George Lawrence’s Summer Shorts: Mackie races

Sunday 19 July 2020

Battling through the tuck queue getting your ears flicked by Pogo Patterson and Roland Browning has set sulky sixth former Rob Dickie up for the big time. That’s the view of KRob, who has issued a ‘come and get him’ plea to anyone prepared to listen. Dickie has been linked with Every Team Joey Beauchamp Failed To Sign For including Nottingham Forest, Fulham and Southampton. 

Monday 20 July 2020

GLS once enjoyed an expansive physical relationship with a woman of considerable experience. We say experience, she was 58 and when we say woman we mean ‘predatory geography teacher’. We were 14 when it ended. After three years. It wasn’t the age gap that did for the relationship, or the court case, it was the life of monotonous domesticity. How many scatter cushions does one settee need?

Like that unrelenting procession of decorative soft furnishings, it looks like KRob has collected yet another winger from the League of Ireland with the signing of Joel Cooper from Linfield.  

Tuesday 21 July 2020

He might have been one banana short of a Julian Allsop, but Jamie Mackie will always have a place in Oxford United’s heart. Social media’s leading public health campaigner announced his retirement after two years at the club.

There was a special Eight Minute Thirty Second Fans Forum on Radio Oxford with Tiger. One fan, probably named @Bulldog239402783, contacted the biased MSM BBC who he ‘never uses’ to urge our Thai owner to focus on signing ‘English talent’ rather than ‘Scottish or Irish’. Last season proved how sick we all are of being funded by Thais, and the sale of an Irishman for Thai money, and benefiting from the sales of players with Ghanian and Grenadian heritage. There’s a reason we’re called GREAT Britain, you know? And that’s because it’s the largest landmass in the British Isles. Tiger also announced that sponsors Singha were pulling out; Black N Rounds and Animalates have been alerted.

Wednesday 22 July 2020

It was all tie dye dresses and daisies in our hair for GLS in the mid-2010s. We lived free in a commune taking mind-expanding drugs, paying our way offering free love to Guru Wilder. We drank from the soup of underwhelming grafters The Great Guru brought in. Apparently one of them was Josh Payne who has moved from Crawley to Ebbsfleet.

The Oxford United diaspora spread its seed far and wide in the Championship – Tyler Roberts scored for Leeds as they ended the season champions, Shandon The Baptise, Tariq Fosu, Jedward Orphan Gavin Whyte and Curtis Nelson will feature in the play-offs. Chey Dunkley’s Wigan are going down. But if you really want to feel the effects of mind expanding drugs read the next sentence. Danny Hylton’s Luton managed to stay up. Woooh trippy, man. 

Thursday 23 July 2020

Like GLS’ lavatorial motions, Oxford United likes to get its business done early. And just like GLS’ lavatorial motions, despite lots of huffing and puffing, something usually gets stuck and everything comes out in a rush when you least expect it. The announcement of Joel Cooper from Linfield has come so early in the summer, nobody was at the training ground to announce his signing. We call this ‘Doing a Kelleher’.

Friday 24 July 2020

One of the things GLS loved about lockdown were those homely chats with old Oxford United players and managers on the official podcast. We’re at a loss as to why the club didn’t bring together former manager ‘four wins in twenty five games’ Mark Lawrenson and former director Ghislaine Maxwell, who is currently awaiting trial for enticing minors, sex trafficking and perjury. You have to say that it sounds like there are loads of great stories to tell from those two. Anyway, Lawro has been telling a story about the time he lunched with Ghislaine while he was manager. Great banter. 

Saturday 25 July 2020

Moving to any new football club is daunting, but anyone ready to step into the shoes left by a player of no lesser stature than Jonte Smith will need big cojones and broad shoulders. Now, we can’t vouch for the cojones, but there are no broader shoulders in the Football League than Liam Sercombe, who has been linked with a move to Cheltenham Town.

Meanwhile, The Sporting Ferret; the one Mustelidae we trust to make a judgement on such things, has rated our season a B+.

George Lawrences Shorts: Matts Gloss

Saturday 15 February 2020

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.

Sunday 16 February 2020

We don’t mean to be the Jaja Binks of Oxford United by ruining a decent narrative, but Kilmarnock’s Stephen O’Donnell has been talking about his reasons for turning down a move to us during the transfer window. In it, he reveals himself to be a sentient human being demonstrating the ability to make a reasoned judgement based on a variety of competing factors.

