George Lawrence’s Shorts: Your shirt, AAAAHHH

Saturday 28 November 2020

A gross misjudgement, a calamitous last minute mistake, grabbing defeat from the jaws of victory. Those were just some of the comments aimed as sWInD0N tOwN who issued a commemorative t-shirt and mug on Saturday night for no apparent reason.

Meanwhile, spellcheck’s worst nightmare and former Oxford no man, Fiarce Kelleher, has been opening up about his increasingly bizarre career. After being accidentally signed while delivering pizza to Oxford United, he went to Macclesfield and was promptly made redundant. Now he finds himself at Wrexham under the charge of Hollywood superstar chancers Ryan Renolds and Rob McElhenney. The duo plan to make the Wrexham story into a redemptive Netflix tearjerker. We’re looking forward to the spin off series – ‘Kelleher’ – which critics are expecting to be like The Littlest Hobo in shin pads.

Sunday 29 November 2020

The club have been looking into ways of those helping fans faced with the prospect of five days in a Christmas bubble with flatulent Auntie Sheila and her current boyfriend with the chunky gold necklace. One way out could be a solid viral load of the novel coronavirus pathogen so they have announced that Saturday’s defeat to Hull City will be a superspreader event for 1000 lucky punters

Monday 30 November 2020

Like Bono hanging off the back of a transporter plane sprinkling grains of wheat onto the savages below, the 1000 tickets were distributed online to the football starved masses on Monday. The arrangement was branded unfair by some loyal fans particularly for those without fingers or the internet or who live in 1978.

Elsewhere, if you’re wondering what those grunts and whistles are, it’s SwINdOn fans reacting to Saturday’s result on the website grammar forgot, The Swindon Advertiser.

Tuesday 1 December 2020

It was bitterly cold on Tuesday for the game against Ipswich Town, sensible Simon Eastwood’s mum phoned to tell him to put on his big coat and let junior Jack Stevens take over between the sticks. A new defensive unit, alongside an Ipswich attack who found it morally and ethically abhorrent to shoot, resulted in a 0-0 draw and the most welcome clean sheet since GLS’s first dry night after he got his new adult diapers.

Meanwhile, pre-season wonder Jamie Guy has lifted the lid on his so-called career. This includes how he amassed no less than three whole goals in a mere 34 games one season at Colchester and how Premier League sophisticate Čhrîßtøphë Wįłdė and Jim Smith both accidentally managed him at Oxford. Guy reckons Wįłdė could see his potential ‘I look forward to working with you.’ he said a week before letting him go back to Colchester. 

Wednesday 2 December 2020

Ipswich fans have been reacting to their heroic draw with Oxford last night. Tractor Boys fans were agog with the scintillating football on show describing it as ‘tripe’ and an ‘insomnia cure’. We should be so lucky, we’d kill for football as good as tripe.

Thursday 3 December 2020

I was The Nine Minute Twenty-Nine Second Fan Forum on Radio Oxford with KRob and Niall, don’t call me Niall, it’s Niall McWilliams. With the equivalent of a jumbo jet full of people dying every day from coronavirus related illness, one fan really got to the nub of the global crisis we’re currently engulfed in. If he has to wear a face mask at the game his glasses will steam up. McWilliams promised to look into changing the laws of thermodynamics for future games. 

Then it was over to KRob, who really set about showing how much he cared and got ‘it’ after the sWiNDoN tOwN defeat with a series of short, terse, caring and getting it answers. Did he regret singling out Mark Sykes? No. Are we too good to go down? No. Will Gavin Whyte come back on loan? Let’s see. So, also no.

Friday 4 December 2020

Hull City manager Grant McCann is wary of the trip to Oxford on Saturday, “They’re a good footballing team. They’re similar to Doncaster, Karl Robinson has done a tremendous job there the last year.” before bursting out laughing and revealing the real reason for his wariness; “It’s a long drive to Oxford”.

One person who is happy about the lockdown is Jack Midson, who claims that the suspension of football has prolonged his playing career. Us too Jack, our own thirty year career in top flight football particularly benefited from not having to play any games.

