All’s (not) fair in love and war

This weekend I went to the Royal Armouries in Leeds.  It’s the best museum I have ever been too.  It’s full of historic military armaments and weapons, which I appreciate sounds dull; but it has great interactive displays and is free of charge.  For a big kid like me (and my big kid) it was great fun.

There are large glass cases with detailed recreations of famous battlefields such as Waterloo and Agincourt.  The descriptions and videos around show how battles were won and lost, how victories were sealed against seemingly impossible odds and how sometimes the slightest piece of fortune or individual effort, could set forth a series of events that could have epic outcomes.  We cut short our visit to the armouries, to go to Bradford [I know, I know!]. 

 The impressive (though expensive) Valley Parade made a good stage in which these two teams would do battle.  The fans of Oxford United, as ever in enemy territory, were a mighty battalion that through the first half were unrivalled in their support.  Confident in their team’s first half performance, they barracked the Bantams manager “We’ll get you sacked in the morning” they chanted.  This seemed to be the catalyst for change, in terms of our rivals support AND their team’s aptitude.

Yellow Army

It took the second half to see this manifest.  A lone soldier; Omar Daley, who in the first half of battle had been made to look ordinary by a defence that looked to have the opposition contained, crafted two opportunities.  The Oxford defence was too easily beaten, and Bradford, who once looked second best, now possessed the attribute that every general would want, morale and momentum.  The winds of war had changed and as so often seen on the battlefield, fortune deserted the U’s.  Penalty retakes and sending offs proved insurmountable odds.  The victory was sealed but its outcome far flattered the hosts.

As the bruised and defeated soldiers of Oxford left the field their battalion of supporters stood solid.  Undying support: singing, clapping, stoic.  The players recognised this in applauding the brave bunch, but reward can only really come in the battles still to come……

The Valley of Despair

We are family, I've got all my hot dogs with me

Amongst the ranks of the Yellow Warriors

 

THERE: Not one single Halloween reference.  Stick that in your pipe and smoke it.

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Why not make a weekend of….Bradford

Use the Oxford United Fixture list as a touring itinerary of our amazing country and..

 

This weeks “Why not make a weekend of…” includes personal recommendations!

Bradford now.  Bradford Future?:

Things to do and see:  

There’s more to do in Bradford than you might think.  Highlights appear to be Salt’s Mill and the National Media Museum.  Take a look at this excellent website:

http://www.visitbradford.com/leisure-attractions/50thingstodoinBradfordDistrict.asp

If you don’t think there’s enough in Bradford to keep you occupied for a weekend then Leeds is a short drive away:

http://www.visitleeds.co.uk/

Still not enough for you?  Then why not head further North and explore the spectacular Dales?

http://www.yorkshiredales.org.uk/

Looking for somewhere to stay?:

http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Hotels-g186408-Bradford_West_Yorkshire_England-Hotels.html#T_CAT_HOTEL_MOTEL

A personal recommendation from our OUFC Northern Correspondent @oufcmad is Kirkfield B&B. Greatly located for the Dales and only half an hour drive to the ground.

Looking for something nice to eat:

http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Restaurants-g186408-Bradford_West_Yorkshire_England.html

Of course you’ve GOT to have a Balti? http://www.visitbradford.com/food-drink/Bradford-Curry-Guide.asp

And if you’re in Leeds this place gets a personal recommendation from our @oufcmad: http://www.artscafebar.com/

 I want pubs near the ground:

http://awaydays-client.salgo.net/away-ground-guide.html#bradford-city

If in Leeds, @oufcmad recommends the Angel Inn for “good but cheap beer” – My kind of beer!

How do I get to the ground?:

http://www.the2020group.com/cms/document/Directions_To_Bradford_City_FC.pdf

 I want to go on the train:

 http://ojp.nationalrail.co.uk/en/s/timetable/times

 History and stuff:

Brad "ford" Pitt (yesterday probably)

 

It won’t have escaped your attention that Bradford is another [x]Ford city.  In this case a place where the river was so shallow that it provided a convenient crossing point for Hollywood star Brad Pitt.

It was during the making of the famous Belaggio scene in Ocean’s Eleven when the director realised that Vegas was just not cutting it as a location.  A quick switch to a (then) nameless city in Yorkshire provided the perfect backdrop for this scene.  Pitt was the first of the cast to ford the river at the shoot; and in doing so gave the town its name.  Had he been half a minute later, then the City might have been named Georgeford or, worse, Mattford.  So a lucky escape there.

