Oxford succumbed to their second defeat of the season on Saturday, this time to doe-eyed cash puppy Stewart Donald’s Premier League giants Sunderland. The mood was lifted by the presence of a transit van full of coronavirus spores peeking over the fence end of the stadium. Oxford gifted the Mackems two goals and three points, while they gifted us six weeks on a ventilator and a couple of dead grandparents.
Failing to track and trace? Avoiding close contact with others? Getting paid for doing no work? Coronavirus is just a few under-hit back-passes away from being a parallel of Dwight Tiendelli’s Oxford United career. The crisis continues to cast a shadow over the game after a surge in cases in recent days. Thankfully, the country is ready to act and not do anything stupid like drive hundreds of miles to stand on a transit van. As a result, Boris Johnson has announced that he’s paused the programme to allow fans back into stadiums in October. It’s OK, Johnson is a big football fan, and a season ticket holder at Premier League London Park Rovers or something. He truly lives the wholesome values that has seen English football become the envy of the world; cheating their way to domination, cynically loading the cards in their favour and exploiting access to illicit foreign money from Russian oligarchs.
Wednesday 23 September 2020
After a brief career as a viral social media meme, Luke Garbutt is back in football. The man that Carlo Ancelotti calls ‘who?’ is heading for the country’s chlamydia capital, Blackpool. The threat of catching a virus in Blackpool is much like any other town in the country these days, except in other towns it doesn’t involve a bucket of flaming sambuca and a candy floss seller called Doreen.
Thursday 24 September 2020
It’s back! The Seven Minute Fans’ Forum was on the radio with Tiger. Speaking from his home in Thailand, Tiger assured fans that he’s able to fund the club as it hemorrhages money throughout the current crisis. Naturally, one fan thinks he’s got his priorities wrong and that attention should be focussed on the stadiumsituation and in particular building a fourth stand for nobody to sit in.
Friday 25 September 2020
Oxford revealed their new fancy third kit following the launch of their yellow home kit and the away kit whose official colour is known as Cynically Close to Yellow, Orange. The white shirt sees the return of the sublimated flux design that featured on last year’s home shirt. This was after there was a huge demand from fans wanting to know what a sublimated flux is. The new kit will debut on Saturday at Accrington due to the home side’s not in any way a clash with yellow, red home shirt.
Adam Yates is a professional cyclist. In a golden age of professional cycling, he’s not a household name like Bradley Wiggins, Geraint Thomas, Chris Froome or Mark Cavendish, none-the-less, he’s currently the country’s best road racer and will roll into Paris today in ninth place in the Tour de France.
It’s been a curious Tour for Yates; like most riders, his preparations were scuppered by the lockdown. As a result, he didn’t feel he had the form or fitness to challenge for the overall title and planned to spend the race looking for individual stage wins. Then, on stage five, 17km from the end, the then race leader, Julian Alaphilipe, broke an idiosyncratic rule about when riders are allowed to take food and water from the roadside. He was given a 20 second penalty which handed the lead to Yates.
It was the fulfilment of a dream, but even when he lost the yellow jersey four stages later, he’d become a marked man. His opponents couldn’t be certain that he wasn’t bluffing when he said he couldn’t win the overall race. So, even though he was never close to the title, as he’d said, his attempts at winning a stage were persistently neutralised, just in case.
We could be suffering a similar fate, for the last eighteen months we’ve been quietly picking up momentum, then a freakish quirk – making the play-offs via a points per game calculation – propelled us into the spotlight. Suddenly our threat, or maybe just our perceived threat, is in plain sight of everyone.
It’s not just the qualities of Matty Taylor, James Henry and Cameron Brannagan. Even emerging talents can’t be given an inch; what if Joel Cooper is another Gavin Whyte? What if Rob Atkinson is another Rob Dickie? We are now a team to be studied and neutralised.
Sunderland, on the other hand, have had a significant chunk of their expectation, and the inertia that comes with it, removed in the shape of their over-expectant fanbase. Jerome Sale and Nick Harris frequently referenced the 1800 Sunderland fans who would have roared, and perhaps barracked, their team in normal times. With just a handful peaking over the fence end, the players could get on with their work largely uninterrupted. By the time fans are allowed back in, they might have so much positive momentum from that, they’ll be difficult to stop.