On the other hand – JUST BUY ‘IM, WE CAN’T AFFORD ‘IM, WE’VE GOT NO AMBITION, and so on.

Monday 17 February 2020

GLS remembers with great fondness the collapse of the iconic pick n mix  conglomerate Woolworths. With prices plummeting, the memory of gorging on cut price confectionery remains to this day with the vague taste of cola bottles still accompanying every burp. The joys of running the aisles picking up cut-priced chickaboos, Airfix kits and Ah Ha postcards while shop workers cried over their impending redundancy was recalled with the news that Southampton and Burnley are keen to snap up sulky sixth former Rob Dickie while Leeds are monitoring Cameron Brannagan-again

Tuesday 18 February 2020

“…And that’s the story of a parasitic football club leaching off a poorer one, acquiring its valuable assets and selling them off for its own gain, leaving the original club destitute and homeless.”

“Thanks grandad for telling me about Kingstonian and Wimbledon, now tell me a story of hypocrisy.”

“Well…”

We were visited by institutional bullying apologists Wimbledon on Tuesday who were treated to a close up display of Oxford in full-flight. Two goals from Nathan Holland and one from James Henry were bookended by two Matty Taylor goals in a 5-0 rout.

Wednesday 19 February 2020

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.

Thursday 20 February 2020

It was the Seven Minute Fifteen Second Fans Forum on Radio Oxford on Thursday with Tiger having a grrreat time in the hot seat. In it he confirmed that the club had made three bids for right-backs in the transfer window and that Shandon The Baptiste and the stepover kid Tariqe Fosu wanted to go to Brentford once a bid had come in.

So apart from the cup runs, giant killings, multi-million pound talent pipeline, play-off push and training ground, what has Tiger ever done for us?

Sort out the stadiumsituation? 

Oh, fark off.

Friday 21 February 2020

It’s Ipswich Town tomorrow, a fixture that hasn’t been played for decades. The club have been taking part in some groundbreaking research into the impact of sleep on performance with the club’s mystic soothsayer Gary Bloom. KRob thinks sleep could be the key to unlocking even more magical powers from the players.

As they say, you snooze, you lose. Wait, hang on.

George Lawrences Shorts – A-Fosu-lytptic Shandogeddon

Saturday 25 January 2020

Like a pair of British Knights high tops, Sports Direct’s Newcastle United were cheap and lacking in style on Saturday as Oxford came home with a lucrative replay in their locker after a 0-0 draw in the FA Cup.

Sunday 26 January 2020

Our draw with Newcastle asked a lot of questions of the Premier League team, none more so than the performance of Miguel Almiron(’s wife). The Star analysed Alexia Notto’s 17-second Instragram video of her swaying vacantly like a psychologically damaged captive chimpanzee in a Chinese zoo. The ‘trained Zumba dancer’ ‘flaunted’ her ‘moves’ in a way her husband didn’t at St James’ Park.

Monday 27 January 2020

It was fumbling velvet ball-bag Monday for the FA Cup draw, or as it has become known on Twitter; ‘Shitdraw’. We now face the prospect of a trip to West Brom.

Having had shitdraws against teams in all top five divisions this season, including the champions of England, our analysis shows the only draws now acceptable to fans would be the 1970 Brazilian World Cup squad or the blue team from the animated section of the film Bedknobs and Broomsticks.

Tuesday 28 January 2020

Following such great sitcoms as Are You Being Served? And Ever Decreasing Circles, Oxford’s FA Cup replay with Newcastle will be shown live on BBC1.

The game will be the club’s first meaningful contribution to national prime-time public service sports broadcasting since 2003 when Jefferson Louis was seen dancing naked on live daytime Sunday TV. Prudish TV censors will be watching Jamie Mackie with interest.

Wednesday 29 January 2020

Alumni news, as Scuttling Joe Rothwell was lavished with praise at Blackburn for his two assists in Blackburn’s win over Middlesborough. Rovers manager Tony Mowbray acknowledged that Rothwell has had to adjust to life in the Championship having, apparently, been such a star at Oxford that players deferentially passed to him in awe at what he could achieve. Yes, that’s how we remember it too, Tone.

Thursday 30 January 2020

It was the Radio Oxford Nine Minute Fifty Eight Second Fans ForAAAARRRGGHHHH! On Thursday as Niall don’t call me Niall, it’s Niall McWiliams’ plan to spend the interview equivalent of nine hours at the crease scoring 16 runs with immaculately executed forward defensive shots was blown to pieces.

