Wednesday, 24 November 2010


Tuesday, 23rd November 2010.

nPower League Two
Chesterfield 1 OUFC 2

Quite an effort to get up to Chesterfield on a Tuesday night for me.
For a start - I work in South Kent. So had to take a half-day really to have any hope of making this fixture.
So I did take one.
A few people thought I was a mental. "Why are you going up there, a 300-mile round trip, on a freezing November evening, to watch us almost certainly get dicked by the league leaders?"
Well, I don't know really. The same reason I cried at Wembley I guess - because I love the football club. Can't really explain away such irrationality. And so, fully expecting not to be back home till 1am, anticipating a likely miserable defeat, I still decided to set off to North Derbyshire.
I left London at about 2pm for the trudge up the M1, actually not realising quite how far up Chesterfield was until I got to the outskirts of town and saw that Sheffield was only 12 miles away. My heart sank a little, thinking about the journey home.

Spire: Out of Shape
As regular readers will know, I always like to see a bit of local culture on an away day, and other than the pots of yoplait in the local Lidl, the famous crooked spire is about all Chesterfield has to offer as far as I am aware. So it was nice to drive past it. You can see it to the left here. It's quite a retarded old thing.

Very little else to see or do before the match, but I did manage to get some shoddy service in a fast-food establishment, which seems to be becoming a bit of a regular matchday experience.

The establishment in question was one of those Chinese takeaways with a sideline of Fish & Chips. I've always thought them an odd thing - why is it only Chinese takeaways that decide to stick a fryer on the counter and offer saveloys alongside their chop suey? You never see Indian takeaways doing that do you?

Anyway, if they are going to sideline into a different cuisine, the least they can do is put someone on the counter who knows what it is. When I asked the young chap for a Chip Cob, he looked at me perplexed. You may think this not that unusual, as unless you have spent time living in the Midlands yourself, you might wonder what the feck a cob is yourself.

A cob is a bread roll to us Southerners, or a bap or barm to those of a more Northerly persuasion. In the Midlands though - it's a cob. I know this as I lived in Leicester as a child and my father is from Mansfield.

I could tell the chap in the takeaway was from China by his heavy accent, and so yes, might not have had this ingrained knowledge from a young age such as I did. But he was living in Chesterfield, where Cob is an often-bandied about term. He was also working in a fish & chip shop, where a Chip Cob would be an oft-asked for local item. To top it all off, 'Chip Cob' was also number 114 on the pigging menu in front of him.

He had no fucking idea what I was asking for. He kept asking "Chip what?" and gesturing if I meant I wanted chips in a plastic tray. He even asked me to show him what number it was on the menu, but that didn't help, and he had to get the manager. Very poor.

I'm not going to name and shame this establishment, but it WAS the New Dragon Inn on the Sheffield Road.

When the Chip cob eventually came, it certainly did warm the cockles however, on what was becoming a very cold night, a long way from home. My mind again flitted back to the long drive ahead as I pulled on my thermal coat, hat and scarf, and trudged into the new stadium of the current league leaders.

B2net Stadium: New.
Starting brightly, it all seemed like it would again be for nothing after 14mins when Chesterfield went 1-0 up after a wildly speculative effort was deflected past Clarke. The chap sat behind me even turned to ask the rest of us if we had already decided what the score would be before we gave up and started back home.

My answer was that I'd probably head home if Chesterfield went 3 goals up. So had my confidence been dented by a month of mediocre and at times piss-poor football from Oxford. How fickle, and how wrong I had been.

We were amazing. At times, Chesterfield showed why they are up at the top and bossed the midfield and looked dangerous upfront - but we seemed to be matching them. At Half-Time, all of the 348 Oxford in attendance seemed pretty positive of our chances of getting something from this, if we carried on taking it to them like we had done in the first 45.

And oh, how we took it to them. What a Second Half. There were scares at the end as Chesterfield chased the game, but we deserved that result, and not a man amongst the Oxford on the pitch comes out of last night with anything but the utmost credit.

 It just goes to show how much it's about confidence. We clearly have the players to do it, and we did do it last night. After idle rumour and speculation yesterday, it was great to see that reaction from the players, and especially from Wilder at the end - passionately grabbing the badge on his coat and raising it to the fans in jubilation.

As for the fans, well, we were rather excited too. Check out the look on this old boy's face below - one of many, myself included, who made the journey home happy, buzzing and content at the long trip North.

Oxford Fan at Full-Time: Rather Happy.
I myself got back home just before 1am, after numerous lane closures and 50mph limits on the M1.

Madness. But worth it.

Monday, 22 November 2010

Sick to The Gills

Saturday, 20th November 2010
nPower League Two
OUFC 0 Gillingham 1


Monday, 15 November 2010

I'd Rother Not Bother.

Saturday, 13th November 2010.
nPower League Two
Rotherham United 2 OUFC 1

Better. Much Better. Yet still nothing to show for it.