Match wrap: Oxford United 1 Swindon Town 2

It started weeks ago; do the players know how important the Swindon derby is? Let’s hope the local lads tell the newer players of its history and significance. It was like an anxious parent talking to their teenager before a party – “You know how important it is to stay safe, you’re not going to take drugs and get raped are you?”. 

Of course, all they needed to do was achieve what they set out to do every week – win the game. The 19 year run is the accumulation of seven individual wins. The biggest challenge of that streak is that with every passing game it was more likely end. Like stacking another Jenga block onto an increasingly rickety tower, the higher it got, the more likely it was to fall and more spectacular the collapse. If you’re not careful, you anticipate the fall before it happens, your hand begins to shake and the tower tumbles.

With no emotional outlet at the game itself, fans wanted to project the anxieties that result from near 20 years of bravado onto those who could influence it. A few years ago I treated myself to a Lego Millennium Falcon and spent the holidays building it. It was an absolute joy, when it was finished I looked at it admiringly and set it aside. The following day my then three year old niece filled it with Duplo characters who treated Chewbacca as their puppy. We’d built the Millennium Falcon over the seven game streak and were anxious we were going to hand it over to a toddler to ruin.  

The aim shouldn’t have been to inflate that expectation, but to deaden it. Of all the previous derby games over the last 20 years, this was the most straight forward; there weren’t the variables of fans and atmosphere. We just needed to go out and keep our heads, the rest should have looked after itself. 

But we’re a team built on emotion, in the image of its manager. It flows through us; sometimes it’s a torrent, sometimes a trickle, sometimes we surf on the crest of its wave, sometimes we’re dragged under by its force. We are desperate to please and are ready to sacrifice discipline and focus to achieve that.

It’s why Karl Robinson admires players like Liam Kelly and Marcus Browne, they please us, they make us excited, even if they sometimes struggle to do it for 90 minutes. 

Think back to the home derby in 2012, perhaps the most astonishing game in the seven game sequence. We only had half our first team and lost our star striker after 20 minutes. They were on a 10 game unbeaten streak. They were a team built on the raw energy and emotion of Paolo DiCanio and that should have destroyed us. But Chris Wilder was a pragmatist, his career has been about getting more out of constrained resources. We frustrated them and battled to hold the torrent, Scott Rendell put in a shift like I’ve never seen before, playing up front he didn’t get a glimpse of the goal, but he never stopped working. When we got our chances, we took them and with it a famous win.

The tables turned yesterday; John Sheridan, Swindon’s manager, played the game down, where we hyped it up. Their expectations were low, we were cockahoop. I was definitely of a similar mind, not because I think we have a permanent hex over Swindon, but because I thought we were in a false position in the league and that anyone below us were fair game. With none of the normal bells and whistles of a derby game to disrupt the flow we should have eased to a win.

Injected with the adrenalin of ‘the occasion’, we came out like a steam train, an emotional wave that threatened to swamp them. It nearly worked, Matty Taylor could have had three when he only had one. 

‘It feels like a derby’ said Jerome Sale, but it shouldn’t have done, it should have felt like a game as cold and clinical as the rest of the season has been. Like all great teams – Manchester United in the 90s, Chicago Bulls, Australian cricket, The All Blacks – winning becomes boring, clinical and procedural. 

So what happened? We blew up, ran out of steam, we burnt off our reserves in a blistering 45 minutes. Rob Atkinson had been majestic, but then started getting caught in midfield, Liam Kelly ran the game, but was in pieces after the break. As bodies and minds tired, we became overwhelmed by the expectation. 

Where was the leadership? The cool heads instilling the discipline we needed to slow the game down. Nathan Cooper remarked that Karl Robinson’s voice became more panicky. Who was offering the cool calculation? We’re so fragile, as the game progressed and the enormity of what we were about to achieve grew, we started to withdraw and panic, the shaky hand at the Jenga tower. We weren’t about to win a game, we were about to achieve #eightinarow. But we overshot it.