Instead, he was accompanied by all-action KRob, in full Kate Adie mode, with news that Shandon The Baptise and The Stepover Kid Tariqe Fosu were having medicals with an unknown club. This breaking news somewhat marginalised the carefully crafted and no less important question about the cleanliness of the toilets.

Friday 31 January 2020

With the Coronavirus spreading faster than chlamydia during peak season in Blackpool, we face er, Blackpool tomorrow. Having dropped to eighth in the table, Oxford will be without Fosu and Baptiste whose transfer to Brentford was eventually confirmed. There was some hope that impotent burns victim Will Grigg might come in but transfer window closed with KRob left empty handed meaning Headington United’s Sam Long will have his longest spell in the team since the Southern League.

Elsewhere, pompous Titian haired beanpole Dave Kitson is interested in becoming the Secret Head Coach at Cambridge. His next book, ‘The Secret Early Reducer, Hoof It Up To The Big Man, Second Ball, SECOND BALL‘, comes out next year.

Match wrap: Oxford United 3 Doncaster Rovers 0

I was getting some shopping on the way back from the game on Saturday. Someone, recognising my top, asked ‘did they win?’. This occasionally happens outside the ground, usually by kids menacingly riding their bikes, but I was 15 miles away and it was the second time it had happened in a few minutes.

I won’t describe the person for risk of unfairly stereotyping, but I wouldn’t normally associate them with having an interest in the club’s fortunes. They wanted to know who scored, hoping I’d say Tariqe Fosu.

‘Tariqe Fosu lives next door to me’ they said by way of explanation. I said he’d been great and I got the sense they took some residual pride in the fact their neighbour was getting such praise. I once told Perry Groves he was great when I randomly phoned him up to do a market research survey. I didn’t mean it, but with Fosu I genuinely did.

I wasn’t sat in my normal seat at the game; with a new angle I saw the work he put in. When I see players like that, it genuinely fills my heart with joy. He’s a jobbing footballer working his socks off for my club. ‘He’s such a lovely bloke’ the person said.

A few minutes earlier, Karl Robinson had broken off his live post-match radio interview to sort out a dispute between the Doncaster subs and the club’s ground staff.

This was typical Robinson; easy to mock, but impulsive and authentic. He talks about the importance of the whole club, he takes time out for kids, older fans, he supports the staff from the groundsmen to the ticket office. Last year it threatened to overwhelm him, with his core responsibility being the team, but he seems to have found a sweet spot.

Exactly halfway through the second-half, after a dominant display against a team we should aspire to match this season, we seemed to run out of energy and started to get pushed back. It wasn’t a surprise, we’d been so good that maintaining it for 90 minutes was always unlikely. Robinson whistled for Shandon Baptiste to come on and instantly the balance was redressed. He was in total control.

Fosu is his protege, he has the attacking qualities to simply focus on that and – let’s face it – get away with it, but yesterday it was his willingness to track back and cover Josh Ruffels, to block crosses like a seasoned full-back which was so impressive.

Robinson made the point in his post-match interview of the example Jamie Mackie offers to other players, he could have mentioned John Mousinho and James Henry. None are at the peak of their careers, Oxford isn’t their perfect destination, but they play like it is, never letting up. All over the pitch there are examples of the value of working hard and buying into and contributing to a culture.

Every season has its narrative; the 1995/96 promotion was a redemptive story about a remarkable late season run, 2009/10 was a rebirth born out of sheer bloody mindedness, 2015/16 was a marvel of science and planning.

What is emerging this year is a one-club culture; it permeates from Robinson through the players to the backroom staff and to the fans.

People often talk about the fans being the heart of a club and in one sense they are, they’re the only constant. But as the crowds show, they’re also the first to walk away when things aren’t great.

Josh Widdecombe once wrote that football wasn’t a great subject for comedy because it isn’t universal. It’s massively popular, of course, but not as all-encompassing as the general challenges of life. Getting a club to permeate beyond its core set of followers is a massive challenge. Results help, of course, but so does someone like Tariqe Fosu being a great neighbour. When random people talk to you in supermarkets about the result, you know the ripples are being felt. Perhaps they’ll buy a ticket soon, just to see him play.

Where that takes us, I don’t know. I took a bit of criticism last week saying I didn’t know whether our style could be sustained. It was genuine; it’s not a question of doubting it; I don’t know whether it can.

