World Cup of Central Defenders

Runners and riders

From Mark Wright to Rob Dickie, Oxford United have a rich history when it comes to central defenders. They are towering oaks, immovable, reliable bedrocks of any success. For me, your central defensive partnership speaks volumes about where you are as a club; when they are solid, so are we, when they are flakey, so are we. We’ve had some great central defenders; so many that I couldn’t narrow the field to the normal sixteen competitors so I had to go with an epic thirty-two, even though there was a bit of chaff to make up for the abundance of wheat.

The tournament wasn’t without its controversy. I’m meticulous in trying to be fair, but the first draw I did put a group together which included Gary Briggs, Malcolm Shotton, Matt Elliot and Phil Gilchrist. I decided to do the draw again.

The tournament was then thrown into crisis when it was pointed out that Canadian international Mark Watson had been omitted from the thirty-two. Watson was a steadying influence at the turn of the millennium and worthy of inclusion. My bad. Following a dead heat in a vote as to whether he should be included from the second round, one tweet in support decided it.

From there, battle commenced.

Group A

Even in the second draw it wasn’t possible to separate Gary Briggs and Phil Gilchrist who together comfortably took over 80% of the vote. In their wake was Darren Purse, a very capable back up to Elliott and Gilchrist in the 90s. Purse had all the attributes to stand alongside the greats, but largely lived in the shadows of those two before moving onto better things. Phil Whelan never stood a chance and would probably be happy with his five votes

Group B

Group B was a bloodbath, Malcolm Shotton blew everyone away with 80% of the vote. Second place, a long way back, were Elliott Moore and Luke Foster who presumably picked up their votes from people for whom Shotton is just a grainy video clip on YouTube. In the end, there was just two votes in it with Moore prevailing. Phil Bolland was left bewildered, picking up two votes.

Group C

Group C seemed more even, Steve Davis’ place in the team was a signal of the club collapsing in the late 90s, but the others were all well regarded in their time. There’s a lot of respect for John Mousinho, so he came out on top with 58.2% of the vote, followed by the most educated of all the competitors Kiwi Ceri Evans (MBChB MA MSc Dip ForMH MRCPsych PhD). Michael Raynes won a lot of friends during his time at the club but couldn’t compete.

Group D

Similarly Group D looked an even fight. Tommy Caton played in Division 1 for the club, but his time at the club is mostly forgotten. Mark Creighton’s time at Oxford was relatively short, but his impact was immense meaning he came out on top with 48.6% of the vote. He was followed by Andy Crosby, a John Mousinho-type commanding defender from the early 2000s. Michael Duberry had a lot of fans during his two years with the club, but couldn’t quite live with the big guns in the group.

Group E

Curtis Nelson laid waste to Group E picking up the same landslide victory as Malcolm Shotton in Group B with 83.4% of the vote. The rest were fighting for scraps, it was Brian Wilsterman, the hapless, accident prone, but charismatic Dutchman who picked up just 9.6% of the votes to ease into the second round.

Group F

Group F was all about the younger pretenders. Both Andy Melville and Steve Foster were club captains and internationals – Foster played in the 1982 World Cup. But, with Twitter skewed towards a slightly younger demographic and the fact that football fans tend to have short memories, Rob Dickie and Chey Dunkley took the honours.

Group G

Had only the winner gone through from Group G, then it would have been a group of death with the presence of Matt Elliott and Jake Wright together. In the end their combined forces blew away makeweights Rhys Day and Charlie Raglan. Elliott prevailed with 59.6% of the vote. Day was the only player in the competition not to pick up a single vote, which is a shame given his contribution to Alfie Potter’s goal at Wembley in 2010.

Group H

An epic group stage concluded with a fairly convincing sweep from Johnny Mullins and Mark Wright. Wright was probably the best defender in the competition he went on to play a pivotal role for England in the 1990 World Cup and captained Liverpool, but his time at the club when manager tainted his image, so he ran out second to the amiable Mullins.

Round 2

As if to illustrate that these competitions are not wholly a judgement of ability, Gary Briggs blew away Mark Wright in the first game of Round 2. Rambo took 85.8% of the vote setting his stall out for the rest of the tournament. On the pitch and in Twitter polls, he wasn’t going to take any prisoners.