In Matty Taylor, James Henry, Alex Gorrin and Simon Eastwood we should have a leadership spine that will help us see these games out. But that commanding voice, the John Mousinho, Jamie Mackie, Jake Wright, Michael Duberry, Andy Whing, Andy Crosby, where are they? 

This isn’t new, it’s not a shock; a 22 year old with a season under their belt isn’t going to demand calm and focus. After the game a lot of people were picking it apart, but the issue is systemic, it’s been brewing for a while. We simply don’t sign experience, we don’t sign the players who will look objectively at the last ten minutes of a derby and think; it’s just another game, let’s see it out.

Mark Sykes was singled out, I don’t think Karl Robinson meant quite what came out when he said ‘everyone tells me he’s a good player’ as if he doesn’t. I’m sure he sees what he can bring, but it’s true that you can’t rely on him for a goal or to create chances. On the other hand, he’s 23, we’re asking a lot for him to influence a whole game.

It’s not like we were outplayed, the failure was spectacular and self-inflicted. I’ve watched their second goal several times and can’t quite understand what Simon Eastwood did. I don’t have an answer for the Eastwood dilemma; I don’t think we need to drop him as a punishment. He knows he made a mistake. Do you replace him with another inexperienced player as we face some of the better teams in the division? That doesn’t feel right either. 

So, the streak is over, the expectation is gone, I guess the good thing is that we weren’t in the stadium to see it. Like these things, the fear of defeat is worse than the real thing, life goes on, unless you choose for it not to, unless you dwell and ruminate, self-flagellate in an attempt to gain a pardon. Are you feeling the pain? But are you really feeling the pain? My worry is that Karl Robinson will do that, will disappear into his own well of self-pity. He feels it, I’ve no doubt, he doesn’t need to prove it to us. 

What big games can do is put into relief things which are already evident. What we saw yesterday was the hopes and fears of the fans being amplified through Robinson and into a squad of developing players. It worked for a while, but went spectacularly wrong. Somewhere there needs to be a regulation; either from Robinson or within the squad. If we don’t get that right soon we’ll start to drown. 

George Lawrence’s Shorts: Ooh ahh, just a lil’Obita

Saturday 7 November 2020

Don’t you hate people on Facebook who don’t know the difference between to, too and two? It’s pretty easy to understand – to is a preposition, too means ‘as well’ and two is the number of goals Oxford United concede each week. On Saturday we crashed out of the FA Cup after conceding four to Peterborough, just kidding it was too.

Sunday 8 November 2020

Aaron Martin, the man who really put the Aaron Martin into the sentence; ‘Did Aaron Martin play for us?’ has continued his tour of the nation’s landmark substitute benches by signing for Hamilton Academicals.   

Monday 9 November 2020

The chronic defensive frailties at Oxford have eased with a new signing. KRob has always been reluctant to waste money on an effective defensive unit, but when he was told we’d found a player ‘a bit like’ Donegal’s finest John O’bika, KRob couldn’t move quickly enough. Tipperary’s finest, Jordan O’bita has signed after his release from Reading.

When it comes to being by far the greatest team the world has ever seen, we are undisputed kings of postponements. The club announced their fourth of the season – Saturday’s game against Doncaster is off due to international call ups.

Tuesday 10 November 2020

Oxford fans gathered in wonder and trepidation at the big circular thing hanging in the goals against column on Tuesday as Oxford kept their first clean sheet in eight months in their win in the Papa John’s Trophy against Walsall. Some people have mocked the Papa John’s Trophy, but it has a great history; the original Papa John’s Trophy was a small girl called Eleanor who was locked in Papa John’s basement while he made pizzas. Cowboy Derick got on his Osei late-on to score in a 1-0 win.

The Seventy-Two website has been looking at the outsiders for the vacant Swindon manager’s job. Naturally, anyone wanting to manage Swindon is, by definition, the kind of outsider who thinks QAnon is a bit too ‘The One Show featuring Gary Barlow’ for their taste, but one name that has cropped up is bearded último forastero PClot.