We’ve hit a reality buffer that has stifled our momentum. We’re perceived as a threat; Lincoln stifled us, Sunderland respected us and didn’t let complacency slip in. Now we need to find a new wave, one that propels us forward – great seasons often have them; Mark Creighton’s winner against York 2009 or our 4-0 win over Brentford in 2015.
This is a massive challenge as there’s another cold reality brooding in the background. Karl Robinson admitted he’s bored of playing in empty stadiums, Jerome Sale said he was sick of it. These are canaries in the mine; an early indicator of the wider mood.
The Zoom parties and cardboard cutouts are gone, we’re left with queuing and masks and government incompetence and dumb conspiracy theories. The novelty of seeing every game on iFollow is becoming part of that chore with every passing game, something made no easier by defeats.
In normal times, even in defeat, there are always little joys in simply going to a game. It’s not dedication or commitment to go to football, it’s fun, even when it’s terrible. Sometimes it’s the self-flagellation of terribleness which makes it fun, as anyone who has had the pleasure of going to the toilet at Portsmouth will testify.
Normally I’d buy our new home shirt before the first home game of the season; a moment of child-like joy. I now realise that it’s a guilt-free treat, it’s just what I do; I don’t worry about whether I can afford it or deserve it. It’s the process of looking forward to going into the shop, picking it off the rack, taking it to the counter, even having it handed to me in a branded carrier bag. I did it with my dad in the club shop at the Manor, now I do it on my own with my own money, but the thread to the past is still there. Buying online maybe necessary, but it seems so clinical.
Then amongst all these little moments, sometimes there’s a spark – Jamie Mackie’s last minute piledriver against Bradford or a barking mad 3-3 draw against Coventry and everything gets propelled to another level. But where is this momentum coming from now when the rewards for just keeping things ticking are diminishing?
The club have said that they expect to allow a thousand fans into the Crewe game as a test event. But, with cases rising, you can’t help think that the numbers will be controlled for some time yet. Even if stadiums can be kept open, a return to normal won’t start until cases fall again, and with nobody wanting a third wave, it’s hard to see anything along those lines until the spring.
Maybe just having some fans will help with the re-boot that this season needs, a rekindling of some kind of hope. Unless you’re winning regularly and genuinely pushing for promotion, it could be a long season slogging away in mid-table or below, and I think it’ll be much easier and quicker to become mired in that this year.
Results, it seems, is the only way of maintaining the interest and stimulating momentum. It’s still very early, but football doesn’t have the grip it usually has and live streaming will rapidly lose its novelty when results are below par. At the moment, I don’t think I’ll watch the Accrington game, or at least, I won’t put aside other things to do so. When things do return to normal, you suspect that the grip will be vice-like and people will flood back, but for now all we have is results.
The answer, of course is frustratingly simple, and the same answer to every difficult sequence. It is tempting to look back at what’s going wrong, or forward to where we want to get to, but promotion is always a byproduct of teams that continually focus on winning the next game, and that, I guess, is the answer.
GLS was quite the sports star at school. The bean bag toss was the blue riband of any Sports Day, and when we say sports day, we mean the Wednesday lunchtime before sports day. Tragedy struck one year having packed his running spikes and singlet, he found his shorts had been swapped with the frilly panties his mum wore for her trombone lesson with Mr Spencer down the road. ‘It helps when I’m blowing’, she said.
And so it was with the glorious march to the League 1 title on Saturday as the season’s opener against Lincoln ended in a 2-0 defeat. The game saw Rob Atkinson make his debut, so the ref got him a red card to mark the occasion and let him go home early, which was nice of him.
As with that year’s bean bag toss, maybe the title can wait until next year.
There was a forty-eight minute long forty-five minute special Five Minute Fans’ Forum on Thursday. In the hot seats was Niall, don’t call me Niall, it’s Niall McWilliams and KRob. McWilliams furtively confirmed, that Chris Allen was still with the club, while his wife jammed some suspect bin bags into the boot of her car. He also confirmed that Creepy Uncle Firoz appears to have built the world’s first Covid secure football stadium. Then KRob answered a question about the salary cap spewing random numbers like Rachel Riley having a bad reaction to her Priti Patel vaccine.
The top man’s top man Jakey right right Wright has found himself a new club. The former Oxford captain has signed for Hereford. Jakey’s had a difficult couple of years after a loan move to Bolton from Sheffield United went all wrong wrong wrong last season. Jakey will go right right right into the Hereford starting line-up on Saturday.
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.
