The Green Eyed Monster

I went to the new Indian Restaurant in the cinema complex before yesterday’s game with a couple of mates.  It’s an eat as much as you like style affair, good value and good food I thought.  One of my mates (@YellowTim on twitter) made an observation around how if you were cooking a curry at home and filled your plate with, say curry, some rice and a vegetable side; and after finishing eating that, you wouldn’t go back in the kitchen and cook another one for a second plate.  However in a situation where you can eat as much as is physically possible and there’s no additional cost in effort or price then the 2nd or even 3rd plate is inevitable.  The reasons we do this are obvious, but at the heart of it is one of the seven deadly sins; greed.

Greed is a good quality for a football team to have.  The motivation, not just to settle for what they have but to drive on for more with single-minded determination.  This is a quality we see in our own team at the moment.  While yesterday we were not able to get all three points, we certainly saw a good performance from a team that did not give up.  The game ended 1-1 with Craddock scoring the equalising goal.  There were some neat passages of play and on another day, against a different defence Oxford could have won by a large margin.  A point though seemed ok, especially in light of the brilliant Clarkey saving a penalty for us.  The greed, it seems is instilled in every member of the team when they are called upon to play their part.

Attendances at home, and the atmosphere especially, continues to improve; we sang  throughout the match and the quiet patches were fewer than the noisy parts.  The support is better, not only in the songs but the general support and willing-on of the players.  The ascending noise levels are both a precursor, and reaction to, performance on the pitch, each one fuelling the other.  Additional fuel was thrown on the flames by some cheerleaders.  Contemplating this has led me to reconsider the definition of what a cheerleader is.  Say the word “cheerleader” and I normally think of American sport, pom-poms and glamorous girls, but the literal translation of the term is the leader of cheers.

A cheerleader from yesterday's game (somewhere else)

The cheerleaders we had yesterday were the best to ever visit our home, they had a good routine that involved lifts and stuff and with their up-beat music and demeanour they got a good reaction from the crowd which, I think, carried itself into the match.  I for one enjoyed their display, and if nothing else gave me the legitimate opportunity to do a google image search for cheerleader.  The one guy in the squad got a predictable reaction from the Oxford Mail stand, but this was borne I think out of jealousy, another of the deadly sins.  While he must get a lot of grief for what he does, it’s easy to see what he gets out of it, and, on balance, the grief is probably worth it. 

Speaking of grief and strife, I have just been given clearance by my Wife to go to Southend on Tuesday night if I want to.  The sensible thing would be not too,  I would have to leave work early at a particularly busy time and I don’t deal well with late nights.  The problem is I’m loving my football now, I go because I love it (not just out of routine – which is what a lot of us were doing for a long time) and when all is said and done, I’m just a bit greedy.  See you all at Southend (probably)!

Cobblers ‘n Shrews, Pink Ox in the News

Life on the field for the mighty Yellows continues to improve. Since last writing the U’s have played away at Northampton and at home to Shrewsbury.

In the former, a capacity away crowd of 1.6 thousand fans roared their team on. Oxford were the better side on balance and were undeservedly beaten 2-1. Northampton rival Wycombe for the worse home support I have ever witnessed. Their mascot (a dragon called Clarence I think) is lethal with the ball when it comes to taking out linesmen (sorry lines-people, I came over all Andy Gray there) but is woeful with a drum stick. He could be seen travelling from stand to stand attempting to, literally, drum up support with embarrassingly little response.

In somewhat surreal circumstances after that game I went to a wedding reception at MK Don’s Stadium. I’m looking forward to the day when we play them. I’m told by a supporter of the team that the problem they consistently have is that the away fans are neatly packed into a small area conducive to singing loudly while the home fans are dispersed widely in a stadium that is clearly too big for their numbers of support. The result is that their team rarely get any kind of home advantage from their own support. I would love to see how many fans we took there and the sort of atmosphere we could create.

Pink Ox

At home, the match against Shrewsbury was a classic. The back-story to this match was the Pink Ox. It’s been well documented (in fact, on the day the news broke about the Pink Ox, it was allegedly the 7th most popular news story on the whole BBC news website) about how vandals (artists?) painted the bronze Ox outside the stadium bright pink. The club were opportunistic in taking the initiative to raise some money for breast cancer while simultaneously getting publicity for the club. I love this kind of ‘making the best out of a bad situation’ approach. The steps the club took were reflected in the demeanour of the crowd.

An upbeat crowd, started slowly in getting behind the team, with little opposition from a quiet, yet sizable group of Shrewsbury supporters. Three great goals from ex-Shrews Hall and Constable (x2) was enough to sink the Shropshire side who in riposte had very little to show in attempts on goal apart from the heavily deflected goal they actually scored.

In other news the U’s announced a pre-season tour to the U.S. giving many Oxford fans their first chance to watch the club away from British shores. The costs and details of this are eagerly awaited by all. It could be the most glamorous “Why not make a weekend of…” I’ve ever had the pleasure of compiling…..

Revenge is a dish best served cold

The regular reader of my blog will know that I did not enjoy the trip to Bradford.  It was a far heavier defeat than I thought we deserved and circumstances conspired to make a miserable afternoon.  The low-light of it all was my lad saying that he did not want to go to away games anymore.  So retribution was what I was looking for in today’s return match at home.

On Friday I tweeted Harry Worley, explaining how much I wanted revenge  and in reply  he said “the result was awful, we will try and make sure that we put it right!”.  So in the 10th minute when Bradford took the lead from a fluky corner I was left thinking that the justice I so desperately yearned would not be dealt.  However, Oxford were dominant, more dominant than they have been for many years.  Dominant in possession, dominant territorially and dominant in performance.