Wednesday 11 November 2020

Danny Hylton’s time at Luton may be coming to an end as he’s struggling to find the net in the Championship this season. Luton boss, Nathan Jones, said “What I’m concerned about is, is he leading the line? Is he grafting? Is he doing his job?” which can be added to the usual Danny Hylton questions like, is he still licking lamposts? Where did he pick that up from?, and, does he have to do that in front of the vicar? 

Thursday 12 November 2020

It was the Six Minute Thirty Seven Second Fans Forum on Radio Oxford with Niall, don’t call me Niall, it’s Niall McWilliams. The never decisive McWilliams bore the brunt of a raft of questions about players signing contracts (maybe), season ticket refunds (maybe not), and the relationship with creepy Uncle Firoz (maybeeee, he’s gonna be the one that saves meeeee).

Friday 13 November 2020

No game on Saturday, but the good news is the abject failure of both teams this season has meant that the derby against Swindon Town has been rearranged for 28 November. The date had been in doubt after KRob had gone full Donald Trump by refusing to accept it; “Why should there be a new date? You had a date, it was Saturday and you couldn’t play it.” he said under an inch of orange fake tan, standing in front of B&Q while Derek Fazackerley tried to sneak out the side door of the nearby Ann Summers.

Meanwhile, the Oxford Mail has paid tribute to the burgeoning Oxford United podcast scene. They describe the bonhomie of groups of fans gathering to chat about their shared love for the club. Next week, we’re looking forward to the double page spread of Oxford’s bitter and twisted demented blogging scene.

Midweek fixture: Oxford United’s biggest rivals… ranked

How do you measure a rivalry? Location? Envy? Superiority? Or is it just a feeling? A few weeks ago, I asked you who you thought were our biggest rivals. Well, here’s the top nineteen.

19. Peterborough United

Let’s not get carried away; it doesn’t take many votes to become our 19th biggest rival. This one is the result of a brooding dislike following the curtailing of last season and the antics of the Peterborough hierarchy.

18. Cambridge United

Really? I’m surprised so many lazy Sky Sports commentators voted. The tenuous varsity link between the two cities has never turned made it into the stands in terms of a rivalry.

17. Queen’s Park Rangers

While many of these lower rivals are based on a single issue, any rivalry with QPR is surely based on a single game, 34 years ago at Wembley.

16. Coventry City

Maybe a bit of a surprise to some, but if you live in the north of the county, you may be more familiar with Coventry fans than other parts.

15. Sunderland

The biggest team in our division probably attracts a few ‘pick me’ votes, but the added link of Stewart Donald, Charlie Methven and Chris Maguire, mean that Sunderland make the list.

14. Stevenage

The team that denied us promotion from the Conference in 2010, but most likely, any rivalry is down to one man and his drinks break; Graham Westley.

13. Wimbledon

Familiarity breeds contempt, Oxford and Wimbledon have shared many seasons together over a very long time. Alongside Luton, they’re the only team we’ve played in both the top flight and the Conference.

12. Bristol City

I can’t fathom this one, we’ve played each other once in the last eighteen years.

11. Crewe Alexandra

In almost any other season, Crewe wouldn’t attract a vote, but the vitriol surrounding their double postponement earlier this season adds a bit of spice to an otherwise dormant relationship. The only rivalry based on not playing any games.

10. Cheltenham Town

Into the top ten and we’re beginning to touch on more sensible rivalries. Cheltenham Town’s relationship must be down to location.

9. Leyton Orient

Some will never let it go; some fourteen years ago Leyton Orient came to the Kassam looking for a win to secure promotion. They did it in the last minute, which sent us down to the Conference. They danced on our pitch, apparently, though I’d left by then. Some will never forget or forgive.

8. MK Dons

The newest rivalry in the list. It’s not exactly what you’d call white hot, but geographical location has always promised a good large following and made MK Dons a decent away day.

7. Portsmouth

Portsmouth sat on their own in terms of votes – some twenty ahead of MK Dons, and a similar number behind Northampton. We’ve shared many seasons with Portsmouth, I think secretly we’re a bit envious of their size and history, which makes beating them all the more sweet.

