George Lawrence’s Shorts: Hammered Time

Saturday 21 September 2019

When challenged in the box he floats like a butterfly, but in front of goal he stings like a bee; Tariqe Fosu crushed a hat-trick against Lincoln City on Saturday in a record breaking 6-0 away win. This beat our previous best which was probably a scrappy defensive 1-0 smash and grab. Lincoln’s humiliation was compounded by the fact that they were being watched their next manager, MApp, thereby giving them the greatest fear known to man.

Sunday 22 September 2019

As Danny Rose and Canice Carrol will tell you, playing football in a dangerous and unpredictable town is no fun at all. Thankfully, Kashif Siddiqi is not heading for Swindon, but the relative tranquility of war-ravaged Kashmir. Oxford’s 20-goals-a-season peace envoy has been loaned out to their local team where he’ll be blocking shots, and ducking grenades. 

Monday 23 September 2019

Chris Cadden has been talking to his wee pals at the Scottish Record about his secret sadness; an inability to iron his clothes. No doubt interviewed while wrapped in toilet paper, the full-back has revealed that he’s moved into a ‘village called Bicester’, no Chris, that’s Bicester Village and you can’t live in a Helly Hansen factory store. ‘I put my first washing on yesterday’ said Cadden from trapped inside his tumble drier.

Tuesday 24 September 2019

The man KRob has labelled the future of English football, Shandon Baptiste, has been called up to play for Grenada against St Kitts and Nevis. Baptiste is due to fly out for two games at the beginning of November, but if KRob keeps going on about him; he’ll probably be able to walk on water to get there.

Wednesday 25 September 2019

It was Hammered Time on Wednesday as Oxford marmalised W’Stam in the League Cup. A 4-0 annihilation provided the biggest shock in East London since Dirty Den left Ange. Oxford’s Greta Thurnberg, Shandon Baptiste completed the rout after goals from Elliot Moore, Matty Taylor and Tariqe Fosu. W’Stam won’t be playing the old Joanna down the rubber-dub after that performance because they were bucking derrible.

Thursday 26 September 2019 

Thursday means it’s the Six Minute Eighteen Seconds Fans Forum in which every member of the backroom staff scrambled to put themselves forward after last night’s mullering. In the end Tiger was the man in the hot seat, but spent the entire time leaning out of the Radio Oxford windows flicking the V’s at passers by, noisily telling them to stick their effing bubbles up their arse, sideways.

Friday 27 September 2019

Gillingham tomorrow who are managed by criminal Stay Puff Marshmallow Glaswegian Steve Evans. Evans has been playing ‘oooh, cleeevvveerrr’ mind games with Karl Robinson claiming that last Saturday’s Lincoln result was down to two lucky goals. I dunno Wobbles McBloaty, I reckon it was the other four we smashed in that made the real difference.  

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.

George Lawrence’s Shorts: Parker, Pens

Saturday 24 August 2019

Like your gran after she’s eaten her bodyweight in Turkish Delight, there was some pretty obnoxious Gas around on Saturday. The club put on extra security for Matty Taylor’s return to his former club, Bristol Rovers. Fantasies around Taylor’s return turned out to be just that as he limped off after half-an-hour and we went down 3-1

Monday 26 August 2019

Like a railway announcer during autumn leaf fall; KRob has pinpointed why we’ve gone 3 games without a win – the wrong kind of goals. Our problem is that we’re scoring great goals, not scruffy ones, ‘if you take away the goals, we dominated’ he said possibly ignoring a key aspect of professional football.

Tuesday 27 August 2019

Oxford entertained East London millennial snowflakes Mi’Woh in the Type 2 Diabetes Cup on Tuesday. After going 2-0 down, two super-late goals from Jedward orphan Mark Sykes and James Henry forced the game to penalties which were won by Jose’s son John Mousinho who broke the net to settle the tie. They didn’t like that, but they don’t care, though they really do, because they’re actually very sensitive.  

Wednesday 28 August 2019

Dean Saunders is a former Oxford United goal machine turned TalkSport shock jock – the shock being how little he knows about football. On Wednesday Deano followed a well trodden path for Oxford goalscoring legends like Steve Anthrobus and John Durnin by being sent to prison, this time after refusing to take a breath test when stopped by the police. Saunders is appealing the decision on the grounds of diminished intelligence. 

