Match wrap – Plymouth Argyle 1 Oxford United 0

As if to prove it’s possible to have one, this weekend sees the running of my favourite bike race, the Tour of Flanders in Belgium. Unlike the Tour de France, which is designed to help riders finish the race, one-day races like Flanders are the complete opposite.

It’s brutally long – 163 miles – that’s six hours of cobbled sections and sharp inclines – the roads become strewn with broken bikes, broken collar bones and broken spirits. Every so often there is what is known as ‘a section’ – a section of the race or a decisive moment which will break some of the riders’ will to race. The idea is that the race is sentient, it ‘selects’ it’s strongest competitors. It’s so brutal, the riders can only hang on and hope they might be chosen. There might be twenty riders, then a short burst of speed or steep climb on a bumpy surface can leave just a handful with the energy and spirit to keep going. What nobody knows is when the spirit will be crushed or when fate will play its hand. Eventually, as the finish line approaches, the chosen riders of the day look around and see who they have to compete with in order to actually win the race, even though most are just happy to finish.

I get the same feeling about this season; we’ve played really well and entertained throughout, but we can’t influence who is in the division and there are too many variables for us to control. Ultimately, the division itself will select who wins, we can only hope to be in the right place at the right time.

As disappointing as yesterday’s result was, it’s a privilege to be still in a race as good as this one. Look at the teams who don’t seem to have made the latest selection – Bolton, Portsmouth, Ipswich – and the teams still in the race – Sunderland, Sheffield Wednesday, Wycombe. And that doesn’t include Rotherham, Wigan, MK Dons and Plymouth who look beyond reach, but will still influence who finally makes the play-offs.  

I look at the Premier League and how it organises itself broadly along the lines of who has the most money, and the Championship which reminds me of the Conference when we were in it with relegations being decided by points deductions and financial irregularity as much as football. For me, League 1 is the best division in the country. We’re lucky to be in a country where the third tier of professional football is so utterly compelling. Those who dismiss it on the grounds of the quality of football have no idea what they’re missing.

It’s not even about promotion. Look at Peterborough – dominant in League 1 last year and anchored to the bottom of the Championship this. I like being in League 1, it’s a great place to be. I want us to go up, but not because I’m desperate to play at a higher level, but because I’m excited by the prospect of how it all might play out this season.

Will we make it? The defeat to Plymouth is a reminder that while we deserve to be fighting for the play-offs based on the whole season, we still struggle in the head-to-heads, those selective moments which will decide whether we’re good enough or not.

We’re edging closer – we’re ten points better off than we were after forty games last year. Against the top six teams in the division we already have more wins (three compared to one) and more points than last season (twelve compared to seven last year) and we still have three games to play against the top six including two at home. In normal circumstances, we’d be home and hosed but this is a division sliced in two with a huge cohort of play-off and promotion hopefuls and everyone else. We can compete in this division, but we can’t control it. Those at the top are all very similar, we’re just waiting for those selective moments to find out who will triumph.

We’re in the right group, and it’s tight and nervy, but it now looks like four teams competing for two places. Can we do it? Maybe. And that’s the joy, every game is meaningful, every marginal moment, chance or decision means something. The offside decision for the penalty was critical yesterday, but only because of what has happened in the previous 39 games and what is still to come. Karl Robinson’s philosophy is to embrace the challenge, and so should we. We can tie ourselves in knots about our bad luck, bad decisions or bad tactics. We can flagellate about not being good enough, but the world is a difficult place right now and the fact that we have a role in this epic story, one we can immerse ourselves in every weekend, is a privilege. 

Match wrap – Oxford United 1 Plymouth Argyle 3

One of the lasting memories of the 1996 promotion season was the bounty of goals we achieved from corners. Joey Beauchamp would swing a ball into the near post; Matt Elliott would flick on and Paul Moody would mop up from the resulting chaos by heading home. Occasionally the players would change, but the system never did.

We all get excited by the award of a corner; in terms of crowd response, it’s the next best thing to a goal. And yet, just 8% of corners result in a goal; a figure I suspect is dropping as teams get better at defending set pieces. But still, when a corner is awarded, an anticipatory frisson spontaneously surges through the fans.

