George Lawrence’s Shorts: Saturday afternoon takeaway

Saturday 29 February

Failure in the face of uncompromising hubris, blind self-belief and arrogant self-confidence. If only there were an analogy to describe Brexit Sol Campbell’s approach to managing Southend United. Henry James’ James Henry scored a penalty and Matty Taylor added a second to see us win 2-1 on Saturday.

Sunday 1 March

Brexit Sol wasn’t too upset by Saturday’s defeat, in fact, the footballing genius planned it that way. “Everyone stuck to the game plan” he said. Southend are now 17 points from safety; Southend by name, south end by nature. 

Monday 2 March

Facing his first blank week since before humanity was threatened by virulent killer diseases and cataclysmic weather conditions, KRob’s looking forward to sitting in his pants watching back-to-back Come Dine With Me on More4

He can’t rest on his laurels though; The Football League website have spent up to 8 seconds dreaming up an arbitrary evaluation Cameron Brannagain. The midfielder, who is interesting Leeds, is worth between £3-5m. So expect a bid of £75 and a bar of Toblerone to be accepted in May. 

Meanwhile, CoventryLive have plugged all their data into their ‘supercomputer’ – a Vic20 with added RAM pack – to predict that Coventry City will win League 1 with Oxford finishing 5th.

Tuesday 3 March

Sulky sixth former Rob Dickie has become Head Boy at Oxford after KRob gave him the captain’s armband for the rest of the season. The role affords him a lot of responsibility including a weekly evening hot chocolate in KRob’s office after his violin lesson. KRob’s promising to teach him how to play his oboe.

Wednesday 4 March

The chisel faced Ant and Dec, Sam Ricketts and Dean Whitehead have been talking about their lifelong friendship, which has now become a managerial partnership at Shrewsbury. Deano thinks players today are pampered and that his time at Oxford under Ian Atkins, with the likes of Julian Allsop around, made him the man he is today. “Pah” he might have said dismissively “Bananas weren’t for eating in them days, I can tell you.”

Thursday 5 March

Professional broomhandle, Niall, don’t call me Niall, it’s Niall McWilliams was the man in the hot seat for the Five Minute* Fans Forum on Radio Oxford. Talking in that controlled seething headmasterly way which makes Jerome Sale feel like he’s been caught spray painting a phallus on the wall of the science block, Coronavirus is at the top of the fans’ concerns. McWilliams confirmed that the club are working closely with Uncle Firoz to provide basic sanitary conditions at the stadium. 

There was also a question about the sold-out Wycombe game in a couple of weeks. Fans who have missed out have been up in arms after the club instigated a deeply unfair ‘first come, first served’ system. Some fans the club should allocate tickets to fans who can’t get organised to buy them, but really really want them anyway.

* and six seconds

Friday 6 March

It’s a light entertainment derby tomorrow as the chisel faced Ant and Dec come up against the marshmallow faced James Corden tomorrow. Sam Ricketts is trying to solve a goalscoring crisis which sees The Shrews second lowest scorers in the division. He’s planning to play with three strikers, Ian Atkins will be appalled

Meanwhile, Oxford council have announced their latest step fighting climate change, pandemics, Brexit and the rise of extremism. They’re putting new listening benches in Headington which will have wind up, solar powered listening devices featuring, amongst other things, a brief history of Oxford United. The benches will sooth people when the giant fireball that’s probably coming our way rips through humanity.

Midweek fixtures: Away days

A few weeks ago, out of curiosity, I started looking at some stuff about our away games. I got a bit carried away and disappeared down a ridiculously deep wormhole. I mean, I only looked at the last 20 years and only in the league, I’m not insane. This is what I found.

If you were mad enough to go to every Oxford United away game in the last 20 years then you’ve travelled 57,700 miles to league games (one way, double all of this for the return journey) with another 7,300 miles in the cups (OK, I looked at the cups a bit). On average that’s 2,700 miles a year in the league with 350 miles in the cup.

In the league we’ve played 102 different opponents, AFC Wimbledon being the most frequent – 16 times.

The worst year for travel was in 2002/3 when we ate up no less than 3,400 miles, compared to 2000/01 when we just travelled just 2,221 miles, anyone around during that season will agree that it was probably the best thing about it.

Most travelled

Devon is a lovely place to go on holiday, we’ve chomped up more miles travelling to Torquay United than any other club; 2006.