Pitt and his wife Angelina Jolie, well known for her fondness of Asian food, have been instrumental in establishing the City as Britain’s capital of curry.  They can often be found in one of the many local restaurants enjoying a balti with Brad’s equally famous brother; Courtney.

SEE U’s THERE!

Cobbler, Cobbler, Mend My Shoe

OR…how to take a metaphor to such an extent, that people want to physically hurt you.

 

[How many cobbler/shoe type references can YOU (be bothered) to find in the below?]

At half time last week at Macclesfield we seemed to be on the verge of an unassailable victory.  We were stood on platform heels towering over the opposition.  However, during the course of the second half, this platform eroded and with it, the team’s confidence.  So we looked to Saturday’s match against Northampton Town, “The Cobblers”, to mend that damage.

Yellow Platforms

At half past two we started to gather in our thousands.  The match begun; and it could not have started any better for the U’s.  Constable’s clever foot work set up Elfie to take the lead.  However the joy was short lived, and any confidence we gained was damaged when a great Northampton cross was converted by McKenzie in to the back of Clarks net.

At this stage the Cobblers looked like one of the best teams to play at the Kassam this season, regularly getting behind the defence.  The midfield trio of Freeman, Hardy and Willis* looked particularly dangerous.  At this stage I honestly thought that we were not going to take all three points.

However, I did not reckon on Josh Payne’s excellent execution of a free kick just before half time.  He wrapped his boot around it and curled it round the wall, and into the bottom corner of the new (shoe) box shaped nets.

In the second half the U’s tightened their laces, and took control of the match.  When it mattered most, the team kept possession and stifled Town.  Two straight defeats had left U’s fans with heavy soles, but the win, secured by a third goal from the penalty spot by Craddock at the death, left us walking tall. 

The confidence is restored, and the well-healed yellows can now march to Bradford with the intention of restoring our away form.  Let’s hope we can give them a shoe-ing as well.

*Not actual Northampton footballers

Return of the Macc

“I don’t know how you put yourself through this every week.”

Yeah, we know how to live

That was my Wife’s comment after the game and all I could offer in response was a weak, “Well it’s not like this every week”.  Thank heavens it’s not, because losing the lead like that really hurts.  It had all started so promisingly.  The clock at the ‘hotel’ we were staying at was stuck at 3:06.  So maybe this was prophetic, when Beano’s opening goal of the day was scored at exactly that time, but was it also foretelling the outcome of the match? 

I thought so, especially when we finally doubled the score line immediately before half time (having missed so many chances to do so before then).  But then, in the second half, what happened was inexplicable.  A team that I was convinced we were going to bury scored, and our defence, that have been so key in our successes so far this season, crumbled.

 It didn’t feel as bad as Luton away last season, or how the recent Port Vale game might have felt had it not been for Craddock’s intervention.  It still hurts though.  So can I answer the question, ‘why do I put myself through it every week’?  With hindsight yes, because football’s like that;  for every game we lose like that, there will be another that we win.  It’s the ying and the yang.  You can’t have one without the other, and the contrast between the two is what makes each so pronounced.  Winning every week would just be dull (jut keep telling yourself that). 

Bring on Northampton.

Ladies and Gentleman, Boys and Girls, it’s the magnificent U’s fans in action.

There's a crock of gold at the end of every rainbow

The 12th Man at Macc

Why not make a weekend of…Macclesfield

Use the Oxford United Fixture list as a touring itinerary of our amazing country and..

Here’s a tour from a couple of locals:

Things to do and see:

Looking for somewhere to stay?:

http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Hotels-g191278-Macclesfield_Peak_District_Cheshire_England-Hotels.html#T_CAT_HOTEL_MOTEL

Looking for something nice to eat:

http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Restaurants-g191278-Macclesfield_Peak_District_Cheshire_England.html

I want pubs near the ground:

http://awaydays-client.salgo.net/away-ground-guide.html#macclesfield-town

How do I get to the ground?:

http://www.footballgroundguide.com/macclesfield_town/

I want to go on the train:

http://ojp.nationalrail.co.uk/en/s/timetable/times

History and stuff:

The name Macclesfield derives from the words “Michael’s Field”. It is thought that this derives from Saint Michael Jackson who frequented fields in this lovely part of Cheshire. Michael had always been keen on gloves made from silk, and found that only the quality of the silk produced here, was fit for his tender hands.

