GLS is pretty big news in the bedroom department, but even he knows that hot rampant six should come after some sensual four-play. But it was the other way around on Tuesday as Oxford edged closer to the play-offs with a 4-1 win over Shrewsbury Town. Four different players scored meaning that Jedward orphan Mark Sykes is the only outfield player not to score in the last two games. He’s been asking himself what he’s got to do to get on the scoresheet; the answer being SHOOT GODAMMIT.
It’s crunch time with everyone vying to promotion and play-off spots. Bettingexpert.com have taking a break from drawing young people into a life of misery and crippling debt by running their ‘super computer’, which has just been upgraded to Windows Vista, to predict how League 1 will turn out. According to their sophisticated algorithm, an Excel spreadsheet with specially coloured cells in team colours, we’re set to miss out of the play-offs and finish eighth.
I’m getting my first vaccine jab on Friday. As my sister says; I’m going to go from being the oldest of the young, to the youngest of the old.
Apparently the Oxford vaccine was in development before the pandemic hit.
WAKE UP SHEEPLE, EXPLAIN THAT!
Actually, no, it wasn’t the result of a pre-planned government oppression strategy, in very simple terms – which are the only terms I can understand it – a majority of what the vaccine needed to do was already known because of previous epidemics and pandemics, all that was needed was the remaining unknown – the specific characteristics of the virus causing the pandemic. Genius.
When we played Manchester City in 2018 it wasn’t the LED advertising boards or branded team bus that made me realise we were on a different planet, it was the phalanx of recording equipment they had set up at the back of the South Stand. There were laptops, cameras and analysts everywhere, it was hardly an auspicious historic moment they capturing for prosperity; it was a data harvesting exercise.
There’s no real difference between harvesting data from the past to invest in a future of certainty whether it’s football or vaccine development. Google’s whole business is based on calculating your future needs based on your past behaviour. Finding certainty and order is a natural human obsession.
For Manchester City, this is paying dividends in the short and the long term. In a year of turmoil, they’ve been gliding to the top of the Premier League and are strolling to the title. Every tiny calculation has helped them to predict and plan and work with almost complete certainty. Like the vaccine development team; if they can predict 90% of what’s going to happen, there’s only 10% to manage. As a result, the quadruple is a distinct possibility with every threat and eventuality calculated, strategised and neutralised. Success is so boring.
I don’t blame the players or manager, their job is to win, the onus is on the powers that be to create a competitive environment. Sadly, in football, the aim of the authorities is to kowtow to rich and influential people by making their success as predictable as possible.
There’s little doubt that League 1 is awash with unpredictability. For all our own fluctuations in form, the same goes for those around us. We’re all little boats being tossed in a sea of unpredictability. In the last week we’ve found some calm water and a brisk following wind which has resulted in ten goals, two games and ten different goalscorers; has that ever happened before? Karl Robinson doesn’t have a trophy cabinet, but he has an increasingly long list of quirky facts about his reign on a spreadsheet. While we’ve thrived; those immediately above us – Blackpool and Portsmouth – haven’t failed to muster a win between them this week. And suddenly, with wonderful unpredictability, we’re back in it.
Why? How? Why? James Henry’s return to fitness has been huge, his ball to Matty Taylor for the third goal last night was sublime, of the ten goals we’ve scored, he’s been involved in six and wasn’t on the pitch for two of the remaining four. That’s some return. My low-def internet feed prevents me from fully understanding what Sam Long does to the team, but we always look better with him on the side. Elliott Moore is quietly becoming a dominant and influential force at the back and a threat up front. The pieces have fallen into place.
We don’t have Manchester City’s sophisticated sat nav making billions of calculations to war game all eventualities, allowing us to plot a path to success. We could suddenly hit a big wave or a strong headwind, we just don’t know. Which is a long way to say, I don’t know how we’ve got to this point and don’t know where we’re heading. This season I’ve predicted that we’re a spent force, I’ve predicted that we’re hot footing our way to the Championship, I’ve now concluded that I simply don’t know. I can say with absolute certainty that I have no clue where we’ll end up now.
Which, in a season as stale as this one threatened to be, and often was, is about as good as it gets, is it really better being 10 points clear with six games to when you’re the main character in a page turner; twist following turn following twist?
In three weeks and five games we’ll know; we may make it to the shores of the Championship, we may drown with all souls lost. In some ways, the destination isn’t the point, as they say; ‘adventure may hurt you, but monotony will kill you’.
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.
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.
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.