A battle of the hardest of hard men. I’d have paid good money to see Mark Creighton and Malcolm Shotton go up against each other on the pitch. In the end, Malcolm Shotton made it a double for The Milk Cup duo taking over 75% of the vote. Farewell dear Beast.

John Mousinho is a mightily impressive man, a great communicator and leader and a real asset to the club, but when put up against Matt Elliott, he really didn’t stand a chance. Elliott blazed past him with nearly 80% of the vote.

Game 4 was a 2016 derby, an old partnership which saw us through the late Wilder years, right up to the point where Chey Dunkley emerged as a force to be reckoned with. Head to head, though, there was no contest, Wright took it with the highest vote percentage of the tournament so far.

Then things started to unravel, a frantic thirty minutes when I had a shopping delivery and a log delivery in quick succession coincided with the conclusion of the first round and someone pointing out that I’d forgotten Mark Watson. Watson was a Canadian international and club captain in the late 1990s. While the club collapsed around him, he remained steadfast and was worthy of a place in the tournament. An emergency poll as to his inclusion came out 50:50, so in the end, one supportive tweet decided it. It didn’t do much good, Phil Gilchrist won comfortably with 66.9% of the vote, Watson’s inclusions simply seemed to split the vote with Andy Crosby.

After that drama, we all needed a bit of knockabout fun, so watching Brian Wilsterman get schooled by Chey Dunkley was just what the doctor ordered. Dunkley broke the record with 95.6% of the vote, with people admitting that they voted for Wilsterman out of sympathy.

But if Chey Dunkley’s win was convincing, Rob Dickie’s destruction of his old defensive partner Elliott Moore was devastating. Dickie humbled the big man with 97% of the vote, the biggest win advantage in this or any other tournament.

The final game was nearly as convincing; Curtis Nelson’s more recent escapades fried 90s-guy Ceri Evans who would probably be happy with a second round place. Evans can go back to his books while Nelson booked his place in the quarter-finals.

Quater-Final

The second round shed the tournament of its makeweights, all eight quarter-finalists were veterans of epic campaigns and leaders in their own right. There were no easy ties. First up, was Rob Dickie against Phil Gilchrist. It should have been close, but Dickie’s more recent escapades made him the comfortable win with 60% of the vote.

There are moments in these things where people you think of as imperious, suddenly look meek and vulnerable. Matt Elliott ominously swept aside Curtis Nelson in game two with 83.1% of the vote. Could anyone stop him?

Game three was the tightest of them all. Jake Wright lived more recently in the memory and was arguably the more refined defender, but would that be enough? The legend of Gary Briggs lives strong, the blood streaming down his face and splattered on his shirt, these evocative images gave him just enough to sneak by with 54% of the vote.

The final quarter-final was another case of a legend coming up against a more lived experience. Once again, the legend lived on with Malcolm Shotton comfortably taking 71% of the vote.

Semi-Final

The strength of myth and legend saw Malcolm Shotton prevail in the first semi-final. Rob Dickie would have to be pretty pleased to have got this far and lay a glove on the moustachioed maestro with nearly 40% of the vote.

Semi-Final 2 looked tighter on paper; Briggs is a titan of Oxford United lore, could anyone overcome him, would anyone dare? It turns out, yes and convincingly. Matt Elliott eased through with 78.6% of the vote.

Final

And so to the final and two worthy pugilists, masters of their craft, veterans of legendary campaigns. Shotton, the captain of the glory years, Elliott, the jewel in the mid-90s promotion crown. Early voting was split with the two sharing the spoils, but slowly, Elliott began to ease ahead. Just like he was on the pitch, there was a gracefulness to how he did it, by the end he’d picked up 61.8% of the votes. Following an epic and brutal contest, the two contenders fell into each others arms; Elliott the victor.

Verdict

It took nearly 4000 votes to decide it, but Matt Elliott was a more than worthy winner. We are easily impressed by the brutality of central defenders and it the debt the club has to Malcolm Shotton will never be fully repaid, but Elliott had something extra and so it proved. In truth, the Shotton/Briggs partnership was found out in the First Division and our survival relied on the goals of John Aldridge rather than the backline. Elliott, though, never looked uncomfortable whether playing for us, in the Premier League or on the international stage. Elliott was the one that made the difference in the 1990s and we were lucky to have him.