We were reflecting on the terrace bon mot ‘you’re shit ahhhh’ during yesterday’s game against Plymouth. Like the fans’ response to a corner, it’s an integral part of every goal kick. Its origins were a genuine attempt to put the goalkeeper off by making as much noise as possible. I suppose in those days goalkeepers often looked like some of the fans on the terrace and it was reasonable to assume they would respond as a fan might to any unexpected noise by shanking a kick into touch.

It’s increasingly obvious that it has no effect on the keeper’s concentration or the quality of the resulting kick. Sometime during the 1990s the ‘you’re shit, ahhh’ appendage was added. It was almost a recognition that the chant was absurd and pointless; the terrace equivalent of Baddiel and Newman’s History Today sketch which ended with two ageing academics trading playground insults; ‘that’s your mum, that is’. 

Now it’s just part of the ambient noise of a game and happens out of some deep cultural obligation, a ceremony to keep the memory of our fallen brothers alive. 

“OOOOHHHH AAAAHHHHH YOU’RE SHIT AAAAAHHHHH”

“Why do you do that dad?” 

“Because it’s what your grandad and great grandad did on this very spot right up to the day they died. I will not let their memory fade to dust.” 

Perhaps, if the genuine aim is to put the goalkeeper off, the crowd should remain completely silent and murmur in inaudible sarcastic tones as the ball sails through the air. The psychological damage that could do to an insecure ‘keeper could prove fruitful, after all, nobody likes people talking behind their backs.  

Football is a visceral experience, we live every near miss with spontaneous abandon. We thoughtlessly respond to what’s in front of us; the bloke in front of me yesterday responded to each chance with variations on ‘bloody useless’ or ‘just stick it in the net’ as if James Henry was consciously preferring to see if he could hit the Chaokoh ethically sourced coconuts advert and had absent mindedly overlooked the fact he could do with popping a couple of shots in the goal before the clock runs out.

Professional sports people often talk about controlling the controllables; focus on the process and the outcomes will take care of themselves. Those who can do that are the ones who succeed, the outcome – a near miss or an exasperated noise from the fans – needs to be set aside because the process is where success lies.

The irredeemable divide is that fans tend to focus on outcomes. The result alone determines the effectiveness of the tactics, selection or any given move. We ramp up the pressure and force our way into the consciousness of the players because there’s no such thing as a good move with a bad outcome.

Oddly, what we seemed to be watching on Saturday was two entirely separate games; one was all about the inputs. We created a host of chances, particularly in the second half, carved them open time and again, we just didn’t convert them. There was one move where the ball skimmed across the goal, the intended target, Matty Taylor, was a long way behind the play having helped carve out the chance. It was greeted with frustration, but really it just illustrated how difficult football is to play.

Then there was the other game; the one which was all about the outputs – they exploited our weaknesses and efficiently took the opportunities for a comfortable win. Unlike teams who’ve out muscled us in the past, I thought they looked like a parallel of us – they were us on a good day, we were them on a bad day. It’s rare to see a game so stark; strangely enough, their biggest challenge may be to be aware enough to realise that this kind of result flattered them a little and that the tables could turn very quickly.

For us, there was some debate about whether you lock up our defence with Alex Gorrin or galvanise our attack with James Henry. One person on the phone-in wanted to drop Henry for Gorrin, but only after Steve Kinniburgh reminded him that he could only have eleven players on the field.

For me, despite the result, the combination of Brannagan, Henry and Herbie Kane seems an obvious first choice. Gavin Whyte looked a bit lost playing in a central role, but became more threatening when he switched with Henry; which came just as he ran out of steam.

Whyte’s just recovered from Covid, and I wonder whether that’s another factor that we overlook too easily. Sam Long also looked just off the pace and has also recently recovered from the virus. We ask a lot of players physically, perhaps the effects of the illness linger longer than we realise. Still, few fans will factor these things into their analysis. 

Not so much a game of two halves, but a game of two layers of football; when simply looking at the result and even the nature of their goals, our visceral response may be to criticise and howl with derision. But, when moving from the subconscious to the conscious, from the visceral to the analytical, we’re not far away at all.

