Half time boos and full time cheers

Oxford United beat Barnet 2-1 yesterday, coming back from a goal down and defying weather conditions.  None of this happened on its own and credit should be given where it’s due:

  • Everyone associated with getting the match on – Effort above and beyond the call of duty
  • The team for showing true spirit,  and coming back from behind, despite negativity from the crowd

The clubs comprehensive actions to keep the game on were rewarded, and perhaps some of this never-say-die attitude rubbed off on the team.  This is what I love about our club, and something that I would say has not been there until Kelvin and all who work for him took over: the spirit to keep going, never accept mediocrity and keep pushing forward positively.  This must take a lot of motivation when there are seemingly so many who (deliberately or otherwise) irrationally criticise any aspect of the club.  One of the qualities of a good football management team is just to accept this as part of the job, puff your chest, out and get on with it.  That’s exactly what they do, but please folks, try to make it a bit easier for them?

Our team has now come from behind in the last two matches, including away to the league leaders.  There is plenty to cheer about, quit the boos and get behind the team.

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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

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.

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?

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.

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.

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