Summer – Public Enemy Number 1

Summer is ordinarily public enemy number one to a supporter of a football club.  Every two years we get respite with the Euros or the World Cup, but following a national team is not quite the same as the passion and togetherness you experience supporting a team like Oxford United.

This time of year therefore is a void, a gigantic black hole within which you try and wedge other diversions in the hope it might make time pass faster.  This might be a holiday maybe, some other hobby, shopping on a Saturday afternoon or a music festival…..

This year we have been lucky enough to have Rob Da Bank’s brilliant Common People festival come to town.  Indeed, it was so successful that it looks like this might become a routine occurrence.  One thing that struck me at this festival was number of Oxford United fans in attendance.  It was especially pleasing to see so many youngsters proudly wearing their colours. The season just past I think has been a significant one in encouraging new support, and the evidence was already here, but was to become even more apparent.

On twitter, independently, a few of us tweeted our attendance at the festival and an unplanned convergence was arranged at the front of the stage.  The group: Public Enemy.  It seemed a few of us shared an appreciation not only of England’s finest football club, but also the music of this New York hip hop group.

So we grouped up, some of us had never met before, but that’s how it often happens at OUFC away days, you’re best mates with whoever you happen to be next too for 90 mins.  The music started and some of us were clearly enjoying it more than others (I’m looking at you @SwissYellow) and much like Liam Sercombe’s goal at Carlisle, limbs were in the air.

One member of Public Enemy was close to us and wearing a camouflaged military bucket hat.  This inspired fellow U’s fan @Fred_ugly, also wearing a bucket hat, but his bearing the name and Ox logo of our beloved football club.  He caught his attention and in, an improvised, but effective means of sign language let him know that it would be really cool if he wore the hat.  With a nod it was confirmed and the hat was tossed, JUST making it on to the stage.

Once the hat was put on it became obvious how many fellow yellows were in the crowd.  Chants of “Yellows, yellows, yellows” started as he stoically stared out into the crowd.  Later the group spun a sample of White Stripes Seven Nation Army to which the crowd spontaneously supplemented with their own lyrics “Oh Callum O’Dowda”.

It became obvious to me then, that were very many Oxford fans enjoying that afternoon, all looking for that summer time distraction and in those brief moments with Public Enemy, it felt like we were all back on the terraces.

Football fan gets frustrated, suggests team starts winning as a solution

I stopped blogging some time ago, because I simply did not have the time.  I still don’t, but I heard something on Saturday that compelled me to make the time, and here I am tapping away because 140 characters do not allow me to fully express what I want to say.

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After Saturday’s match against Wycombe a lady was interviewed by Selfie on BBC Oxford, she said something like “I used to be a season ticket holder, and thought I’d come today because of the Yellow Army push, but won’t be coming back”. That depressed me beyond words.

Mark Ashton is quite rightly asking supporters to back the team, and working with a number of fans promoted the Yellow Army Day initiative that undoubtedly boosted the gate.  Credit by the way should go to Joe who works tirelessly to improve the fan experience, he gets knocks but he’s unwavering in his commitment. A lot of us moan about stuff, but he actually does something about it.  I could say the same about the ‘Ultras’ who week in week out are doing their bit to improve the atmosphere and overall match day experience.

Anyway, I’ll get to the point.  Once you get a crowd like that, if you want them to come back, then you need to WIN in front of them (I’m not talking here about the idiots like me, who would turn out even if we played a team of omni-limbed ballerina blindfolded hippos every week – David Kemp’s teams anyone?)

Since taking over the club the new owners have worked on improving the club in a number of areas.  The scouting, the business initiatives, the match day experience, and enabling Michael Appleton to help shape entertaining football.  There must be an endless list of tasks that need to be prioritised.  However, the one objective I would prioritise over ALL, even the entertaining football, is to get wins, and at any cost.

The simple fact is that without wins the crowd’s will not start coming back.  Take Wycombe as an example, last season at the Kassam they must have barely brought 100 fans, this year getting results, albeit not so prettily, but almost sold their end out.  We can promote the hell out of the fan experience, and believe me, I do my bit, but until we start a run of results the crowds will not come back.  Experience days may bring transient day trippers but sustained repeat visits (in any business) only come if value has been found, and in football there is no value greater than the joy from winning 3 points.

So, there it is, I came out of blogtirement, just to say: “we need to start winning”.  I know, it’s a no-brainer, but the thing is it has to be prioritised.  Yes, we have to build for the future. Yes we have to do things the right way, but if we don’t start winning soon a relegation tussle could set us back many years.

Here’s the business model: Winning brings back fans. Fans bring money. Money brings everything you need to set up long term success for our club.

Let’s start with the winning, and give that woman who I heard on BBC Oxford something to think about.

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AFTERTHOUGHT

I just read that back and was left with the question “So what actually do you want the management team to do?” I’m afraid I don’t know, but the overall theme is can you please direct your attention towards doing everything you can to get results on the pitch, whatever that might entail.  I don’t know, perhaps you have all the answers reader, and if you do, do not hesitate to share them.