In less incarcerated news, The Type 2 Diabetes Cup draw had an extra shot of insulin in it when we drew bubble-based buffoons We’stam at home in the next round

Thursday 29 August 2019

Former Leicester City player and Kidlington local Garry Parker, has been appointed Head of Setting Up The Reserves To Play Like The Opposition. The new role will be a blessed relief to Parker, who – if his club photo is anything to go by – got lost on a holiday trek through the jungle wearing just shorts and a pair of flip flops this summer only to be found looking tired and bewildered by local tribesmen.

This year’s Tsun Dai Remind Me Why We Signed Him has been announced as Kash Siddiqi. Siddiqi is a 33-year-old Pakistani international who will instantly be sent out on loan and forgotten. A sub-continental Tony McMahon. 

Friday 30 August 29

Tomorrow sees the visit of Coventry City in which Oxford are hoping to break a losing league streak longer than Jimmy Hill’s chin. Meanwhile in last night’s Six Minute 29 Second Fans Forum on Radio Oxford it was Tiger who came to tea. On the stadiumsituation nothing has changed since the club were asked about the stadiumsituation last week, but Mr Chairman did imply another signing might be on his way.

West Ham United 1 Yellows 0

I’ve found that I’ve settled into a routine when it comes to watching football at the weekend. Match of the Day with all its Premiership hubris is good Saturday night viewing. The Football League Show is best kept for Sundays.

The Premiership is the equivalent of watching a Hollywood blockbuster. Its all big explosions and grand stunts based on a contrived two-dimensional storyline. It’s the weekend escape from the trudge of the working week, enjoyable escapism that offers little beyond basic entertainment.

Conversely, the Football League is a warming award winning documentary you stumble across on BBC4. With a week of work ahead, it reminds you that life has meaning and purpose allowing you to head for bed with a renewed energy for life.

Worlds apart then, and yet, we arrive at Upton Park and there’s something very familiar about it. It’s the vultures circling in the sky. They were at the Kassam the day we went down, packing the press box looking for a good, solid story of human grief.

There is much hand-wringing around the Boleyn Ground too. The media have decided West Ham are this year’s club in crisis. Uncle Avram Grant skulks around like a character from a film who everyone thinks eats children but turns out to be a kindly misunderstood old man looking for his long lost granddaughter. There is misery and the whiff of failure all around.

Of course, in reality, they don’t know they’re born. We’re playing without fear, they were weighed down with it. We walk away with our heads held high, they walk away in shame. So, whilst they go into the next round of the cup, our stock is still soaring. Better a losing Oxford fan than a winning West Ham fan, which says it all really.

West Ham preview

Round the corner from where my sister lived was a large but unremarkable Edwardian house. Unremarkable except for the bars on the windows, the black Land Rover Discovery, the monographed electric gates and the wrought iron fence with gold leaf. If it didn’t have gargoyles, they were probably on order.

Apparently the family entombed inside were related to the Krays and are under constant police and/or gangland protection. The house, nestling amongst an anonymous North London suburb, screams “LOOK AT ME, I AM RICH, RESPECT ME”.

It’s brash and ostentatious, tasteless and crass; it aims to impress through intimidation but serves only to make you snort through your nose at its ridiculousness; like the daft castle turrets that stand outside Upton Park.

This is what I like about W‘stam. In a world of foreign billionaire owners, global brand builders and supposed cosmopolitan sophisticates, they will always be the crass Englander.

The stadium is a classic English standard, whatever you say about the individuals they’ve produced in the last 15 years, they’re amongst the finest English footballers of their generation. They’re even owned by a couple of sleazy pornographers. I find myself warming to them all the time.

The start of the season has had a comforting and familiar timbre about it. The league has started with a gently positive air of expectation about it, a relief from the ulcer inducing gut wrenching desperation of recent seasons. The reward of the ‘ammers in the Rumbelows Cup 2nd Round is one of those early season treats that give you a satisfied glow of being back in your rightful homeland away from the ruffians and blaggers of the Conference. Like standing on a bus, looking down the blouse of a pretty commuter, a gentle thrill that you know isn’t going anywhere, but gives you a brief distraction from the greyness around you*.

We’ll enjoy it, whatever happens.

* not that I’d know, I’ve never commuted on a bus.