Kassam All Star XI – Strikers part 3

Yemi Odubade and Steve Basham took us into the Conference era and were joined by the enigma that was Rob Duffy. Duffy’s extraordinary achievement was to score 20 goals in a season and still fail to impress an Oxford public starved of success.

Duffy’s goal tally was inflated by a large number of penalties. When these eventually dried up, he quickly fell from favour. His coup de gras was rolling the ball gently into the arms of the Exeter keeper when clean through and facing promotion and immortality in the face during the play-off semi-final in 2007.

Duffy’s impotence meant a number of replacements were tried to save our season. Marvin Robinson was a massive battering ram who eventually wrecked himself in a car crash. Chris Zebroski was the real deal and very nearly made the difference.

These paled into insignificance in comparison to Kristaps Grebis. Grebis was a Latvian with Champions League experience. He arrived midway through the 2006/7 season and looked utterly lost. Which pretty much describes our decision making at the time. He made just four appearances, but goes down in Oxford history as one of the all-time worst signings.

2007/8’s big summer signing was Gary Twigg. That fact alone proving how destitute we were . The myth of our largesse within the Conference remained, we signed Paul Shaw, but as soon as he realised what a mess we were in he moved to Hungary. Hungary, I tell you.

With Darren Patterson’s appointment came a flurry of loan deals including one Matt Green from Cardiff. Despite a troublesome knee, he just kept scoring. That summer it looked like he would make his move permanent. As people queued for their season tickets, and Nick Merry preened himself preparing to parade his new star, Green headed south and signed for Torquay. It was one of the greatest swindles in nothing-league football. He’d be back, though, being part of the strike force that got us to Wembley and back to the league.

Darren Patterson really knew how to sign a striker. At the start of 2008/9 he signed two loanees; Jamie Guy was one, the other James Constable.

Guy was an instant hit, storming the pre-season but was injured just before the opening game. He wasn’t the same when he returned, chugging his way to Christmas before being dispatched back to his parent club with just five goals to his name.

Constable was a slower burn, the catalyst for him coming to the fore was Chris Wilder. Sometimes Wilder’s decisions are moments of genius. An early decision was to invest his spirit and philosophy into Constable. Constable was Wilder on the pitch, someone he could trust and we could follow. He is so much more than a striker; he’s the only true icon of the Kassam Stadium era so far.

Around Constable Wilder built a powerful strike force. Perhaps it was a way of buying himself some time by announcing that Sam Deering was our best player days after we lost him to a broken leg. Fans wanted so desperately for Deering to succeed, but he, um, came up a little short.

Deering has his little part in our history; exchanging passes with Alfie Potter at Wembley before Potter slammed home the third decisive goal. Potter too is somewhat of an untouchable amongst fans and seemingly the manager.

Jamie Cook, The True Carrier Of Hope, had his moment of fame. But the classic trio was Constable, Green and Jack Midson, who will always be fondly remembered for his titanic performance at Wembley, but also The Miracle of Plainmoor.

The trio didn’t last long. More guile was needed for the league and Chris Wilder brought in his favourite ever toy; Tom Craddock from Luton and the mercurial Steve MacLean.

But throughout all of this was Constable, no Kassam Stadium XI will be complete without him. When we come to review the 20th anniversary of the Kassam Stadium; his name will be first on the teamsheet.

Kassam All Star XI – Strikers part 1

The attack for our first game at the Kassam was a real before and after shot. Andy Scott’s signing, during the wretched twilight months of The Manor, was truly truly horrible. Scott was a nice bloke, but an inflated deal spiked with bonuses proved the desperate state the club was in at the time.

Alongside Scott was Jamie Brooks; the prodigious talent perfect for a new era. I took him for granted, putting his precocious lob in the first game down to luck. He scored 10 goals, but I expected him to score 20. It’s hard to believe now that had everything gone to plan, his career would have been peaking now a decade on. A move to Arsenal was in the offing when he was struck down with Guillain-Barre Syndrome, it nearly killed him and along with it, his career. He stayed until 2006 but scored just three more goals.

Mark Wright knew that a novice and non-scoring striker were not going to sustain the revolution. He had Manny Omoyinmi – a Proto-Yemi Odubade – but when we needed more firepower, he turned to a very familiar face in Paul Moody.

Moody held a special position in the history of the club, spearheading the 1996 promotion team. He’d since hauled his leaden and broken body around Fulham and Millwall and was now 34. He had a much better time than people remember, but was treading water and eventually gave up the ghost after less than a season.

By this time Ian Atkins was at the helm, his signing of Steve Basham was very un-Atkins; whose teams preferred to drop bombs on strikers from upon high. Basham hung around for years, scored lots of goals, not one of which anyone can remember.

Towards the end of the 2001/2 season, a gangling lummox appeared on the touchline. That man was Jefferson Louis. Louis was a peculiar chap, occasionally in trouble with the law, loved by fans not least for his goal in the FA Cup win over Swindon, famous for showing off his naked backside to the nation on finding out we were going to Arsenal. He was unpredictable, which meant he was hated for what he was loved for. At one point Ian Atkins substituted him after about 20 minutes for simply not trying.

Eventually he headed off on the most mind-boggling tour of the lower and non-leagues. According to Wikipedia, Oxford were his third team, in the next seven years he played for TWENTY-FOUR more clubs. We last saw him being ineffectual for Rushden during our play-off semi-final win.

Julian Alsop was much more Ian Atkins’ kind of guy. For the period he was at the club, a true barometer for its psyche. When Atkins was in situ, Alsop was a dependable lump for defenders to launch balls at. One of my abiding memories was his miraculous last minute winning goal against Leyton Orient on Boxing Day in 2003. A man without pace, touch or finesse, out sprinted the Orient back-four before executing a sublime dink over the keeper. It was the impossible goal.

When Graham Rix arrived, discipline around the club collapsed and Alsop The Barometer was fired for ramming a banana up the arse of a youth teamer. Oh yes.

Jamie Brooks’ story is the story of the Kassam. He had the ability to go all the way, but there was something dark lurking preventing it all, a curse that struck at a key moment. And for that, and his talent, Jamie Brooks is the first striker in the Kassam All-Star XI.