteen years ago Leyton Orient came to the Kassam looking for a win to secure promotion. They did it in the last minute, which sent us down to the Conference. They danced on our pitch, apparently, though I’d left by then. Some will never forget or forgive.
8. MK Dons
The newest rivalry in the list. It’s not exactly what you’d call white hot, but geographical location has always promised a good large following and made MK Dons a decent away day.
Portsmouth sat on their own in terms of votes – some twenty ahead of MK Dons, and a similar number behind Northampton. We’ve shared many seasons with Portsmouth, I think secretly we’re a bit envious of their size and history, which makes beating them all the more sweet.
6. Northampton Town
Now we’re into the real rivalries. First up Northampton Town, another team whose path we’ve crossed countless times. Added spice came from Chris Wilder leaving us for them in 2014, then keeping them up. Then two years later, Wilder took them up as champions despite Michael Appleton’s assertion we were the better team.
5. Luton Town
There’s a genuinely visceral dislike for Luton Town, we’ve played them in the top division and the Conference, we’ve been promotion rivals and they’ve poached our manager. All of which adds up to a relationship with a bit of bite.
4. Bristol Rovers
A team we’ve played with almost monotonous regularity, any rivalry is spiced up by the fact we’re both very capable of winning away in the game. Matty Taylor helped turn the heat up a notch, he hates the Gas, pass it on.
3. Wycombe Wanderers
It’s not a derby, but of all the non-derbies out there, this is the biggest one for us. We won decisively in a key game on the way to promotion in 1996, they beat us in the FA Cup when we were on a roll in 2010, six years later we secured promotion against them, and last year they secured promotion against us at Wembley. It’s not a derby, but it’s getting there.
Perhaps at the expense of Reading? We haven’t played each other in 16 years and not as equals in 19. But, a rivalry still exists, apparently, though it’s kind of like the Korean War – it’s still technically happening, but in reality it’s made up of irritating each other on social media.
1. Swindon Town
The big one. But, this list wasn’t really about finding out who our biggest rival were.
I would have loved yesterday’s game, the FA Cup is Boba Fett’s backstory in the battle for the empire; a short sidebar story in the season’s great odyssey. The curios of football’s backwaters going toe-to-toe with more established names. It’s a rare moment of character in an often sanitised and rational world.
But, yesterday was more than that, the setting was perfect; the sun shone brightly and the sky was blue, but there was a reassuring chill in the air. The weather is a big part of the season – the unbecoming warmth of the early weeks, going to evening games in short sleeves, gives way to a more familiar cooler temperature.
Once the clocks go back, the real business begins; the temperature drops, the big coat comes out. The occasionals who’ve been tempted to a game by the warm weather disappear. The real fans revel in the gloom as games finish in a half-light and then darkness. We are people of the gloaming, we live in the shadows. We revel while others hunker down seeking light and warmth.
Walking to a game, you might go to a shop for match supplies, you queue with people gathering treats for an afternoon in front of the TV. We buy the same things, but we know we’re bounty hunting, seeking out another three points to bring home.
I love that people don’t understand why we do this, why we sit for two hours on an uncomfortable plastic seat in the cold. Weekends are precious and there are so many better options out there. I love the fact it’s too complicated to explain.
The autumn gives way to Christmas and we’re re-joined by the occasionals; family members and extended hangers on returning home for the festive period. It’s nice to see them and the dark and cold is pushed back by the light and warmth of that communion. Christmas offers a brief celebration before the New Year comes and then we’re truly into the depth of winter and the grit of the season. Games are postponed, cup competitions disrupt the rhythm, injuries mount up, it’s a chaotic, ramshackle reckoning. The weather is grim; gloves, hats, coats, layers and layers and layers.
When the players come out there’s not the same crispness of applause, more a whumping sound of gloved clapping. The most dedicated battle their way up and down motorways, we meet in service stations; not just our own fans, but that wider national network of people like us. There’s a sense of mutual respect as we queue for a coffee or a lunchtime KFC. At the game we endure a deepening discomfort as the cold grips the fibre of our bones. Respite only comes afterwards, when you’re back in the car; the heating finally kicks in and the radio picks through the bones of the day’s events. Your fingers thaw, you can feel your toes, your humanity returns.
And then, as the games tick by, the sun appears again, order is restored, for most, their fate in the cups is decided and there’s a league position to secure. The maths simplifies, as you edge towards that pivotal game, the six-pointer that’ll decide, finally, whether the season will end in promotion, the play-offs, relegation or nothingness. As we get to May, the warmth returns and the tension is released. At least usually. The giants of the game resolve their differences in the FA Cup, Champions League and so forth. And that’s it, we go into a reverse hibernation, away from the sun and warmth, pleading for the new season and cold to return.
Except, not this season, of course, we aren’t getting to sense the seasonal shifts, the big coat doesn’t get its ceremonial debut, the temperature stays artificially constant. I was not the slightest bit concerned about yesterday’s game. It was unfortunate that we’d drawn the best team in the competition who we’re very familiar with anyway, but it feels like we’re trying to get this season out of the way as quickly as possible. Like clicking continue on a game of Football Manager without changing anything because you’ve lost enthusiasm for your team.
