Good therapy during a losing streak (Gillingham edition)

In a blog post in the week I said that I was considering not updating this blog anymore. It would be easy now just to leave it and get on with something else.

I could say the same about how I spend my Saturdays, but of course that’s not going to happen. Why? Because I’m hopelessly addicted; an habitual follower of my team. It’s a habit I could never lose, as much a part of my life as breathing in and out.

There is something strange about me (hey! You don’t have to agree QUITE so readily) to steal Michael Jackson’s words from his infamous Thriller video, “I’m not like the other boys”. The thing that I think differentiates me from your average Oxford United fan is that outside of my club, I have no interest in football.  People hilariously say to me, “You’ve picked the right club if you don’t want to watch football played”. Of course, I laugh politely and leave them, lying there, but Oxford is ALL it’s about to me. I don’t have a second club, I don’t watch match of the day, I don’t watch the football league programme unless we win and I stopped caring about England many years ago.

People assume that because I’m an OUFC fan that I’m an expert in all football. Someone at work might be talking to me about an amazing incident involving Haditov at the weekends Man U game, and I’ll just be looking at them blankly. When it’s only your club that you care about, it hurts all the more when you lose week after week, and I’m finding that the writing is a good way of dealing with it. So for the moment I’m afraid you’re stuck with me.  

For the record, Oxford lost 1-0 yesterday to Gillingham and aside from the result, the disappointing thing was that the performance on the pitch, and in the stands, was the worst of the season.  Maybe when we are winning again I may review my stance on whether I want to keep the blog updated, but wouldn’t it be nice to have a victory to talk about?

Until then folks, keep happy, there’s still fun to be had at every game; whatever’s happening on the pitch.

The new and ONLY way to wear your scarf - inside your hat

It’s time to confess….

It’s the most commonly used story line in ANY TV action-drama series.  Someone has been hired to infiltrate some group or another to find out their secrets.  However, during the course of their task they come to like or love someone that they are supposed to betray.  Cue harrowing final scene where hired person wrestles with their conscience on whether to fulfill their task or succumb to their heart.  This is usually executed with a gun in hand and a finger on trigger. 

It’s been done a couple of times in Charlie’s Angels, a few times in the A-Team and maybe half a dozen times in Star Trek.  High drama indeed.

 That’s all very well, but how in hells name has that got anything to do with a blog dedicated to the fans of Oxford United.  Well, this is where I must make my confession:  Back in March, a job came up that I was really interested in.  Part of the job is on measuring the effectiveness of digital activities (e.g. websites, social media, blogs etc.).  I had little experience in this area, so decided to embark on a personal learning project to find out how this could be done, by actually doing it.  So I set up an online presence, Twitter, Facebook and, as you have guessed, this blog.  The primary aim of this was to understand how it all worked and how it could be measured. 

So the heart of my confession is this:  I have been monitoring you.  There: I said it.  I bet you feel cheap and violated.  Not “YOU” personally, there are limits to what can be monitored, but “you” as an aggregated group.  I have a good idea of when the best time is to update my blog to get the most views, where you have come from to get here, and where you go afterwards (again as a group).  I know the Google search terms that have led people to my blog, and how to improve content to get it higher in a natural search.

Incidentally, I got the job, and I am now engaging in that sort of thing professionally and enjoying it, which is why I am making my confession now.  I always intended to end this experiment, but there’s just one problemI’ve come to like it.  I seem to be hopelessly addicted to the social media feedback loop. I really like it when somebody has accessed my blog, retweeted my tweet, or ‘liked’ my Facebook post.  It’s very satisfying to know that this blog gets about one and a half thousand views a month (more than some company web-sites get).  This medium has given me an opportunity to interact with others in a way that I am not able to in the real world, due my bumbling, awkward, introverted shyness that handicaps my daily life.

 So I find myself at a junction.  Do I leave this blog fallow and allow it to join the already bursting cemetery of dead OUFC related blogs?  Or, do I excitedly post another awful “Why not make a weekend of [insert-dire-English-town-here]” that might interest two people?  My finger is on the ‘delete blog’ trigger, as I feverishly wrestle with my options. Will I go with my heart, or will I stick to my original mercenary objective. 

Watch this space to find out the outcome…..

Despicable Me

My Wife was away in London this weekend on a ‘girl’s weekend’, meaning that if I wanted to watch Oxford play at Rotherham (technically Sheffield actually) I was going to have to take my lad.  There’s nothing wrong with this per-se, I have always wanted him to come to football.  What man DOESN’T dream of extending his OUFC lineage to the next generation and even beyond?