6. Northampton Town

Now we’re into the real rivalries. First up Northampton Town, another team whose path we’ve crossed countless times. Added spice came from Chris Wilder leaving us for them in 2014, then keeping them up. Then two years later, Wilder took them up as champions despite Michael Appleton’s assertion we were the better team.

5. Luton Town

There’s a genuinely visceral dislike for Luton Town, we’ve played them in the top division and the Conference, we’ve been promotion rivals and they’ve poached our manager. All of which adds up to a relationship with a bit of bite.

4. Bristol Rovers

A team we’ve played with almost monotonous regularity, any rivalry is spiced up by the fact we’re both very capable of winning away in the game. Matty Taylor helped turn the heat up a notch, he hates the Gas, pass it on.

3. Wycombe Wanderers

It’s not a derby, but of all the non-derbies out there, this is the biggest one for us. We won decisively in a key game on the way to promotion in 1996, they beat us in the FA Cup when we were on a roll in 2010, six years later we secured promotion against them, and last year they secured promotion against us at Wembley. It’s not a derby, but it’s getting there.

2. Reading

Perhaps at the expense of Reading? We haven’t played each other in 16 years and not as equals in 19. But, a rivalry still exists, apparently, though it’s kind of like the Korean War – it’s still technically happening, but in reality it’s made up of irritating each other on social media.

1. Swindon Town

The big one. But, this list wasn’t really about finding out who our biggest rival were.

George Lawrence’s Shorts: Swind-off, Charlt-on

Saturday 24 October 2020

Saturday’s postponed derby against Swindon has created a serious backlog of fixtures. The compressed season means that games are backing up, so we’re unlikely to see the derby rearranged until Christmas when no games are ever played. Christmas Day is looking fairly blank for most people this year, so let’s Rocky IV this sucker and sort this cold war out once and for all. QUEUE: TRAINING MONTAGE.

Sunday 25 October 2020

Swindon boss Richie Wellens has named Toby Holland along with coaches Tommy Wright, Noel Hunt and Steve Mildenhall as those who tested positive last week. The club’s physio is also self-isolating because, according to Wellens’ bamboozling medical jargon ‘he looked really bad’. If you’ve been unable to attend your loved one’s funeral or lost your job, you really need to get your priorities right: “The goalkeeper needs someone to warm him up.” wailed Wellens by way of explanation. 

Monday 26 October 2020

It was the draw for the first round of the FA Cup on Monday with Grant Holt caressing his balls live on TV in front of Lindsey Hipgrave. A bit like a low rent version of that Peter Crouch thing that they had on in the summer. In these troubled times, the FA Cup offers a reminder of happier times of old. The smell of stale cigars, the stench of cheap aftershave, the whiff of vaguely criminal activity; yes, our home tie against Barry Fry’s Peterborough will come as a soothing balm on our furrowed brow.

Tuesday 27 October 2020

Charlton had the good grace to turn up to face KRob’s plucky part-timers on, well, Loseday? Twosday? You pick. Despite a spirited opening, Oxford gifted two goals before half-time so everyone could switch off and catch the end of Bake Off. Following the 2-0 defeat, Oxford now have less clean sheets than Trainspotting’s Spud after a big night on the skag. 

Wednesday 28 October 2020

There are lots of reasons to be positive when you’re from Swindon. It’s not that far from Oxford and there’s always the knowledge that death will come to us all eventually. Swindon supporters club chairman and amateur virologist, Peter Norris has been looking on the bright side of his team’s failure to fulfil the derby fixture on Saturday. “If there’s one positive we can take from this though, it’s that – depending on when the game is rearranged for, hopefully the new year – fans may be able to go.” He didn’t elaborate on which new year.

Elsewhere, The Sheffield Star has revealed why John Lundstram is set to leave Sheffield United in January. The man whose fantasy football defensive credentials were so over-inflated last season KRob couldn’t actually see him has pushed cosmopolitan sophisticat Čhrįßtøphë Wïlłdē’s patience a little too far.