George Lawrence’s Shorts – Countdown conundrums

Saturday 24 April 2021

It’s like Countdown around here, after the 3-1 win Plymouth on Saturday. The win propelled Oxford into the fifth. Teams around us have games in hand, but with plenty of opportunities to drop points, two wins from the last two games could still see Oxford make the top six. A consonant, please Rachel.

Sunday 25 April 2021

Following yesterday’s defeat, after conceding 16 goals in 6 games and losing 9 in their last 13 games Plymouth manager Ryan Lowe has become a great all-seeing sage by revealing a controversial theory about what’s going wrong at the Devon club. “We’re not good enough.” he said, sitting in the lotus position banging his chakra.

Monday 26 April 2021

KRob’s a fugitive on the run from the law, the Feds at the FA have got him banged to rights and charged him with ‘improper and/or violent conduct’ relating to the ill-tempered game against Premier League One side Sunderland earlier this month. KRob ended up doing porridge in the slammer during that game after referee Trevor Kettle sent him to the stands. Now he’s back in front of the beak, but he ain’t no grass. 

Tuesday 27 April 2021

Ole! The bookie monster Alex Gorrin has signed a contract extension until 2022 alongside Jedward Orphan Mark Sykes. Gorrin received lots of cards from friends to celebrate the news, mostly yellow ones for shin high lunging tackles.  

Wednesday 28 April 2021

From the GLS vaults labelled ‘are you absolutely shitting me?’ comes news that Burton Albion are planning to use our last game of the season for a virtual ‘staying up’ party. Burton were rock bottom of the table, but with Flimmy Joyd Basselhank at the helm they’ve climbed their way to safety, it’s now party time. 

Thursday 29 April 2021

The League One Team of the season has been revealed and Rob Atkinson has secured one of the centre-back spots. It’s been an impressive season for Atkinson who last year was playing non-league football at Eastleigh. Before that he was West Brom and Manchester United manager with a nifty line in sheepskin coats and chunky gold jewelry.

Friday 30 April 2021

As the season draws to the end, again, the rumour mill starts to turn, again, this time, it’s news that a Championship team are in the hunt, again, for Cameron Brannagain, again. This time it’s Preston North End who are interested in the midfielder. Brannagain would join Ryan Ledson at Deepdale; so expect a surge in sales of double-strength shin pads to the Championship next season. 

Saturday 1 May 2021

Oxford’s 3-2 comeback win over Shrewsbury Town on Saturday guaranteed that the season will go to the last day. A win over Burton could see the yellows sneak into the play-offs. There is some debate about how you pronounce Shrewsbury; does it rhyme with ‘lose’ as in ‘Shrewsbury lose to Oxford’ or does it rhyme with ‘throws’ as in ‘Shrewsbury throws away their lead again’?

Sunday 2 May 2021

The comb-over Sam Long, Dave Langan has been reflecting on mixing it with the hoi polloi during his time at Oxford United in the 1980s. As well as negotiating contracts with Robert Maxwell, he also spent time with Oxford director and alleged child sex trafficker, Maxwell’s daughter, Ghislane. “She seemed really down to earth. She was just like a normal person.” he said, unlike any of the sex trafficking, friend of a billionaire paedophiles he’d met before.

Monday 3 May 2021

KRob loves a good ding dong, and there’s a proper ding dang do coming up next Sunday. “Roll on next Sunday and the balls start rolling again.” he said eating a bacon roll, having a stroll, stroking a foal. 

Tuesday 4 May 2021

Sheffield United’s transformation into the t’Oxford is nearly complete as they seek a big gun to replace Chris Wilder. After Wilder, Jake Wright, John Lundstram and George Baldock; rumours are that Mr Big Guns himself, MApp, is the next Oxford alumni to join the club as manager. PClot’s Malmo 2010 WhatsApp group was buzzing at the prospect of getting the gang back together at Bramall Lane in a couple of years. Ago Mehmeti said he’ll make a big chilli for the reunion.

