Midweek fixture: Oxford United’s biggest rivals… ranked

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.

15. Sunderland

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.

14. Stevenage

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.

13. Wimbledon

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.

7. Portsmouth

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.

2. Reading

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.

George Lawrence’s Shorts: Watch us wreck the mic, Sykes!

Sunday August 23 2020

Jedward orphan Mark Sykes has smeared his face in camo and crawled through barbed wire to get to a safe house declaring that he now wants to switch from Northern Ireland to the Republic for their forthcoming Nations League games. Bloody asylum seekers.

Elsewhere, spellcheck’s Fiarce Kelleher, who signed in a vacuum between MApp and PClot and played less games than Jeremy Balmy and George Rasulo, may feel he missed his moment at Oxford. Finally, he’s made the big time, headlining the Oxford Mail… because he’s been made redundant by Macclesfield Town

Monday August 24 2020

Well, this is awkward. While Sykes nervously eats cold beans in a ramshackle outhouse, glancing at the shadows dancing in the half-light, he’s been overlooked for the Republic squad while Joel Cooper has been called up for Northern Ireland.

Tuesday August 25 2020

Oxford went down 2-1 to Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park in a friendly. The visitors silenced the home seats with the opener from Matty Taylor. Jack Stevens saved a penalty back-pass early in the second half before conceding two quick goals. 

At Shrewsbury, chisel jawed Sam Ricketts has gone all Trumpian, sacking his assistant manager and promoting his brother from another angular faced mother, Dean Whitehead. Ricketts is confident that the two will work well together; or tessellate, if you will.  

If there’s one thing GLS has missed more than a bucket of woo woo at Shaggers Bar in Torremolinos, it’s speculation that KRob wants to add another midfielder to his endless collection. So, it’s heartwarming to see that Rochdale’s Ollie Rathbone has been linked with a move to the club. Premier League giants Sunderland are interested, along with Fleetwood. Manager Joey Barton is said to be ‘punch in your face and charged with common assault’ excited by the prospect. 

Wednesday August 26 August 2020

Accrington Stanley (who are they?) have targeted the 1980s Milk Marketing Board Derby against Oxford on September 26 to trial allowing fans to attend the game. The game will be limited to 700 home fans, representing Accrington’s record attendance.  

Meanwhile sharpshooters the EFL have discovered a brand new technology called The Internet, which will stream all EFL matches via its iFollow service. We’re no technology experts, but as far as we can work out this is rather like trying to paint the Sistine Chapel with an ear bud. 

Thursday 27 August 2020

He’s ginger, he’s a whinger, he used to choose when he was injured; Dave Kitson has been shouting from the tall tower he looks down on everyone from reflecting on how he propelled Chris Wilder to greatness. His failed time at Sheffield United resulted in manager Danny Wilson getting fired, then his failed time at Oxford saw Chris Wilder getting fired, which resulted in Wilder managing Sheffield United. The rest is history; you are welcome, Chris, says Dave.

Elsewhere, Tony McMahon, The 2018 Phil Edwards, has gone a bit Martin Gray and signed for Darlington.

Friday 28 August 2020

Fantasy Football League phenom, John Lundstram, is centre of a catfight between West Ham and Steven Gerrard’s quest to create McOxford by joining Kemar Roofe at Rangers. George Waring is packing a suitcase full of Tennants Super in preparation for a call.

Saturday 29 August 2020

Oxford’s first home friendly resulted in a 1-0 over QPR with a goal from Matty Taylor. The game evoked memories of the Milk Cup Final; apart from the fans, prestige or Ken Fish looking like an army physical training instructor from the 1950s. The real drama was on the sidelines where sulky sixth former Rob Dickie didn’t even make the squad, which led to anti-maskers, anti-vaxers and conspiracy theorists to conclude it was because Bill Gates has put nano bots in the 5G network to prevent promising central defenders play friendly games of football. I mean, it makes you think, doesn’t it, the MSM don’t report that do they?

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.