I’ve had a funny week, before the Southend game I met with The Fence End podcast to talk about the possibility of taking part in an episode. When they tweeted this, the response came as a bit of a surprise. Someone said that they didn’t want this blog to be run by a person, more a mysterious ‘thing’.
I like the anonymity of Oxblogger; it’s partly intentional but mostly just evolved. It’s never really been tested before, it’s not like there’s much of a prize in unveiling me; I’m not the owner of a creepy theme park in Scooby Doo. I’ve never thought about the impact it has, but it turns out that some people quite like it as well.
So the reality that Oxblogger is written by someone real and normal, to the person who is actually writing it, and not a omnipotent super computer is quite a curious thing. I’m not equating myself to a superhero, unless I’m Benign and Mildly Diverting Man, but it made me think that it’s one thing buying himself a Lycra morph suit with a spider’s web on it, quite something else to step out into the street and demand people call you ‘Spiderman’. The difference between giving myself a name and that being a thing is quite big.
In 1998, Tony Adams, then England captain, said that the expectation of achieving a semi-final place in the World Cup was quite different to the reality of achieving it. When you’re a fan, you look at players with ability and think it’s just a simple process of switching it on at the right time. What Adams was pointing out was that the mental, physical, technical and tactical efforts required to achieve your goal are some way beyond simply just going out and expressing yourself.
The win over Shrewsbury, coming back from 2-0 down, and more broadly moving from 11th to 3rd in five games, underlines a similar principle. Some fans had given up on us a few weeks ago, and after 34 minutes many had given up yesterday. But, if we are to be a promotion chasing side, then we’ve actually got to be a promotion chasing side. The physical effort and the psychological application to want to turn the game around and not simply give up, is not to be under-estimated.
Matthew Syed, in his book Bounce, talks about how an elite athlete has to strike the balance between the confidence to perform and enough doubt to want to put the effort in to be able to do that. If I’m going to run a marathon, I’ve got to believe I can, but I’ve also got have enough doubt in my fitness to train to do it. Too much doubt or too much confidence will lead to failure. In a football season, that balance has to be struck for ten months.
We seem to have found that sweet spot; the last five games and the comeback against Shrewsbury illustrating that we feel we have a right to be fighting for promotion. I can’t say I shared that view, I thought the play-offs could only be considered an unexpected by-product of an overall improvement at the club, I didn’t really see promotion as a goal in itself.
But now, in the same way I may need to accept that I am ‘Oxblogger’ – whatever that means, we need to accept that we’re a team on a promotion hunt. When Karl Robinson is asked about his future beyond May, he’s right to dismiss it because these opportunities are rare and don’t simply take care of themselves. When Robinson talked about being ‘a big club’ in the transfer market, it transfers to the rest of the show. Playing well, not accepting defeats, but also filling the stands home and away and supporting the team even when they’re 2-0 down after half-an-hour. We need to match the mental fortitude the team have shown.
Which is the final point – when we were in the doldrums in the Conference, Chris Wilder instilled an expectation that we would not only talk like a club too big for that level, but with Mark Creighton, Adam Murray, James Constable and others, we would act like it. When Michael Appleton instilled a dedication to technical professionalism akin to teams in higher divisions it paid dividends. Now Karl Robinson has implemented a mental toughness that deserves success, and given the challenges he faced when arrived and whatever happens now, he deserves to be recognised for that.
There was a lot of camaraderie on the touchline on Saturday as both managers agreed their team was best after the 0-0 draw with Shrewsbury. With injuries to Anthony Forde and James Henry, Oxford ended the game with so many casualties, Boris Johnson promised to build 426 new hospitals on the moon to treat them all, and people believed him too.
Sad news as it was announced that dome bonced managerial genius Jim Smith had died. Smith was responsible for unprecedented success at the club, signing legends like John Aldridge, Billy Hamilton, Trevor Hebberd and Gary Twigg. He was also the man responsible for George Lawrence pulling on a pair of unnecessarily tight shorts for the club. We love you Jim.
The Milton Keynes Jim Smith, KRob, is still sorely missed at MK Dons. In six years he guided them to The Championship, developed players like George Baldock and Deli Ali and literally didn’t steal another club’s place in the league.
It’s the Crazy Gang on Saturday as we head for footballing pariahs MK Dons for the start of the 12 Days of Footballmas. Bookie monster Alex Gorrin is back and James Henry might make the bench, so while the our midfield woes could be clearing up, our defensive troubles may be just around the corner; Derby County are apparently interested in sulky sixth former Rob Dickie. Oh good.