Wednesday 5 May 2021

KRob was in the dock on Wednesday as he faced a charge of improper and/or violent conduct after the shenanigans at Sunderland. Due to the pandemic, the case was held over Zoom, where the Oxford boss stated his case with passion and panache. “YOU HAVE NO AUTHORITY HERE”, he screamed “READ THE STANDING ORDERS, READ THEM AND UNDERSTAND THEM”.

Thursday 6 May 2021

McGuane in Spain was quickly on the plane, but he’s delighted to be taking the step up from playing for Barcelona, Arsenal and Nottingham Forest after signing a three year contract at Oxford.

Jose’s son John Mousinho is a real box-to-box-file player. He’s been elected as chair of the new PFA players’ board. This is not to be confused with the Playaz Board, which organises custom sports cars, expensive jewelry and spit roasting sessions for aspiring Premier League teenagers.  

Friday 7 May 2021

Life is like a box of chocolates for Josh Ruffels, he’s got his pick of the teams to sign for next season when his contract expires. Now rumours are surfacing that he could become a Nottingham Forest chump

Match wrap: Oxford United 3 Plymouth Argyle 1

I’ve come to realise that I don’t really watch games; I feel them. Only being at a game secures my attention and even then I can be easily distracted by what’s happening outside the Vue cinema. I don’t mean that I summons the spirits of Ricky Sappleton and Kristaps Grebis, Jimi Hendrix style. I mean I don’t have the patience for tactics or positioning; I would need to consciously figure out which wing Brandon Barker plays down. If a game is boring, I’m very likely to be reaching for my phone as it progresses in the background.

On Saturday I was invited to go on BBC Radio Oxford’s Wasn’t At The Game Show. This is their new post-match discussion programme and not, as I had to explain to a friend, a gameshow. I said yes and did what all normal people do; panicked that I didn’t have a single opinion or be able to string a sentence together. Mass media broadcasting is not my safe space, to be honest, I wouldn’t even list being with other humans as a forte.

Not wanting to be the sole reason for the government to #defundthebbc, I had to concentrate on the Plymouth game. I’d decided that it was the worst game to choose; every conceivable outcome was still in play; it could be a discussion about our play-off tilt or how we came up short. Key players were missing, would that be the central issue or perhaps those coming in would step up and have a defining breakthrough moment.

From the outset, the strategy seemed reassuringly obvious; Plymouth have been conceding a hatful of goals, but were in no danger of going down (I looked that up), we could use the pace of Dan Agyei and Mide Shodipo to get at them and break their feeble resistance. If we could get a goal or two, we could control things with the likes of Gorrin, Forde and Hanson coming off the bench to see the game out. Just call me Paul Merson.

Chances came early; we were getting the ball forward quickly down the flanks. It just needed a bit of quality, a James Henry moment, to make the breakthrough. Except James Henry wasn’t there, and that was the missing piece, that moment of quality. Step up Elliot Lee with a fiendish free-kick, a nightmare to defend: 1-0.

Despite the chances, they weren’t a busted flush, we needed more, I might end up looking at my phone when things aren’t going well and we sometimes assume footballers are uncaring mercenaries metaphorically doing the same, but you can’t play the game professionally without an innate sense of competitiveness. 

The second goal didn’t come, we hadn’t broken them; the inevitable lull came immediately after half-time. In the plan, I imagine we were hoping to be keeping the ball and take the sting out of the game, if we could get to the hour mark we could bring on our defensive minded players to lock things down.

Instead, they began to press, we began to buckle. We were stuck between sticking to the plan and going for another goal. Like Glenn Close waking up in the bath in Fatal Attraction; was their efforts a last gasp of breath or do we need to strike the final blow? This is what we’ve missed this season, someone to make those decisions on the pitch. Before we knew it, it was 1-1 and the season was coming to an end.

Relieved of the quandary, the maths simplified; we needed another goal. The equaliser at that time, when there was time to do something about it, was just what we needed. We could have regressed and conceded in the 85th minute when there wasn’t time to react. Instead, we woke up, we’re at our best when we’re instinctive, going for goals, attacking for fun. We are nothing if not entertaining. 