Thursday 29 October 2020

It was the Six Minute Nine Second Fans’ Forum on Radio Oxford with KRob on Thursday. Talk quickly turned to the man who’s been overdoing the hand sanitizer this year, Sensible Simon Eastwood. Is it possible the glovesman might be dropped? Asked one fan, ‘Everyone can be dropped’ said KRob with ice flowing through his veins. No one drops ‘em like KRob, apart from Sensible Simon, of course. 

Meanwhile the Dundalk Donkey Pat Hoban watched on as his team went down 3-0 to Arsenal in the Europa League.

Friday 30 October 2020

It’s a Halloween spooktacular tomorrow as Oxford face Fleetwood for a trick and a treat. Joey Barton has been talking about the game; ‘There’s no doubt about it, Oxford are a top ten side.’ he said about the team currently 23rd. GLS once went to a Halloween party as Joey Barton; we used to trick people into thinking we’re a reasonable human being by wearing glasses and talking about books, and then treat them to a choke hold to the throat and a punch in the face. 

George Lawrence’s Shorts: A Question of Spore

Saturday 17 October 2020

Peterborough United’s nickname is The Posh because they have an air of undeserved self-entitlement. Mind you, that didn’t stop them winning 2-0 on Saturday. Oxford were without Cameron Brannagain, who missed out due to a problem with his eyes. Concerns were raised after he was heard to say ‘I can see us keeping a clean sheet for this one’ before the game.

Sunday 18 October 2020

Alex’s son, Peterborough boss Darren Ferguson was cockahoop at his team’s display; “I always felt the team who passed the ball better would dominate.” he said from beneath the shadow of his father. Impressive foresight from a man whose team’s passes were objectively less in number and accuracy. Not a mistake his dad would have made, we’re sure.

Monday 19 October 2020

Jedward third wheel Joel Cooper, has been named Northern Ireland Footballer of the Year. Cooper is spending some time with his family after returning from international duty. He’ll be celebrating in the traditional way of filming his phallus and sharing it on social media.

Tuesday 20 October 2020

Soulless empty stadiums, people locked in their houses gazing vacantly at laptops, or what people from Milton Keynes call: ‘everyday’. MK Dons came to the Kassam conceding three goals to Matty Taylor, Headington United’s Sam Long before a proper whoop-dee-doo from Shodipo on his debut. He proper van Kessled it into the net. We also let in a standard couple of goals in reply to make it a 3-2 win.

Off the field, KRob is looking for Cowboy Derick to get on his Osei and ride out on loan to a Conference side. You see, in a team currently shipping on average two goals a game, KRob’s decided he needs to pack his squad with more strikers. It’s a positive attacking philosophy which says if they score four, we’ll just have to go out and score two consolation goals.

Wednesday 21 October 2020

Paolo DiCanio was best known as a striker, but really his preferred position was on the right wing. He was never a real facist, though, he just liked some of the songs. Ahead of Saturday’s derby, the website D3D4 has taken the time to remember the time DiCanio goose stepped his way into Oxford in an attempt to lure the wholesome James Constable to his evil lair. Which ended well.

Thursday 22 October 2020

It was the Eight Minute Eighteen Seconds Fans Forum with Jose’s son John Mousinho on Thursday. Questions turned to our defensive frailties. Mousinho defended the issue, by which we mean he lost his runner and found himself a bit square at the back. He heaped praise on Headington United’s Sam Long as the ‘best squad player in the history of the game’. Which is like being called the world’s nicest mass murderer or sexiest paedophile.

Sad news as it was announced that Chrissy Allen has left the club. To mark his long association with Oxford, he was given his very own commemorative Unipart advertising display board to run head first into in his garden.

Pyromaniac Kemar Roofe scored the goal of this and every other century while playing for Rangers in the Europa League. After beating two players deep inside his own half, he executed a perfect Leven tap-in over the keeper from 65 yards out.

Friday 23 October 2020

Good golly Miss Molly, Saturday’s derby has been postponed after a viral outbreak in the Swindon camp. The Swindon training ground was a hideous sight with people yacking their guts up, doubled over in agony with vomit coming out of their noses. All you could hear for miles around were the primal groans of great sickening anguish and screams for death’s sweet release. And then they caught coronavirus.