But, it is working, the product is great, an Oxford top is the stimulus for a discussion about the club, we can be proud that we’re part of a movement not some marginal obsession. I can talk about Tariqe Fosu’s performances with a stranger in a way I could never do about Carl Pettefer or Tim Sills. The challenge now is for it to permeate more widely, Robinson is an ambassador, but so is Fosu and so are we. Nobody knows how long this will last, but there’s something good happening here, let’s broadcast it.

Match wrap: Oxford United 4 West Ham United 0

The League Cup is our competition; we’ve beaten some of the biggest clubs in the country in it; Manchester United, Arsenal, Newcastle, Leeds, Everton. We’ve even won it, of course; it agrees with us in a way that the FA Cup doesn’t.

But, it’s mutated into a curious beast; a trophy that’s still worth winning but that clubs dismiss with weakened teams. It’s like the EFL Trophy, but where its esoteric rules are applied to each position – the left-back is an Academy player, the right-back a first choice international, the playmaker is someone you vaguely remember from another club and another time. If you’re a lower league team, playing weakened Premier League opponents devalues your achievements, but in the League Cup, are they genuinely weakened? It’s hard to know.

The difference between us and West Ham is best illustrated by our stadiums. Ours, a three-sided concrete mess in the vice-like grip of its cruel landlord. Theirs, a world class facility acquired for a fraction of its value due to the bungled negotiations of Boris Johnson. Their team, weakened or not, was bought for £157 million, ours wasn’t.

Like last season’s game against Manchester City, the match was approached as an enjoyable diversion. The atmosphere was a contented buzz, the crowd bigger than normal, but not, you know, big big.  

After two minutes of unremarkable posturing, there was an audible groan as a combination of passes down the left cut us to pieces. The noise was familiar; from a hum of hopefulness, there was a sudden collective recognition of our inferiority. It suggested a template typical of this kind of tie; we’d play well, we’d be brave, but we’d lose. Or so it seemed.

Then after a few more minutes of harmless jousting, their back-four were pushing the ball between themselves. I looked into our half – there it was, like a murmuration; the perfect form of two banks of four. They couldn’t go round us, they couldn’t go through us, and Premier League lore says you mustn’t go over us.

We were enveloped by a moment absolute clarity; a perfect defensive formation, not the confusing nine-dimensional chess Karl Robinson tries to employ to beat likes of Rochdale or Burton. It was the old Ian Atkins adage of winning the right to play. Our conservatism was aided by our selection; Sam Long will never be a quantum full-back, Elliot Moore likes nothing more than to defend. Passes are straight and short, deliberate and moderate; we weren’t just resisting West Ham, we were throttling the life out of them.

Their £157 million team was supposedly weakened with nine changes from Saturday. But, we made six including Rob Hall fresh from a year out injured and Mark Sykes, who a few weeks ago was being mooted for a League 2 loan deal. And then there was Jamie Mackie, who can count on one hand how many more chances he’ll have for games like this.

Minutes tick by and we look increasingly comfortable, but comfort means nothing; a narrow plucky defeat would be quickly forgotten, even a narrow win would be put down to their complacency, if we want to win, and for it to mean something, we needed to win properly.

Cameron Brannagan finds himself in front of goal but scuffs the ball badly wide. Rob Hall clips the top of the bar from a free-kick. We break their defensive line on a couple of occasions; Forde has a chance which rolls harmlessly wide.

Half-time comes, it’s 0-0 and we’re the better side; but half time is always critical in these games; it’s when the adrenalin drains from the legs, concentration seeps from the mind. You’re suddenly faced at the re-start with leadened limbs and slowed reactions. Like the JPT Final against Barnsley – we were brilliant for 45 minutes, but the break broke us.

Not this time; Elliot Moore spins in a crowded box to slot in the first. It’s a tight turn and the finish is threaded through the only narrow channel available to him. The nimble manoeuvring of his hulking body is reminiscent of the craft of Matt Elliot. 1-0.

Then, Jimenez saves miraculously from Mackie. Sykes passes a ball to the back post finding Matty Taylor for number two. Everyone chases Taylor down to celebrate in front of the fans; Sykes trots across the pitch to join them, but realises he’ll never get there and turns back. To think, he might have been turning out for Mansfield or Cheltenham and here he is drilling a world class cross for 2-0 and nobody’s there to congratulate him.