And that’s what we did, attacking their brittle defence, which is a real house of straw; a quick puff, a moment of quality from Mark Sykes and another from Matty Taylor and it’s 2-1. Sykes is a player I’ve struggled to characterise, I’d always assumed he’d be like Gavin Whyte – they’re both Irish, you know – but I actually think he could become more of a James Henry, linking and controlling the tempo.

The third confirmed the execution of a well made plan and the move to fifth, FIFTH? I logged onto Zoom to friendly acknowledgements from Robyn Cowen, Stevie Kinniburgh and Nick Harris. Cowen is part of a vanguard of female commentators – normalising what was once inconceivable – and a champion of the women’s game, Kinniburgh, a breath of on-air, fresh air this season and a natural analyst and Nick Harris is Nick Harris the voice of Oxford football for decades. Now the idiot had joined the meeting.

They were unpicking the outcome of the day; who had games in hand? Against who? Jerome Sale joined the meeting, the discussion started, I opened my mouth and a sentence of vague coherence came out. They nodded reassuringly and we were off.

I’d half expected an hour trying to figure out what a high press was, and who’d been running the channels, I still don’t really know what those things are. But, instead it was a friendly conversation with people who I felt I knew, but had never met. I sat in wonder as Kinniburgh tried to articulate every connotation of the outcome of the league. Enjoyed Cowan’s off-mic joking about how Karl Robinson would react to the result. Nick Harris still talks with a childlike enthusiasm for the club; just before we started I saw him telling someone excitedly off camera ‘We’re fifth, yeah, FIFTH!’ – there’s no performance in him – you imagine him having the same conversations in the pub as he does on the radio. He just seems happy to be guiding another generation of Oxford fans through the ups and downs of following the club. Jerome Sale was more analytical, like many of us, he can’t see a path to the play-offs with others’ games in hand, but, to paraphrase Kevin Keegan, you know ‘he’d love it if we do’. The quartet together represent us all – analysts and enthusiasts, pragmatists and dreamers, clued up and clueless.

The time whizzed by, I just about held it together and enjoyed a conversation with genuinely nice, like-minded people. Somehow I thought they’d have it all figured out, but they’re like all of us, excited and fearful, optimistic and pessimistic. They’re trying to find the solution, to know the outcome of the season before it reveals itself, like us they’re looking for an inflection in the voice of Karl Robinson or a historical parallel to explain what will happen next. Be reassured, they’re fans and they’re feeling it too.

Match wrap: Plymouth Argyle 2 Oxford United 3

The Christmas holiday offers a rare opportunity to catch the odd film or two. I’m not a great cinema goer, so I’m often behind the curve with the latest releases. This is a bit of an understatement, the other day I found myself watching the 22-year-old Deep Impact, one of those generic turn-of-the-millenium disaster flicks built entirely around its special effects budget.

Between the end of the Cold War and 9/11, Hollywood struggled to find a palatable enemy to fight. Where it was once the Russians, and before that The Nazis, there was nobody. At least after 9/11 they could turn their institutionally racist attentions to anyone of generically Middle Eastern extraction. 

With no real enemy to fight, their was on meteorites, tornadoes and non-specific alien life-forms. Things that would bring about the end to humanity, but wouldn’t offend or exploit anyone. Apart from women, of course, they didn’t really count back then.

These films open innocently; a dorky, but undeniably handsome young male star – let’s call him Sam – has an unhealthy interest in a subject relevant to the plot – meteorology, astronomy, geology, that kind of thing. They find something that the entire established scientific community have failed to spot; a dot on the moon is an invading alien army, a shrub falling over in the garden is a sure-fire sign there’s a fault in the earth’s crust which is about to split it in two.

The opening scenes establish Sam’s position in the social strata of his local High School. While putting his books away in his locker, he’s bullied by a couple of ‘jocks’ one of whom is probably called Brad. Brad’s girlfriend is with them, she’s kind and homely and probably called Jess. Jess seems desperately uncomfortable with the bullying; the confrontation over, she’s apologetic and smiles with weak reassurance.