There was heartbreak for doe-eyed cash puppy Stewart Donald as Oxford United went down 1-0 to Sunderland whose owner, doe-eyed cash puppy Stewart Donald, was heartbroken by the news that his beloved Oxford United went down 1-0 to Sunderland.
The Whoscored website, an entrapment device for involuntary celebate men everywhere, have taken an arbitrary set of spuriously collected numbers to decide our best players now we’re seventy percent into the season. This is a crucial poll to attract clickbait advertising pictures of semi-famous women ‘like you’ve never seen them before’.
Jose’s Son John Mousinho, Cameron Brannagain, Sulky Sixth Former, Grange Hill’s Rob Dickie, the stepover kid and non-Oxford playing Tariqe Fosu and Henry James’ James Henry are our current top 5.
Elsewhere, former commercial director and chum of doe-eyed cash puppy Stewart Donald and moccasin wearing Charlie Methven, Tony Davison has got a job at Northampton Rugby Club. He was most recently at Sunderland where his biggest achievement was attracting the Spice Girls to do a gig at The Stadium of Light.
There was such a lot of focus on Storm Dennis on Saturday I wasn’t really prepared for the Sunderland game to go ahead. Unlike snow, which is more obviously disabling, rain and wind can cause havoc but games are rarely postponed. Perhaps I should have known better.
Wind can be enough to change the course of a game, particularly at the Kassam. I’ve said before that there is rarely one true ‘fair’ result, many games can go either way and it can take one moment to dictate which way that is. When you throw extreme weather into the mix, that moment may not be wholly the result of players’ abilities.
The Sunderland game was a classic in this respect. The weather added countless new dimensions to the game; a high clearance would blow the ball blow in one direction, a little lower in another. These conditions are not the same for both teams, as is often suggested; it changes in force and direction constantly. It’s largely down to luck as to whether you’re dealing with a tailwind, headwind or crosswind; each has to be dealt with differently.
They found the right thermal at the right time. Chris Maguire’s corner was a good one, but the wind helped turn it into something more dangerous. It wasn’t wholly down to luck, but nor was it wholly down to their ability. The differences between the teams were marginal.
The whole game was like surfers trying to catch a wave. Players had to look for the right thermal to get the ball to do what they wanted. Like surfing, you’ve got to have the ability to ride the wave, but you also need the wave and that’s not in your control.
For a while in the second half James Henry looked like he’d found the right thermals; his looping passes held up in the wind dropping for Agyei, Taylor and Browne. But otherwise, it was a dogged battle in which players played against each other and the conditions in the hope they might catch a break. They got theirs, we didn’t get ours and that’s what dictated the result.
Sunderland are like a rusty cruise ship ploughing into a harbour; there’s nothing particularly elegant about them, but they rely on their sheer size to maintain a steady pace towards the the play-offs. While we barely looked more finessed, there was little between us.
The fact we matched them should be evidence that writing off our season now is a mistake. Fans were quick to identify how difficult this month was going to be, but unforgiving when it turned out to be true. They recognised the impact the conditions might have, but ignored them in their post-match analysis.
League 1 is split into two parts – teams who will yo-yo between League 1 and the Championship, and teams that will yo-yo between League 1 and League 2. Our current challenge is to get into the former. Success means having an outside chance of the play-offs; which is pretty much where we are at the moment.
Most teams in League 1 are damaged in some way; crippled by their former Premier League experience or stymied by the economic realities of sustaining themselves at this level. Few can resist periods of turbulence; as we’ve seen, most teams have been on alarmingly poor runs, but they’ve also been capable of strong surges. Like the ball on Saturday, a gust that throws us forward can suddenly turn into a headwind. As a result, teams including us, have been finding themselves at the top of the table before falling away again.
I actually think that 11th isn’t a bad place for us to be at the moment. Wycombe, for example, are now a known threat and teams no longer under-estimate them. If they’re to achieve anything this season, they’ve got to sustain their performances under intense pressure. We, on the other hand, may find we catch a tail wind as the weather improves which takes us close to the play-offs just at the right time. Upcoming fixtures, and recent performances, suggest that this is genuinely possible. Making the play-offs for most teams is now a question of if or when their surge will come at the right time.
Since the New Year results haven’t been great, but we’ve played mostly teams in the top group. We’re about to go through a period of playing teams in the bottom group. The performance against Sunderland suggests to me that any lost ground from the last few weeks can easily be made up. But we need to remember that making the play-offs isn’t a minimum requirement, it would be an genuine achievement.