He ordered the building of the Macclesfield Canal so that he and bubbles had a direct link to his home at Neverland USA. It’s thought that he penned the song “Dirty Dianna” in memory of his girlfriend, Dianna Eckthorpe, who lived in Buxton Road, Macclesfield. She’s always had a bit of a reputation.

SEE U’s THERE!

Behind the Scenes

It will be events before the game against Aldershot that will live longer in the memory than the match itself.  My mate’s (@YellowTim) daughter was chosen to be one of the mascots and I was lucky enough to be invited as one of Betsy’s five guests for a tour around the ground before kick-off.

Now, I’ve done a stadium tour before (the one on the fun-day) but this was something different.  For one, it was a tour of the whole ground (the upstairs bits as well) but most importantly, this was the club on a match-day.

There are a couple of clichés you hear whenever a new person joins a football club they are:

  • “It’s a good set-up here”
  • “They’re a good bunch of lads”

I tend to take them with a pinch of salt because you hear them all the time.  However, when you have first-hand experience of the “set up”, and the “lads”, these words really come to life. These are no glib sentences, they really mean something.

The place seemed to be run with the greatest of professionalism.  We met Kelvin, Chris and the players all who were so giving of their time.  Every single player gave time to sign an autograph and/or have their picture taken with the kids.  As you walked through the corridors there were interchanges between the backroom staff that gave a feeling of vibrancy and hinted at the match-day clockwork efficiency that was unravelling around us.

Kelvin and the mascots - could be the name of a band?

At the start of our tour, Kelvin mentioned how we would see him at certain parts of the tour, and sure enough there he was meeting guests, interacting with staff, making things happen.  The breeze blocked ground floor interior has been brought to life with pictures of recent successes; the Managers office, devoid of windows, was particularly inspiring in this respect.

The upstairs rooms around the executive boxes and the board rooms hint more towards the proud history of the club, with pictures of previous teams and the well stocked trophy cabinet.  I don’t know what I was expecting; but in short, this felt like a PROPER football club. By this I do not mean so much the building, but the people; from the players through to the back room staff, including the brilliant lady who did the tour around the ground, making the mascots feel like VIP’s throughout.  I know now, more than ever, that our club is in VERY safe hands.

Onto the game: I woke up with a bad feeling about it.  However, after 20mins I thought we were going to be comfortable winners.  The tactics sheets I’d seen up on the wall of the dressing room was working perfectly, but then Aldershot went and got a player sent off.  As you so often see, it was the ten men who benefitted most from this.

Our support was great and we gave a good display when the players came out.  Understandably, we were not so good in the last quarter of the match but throughout we were willing the team on.  While our support was not “ultimate” I would say that this initiative added numbers to the crowd and provided a second consecutive home game with up-lifting support.  A bit like a bra, we are, I suppose.

The result has not left me too downbeat though, because from what I saw earlier in the day, I know that only positive things can come from such a good set up, with a great bunch of lads.

Player of the month

One voice, singing in the darkness

I love this video because it’s a great example of how one person, given the right circumstances, can make something big happen.  In this case a (probably) inebriated fool who’s just having a bit of fun.  It reminds me of that game a season or two back when one guy started singing a simple song, the “Come on Oxford” song.  It was a particularly dull match and from (my poor) memory I don’t think there was anything particularly inspiring happening on the pitch. 
 
However, he took the responsibility to inspire the team with his incessant chanting.  Incessant he was, despite the fact that none of the miserable gits around him were joining in.  However, persistence was this guy’s middle name and he just kept at it.  He didn’t care about standing out or ‘looking stupid’ he just stuck to his task.  Eventually, at least 5 minutes later people began to take note, this was something significant, he just wouldn’t shut up.  He really cared.  So someone joined in. 

I’m not going to go down the “another and then another” route because you know where it leads, and it will sound like I’m talking about “One voice, singing in the darkness”.  Ultimately though, it was commented on even by the Managers and Players of Oxford United as something significant due to the atmosphere it created.
 
This guy – like the dancer in the video did something incredible.  It takes commitment and motivation beyond the needs of self-image to start something like this.  If we all just took responsibility to make the effort and do something (regardless of what others may think) then imagine what is possible.  This, for me, is the spirit in which Ultimate Support Saturday should be regarded.  We can make our home a place that we love, and that other teams fear.  Do something remarkable – inspire other fans, inspire the team.