The usual defensive frailties aside, we seemed to play OK, but this must be what it’s like watching training; good movement, passing, plenty of effort, but the goals at either end are of little consequence. I’m quite glad we’re out; it just allows us to get on with picking our way through the league season without distractions or even the disappointment of a big name draw that we can’t go to.
Looking at the optics, the prospect of getting to a game this season feels pretty low. It’s hard to see cases dropping to a level where the government will confidently allow fans back in before the spring. The current lockdown seems principally to allow some kind of normal Christmas to happen, but surely caution will remain through January and February at least.
Maybe by the spring we might edge towards something, part test event, part PR stunt, if cases are falling or the prospect of a vaccine becomes a reality maybe there will be a will to return. But, by that point, the season will be mostly spent. The warm weather at the end of season usually feels like a reward for our perseverance through the harsh winter months and the elation and despair, the wasted energy of an away defeat or the rare reward of a 96th minute winner. That moment where you want to tell your non-supporting friends and colleagues you were there, but they’re not interested, so it just lives inside you to be re-run in your head when things feel bleak.
The league, of course, will determine where we start next season when, maybe, things are closer to normal. The priority has to be not to be any lower than we were when this whole thing started. As dislocating as this season has been, we can’t lose sight of that necessity. The cups, on the other hand, with all their self-contained beauty are an irrelevance or a painful reminder of what we’ve lost. I’m kind of happy it’s already over.
Peterborough United’s nickname is The Posh because they have an air of undeserved self-entitlement. Mind you, that didn’t stop them winning 2-0 on Saturday. Oxford were without Cameron Brannagain, who missed out due to a problem with his eyes. Concerns were raised after he was heard to say ‘I can see us keeping a clean sheet for this one’ before the game.
Sunday 18 October 2020
Alex’s son, Peterborough boss Darren Ferguson was cockahoop at his team’s display; “I always felt the team who passed the ball better would dominate.” he said from beneath the shadow of his father. Impressive foresight from a man whose team’s passes were objectively less in number and accuracy. Not a mistake his dad would have made, we’re sure.
It was the Eight Minute Eighteen Seconds Fans Forum with Jose’s son John Mousinho on Thursday. Questions turned to our defensive frailties. Mousinho defended the issue, by which we mean he lost his runner and found himself a bit square at the back. He heaped praise on Headington United’s Sam Long as the ‘best squad player in the history of the game’. Which is like being called the world’s nicest mass murderer or sexiest paedophile.
Sad news as it was announced that Chrissy Allen has left the club. To mark his long association with Oxford, he was given his very own commemorative Unipart advertising display board to run head first into in his garden.
Good golly Miss Molly, Saturday’s derby has been postponed after a viral outbreak in the Swindon camp. The Swindon training ground was a hideous sight with people yacking their guts up, doubled over in agony with vomit coming out of their noses. All you could hear for miles around were the primal groans of great sickening anguish and screams for death’s sweet release. And then they caught coronavirus.
There’s nothing better than a new kit; so the summer is new kit Christmas. Nearly everyone have revealed their kit for the new season. I’ll keep updating this post with new designs as they’re revealed. Here’s what we have so far…
Accrington are punching above their weight adopting Adidas as their kit manufacturer. Thankfully they’ve managed to bring the tone down a notch or two with an experimental dotty sleeve. It’s let Accrington down, it’s let Adidas down, but most of all, it’s let the lovely white shirt down.
We’re all shocked to our core with Blackpool’s new shirt; tangerine with white trim, like every Blackpool shirt in history. That said, it’s a nice enough design. Eagled eyed among you will see this template replicated elsewhere. In the least shocking news ever the away shirt is a simple reverse out of the home version.
The key to any artistic process is to know when to stop. Bristol Rovers have an iconic kit and it shouldn’t be difficult to pull a decent shirt out of the bag. This version has funny cuffs, collar, stripe down the arm, what appears to be some kind of camo shadowing. The second kit goes some way to redeeming things, but not much.
Burton Albion may be the most forgettable team in the division, and their new home shirt lives up to that reputation. One of this season’s trends is the re-introduction of the button collar, which we can all agree is a travesty. And yet, the away kit is so awful, apparently modelled on the faux medical uniform of a cosmetic surgery nurse, that the button may just improve it.
Without doubt Charlton have bigger problems than providing a decent new kit. The home shirt looks like every Charlton kit ever released, while the away shirt is probably a reflection of the mood around the club.
Crewe’s return to League 1 is marked by a retro red and black number, but it’s the away kit which is of most note, appearing to take inspiration from their shirt sponsor Mornflake Mighty Oats.
Thankfully Doncaster Rovers’ new shirt is identical to every Doncaster Rovers home shirt of the last decade. The red and white hoops are a classic not to be messed with. The away kit is also pretty sweet; maybe the best combo in the division?