The issue was that earlier in the week my son had said “I don’t want to go”.  You see, the memories of Bradford were still too fresh in his mind.   So throughout the week I would ask again, thinking I may catch him at a weak moment, and he may suddenly see the joys of sitting in a cold Eastern-block-communist-country-resembling-stadium for the best part of a Saturday, OR a fun-filled two and a half journey in either direction.

Stalingrad Stada

Whenever I asked he said “no”, but with the promise of new signings and, if I’m honest, some misplaced optimism, I had to resort to different tactics to get the elusive “OK”.  I’m not a complete monster though, I would not take him unless he WANTED to go.  So I had to create an incentive.

The fact that the game was in Sheffield proved to be that incentive.  Looking on the map we could see that Cineworld was within a Millerette’s baton of the stadium and so, I promised a trip to the cinema after the game.  This, he readily agreed to, and so the trip to Sheffield was on.  While I can not say that he enjoyed the match  (in fact he said after the match “I never want to go to an away match again”) I can only hope he got something out of it from a life-broadening-experience perspective.  If you’re reading this in the future son (maybe when I’m six feet under – wooooooh spooky, I’m talking to you from beeeeeyoooooond the graaaaaave) you can find it in your heart to forgive me for Bradford and Rotherham.

The film we went to see, was “Despicable Me” which I appreciate is ironic considering the coercion required to guarantee attendance.  It was shown in glorious 3D, right there in-your-face, which was quite a departure from what had gone before in the Don Valley.  On this blog post, my reason for not commenting on the performance is not that I’m not qualified to do so, but because I really couldn’t see it very well.  Apparently we had some new players on the pitch, but it could have been the Chuckle Brothers for all I knew.

Me yesterday

For the record, we lost 2-1 and with it, I lost a travel partner, who is now convinced that he is the bringer of all Oxford United related bad fortune.  This makes me sad, but you reap what you sow.

Why not make a weekend of…Rotherham

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

There’s nowt grim about this:

Don’t forget Rotherham temporarily play at the Don Valley, which is more Sheffield than Rotherham.  So most of this guide is pointed towards the highlights of Sheffield….

Things to do and see:  

This very handy website tells you everything you need to know about what to do in Sheffield:

http://www.creativesheffield.co.uk/VisitSheffield/Thingstodo/

Assuming you want to spend some time in our hosts home town of Rotherham, here are some highlights:

Magna Science Adventure Centre – A hands on science discovery centre.  Great for the kids.

Thybergh Country Park – A nature reserve, with 170 species of wildflower and plants, 155 species of birds, and 20 species of mammals in the area.  So, great for walks, plants and animals.

Clifton Park Museum – “One of the most modern and user-friendly Museums in the country, the twice nominated Museum of the year features famous exhibits such as Nelson the Lion and the breath-taking Rhinoceros Vase, the first ever porcelain vase cast in one piece!”  Why would you NOT want to see that?

Walking – There are some great walks to be had in the Rotherham area.  Some handy trail leaflets can be found here: http://www.rotherham.gov.uk/info/200102/walking/898/trail_leaflets/1

Looking for somewhere to stay?:

http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Hotels-g186364-Sheffield_South_Yorkshire_England-Hotels.html#T_CAT_HOTEL_MOTEL

Looking for something nice to eat:

http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Restaurants-g186364-Sheffield_South_Yorkshire_England.html

I want pubs near the ground:

http://awaydays-client.salgo.net/away-ground-guide.html#rotherham-united

How do I get to the ground?:

http://www.themillers.co.uk/page/DonValley/0,,10360,00.html

 I want to go on the train:

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

 History and stuff:

There is evidence of life in the Rotherham area in Iron Age times, but it was in the Medieval era when settlements either side of the River Don established it as thriving residence. 

Rotherham's Finest

It was around about then that Rotherham’s most famous sons, the Chuckle Brothers, brought the town International recognition with their hilarious “to me, to you” routine, which, allegedly is a passing routine still practiced on the training ground of the Millers to this day.

The fact that the club are called the Millers might also point to an association with flour milling?  Oh I don’t know, just look at Wikipedia would you?  What do you think this is?  Some sort of travel guide?

I won’t SEE U’s THERE!

Sweet FA at Burton

I’m starting to take this whole losing thing personally.  My lucky pants have broken and I keep putting the hoo-do on OUFC performances.

So today, for Oxford United’s trip to Burton in the first round of the FA Cup, I decided to try to even forget that it was happening.  This was helped by a visit from my brother and his wife.  Sure, I set an alarm to remind me about the draw for the second round to see who we might get if we just happened to win through.  Sure, throughout the course of their visit I would dart a quick glance at Twitter on my IPhone to see the latest update from @OUFCLive.  But apart from that, I was completely unattached.