  1. Torquay United 2006
  2. Rochdale 1958
  3. York City 1840
  4. Plymouth Argyle 1634
  5. Bury 1577
  6. Accrington Stanley 1528
  7. Scunthorpe United 1523
  8. Morecambe 1463
  9. Southend United 1359
  10. Carlisle United 1340

Least travelled

Our single trip to Hayes and Yeading in the league puts them at the top of the least number of accumulated league miles we’ve travelled (or bottom of the most number of miles, depending how you look at it).

  1. Hayes and Yeading 44
  2. Reading 50
  3. St Albans 55
  4. Swindon Town 92
  5. Brentford 107
  6. Lewes 111
  7. Cardiff City 118
  8. Kettering 124
  9. Ipswich Town 139 
  10. Sheffield United 143

Lowest miles per point

It has long been debated (and largely rejected) that Wycombe Wanderers is a derby, but it is the shortest distance (sorry, Swindon is 30 miles away from the Kassam, seven more than Wycombe). By some distance, Wycombe is the most efficient place to travel in terms of miles per point; we only have to travel 1.5 miles for every point gained.

  1. 1.5 Wycombe Wanderers
  2. 3.7 Cheltenham Town
  3. 4.3 AFC Wimbledon
  4. 4.7 Bristol Rovers
  5. 5.1 Swindon Town
  6. 5.6 Northampton Town
  7. 5.7 Dagenham & Redbridge
  8. 6.3 Forest Green Rovers
  9. 6.4 Burton Albion
  10. 6.8 Kidderminster Harriers

Lowest miles per point (+100 miles)

If you’re feeling a little more adventurous and fancy a game more than 100 miles away, you’d do worse than head for our bogey team Southend United. Despite some terrible results, we only need to travel 8 miles for every point we’ve won.  

  1. 8 miles per point Southend United
  2. 10.3 Notts County
  3. 11 Bury
  4. 11.7 Mansfield Town
  5. 12 Plymouth Argyle
  6. 12.3 York City
  7. 13.2 Lincoln City
  8. 14 Gillingham
  9. 14 Torquay United
  10. 14.3 Ebbsfleet United

Highest miles per point

You’d do well to avoid a trip to Barrow; just two trips north, taking one point means that it’ll cost you 251.6 miles for every point gained. Of course, lots of this is skewed by a lack of frequency. Among teams we’ve played five or more times, Fleetwood Town is the bogey team, costing a mammoth 101.9 miles for every point. 

  1. 251.6 miles per point Barrow
  2. 125.8 Sunderland
  3. 191.4 Hull City
  4. 165.4 Huddersfield Town
  5. 117.7 Cardiff City
  6. 100.8 Lewes
  7. 110.8 Yeovil Town
  8. 101.9 Fleetwood Town
  9. 94 Bournemouth
  10. 89.3 Carlisle United

All of which is very interesting, but not as interesting as hitting the road in hope and expectation, screaming yourself horse and praying for for three points.

Match wrap: Oxford United 2 Southend United 1

In 1987 Terence Trent D’Arby released his debut album Introducing The Hardline According to Terence Trent D’Arby. It was a tightly produced record borrowing heavily from the funk and soul classics of James Brown and Stevie Wonder. D’Arby himself was a phenomenal presence with a sensational voice; the tight rhythms gave him the platform to perform. It was an instant classic, selling 1 million copies in three days and winning a Grammy and Brit Award.

Two years later, emboldened by his success, D’Arby released his follow-up opus; Neither Fish Nor Flesh. He produced and wrote the record himself, unhindered by his previous production team. It was a sprawling mess of pretentious diarrhoea. To illustrate his indulgence; D’Arby appeared in three different guises – as himself, the Incredible E.G. O’Reilly and Ecneret Tnert Ybra’D, the latter accredited with providing ‘vocals and kazoo’. It bombed, and D’Arby’s career was largely over.

I was reminded of this sobering tale as we laboured to three points against Southend. In the past, having seen us fall apart against poor sides too many times, I would worry about our complacency in this kind of game. Now, I have such confidence in the side, I’m the one who risks being complacent. Such has been our desire to entertain and score goals, I expected us to sweep them aside.

From the get-go, something was up; but it wasn’t just our obvious fatigue or the fact we were playing into a headwind. We were untroubled by the clock with little sense of urgency. This isn’t that unusual, our patience at the start of games must be a deliberate tactic; we’ve come unstuck with it a few times this year when teams have started quickly.

But, then it started to feel like a cup game against a non-league side. Us, not quite able to muster the energy to really take the game to them, them providing a confusing mix of ability and ineptitude. As the game progressed, we got bundled up in their ball of confusion like a pair of trousers becoming entwined with a duvet cover in a tumble drier.