George Lawrence’s Shorts: Tango and cash

Sunday 30 August 2020

Asylum seeking Jedward orphan Mark Sykes has created havoc in the Northern Ireland camp after turning down the opportunity to play for them in the Nations League in favour of The Republic. Ireland hasn’t seen trouble like this since, well, The Troubles, it can’t be long until we get to Bloody Tsun Dai.

And here he is! Oxford United’s greatest ever Hong Konger has scored his first goal for Shenzhen in the Chinese Super League.

Monday 31 August 2020

Ex-Oxford keeper Paul Kee has shown the same reactions that characterised his time at The Manor in the 1990s. Thirty years after his retirement, he’s reaslised he doesn’t have any pictures of him in action and is looking for anyone who might have some. Sadly, his search may be in vain given that few Oxford fans can recall him ever making a save.

Meanwhile, former Manchester United (reserves) skipper Danny Rose has finally come to his senses and left Swindon for Grimsby Town – known in the trade as a ‘six fingers to fish fingers’ transfer.  

Tuesday 1 September 2020

Sulky sixth former Rob Dickie got his A Level results. Due to Boris’ Bogus Algorithm, Dickie didn’t get into Leeds or Newcastle, but will instead study Mid-Table Obscurity at  London polytechnic Queens Park Rangers. The fee is said to be undisclosed; which is the value of Rob Dickie minus 75%. But it’s OK, there are add-ons – and when he does pitch in the World Series on Uranus, we’ll be laughing all the way to the bank.

Mange tout, mange tout; Derick Osei Yaw was on target twice down the road at Brentford. The prestige friendly opened the Bees’ new ground; The Stadium of Lego. The 2-2 draw was live streamed on YouTube using, judging by the quality, an iPhone 4 and a lot of LSD.

Wednesday 2 September 2020

Oxford revealed its new orange away kit; or specifically the shade ‘We’re Going to Need a Third Kit, Kerching, Orange’. The shirt is a fitting tribute to the club’s history; and specifically its illustrious Dutch players; Dwight Tiendelli, Brian Wilsterman and Gino van Kessel. It evokes their spirit in that it looks great initially but will only to be used when there are absolutely no other options available. 

Thursday 3 September 2020

Like a teenager boasting to his friend that the French teacher’s left breast briefly brushed his arm, KRob eagerly revealed he’s made a bid for a striker. Elsewhere, Tory PR newsletter The Telegraph is reporting that KRob is on the verge of signing a new long-term contract. Our dreams are now haunted by the vision of KRob pulling on a skin tight Oxford shirt and banging them in next season.

Friday 4 September 2020

Tomorrow sees the start of the season with a Type 2 Diabetes Cup Fash the Bash at home to Wimbledon. With no fans present, KRob’s fairly non-plussed about it and will be treating the game like another pre-season friendly. Chins up KRob, we’ll be with you in spirit as the game is being streamed via iFollow. We’ll be backing the team from the first minute to the eighth, then from the seventeenth to the thirty-second without any sound, then we’ll watch fourteen minutes of last seasons EFL Trophy game between Gillingham and Norwich Reserves, then from the sixty-fifth to the seventieth with commentary from the first half…

George Lawrence’s Shorts: Hey Yaw!

Sunday 16 August 2020

The 92 Club is where overweight middle-aged men with Status Quo patches on their denim jackets try to visit every ground in the country. The 92 refers to the number of social media interactions they have every day with young girls in short skirts that claim to be both real and Ipswich Town fans. Sulky sixth-former Rob Dickie is closing in on his own 92 club landmark as Newcastle became the 88th club this summer interested in signing him.

Monday 17 August 2020

The draw for the world’s oldest socially distanced football tournament – the EFL Trophy – was made on Monday, or at least part of it. The draw was held in the middle of a desolate forest in the dead of the night by two druids and a mountain goat. Probably, but frankly who cares? In it, we drew Walsall and Bristol Rovers. Early games are likely to be played without fans, so no change there then. 

Tuesday 18 August 2020

Oxford announced that its new sponsor was the Thai tourist authority Amazing Thailand. Tourism sponsors are very much on trend in League 1 – as well as the sun drenched paradise of Thailand, Blackpool will be promoting their own town as the country’s chlamydia capital while Swindon are sponsored ‘Imagine Cruising’ or as they’re properly known ‘Imagine cruising on a coronavirus incubator’.

