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.

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Music, Makes the People, Come Together?

United we Stand has been the club’s motto for this season, and while everything is going well on the pitch, it seems to be resonating. The club is going to great lengths to improve the atmosphere, the flag day announced by the Yellow Army for Saturday’s game against Wycombe being another such example.  However, there’s one thing the club tried in our first home game against Bury that very much divided the fans: The pre-match music…..

The club brought in a DJ who spun a heady mix of adrenaline filled super-charged floor fillers to raise the atmosphere. As you would expect, this was met with a mixed response. There are those in the South Stand who look forward to their pre-match catch up and found the louder than usual euphoric beats drowned out their Werther Originals fuelled banter. In contrast there were those who felt the music did a good job at raising a frenetic pre-match build up. And there were others who hated ‘that kind of music’, and got all sulky.

It seems, there’s nothing like music to divide a crowd. One man’s filthy drub is another man’s aria, a similar passion, but diametrically opposed. For me, I liked the music they played pre-match, it’s the sort of stuff I have on my phone, but I’m not sure it really worked pre-match. Judging from the post match reaction I’m in a minority in liking it, so I think the club need to change something. Perhaps a more eclectic mix of familiar up-beat songs, that may even encourage vocal involvement, might be more likely to get things going. Below is a little list of songs that are not necessarily my taste in music, but are tunes that I have observed having an effect on a crowd, that might also reach a broader demographic.

  • Specials – One Step Beyond
  • Fratellis – Chelsea Dagger
  • House of Pain – Jump
  • The Prodigy – Stand Up (theme to KickAss)
  • Tomoyasu Hotei – Battle without honor or humanity
  • The White Stripes – Seven Nation Army
  • Nero – Me and You
  • Rudimental – Feel the love
  • Blur – Song 2
  • Oasis – Wonderwall
  • Guns n Roses – Livin on a Prayer
  • Monkees – Daydream Believer
  • Supergrass – Alright (a little bit of Oxford there)
  • And let’s keep some stuff like the “Boys are Back in Town” and “My heart bleeds for you The Yellow and the Blue”

Modulating the volume between the stands might also be an idea, so as not to compromise the South Stand’s coffee morning.

An even braver action might be to allow a silence; ten minutes before kick off deliberately play nothing, a challenge to the Yellow Army, that this is our time to make some noise. I remember times in the past when technical glitches have left a silence, and fans do not take long to fill that void, usually with derision, but nonetheless it’s a precedent.  I like to think of the players waiting in the tunnel, hearing us in full voice.

This would of course need to be carefully done, I’m sure we all still bear the mental scars of Rosie’s “Give us an O”. I would prefer they just left it for us to sort out, there is always at least one drunk idiot who would get things going (see my previous blog post). If nothing else, it might encourage (however many) away fans to voice, which inevitably would elicit a response from us.

There is another thing the club should be praised, for and that’s for resisting the temptation to play music after a goal. Music after a goal is a sure sign of a club that’s hit rock bottom in its efforts for a better atmosphere; it’s an embarrassment, and should never happen at our home. And if it ever does, I’m going on hunger strike outside the club reception. Just saying.

I have to say the Yellow Army did a cracking job for the opener. Visually it was a sight to behold and I would like to hope, inspired the team. The area we need to improve as a group of fans, is our volume and staying power. The decisions on pre-match music in building a platform for this, are influential, and why I’m hoping the club is prepared to try different approaches in the pre-match music approach, to drum up an even better atmosphere. (Without a drum by the way, NEVER a drum)

My hurried blog post about Southend

I went to Southend on Tuesday night.  It’s very difficult to summarise what happened without it sounding like one of Chris Williams travel reports from the programme, only, not written quite so well.   

Due to my son’s “illness” (you know the kind; profuse coughing and moping around up until the moment you concede he doesn’t have to go to school, at which point a remarkable recovery takes place, allowing him to play Little Big Planet 2 all day, and have me in and out of the kitchen to service his insatiable need for food, while I do my best to ‘work from home’.  Back in my day, the only thing to do at home when you were off school was watch the Cedar Tree and possibly Crown Court.  In other words there was no incentive to be off school.  Nowadays there are so many distractions it’s a wonder that any kids ever attend school) I was able to go direct to the game from home, whereas I previously planned to go straight from work in Wycombe.  This meant that I had to wait for my Wife to arrive back as leaving said Son on his own would be bad form, and could possibly attract the attention of social services.

[There is a long story that goes here about the horrendous journey that I actually wrote, I read it back and it was dull, the general idea for you to get from this bracketed section therefore, is I had a horrendous journey]

And then Oxford went and lost, and then I had to drive all the way back.  Oxford fans were great as ever.  There: blog post done.  I’m not going to Gillingham.  Still optimistic though.  COYY!

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.

No Mist Opportunities

There are times when a decision made by a referee, that no matter how bad or unjust, can actually work in your favour. Take yesterday as an example.

We were playing ok, but arguably the Macc looked like the most likely team to score. Step in Beano, who muscled himself into a good position when a player (who will only be described as “number 14” because I can’t be bothered to find out his actual name) sheared him to the ground; a cast-iron red in my book. I was chanting the usual “off, off, off”, while thinking “we don’t want him off here; a yellow would do the trick”. Why? :

• Macc would have put all 10 men behind the ball, and it would have been more difficult to break them down

• We have tried to do this twice at home already this season and failed (miserably) which would have played on minds

• Most importantly, the crowd and players united in the injustice would rally their efforts, which proved to be the case

A good period of pressure from Oxford followed, with number 14 on the receiving end of a great deal of pressure both from the fans and players. It was a chink in the armour that the players exploited brilliantly. The opening goal from Heslop sent the nine thousand strong Oxford fans into rapture.

The atmosphere should have been buzzing, but an unexpected guest turned up at the party; the fog – no NOT Dave Fogg, the land based cloud stuff. Have you ever been to a party when everything’s cool, people are enjoying themselves and suddenly the party is gate-crashed by a trouble-maker. The atmosphere immediately changes; euphoria switches to concern and agitation. Mr fog did this.

Not David Fogg

Around you everyone feared the irony. A game that so many people had made such a gargantuan effort to get on, in spite of the weather, was to be abandoned for a different type of weather. One could imagine that if the cloud of fog could be seen from above, it would be the shape of a middle digit hovering malevolently over the Kassam.

This does go to prove that we’re still not used to happy endings, our experience of the last umpteen years is still there residing – “It’s Oxford United; the worse will happen”. However, on this occasion the bad boy was not allowed to ruin the party. He realised at half time that he was an unwanted guest, so he stayed quiet enough to still be an annoyance, but not enough to ruin the party.

A second goal from the U’s saw the fans rally and optimism returned. Macc forced a goal and we finished the game edgy. However, that’s now three wins on the trot and 11th place in the league. Once again, our club overcame adversity on so many different levels, and it leaves you wondering: is this the new norm?