Terence Trent D’Arby openly declared his genius to anyone who’d listen, and many who wouldn’t. He surrounded himself with people who agreed with him, which provided no compulsion to compromise. He claimed (to some degree justifiably) the failure of Neither Fish Nor Flesh to be the result of institutional racism at his record company, when to most of the paying public, it was just a terrible record and he was an arrogant arse.

Did someone say Sol Campbell? Aside from the weather and the tiredness, what was particularly difficult to deal with on Saturday was the apparent lack of any tactical underpinning in the Southend team. They looked physically tiny; when fighting relegation its normal to at least establish a physical presence, but Campbell doesn’t seem concerned with that. Neither were they fast, nor did they press, but at the same time, they weren’t awful.

Where was the song? Amidst a mess of ideas and endeavours, there was no recognisable pattern. There was nothing for us to dance, sing or cry to, we seemed bemused, unable to engage. What resulted was a game of jazz noodling and meandering experimentation. Perhaps there was genius in there somewhere, but the nine minute kazoo solo ensured we couldn’t hear it.

In the end, it took Marcus Browne’s brutish physicality to break through the garbage, like a drummer hammering out a standard four-four beat to bring the other musicians into line. Like D’Arby’s original production team, sometimes you need someone to step in and drag everyone back to what you’re supposed to be achieving.

Browne chased across the field to rectify his own mistake and then swung the ball into the box for Matty Taylor to fire home. While others celebrated, Browne lay on the turf like a dying bumble bee having fulfilled its biological compulsion to protect its fellow bees after a sting. At that moment we needed that discipline and simplicity.

And that was all we needed, to get out of February with three points and a place in the play-offs. Sometimes it’s OK to have a staccato syncopated rhythms inspired North Africa, sometimes you just need a groove and a decent hook.

George Lawrence’s Shorts: Karlito’s away

Saturday 22 February 2020

The big back wheels fell off The Tractor Boys’ promotion hopes on Saturday as Oxford strolled to a win 1-0 at Ipswich Town. Matty Taylor and James Henry combined to harvest the winner just before half-time.  

Sunday 23 Feb February 2020

Shandon The Baptiste has been talking about his step up to the Championship. ‘It’s the intensity that’s different’, said Baptiste reading from his Beginners Guide To Things To Say When Stepping Up A Division. The mind boggles when KRob’s ‘low intensity’ is like having colonic irrigation from a Karcher jet washer.

Monday 24 February 2020

Accrington are in town tomorrow and we’ve got some injury woes. Nathan Holland, Jedward Orphan Mark Sykes and Anthony Forde are all doubts. As a result Rob Atkinson has been recalled from Eastleigh. If Oxford United do throw away their chances of promotion, it’ll probably hit one of our midfielders and put them out of the game for six months.

Tuesday 25 February 2020

Accrington, a team that was formed solely for the purpose of being a punchline to a milk advert, were semi-skimmed alive on Tuesday in a 3-0 win. Matty Taylor delivered the first before James Henry had the bottle to add a second, Taylor gold-topped it off with the third. We are now in such great form only a global pandemic can stop us.

The game was marred by the news that the club have turned down a move from Blackpool for KRob. It was the most unwelcome proposition in Blackpool since Rear View Rita, the landlady of the Seafront Vista B&B, suggestively offered GLS an extra special donkey ride on holiday last year.

Wednesday 26 February 2020

The club have acted quickly to quash those Blackpool rumours as KRob stood by smiling awkwardly like a Tory MP’s wife after he’d been caught in a flat in Streatham wearing a nappy and snorting talcum powder. 

Elsewhere, Shandon The Baptiste has continued his goalscoring form at Brentford neatly slotting past his own goalkeeper after nine minutes against Luton Town.

Thursday 27 February 2020

It was the Six Minute Forty One Second Fans Forum with KRob on Thursday, who at the time of writing is the manager of Oxford United. In it he removed all doubts about his future saying that the board hadn’t given him any reassurances and he didn’t want a new contract. He also reminded us how he walked out on Charlton mid-season. He’ll be on holiday when the club have their pre-season training camp in Spain and if we end up playing Swindon next season getting a good result it’ll be ‘nothing to do with him’. So that’s quashed that one.