To some people, the fact that Fleetwood Town exist and are managed by Joey Barton is confusing enough. This kit, which seems to adopt about nine different styles in one, is a proper head scrambler. The away kit, however, works really nicely – silver and mint, who knew?
Bit of an odd one this; Gillingham are perhaps the most meh team in League 1, and it appears that they’re sticking with the same kit as last season. It’s OK, Macron, the manufacturer, have a nice style about them. You could describe this as a bit meh, really.
Like all the teams coming down from the Championship, Hull have been slow to release their new shirt. The result is an unremarkable number, saved largely by the fact that it’s Umbro, giving it a nice traditional feel. The third kit (no second kit that I can ascertain) is a bit of an oddity; when I first saw it, I really liked it and thought it was one of the nicest in the division, then I looked again and find it a bit boring.
A tale of two shirts for Ipswich Town. An absolute beauty for the home shirt reminiscent of their heyday in the 1980s under Bobby Robson. The away shirt looks like someone has washed it with a tissue in the pocket.
Lincoln City play a classic card with their new shirt. There are few teams that wear red and white stripes who haven’t gone for the disruptive inverted colourway at some point. There will be Lincoln fans everywhere tearing up their season tickets at the abomination, but I like it. The away number is solid but unremarkable.
A solid home option for MK Dons, but you can’t deny they work hard to be the most despicable team in the league, the away shirt is black with gold trim? What are they? A Bond villain? Yes, yes they are.
I’ve always felt that Hummel offer a hipster’s choice when it comes to shirt manufacturing; typically because of their excellent work on the Danish national shirts in the mid-80s. I’ve also always liked Northampton’s colours. So, put together should be a sure fire winner. the away kit is OK until you look more closely, the strange central dribble, the fading pin stripes. They get away with it, but only just.
Look closely, well not that closely, and you’ll see the new Oxford shirt is the same Puma template as Blackpool and Swindon. Rumour has it that in real life it adopts the geometric pattern of the Peterborough shirt. It’s OK, for a title winning shirt.
Last season Puma made a big deal of their sublimated flux shirt designs, this year seems to have some kind of geometric update. There are randomised white flecks in there as well. A real nearly, but not quite design, a bit like Peterborough. The away shirt utilises the 437th Puma template of the division, and it’s a bit of a cracker, while nothing screams ‘Revenge season’ then a neon pink third kit.
Plymouth return to League 1 with a couple of scorchers. The home shirt is spoilt a bit with what appears to be a button collar, the away kit is absolutely magnificent. It’s difficult to imagine under what circumstances they would need a third kit, but it ticks some boxes.
One of the big favourites for the League 1 title next season have opted for a pretty conservative upgrade. What the heck is with that collar though? I quite like the away shirt with its white shadow stripes, it reminds me of our own away kit from the mid-eighties. Was there a three for two offer at Sports Direct? The unnecessary third kit looks like a reboot of our 2013/14 Animalates shirt.
You might call it armageddon chic; there’s a theme in a lot of kits where they’ve taken their standard design and given it a twist. Quite often it’s such a twist it comes off completely. Rochdale are just about the right side of acceptable with the blurred lined and shredded but at the top.
Aficionados of League 1 kit launches will know that Shrewsbury specialise in producing terrible promotional photography. For evidence try this, this or even this.This year is no different. Still, they get bonus points for adopting Admiral as their kit manufacturer. The away shirt takes inspiration from Oxford’s purple years when we were sponsored by Isinglass.
Our friends up the A420 have selected yet another Puma kit variation. How many templates does one manufacturer need? It’s a nice and simple design, ruined by the addition of a Swindon Town badge. The away shirt could not be less imaginative if it tried.
Let’s not kid ourselves; all teams use standard templates, but Sunderland’s new Nike shirt absolutely screams ‘park football’. The away shirt is Portsmouth’s home shirt in a different colour way, but that’s OK, I quite like it.
I was genuinely sad when I saw this; Wigan’s kit feels like a club that’s fallen apart with the off-the-peg template and the ironed-on ‘sponsor’ (let’s assume the Supporters Club have not paid a penny for this).
Have Wimbledon given up? They seem so bored with life they can’t be bothered to feature a decent logo of their sponsor and what can you say about the diagonal shadow stripe? They seem to trump it with the away shirt, which is going some. A shirt that screams relegation.
Which is worse? Being battered by the Coronavirus, being battered by Storm Ciara or being battered by Peterborough? We took a 4-0 pasting on Saturday, who were decent enough to make things competitive by going down to 10 men.
On Valentine’s Day, try and find someone who looks at you like Sunderland owner Stewart Donald looks at Oxford United. The doe-eyed cash puppy drags his financial millstone down south on Saturday. It’s predicted that Storm Dennis will hit the game with lashings of rain and fifty mile an hour winds. This is not to be confused with billowing hot air about being England manager while wearing a ginger wig; that’s Storm Denis. Oxford will be without the Fun-Sized Sam Deering, Liam Kelly, who was injured on Tuesday. Given the strength of the wind, we probably wouldn’t have had him for long even if he had been on the pitch.