Milk Cup Final: Yellows 3 QPR 0

I was pretty complacent last time we went to Wembley. As a three year-old I’d been bought a blue football shirt by my parents and became an Ipswich Town fan during their glory years under Bobby Robson. The only other teams that I’d followed were from Roy of the Rovers. All teams were destined to make it to Wembley, I thought.

Wembley was still magical. You only saw it during the day for the FA and League Cup Finals, as if it came from under the ground Thunderbirds-like.

The day itself started normally. It was wet, the London Marathon was run in the morning, my dad headed out for the Sunday paper and made no mention of the game.

We hit the road; I was dressed in a blue and yellow jockey cap, a classic football-casual Oxford v-neck jumper, my 85/86 replica shirt and a flag. We drove up the M40 and every car had a yellow scarf out of the window.

My dad took his video camera. My job was to film the journey but managed to do the thing where you turn the camera off when you think it’s on, and on when you think it’s off. As a result we have great pictures of a Vauxhall Cavalier foot-well.

We hit traffic, minibuses around us emptied as people went for a pee or to restock with beer. There was a crescendo of sirens and car horns. Streaming through the traffic came the team coach flanked by police motorcycles.

We reached Wembley and parked up. As we circumnavigated the stadium we bumped into a friend; exchanged pleasantries, and then headed for the turnstile. Entering the bowl of the stadium, someone behind me shouted ‘WEMBLEY!’ as though seeing the Colossus Of Rhodes for the first time.

It was vast. Modern stadiums; Millennium Stadium, Old Trafford, New Wembley, are designed for spectators and TV. Old Wembley was an architectural gasp that sprawled out and screaming ‘look at us, rulers of the Empire’. As a result, everything was miles from the pitch; there was a sea of yellow and blue.

Fittingly, the first half passed in a dream-like state. We seemed comfortable and in control. Suddenly Trevor Hebberd broke free. The availability of tickets and prohibitive Manor prices had reduced our visits to home games. For me, Trevor Hebberd was little more than the bloke who turned up with George Lawrence from Southampton.

But suddenly it was Hebberd, Paul Barron and a gaping Wembley goal. It was a moment of striking clarity. We were going to score a goal at Wembley. Rather than shooting, Hebberd turned inside, then outside, then inside again. This went on for hours. Nobody closed him down; the moment we were going to score at Wembley and Trevor Hebberd had found a chink in the time space continuum that wouldn’t allow him to complete the bloody task.

After hours of shouting for him to snap out of it and shoot, he did. The ball went in. We were a goal up. Whatever is stage is deeper than a dream-like state. We were in it, all the way to half-time.

Half-time was an opportunity of consolidation. I remember a sense that we’d had a lot of fun, but that eventually reality would kick back in.

Despite selling 35,000 tickets, it was clear that not everyone was a true Oxford fan. We were surrounded by a group of quintessentially public school toffs. Shortly after the second half started, one of the girls chose to sit down because her legs ached. The boys’ conversation went from misguided and inaccurate football talk to general disinterested chit-chat. The distraction was blown apart by a Hebberd run which eventually tee’ed up Ray Houghton for number 2.

If anything, the second goal crashed together the dream and the reality. We’d floated through the first hour; but now it was all very real and we were on course to win the cup. BUT, if they scored, and then again, and again, then what had been the best day would become the worst day. There was a tangible fear of loss.

Of course, on the pitch, there was no evidence that things were going to slip. And eventually the ball broke to John Charles to slot home a rebound for number 3. We’d done it. I don’t remember the cup being lifted, only the feeling when it was.

Eventually we chose to leave. Outside we were filtered around the ground with QPR fans shuffling in the opposite direction. In the height of football hooliganism, there was a moment that defined the whole day. A QPR fan lunged at my dad…

The fan, draped in a Union Jack, shook dad’s hand and congratulating us on a great display. It capped the day off perfectly. I remember driving home being given the ‘wanker’ sign by another group of QPR fans, but it meant nothing.

From such a day, the sky was the limit, it seemed. What we didn’t know at the time was that we were already in the sky.