Friday 28 February 2020

The greatest mind in football, Brexit Sol Campbell brings his Southend side to the Kassam on Saturday. Brexit Sol is on a different paradigm to us mortals, he joined the Shrimpers with the explicit intention of getting them out of the division as quickly as possible. So, while everyone else tries to get out via the top, Sol’s found a secret exit at the other end nobody else has thought of. Genius. He reckons with the application of his great intellect, he’ll be out of there by March.

George Lawrences Shorts: Pep-etual emotion

Saturday 23 November 2019

GLS is an aficionado of the game’s finer points; so it wasn’t the four goals that impressed us against Southend on Saturday, it was the build up play. The Southend defence managed to cut themselves to ribbons before playing in Matty Taylor for our first after just 53 seconds. Consistency is the mother of perfection, and they did it again twenty minutes later for James Henry to score. Matty Taylor added a third before Dan Agyei hoovered up the fourth to polish off a 4-0 win.

Sunday 24 November 2019

Southend fans needn’t worry, in Brexit Sol Campbell they’ve got one of the finest minds in football at the wheel. “It’s work in progress and it’s not easy.” said the man who previously said “it’s not like it’s rocket science to run a football club, especially when you get to that level.”

The fans are certainly enjoying Brexit Sol; and have taken to the Southend Echo to sing his praises “Gutless, spineless performance. No fight or passion. Gone beyond embarrassing now.” said one.

Monday 25 November 2019

Old Braveheart himself, Chris Hargreaves has been linked with the vacant Grimsby job. He’s a long-haired lunger from Liverpool Cleethorpes who made millions from signing-on fees having played for nine clubs including two spells with Oxford. After retiring, he wrote the celebrated journal ‘Where’s Your Caravan’ a book about the racial stereotyping of the travelling community.

Tuesday 26 November 2019

There was some proper yellow-on-yellow warfare going down on Tuesday as former Oxford loanee Garry Monk unloaded on his ex-colleague and former Oxford United environmental disaster, PClot, ahead of Birmingham City’s draw with Sheffield Wednesday.  

Monk, who played five games on loan at The Manor in 2000, said of Clotet “You show them [his staff] complete trust and you hope they repay that trust with hard work and loyalty. Sadly not everyone has those values in their character”.

Tough stuff. Of course, there are two sides to every story, so in his defence, PClot had Dwight Tiendelli at full-back. 

Wednesday 27 November 2019

The Argentine Alfie Potter, Diego Maradona, has taken to Instagram to praise long ball merchant Peter Leven who has assistant-steered Dynamo Brest to the Belarussian League title. Leven admits that on being offered the job he had to Google the word ‘Brest’. He’d have got away with it if he hadn’t also claimed to have been offered a job at Sweet Ass Bromwich Albion.   

Thursday 28 November 2019

It was the Eight Minute Fans Forum on Radio Oxford with KRob, who managed to keep a straight face when he revealed the club had put in a bid for Chris Cadden, whose loan deal from Columbus Crew was definitely not a cynical move to avoid paying Motherwell development compensation. KRob also suggested that now he’s retired, James Constable could open a coffee shop, he makes a lovely Damian Batt-enberg Cake.

Friday 29 November 2019

Worrying news as Oxford United’s injury crisis deepens ahead of their FA Cup tie against Walsall. 30-goal-a-season peace envoy Kashif Siddiqi looks set to be out for a few weeks. Siddiqi is on loan at East Bengal, a region of India dogged by war and political instability. Apparently the injury was considered fairly mild until he heard their next opponent had a dangerous winger and a striker who was deadly in front of goal, he could feel his hamstring tightening by the second. 

Match wrap: Southend United 0 Oxford United 4

For a variety of circumstances, the Wycombe Wanderers game on the 21st December, will be my first home league game in 10 weeks. Although it only works out to be two home games and doesn’t include the Manchester City game, I can’t remember going that long without a visit to the Kassam or The Manor during the season.

To compensate, during that time I’ll have been to three away games; also something I haven’t done for some time either.

Our win on Saturday was 5,908 days since our last beat Southend at Roots Hall. And for the avoidance of doubt that it’s a difficult place to play, the last time we won – a 1-0 win in 2003 – was itself, the first league win at Roots Hall for 4,608 days.

The reason why I think we’ve struggled at Southend is because in many ways, they are similar to us. We’ve had a few higher highs and lower lows, but broadly speaking we’ve both made the lower leagues our home. When you add that Roots Hall is a horrible place to go, and Southend not easy to get to, it gives them the slight advantage that they’ve been able to capitalise on.