West Ham are woeful, you can tell from the movement amongst their fans they’re incandescent with rage. The humiliation illustrates the gap between the Premier League players and their fans – for the players this is a distraction from their millionaire lifestyles. To the fans, it’s an afternoon off work, an expensive train journey, a decent chunk out of a weekly wage. Their sacrifice is being rewarded with a performance utterly lacking in imagination and effort.

We, on the other hand, are fully committed. For Jamie Mackie, there will be few nights like this between now and retirement, for Sam Long and Josh Ruffels, this is their calling, for Cameron Brannagan and Shandon Baptiste it’s another step towards greater things. Together, we are all in.

The commitment drives a rare perfection. Every passing play becomes more pure. We’ve won the right to play; it gives Tariqe Fosu a platform to pounce on a mistake to sprint half the length of the pitch, round the keeper and slot home for number three.

And then, as the game drifts into its final moments; the result is beyond doubt; the score illustrates the dominance, the ‘weakened team’ caveat is fully extinguished – this is not just a simple anomaly.

The ball works its way to Shandon Baptiste; the future of Oxford or of football or some other absurd Karl Robinson platitude. Above all, it’s a boy with a talent that has been blighted by a year of injury. He clips the ball over the first defender and drives into the box, feints to go past the second and rolls the ball deftly into the far post for a conclusive fourth.

It’s the bluest sky, the perfect silence, the purest diamond; Baptiste wheels away. It’s unfettered perfection. These are moments of rare fleeting beauty. Eventually a cloud will spoil the perfect sky, a noise will break the perfect silence, but right there and then in that very moment, it’s magical. These gifts, in our hard and unpleasant times, are rare and so fleeting, you owe it to yourself to simply drink it in.

Match wrap: Lincoln City 0 Oxford United 6

It’s fair to say that Karl Robinson splits opinions; even within individual opinions, there are split opinions. It’s not uncommon to hear things like ‘I can’t stand the man, but I don’t think he should be sacked’ or ‘I respect what he does, but he can’t go on like this’.

Whether it’s the start of a season, game or interview, it’s difficult to figure out Robinson’s modus operandi. There seems to be a common theme of there being a blizzard of confusion followed by some kind of clarity or success. Is that deliberate? Is it luck? Is the assumption that if you throw enough Karl Robinson at a wall, some of it will stick? Is there a science to all this that we can’t see?

It’s almost, and I use this comparison advisedly, Trump-esque; it is near on impossible to figure out whether Robinson is a stable genius, or wanton lunatic.

The result is similar to Chris Wilder’s time at the club; Jamie Cook once described him as a polarising figure; ‘a great coach but a terrible man’. The result was streaks of poor form, followed by unlikely wins and unbeaten runs. Whether Karl Robinson can be defined in quite such a binary way, I don’t know, but he’s consistently inconsistent.

On Saturday, Michael Appleton was in the stand preparing to take over our opponents Lincoln. Appleton is a methodical theoretician, a scientist of the game. He’s a good fit for Lincoln who seem to have learnt through the appointment of the Cowley brothers about the power of building.

It was Robinson’s worst nightmare; following the debacle against Bolton, he not only had to get us back on track, but do it with one of Oxford’s greatest managers glaring down on him.

And then he goes out and does this. Seven shots, six goals, all of the highest quality. A record breaking win, the win we thought we might get on Tuesday, and a moment of utter razor sharp clarity in a sea of confusion.

Tariqe Fosu, as we’re regularly reminded, has known Robinson for years. You could argue that not only does he understand Robinson’s methods, he’s a product of them. Perhaps it’s of no surprise that he seems to have settled so quickly in a way that others haven’t. Where Luke Garbutt, Sam Smith and perhaps Ben Woodburn made slower starts, Fosu is flying because he knew what to expect and what was expected.

The Lincoln result is no more an indicator of our prospects for the season than the Bolton result was, finding the new normal under Robinson feels like an endless quest.

While doing a little side project on the best players of the 1990s, I found a surprising fact. Between 1990-1999 Oxford United fielded 107 players, between 2000-2009 that number doubled with a similar number for 2010-2019. If Robinson is to succeed, he needs players to understand his methods, and if you’re new to that, it can take time. Without that, you’re always playing catch up.

The challenge is that modern football doesn’t offer stability. The turnover of players is so great, the onus is on the manager to be clear about his intentions and for them to respond. Last season it took months to get the message over and while this season it seems to have settled more quickly, the contrasts between Bolton and Lincoln show, it’s still not clear which Oxford United we are.