In the Type 2 Diabetes Cup, Oxford have been drawn against Fash The Bash and co – Wimbledon – while the Chelsea Muppet Babies have been added to our EFL Trophy group.   

Wednesday 19 August 2020

The club caused mega-ROFLs by ostentaciously announcing the new club socks before revealing their new yellow t-shirt for the season. The story of absolute bantz caused total scenes and was picked up by the Daily Mail whose reader Dandada14 lambasted the story for its poor journalism. Blimey, wait until he hears about the Brexit lies and racebating of Meghan Markle. 

Squad numbers were announced on Wednesday causing amateur numerologists everywhere to pour over the mystical meaning of each proclamation. Jedward orphan Mark Sykes has been elevated to the number 10 shirt, where he hopes to follow in the footsteps of previous Oxford number 10s Craig Farrel, Andy Thomson and Courtney Pitt by becoming a regular punchline to a weakly structured GLS gag.

Thursday 20 August 2020

Jack Midson, who increasingly looks like the local fitness instructor working his way around all the Year 2 mums at the local primary school, has signed for Sheppey United. Meanwhile in Preston, Ryan Ledson has put pen to paper and a late two footed knee-high lunge on a new contract extension

Friday 21 August 2020

Fixture release day is the day that football fans up and down the country excitedly plan the games they’re going to miss due to a catastrophic coronavirus second wave. Oxford’s season opens against one of the big guns; MApp’s Lincoln. The home derby against Swindon is scheduled for October 24th. For once Oxford United fans and Boris Johnson speak with one voice when they say they’d rather their gran died a slow painful death on her own of a respiratory illness than see that one played behind closed doors.

Elsewhere, Liam Kelly, who looks like the kid whose dad paid a substantial donation to the PTA so he could play the lead in the end of year rendition of Bugsy Malone, is back for a season’s loan. In a surprise move, Oxford also signed Frenchman Derick Osei Yaw; in terms of French Oxford United players, we don’t know whether he’ll be a gem-ey like Christophe Remy or as dead as a Doudou. 

Saturday 22 August 2020

On Monday Brian Horton publishes his autobiography; ‘Horton Out’. It’s not called that, of course, but we’re excited to read the true stories of the times he took teams like Oxford to lower mid-table finishes, along with the thrilling run to a Full Member’s Cup Semi-Final with Hull.

In a lengthy interview with Hull Live, Horton talks about the time Cesc Fabregas allegedly spat at him. He says of the spit “He denied it and got away with it … but it’s all covered in the book.” Readers are advised to give the book a good wipe before reading.

Elsewhere, Oxford beat Banbury 5-0 in a friendly with a scrabble score of goalscorers in Agyei, Osei Yaw and another new signing, Dylan Asonganyi. Nick Harris is expected to announce his retirement within days.

George Lawrence’s Summer Shorts: Mackie races

Sunday 19 July 2020

Battling through the tuck queue getting your ears flicked by Pogo Patterson and Roland Browning has set sulky sixth former Rob Dickie up for the big time. That’s the view of KRob, who has issued a ‘come and get him’ plea to anyone prepared to listen. Dickie has been linked with Every Team Joey Beauchamp Failed To Sign For including Nottingham Forest, Fulham and Southampton. 

Monday 20 July 2020

GLS once enjoyed an expansive physical relationship with a woman of considerable experience. We say experience, she was 58 and when we say woman we mean ‘predatory geography teacher’. We were 14 when it ended. After three years. It wasn’t the age gap that did for the relationship, or the court case, it was the life of monotonous domesticity. How many scatter cushions does one settee need?

Like that unrelenting procession of decorative soft furnishings, it looks like KRob has collected yet another winger from the League of Ireland with the signing of Joel Cooper from Linfield.  

Tuesday 21 July 2020

He might have been one banana short of a Julian Allsop, but Jamie Mackie will always have a place in Oxford United’s heart. Social media’s leading public health campaigner announced his retirement after two years at the club.