There are not many times when a side losing 1-0 gets a standing ovation as it departs the field at half time, but this is what happened. This dominance had failed to produce a goal but the magnificent fans knew that this was a performance to be applauded.  As the second half began Oxford kept right where they left off.  This was not a frantic throw-everything-at-Bradford assault, but a cool, calm, patient and self-assured offensive.  Despite this, I will admit that I did not think we were going to score.  I just had the feeling that luck was against us (I guess it’s a heritage I just can’t shake off).

Luck, it seems was something that Chris Wilder spoke to the players about at half time; something along the lines of “let’s not be an unlucky side”.   There’s a lot to be said for that.  There are so many victims in life, people who are the recipients of bad fortune, but I think it’s true that you largely make your own luck.  While destiny can not be fully controlled, positive outcomes are much more likely if you work on influencing the factors that you can control.  This leaves much less to fate.  I would like to think that as a group of fans we can achieve this, and believe this was even a factor today.

So it was a cool, confident Oxford side, that took control of their destiny, including a fantastic performance from Harry Worley, true to his word.  We crafted two scrappy goals that sent us all delirious.  The nature of the goals did not matter.  What did, was that we got the result we deserved, and the revenge was served in a manner that I found MOST satisfying.

Phoenix from the Portaloo

Yesterday Oxford United made it five wins in six games with a battling performance away at Aldershot, a team that we had never beaten in the league before. This was my first visit to the town and was overall a very enjoyable, if somewhat surreal, experience.

The pubWe got there early to ensure we could eat somewhere other than a kebab van named “Only food and sauces” (hilarious) and get a couple of pints in. The town had a strange atmosphere to it, added too by the fact that there were twice as many police as there were shoppers. After partaking of food at a popular fast food chain we proceeded to the Crimea Pub, handily placed (we thought) opposite the ground.

We stood outside the Crimea with our pints and watched two police horses effectively stop anyone from getting in and out of the neighbouring Citroen garage. At one stage it appeared as if one of the horses was actually going to mount a C4 Picasso leading to speculation of what the off-spring of this mis-matched relationship would bring. We settled on a horse powered MPV, driven by a police officer with a fondness for sugar cubes and moved on.

We were smug in the knowledge that we had picked such a convenient pub, and were therefore surprised to find that the walk that ensued to the away end was actually the sort of walk you should get sponsored for. Let me tell you; fast food and beer is not a good foundation for hill walking.

So into the ground we went, only to find that Aldershot did not have the facilities to cope with the demands of 800 Oxford United fans. A toilet shed and a few portaloos was clearly not enough, particularly at half time.

I’m not sure what compelled me, but I filmed the portaloos and on reviewing this since, I have noticed that I inadvertently filmed one fans journey from the toilet to the stand. This was never intended and in the film you can quite clearly see him looking at me (and rightly so) as if to say ‘why the hell are you filming me’. In order to prevent myself ending up on any kind of register, I would like to apologise in full to the fan and again stress that this was entirely accidental.

We made our way to our “seats” (effectively a plastic tray on a wooden step) and witnessed a very poorly organised minutes silence. Both sets of fans, adjacent to each other, were in fine voice and no attempt was made to silence them for the Vicar’s speech. By the time the faltering tannoy got the message across that this was to be a somber moment the vicar had finished speaking. Everybody awkwardly looked at each other “Is this the actual minute’s silence, because the ref and players aren’t even on the pitch?” Nobody dared make a sound. The club decided to break this ambiguity by playing a short raucous fanfare followed by, OF ALL THE SONGS IN THE WORLD, “Alive and Kicking” by Simple Minds.

Evil Incarnate

The match began and all three of us sensed something that was unsettling our karma. We couldn’t put our finger on it until we almost simultaneously realised what was causing our unrest. It was the Phoenix; Aldershot’s mascot that stood unnervingly still for the full 90 minutes in the corner of the ground like a malevolent presence. It reminded you of a horror film where the menace lurks slightly out of focus, you blink momentarily and then the thing is right next to you.

I interpreted the Phoenix as a soothsayer of doom but the opposite was the case. In my opinion the team managed the match well, in the way that many teams have come to the Kassam to do in the past, and at times we played some lovely football with sweet interchanges. The second goal was an incredible relief as we deserved to win the match, and the assembled U’s fans went delirious.

The Phoenix did not move, but I can feel it’s brooding menace even now. I dare not look in the mirror for fear of what may be behind me.

The 12th Man

Beauty and the Beast

Since last updating the blog there have been two matches.  Southend at Home, a horrific match that Oxford lost 2-0 and a fantastic game at Torquay which the U’s won 4-3.  During the course of these matches I have been celebrating New Year in the furthest reaches of Dorset with my family, another Oxford United supporter and his family.

We always knew that to be able to attend BOTH matches while away was going to be too much to ask of our families.  The choice we therefore had was which match to pick.  I would like to describe the choice we made in the style of 1980’s Saturday evening television:

Cilla: Alright chuck ask your final question

Me: Alright Cilla.  Girls, I’m a big football fan; if you were a football match what kind of match would you be and that’s to number 2

Girl Number 2: I would be a curvy roller coaster of a match featuring twists and turns that would leave you enthralled and spellbound throughout.  You’d love the fantastic climax at the end, and if you pick me you could end up with a hat trick of your own.

Me: Sounds nice Cilla. Right, same question to number 1.

Girl number 1: Face facts mate I’m a munter

Me: Hmmmm…..

Cilla: Right Chuck, you’ve heard what the girls have to say, are you going for the enthralling roller coaster or the munter

Me: It’s got to be number 1

Cilla: Well, let’s draw back the screen and see who you’ve picked…………..