If the shitshow that is 2020 was a disaster flick, then Sam Long is its unassuming breakout star. Long is the high school Regular Joe (or Sam) who seems to take great joy in simply being who he is. His unhealthy interest is in the subject of Oxford United. He’s been surrounded by jocks throughout his career; a series of players brought in from the outside to bully him out of the first team. Though there have been countless attempts to replace him, he’s seen them all off with his quiet resilience.

The arc of the film involves Sam trying to convince those in positions of influence that he’s discovered evidence of an imminent extinction level event. The priority, though, is first to convince Jess. Consuming his convolutedly argument with a PhD level comprehension, her heart melts and they fall instantly in love. With the stirring in their loins now satisfied, the newly consummated couple must focus on getting to the top of the institutional forces of government to avert disaster.

Long’s career has spanned seven years, fighting the club’s own institutional forces; five managers and three owners have had his destiny in their hands. All have been impatient for success and set about revolutionising their playing staff. Long has survived every turn; every attempt to replace him or send him out on loan, he’s battled the seas of change, and countless injuries, which could have drowned him. Battered and bruised, his spirit and steely resolve shines through.  

The end of the film sees Sam and Jess scrambling to save the earth. Society, faced by its seemingly inevitable end, is descending into chaos and anarchy. The grotesque failures of the establishment has left just one person capable of averting disaster – an unassuming teenager from a small town High School, obviously. The solution inevitably involves sparking a chain of events which are so linear, you might argue that they’ve been oversimplified for a mass-audience. It’s a long shot, but it might just work.

The final act of 2020 was against Plymouth on Tuesday, Long picked up the ball deep inside his own half, abandoning his admirable conservatism, he set off his own improbable chain of events. Lurching forward, thrusting deep into the mouth of his faceless enemy, he exchanged a pass with Sean Clare – one of the jocks brought in to bully him out of the team – now an admiring comrade. Beyond the point of no return, Long has no choice but to continue his journey into the beast; it’s now death or glory. No longer is he the dependable high school nerd, he’s the action hero saving humanity. Everyone looks on aghast as he picks up Clare’s pass inside the box to slide the ball past the Plymouth keeper into the net. It was a Long shot, and it just worked.

Has 2020, with all its thrills and spills, been a fable of our times? Meaningless escapism? Calculated genius? When Disney released The Force Awakens, George Lucas, who conceived the franchise, was dismissive of its reductive, crowd-pleasing plot, saying that his own Phantom Menace – a critical catastrophe – was a triumph in the Star Wars canon because of its state of the art CGI. 

Lucas’ genius was his innovation, not his storytelling. He was an experimental filmmaker, the original Star Wars trilogy broke new ground in terms of technique and special effects, it was almost fortuitous it also had a coherent story. If it hadn’t, it would have been written off as an indulgent folly.

If Long has been the on-screen star of the show, Karl Robinson seems to be the George Lucas football management. Set aside the fact we had two right-backs combining for the second goal, or that it followed a goal from our left-back, at one point in the first half our attack seemed to be made up entirely of defenders. There was a passage of play where Elliott Moore, was lolloping around in the Plymouth box waiting for a ball to be delivered into him. Even when the initial attack broke down, rather than racing back to resume his defensive duties, he simply waited while another attack developed down the left hand side. Whether it was madness or genius is anyone’s guess.

It’s all very exciting and when it works it can be magical, but this season seems to constantly teeter on the absurd. Long getting two yellow cards but no red just seemed to be accepted as a fitting plot hole in the story. We’re still prone to the defensive muddles – both goals were avoidable – but hopefully there’s a story in there somewhere; one that is a bit more Han Solo and a little less Jah Jah Binks.

Midweek fixture: League 1 Kitwatch 2020/2021

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 Stanley

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.

Blackpool

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.

Bristol Rovers

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

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.

Charlton Athletic

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 Alexandra

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.

Doncaster Rovers

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?

Fleetwood Town

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?

Gillingham

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.

Hull City

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.

Ipswich Town

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

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.

MK Dons

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.

Northampton Town

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.

Oxford United

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.

Peterborough United

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 Argyle

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.

Portsmouth

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.

Rochdale

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.

Shrewsbury Town

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.

Swindon Town

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.

Sunderland

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.

Wigan Athletic

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).

AFC Wimbledon

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.