There was a special Eight Minute Thirty Second Fans Forum on Radio Oxford with Tiger. One fan, probably named @Bulldog239402783, contacted the biased MSM BBC who he ‘never uses’ to urge our Thai owner to focus on signing ‘English talent’ rather than ‘Scottish or Irish’. Last season proved how sick we all are of being funded by Thais, and the sale of an Irishman for Thai money, and benefiting from the sales of players with Ghanian and Grenadian heritage. There’s a reason we’re called GREAT Britain, you know? And that’s because it’s the largest landmass in the British Isles. Tiger also announced that sponsors Singha were pulling out; Black N Rounds and Animalates have been alerted.

Wednesday 22 July 2020

It was all tie dye dresses and daisies in our hair for GLS in the mid-2010s. We lived free in a commune taking mind-expanding drugs, paying our way offering free love to Guru Wilder. We drank from the soup of underwhelming grafters The Great Guru brought in. Apparently one of them was Josh Payne who has moved from Crawley to Ebbsfleet.

The Oxford United diaspora spread its seed far and wide in the Championship – Tyler Roberts scored for Leeds as they ended the season champions, Shandon The Baptise, Tariq Fosu, Jedward Orphan Gavin Whyte and Curtis Nelson will feature in the play-offs. Chey Dunkley’s Wigan are going down. But if you really want to feel the effects of mind expanding drugs read the next sentence. Danny Hylton’s Luton managed to stay up. Woooh trippy, man. 

Thursday 23 July 2020

Like GLS’ lavatorial motions, Oxford United likes to get its business done early. And just like GLS’ lavatorial motions, despite lots of huffing and puffing, something usually gets stuck and everything comes out in a rush when you least expect it. The announcement of Joel Cooper from Linfield has come so early in the summer, nobody was at the training ground to announce his signing. We call this ‘Doing a Kelleher’.

Friday 24 July 2020

One of the things GLS loved about lockdown were those homely chats with old Oxford United players and managers on the official podcast. We’re at a loss as to why the club didn’t bring together former manager ‘four wins in twenty five games’ Mark Lawrenson and former director Ghislaine Maxwell, who is currently awaiting trial for enticing minors, sex trafficking and perjury. You have to say that it sounds like there are loads of great stories to tell from those two. Anyway, Lawro has been telling a story about the time he lunched with Ghislaine while he was manager. Great banter. 

Saturday 25 July 2020

Moving to any new football club is daunting, but anyone ready to step into the shoes left by a player of no lesser stature than Jonte Smith will need big cojones and broad shoulders. Now, we can’t vouch for the cojones, but there are no broader shoulders in the Football League than Liam Sercombe, who has been linked with a move to Cheltenham Town.

Meanwhile, The Sporting Ferret; the one Mustelidae we trust to make a judgement on such things, has rated our season a B+.

George Lawrence’s Summer Shorts – The Bayo Tapestry

George Lawrence’s Shorts hasn’t wasted furlough; eschewing the opportunity to learn conversational Farsi or master jazz oboe we’ve joined Amateur Epidemiologists On Twitter. We’re a group of enthusiasts pooling years of experience fixing drains and answering customer service queries to misinterpret statistics to confirm our preconceived prejudices. We treat our virology data like our art – we don’t know much about it, but we know what we like. Stay home > Make Memes > Save the NHS. 

But that was then, this is now; GLS is pulling on its summer shorts, resting its gut over the elasticated waste and bringing you the news from the Oxford United universe.  

Monday 13 July 2020

Oxford’s mammoth season ended in ultimate disappointment as they fell to a 2-1 defeat against Wycombe Akinfenwanderers in the League 1 Play-Off Final. The chairboys felt right at home in the empty Wembley Stadium going ahead when Anthony AkinStewa(rt) headed in after eight minutes. We equalised through Jedward orphan Mark Sykes with a goal Ade Akinfenwa described as ‘Akinfenwa-like’. The winner came from a spot kick scored by Akinfenwanderers Akindefenda, Joe Jacobson.

Tuesday 14 July 2020

It was the morning after the night before and time to reflect on what might have been or might will be again. With the financial realities of the impending financial catastrophe coming into sharp focus we need our friends more than ever. Perhaps former Oxford United director Ghislaine Maxwell can help, she seems like a nice person with friends in high places. Once a yellow, always a yellow, eh Gizzy?