So, as my brother and his wife left I took a glance at my Iphone once more, to see that the match was in its late stages and, according to Twitter, still goal-less.  “Go on,” I thought to myself, “flick on the radio, you wouldn’t want to miss a last-minute winner?”.  Idiot, absolute ruddy idiot.  The second I switch on the radio, Burton score. 

I can only say I’m sorry, and even though I know it’s me that’s responsible, I can’t stop myself from attending games, so this avoidance thing is not going to last.

I have seen Oxford in far worse predicaments than we’re in now, and I’m not about to stop supporting because of a few losses.  My next match is Gillingham at home on Nov 20th.  Before then, does anybody know a shaman who can wash away my bad karma?

Why not make (another) weekend of Burton?

They say there’s so much to do in Burton that one weekend’s NEVER enough so…..

 

 

Things to do and see: Highlights are below, but more ideas and direct links to the places below can be found here:   

 
  • Marstons Brewery – Join the Brewery Tour
  • Blithfield Reservoir at Abbots Bromley – 790 acres of water and 250 acres of woodland
  • Fradley Junction at Arlewas – Where the Trent, Mersey and Coventry canals meet
  • The National Memorial Arboretum – The Nation’s focus for remembrance in the National Forest near Lichfield
  • Barton Marina Fishery – 13 acre fishery for Rainbow Trout fly fishing
  • Branston Water Park – Woodland, Wetland and wildflower meadows supporting a variety of bird and wildlife
  • Tutbury Castle – Fantastic views from this 11th Centruy Ruin

 Looking for somewhere to stay?:

 
Looking for something nice to eat:
 
 
I want pubs near the ground: 
 
 
How do I get to the ground?: 
 

Can't get enough of the Pirelli

 
History and stuff:
  
Burton was founded around the monastery of St Bodwen, one of the few not destroyed by Henry VIII. One of the monks there, Friar Coors, had a particularly nasty habit in which he kept his hops. One day he tripped dropping his hops in a fermenting barrel, and he accidentally invented beer.  To this day the town has a strong brewing industry and this heritage has led to the club nicknaming themselves the Brewers.

The busy market town straddles the River Trent and is within the National Forest. Robin Hood was probably a famous resident of the town at one stage. His dashing green clothing gained national recognition, which ultimately led to him and his merry men founding the famous Burton’s clothing shops which he named after the town. 

What’s missing from this guide?: Add your comments below! 

I’m sorry to say that I won’t SEE U’s THERE!

Happy Torquay, Torquay, Happy Talk*

There was a lot of talk before the game against Torquay of ‘making amends’.  Our own Captain Sensible sent some of us an email underlying how important it was that the players reacted in the right way.  Craddock and Wilder also talked up the effort that was going in, to make up to the fans for Bradford.  For whatever reason, it did not transpire.


 
Now; there’s a number of ways we can deal with this.  It takes very little effort to be negative and point the finger.  It requires a little more energy to constructively criticise, putting more emphasis on where we think things could be improved.  It takes EVEN MORE energy to do this in a way of positive enforcement that encourages a change in confidence and ultimately, results.  I am confident the Chris Wilder has the ability to do the latter. 

What shocks me is the way that some supporters react.  The vast majority I think put the effort into offering solutions, however I never cease to be amazed by the number of people who think that the right way to deal with this, is throwing their arms up in the air screaming “we’re all going to die”.  This is ultimately destructive behaviour that if it goes unchecked could have a wider negative affect .
 
The club should be applauded for the way it communicates with the fans.  The emails from the players are great, and you could say that maybe the last one was a gamble and as such backfired, but, does that mean that they should stop?  Absolutely not.  Talk IS cheap, and actions DO speak louder than words.  However the talk shows conviction, and that conviction is the platform and aspiration on which to act. 

I would like to see more of these positive vibes from everyone, not just the club.  Man for man the players we have are as good as any in the league.  Anyone remember singing “a team to be proud of” at West Ham?  It’s the SAME TEAM.  What we have now is a confidence problem, and confidence problems can be addressed.  As the 12th Man it’s our responsibility to back the team and overcome it together.
 
After all, you’ve got to have a dream, if you don’t have a dream, how you gunna make a dream come true?

*For younger readers, “Happy Talk” was a quite awful song recorded by “Captain Sensible” in the 1980’s that he nicked from “South Pacific”.  If you want to lose 4 mins of your life (that you will NEVER get back) watch the video at the top to see what you missed out on.