But, something has gone seriously wrong at Southend this season. If Bolton hadn’t had their points deduction The Shrimpers would have been eight points adrift at the bottom of the table. While we’re throwing stats around, that’s three points less than we had at the same point during our worst ever season in 2000/01.

You can’t blame it all on Sol Campbell; though his ludicrous arrogance is somehow fitting to the farce they find themselves in. Campbell believed the lower leagues weren’t that hard. I wonder how much more he needs to take to realise just how wrong he is.

We are also transformed – the four goals on Saturday took us to 37 for the season – just three behind the number we’d achieved at the same time during our two championship winning seasons under Jim Smith in 1983/4 and 1984/5. More recently; that’s seven more than at the same point in 2015/16. Don’t let anyone tell you that this isn’t a remarkable performance.

What’s more, I went into the game full of confidence that we’d get a comfortable win. Yes, they have been terrible this season, but when has that stopped us screwing up in the past? Yes, it had been 16 years since our last win there, but what have we got to fear now?

A few weeks ago I talked about not being able to reconcile our results with my perception of who we were as a club or even who Karl Robinson is as a manager, but I think I’m there now. It’s been a topsy turvy season in many ways; but I think we’ve found the new normal.

George Lawrence’s Shorts: For Leven’s sake

Saturday 16 November 2019

If you’re an Oxford fan; when the fun stops, don’t stop. There was no game on Saturday, but the draw for the MySpace.com Trophy more than made up for that. Like the FA Cup draw being on BBC prime time TV, this was given all the prestige it deserved; being made during a 2003 re-run of Top Gear on Dave. We play Exeter away.

Elsewhere chisel faced millennium guy Dean Whitehead left his role at Huddersfield to become coach at Shrewsbury, who are managed by chisel faced millennium guy Sam Ricketts.

KRob had no one to talk to, so he talked to the Blood Red Podcast. He talked about coaching Ben ‘Woody’ Woodburn, Trent ‘Trento’ Alexander-Arnold and Deli ‘Delo’ Ali. It’s so difficult to keep track of all his previous charges, if the players KRob coached were his children, he’d give Boris Johnson a run for his money.

Monday 17 November 2019

When he played for Oxford his head wrote cheques his legs couldn’t cash, but that won’t worry Armand Gnadulliet, who is being linked with Derby County and been added to a team of the season in front of a yellow wall of James Henry, Cameron Brannagan and Tariqe Fosu.

Meanwhile, he may look like he’s just been caught smoking behind the music block, but The Mirror has hailed sulky sixth former Rob Dickie as the new Harry Maguire

Tuesday 18 November 2019

He’s making a list, he’s checking it twice; KRob has asked for a GoPro and a Stretch Armstrong for Christmas, or failing that Matty Taylor. It’s one of three areas he feels need addressing in the January transfer window. 

The claim that Oxford United are by far the greatest team the world has ever seen is a bit of a stretch. But it turns out we do effectively run New Zealand. After the revelation that Ceri Evans is the secret behind the All Blacks miserable semi-final exit in the Rugby World Cup, former Oxford coach Des Buckingham has been talking about taking the footballing Kiwis he’s leading to next year’s Olympics.

Wednesday 19 November 2019

The FA Cup is full of magic, as Walsall and Darlington fought it out for the right to host the Mighty Yellows in the second round. A wave of the wand and slight of hand resulted in all skill and entertainment disappearing in a puff of smoke. In the end Walsall triumphed 1-0.

Elsewhere, a penalty shoot out between Taunton and Truro nearly toppled Oxford’s record after it took thirty-four kicks to settle Southern League Challenge Cup tie.

Thursday 20 November 2019

It was the Six Minute Forty-Six Second Fans Forum with marketing hotrod Matt ‘Kenny’ Everett on Thursday. He answered fans questions in the best possible taste. He announced the intention to have a Student Night in the New Year. The themed game will serve Snakebite for £1, have discounts for dungarees, while a Levellers tribute act will play at half-time. The concern is that with the game kicking off at 7.45pm, it may be a struggle for many of the students to get out of bed in time. 

Friday 21 November 2019

It’s Mark Rawle Day tomorrow as we’re back in action against Southend who are managed by stable genius Sol Campbell. Campbell famously said how easy it is to manage in the lower leagues. His job must be getting easier every week as the Shrimpers plummet down the table.

Meanwhile, Tap-in Tarquin, Peter Leven is on the verge of the Champions League with outsiders Dynamo Brest in Belarus where he now coaches. Leven compares the achievement to Leicester winning the Premier League. Well, we know how much Peter Leven likes a long shot.