The oily bird catches the worm, and news is that Bristol City’s biggest and oiliest bird, Mark Ashton, could be set to roll out the big guns when he unveils his new manager. MApp has been linked with a move into the Championship

Wednesday 15 July 2020

We go again, as they say. Jedward orphan Mark Sykes may go again to Stoke to join the former Northern Ireland manager Michael O’Neill. Meanwhile £5m defender sulky teenager Rob Dickie could go again to Nottingham Forest who have joined Derby County and Leeds United in the race to sign him for £3m. Expect the fee to be around £750,000.  

Thursday 16 July 2020

Come on Monday, Happy Days!
Tuesday, Wednesday, Happy Days!
Thursday, Friday, Happy Days!
The weekend comes, my cycle hums,
Ready to race to yooooou.

Wait, that’s not right, what happened to Tsun Dai? Well, he’s moved to Shenzhen in China after a year at Wolves.

Friday 17 July 2020

Straight out of a two-year-old’s hide and seek playbook – if I close my eyes and can’t see them, they can’t see me – Boris Johnson is to ignore all the risks and re-open football stadiums in October. We know that when the Kassam is full it’s like a cauldron, though not often full of viral spores. Some protective measures will have to be in place to protect the most infirm; or South Stand Upper as it’s known, but what the heck, we’re going back, spread the word, let’s make this thing go viral.

Saturday 18 July 2020

Can Oxford bounce back from their play-off disappointment? KRob’s given his verdict and it’s unequivocally a yes, or no, or, and we cannot be clearer about this; maybe. You see, KRob is having one of his periodic back me or sack me (but, obviously don’t sack me, I didn’t mean it literally) moments. He’s pleading to the Oxford board to build on the successes of last season. “I owed Oxford United for two reasons” said KRob “Giving me the opportunity to come home to my family every night and for sticking with me in the bad times.” That’s us; the big selling point of Oxford United is that it’s in Oxford. 

George Lawrence’s Shorts: A level plaguing field

Saturday 7 March 2020

The chisel-faced Ant and Dec, Sam Ricketts and Dean Whitehead were left fuming after Josh Vela was sent off at 2-0 up resulting in a dramatic turnaround and a 3-2 win for Oxford over Shrewsbury. Ricketts was left stoney-faced; which was nothing to do with the decision, it’s just Ricketts’ granite like features.

Sunday 8 March 2020

The Trolls’ Troll, Chris Maguire, claimed in the Sunderland programme on Saturday that Oxford beating Newcastle in 2017 in the FA Cup – a game he was substituted in and made no notable contribution to – was his all- time career highlight.  

Monday 9 March 2020

Sulky sixth former Rob Dickie is looking at his options after he’s finished his A Levels. His parents want him to go to Oxford, but it looks like Southampton, Burnley or Leeds may give him a decent offer

One of the county’s most recognisable footballers has made a come-and-get-me-plea to KRob. Finn Tapp, who played in the hole at Love Island, announced he was leaving Oxford City to pursue a career in vacuous anonymity. What would keep him in the game? Playing for Oxford United of course.

Tuesday 10 March 2020

We love Hide and Seek Tuesday; where Oxford fans who criticise the club for lacking ambition and investment find their best hiding spots while the club announce its latest set of financial results. In them, the club revealed that it lost £4m last year and was £18m in debt

Elsewhere, orphaned Jedward Mark Sykes has been called up by Northern Ireland for their Euro 2020 play-off against Bosnia & Herzegovina. Probably.

Wednesday 11 March 2020

In the wake of a global pandemic the PFA have issued advice to clubs to not share bottles. The CoVid19 is a respiratory virus which is particularly dangerous for the old and infirm. The club have issued an edict to the players to follow government advice, principally to protect Derek Fazackerley.  

Thursday 12 March 2020

Oxford United’s head of coins, Tim Davies, who looks like he’s trying to build the Channel Tunnel with a knife and fork, was on the Nine Minute Three Seconds Fans Forum. He said the main difference between the 2018/19 accounts and the previous year was a £2m difference in player trading. Shocking to find that the value of John Lundstram and Marvin Johnson leaving was not matched by the departures of Dwight Tiendelli and Agon Mehmeti.  

Friday 13 March 2020

Woo hoo! It’s football tomorrow with the visit of MK Dons, we’re so excited a plague of locusts wouldn’t keep us away.

Oh.