My new wife & I decided to make a weekend of this one. Not that she would be coming to the game of course - oh no, I've learnt my lesson there about trying to force football upon her. But she will, at least, tolerate my obsession and from time to time allow me to build a weekend around it if there is something in it for her.

With the rather large shopping complex of Meadowhall only 2 miles away from Don Valley Stadium, Rotherham's odd decision to become Sheffield's third team* certainly helped in this regard. As did a friend's house party in Leeds that evening. And my wife's grandma inviting us for Sunday lunch in Doncaster the following day. I love it when a plan comes together.

So, off we set early on Saturday morning up the M1 to the outskirts of Sheffield to Itinerant Rotherham's new ground.

Well, I say 'ground', but what I actually mean is athletics track. This was not a football ground, quite clearly. It did have a nice enough stand down the side, that the Rotherham fans were in. Then it had 2 small single-block covered stands either-side of the main stand, looking onto the corner of the pitch - one of which housed the travelling U's fans.  Completing the circuit around the athletics track were a number of uncovered blocks, all un-used leaving around ¾ of the ground looking rather desolate and empty.

Don Valley: It's Just Not Football.
 As you can see, the view was pretty cock from where we were. I could just make out the far goal, beyond the long jump sand pit and steeplechase water jump. The atmosphere was even worse than the view though - as you might expect from a ground miles away from the fucking pitch and with three empty sides.

It was cold last week at Burton, but colder still in Sheffield - and as I watched Rotherham's second go in just after 30 mins, I couldn't help wondering whether it might be nicer sat in Cafe Rouge with a Steak Frites and a glass of Stella with my wife, only 2 miles away.

As it was I was sat with blue fingers sipping luke-warm tea and listening to some of the more backwards Oxford fans around me talking utter shite, and wondering how the hell they managed to survive this long in life.

One guy was still shouting and swearing at the ball boys having a kick around with a ball that had gone out of play a full 2 minutes after another ball boy had already sent a second ball into play and the game had resumed. When he eventually noticed that the game had re-started while the ball he clearly thought was the only one in the ground was still with the ball boys, it very nearly blew his fragile mind.

Despite a spirited performance, there was no way back from the Le Fondre brace for Oxford it seemed, and so we sunk to yet another defeat and alarm bells might well be sounding for some. Not for me though - I was impressed with new loanees Wotton & MacLean, and thought that generally we played well and on another day might have even won, rather than coming away with nothing.

And it could be worse. It must be fucking terrible for Rotherham fans, to be fair. Not only do they have to travel to the next town to see their team play, but to the next town that already has two much better Football League sides in it, so they are hardly likely even to pick up any new fans. They are more likely to just have the piss taken out of them by any Wednesday & United fans that come across the brave few souls who cross the M1 on a matchday into enemy territory.

Luckily for them, yet certainly not for us, they have Mr Le Fondre at the moment and the way he's scoring, I don't imagine we'll see him still with the Millers for the return fixture in Oxford next February. 

He proved the difference on the day, as both teams got into space, had good chances, made mistakes - but Mr Le Fondre put his away very simply where perhaps we did not make the best of ours.

Soon we were being forced to make the walk of shame out of the ground around the track, past 7 or 8 blocks of empty seats that will presumably only ever be filled if Usain Bolt were to visit during an athletics meet.

It was certainly an odd place to watch a game of league football, and one I'd rather wasn't a football venue. I must admit to be hankering somewhat for a rickety old moss-covered stand, crumbling underfoot, with the threat of iron girders falling from above never far from your mind. Ahh, the beauty of what should be the lower leagues.

Instead of driving South with all the other mildly-disgruntled Oxford fans, I was heading North up the M1 after the game, to Leeds for the house-warming of a Sheffield Wednesday fan. One interesting snippet from him to end the day, was that Steve MacLean was absolute class when he was with them, just a few years ago.

Let's hope he has still got it.

He was also a fucking Astronaut, I ought to add. Amazing guy.

*Rotherham are even in the process of changing names it seems to 'The Sheffield Eagles', judging by all the signs around the ground.

Monday, 8 November 2010

Burton Men Swear

Sunday, 7th November 2010
FA Cup - 1st Round

Burton Albion 1 OUFC 0

Fucking Hell.

I'm gonna break with tradition in this entry and talk a little bit more about the actual game than I usually do. Because it was rather poor yesterday.

First though, the normal pointless ramble about my pre-match.

The day started quite badly, to be honest, as I had a bastard behind the eyes after a few too many in my parents' pub on Saturday night. Even one of my mother's famous cooked breakfasts wasn't going down very well. In fact it was close to coming back up very rapidly. The idea of driving to the home of beer after the skinful I'd had the night before didn't appeal much either.

So I was pleased to have been offered a lift from Oxford to Burton by a friend, and so soon set off to make this lift. I couldn't help noticing how beautiful the autumnal colours of the trees were on this crisp day as I drove down the A4074, so I slowed to capture the image below on my phone.

Autumn Colours: Grave
 Only on looking back later did I notice the omen of our early exit from the FA Cup in the bottom left-hand corner of the photo, a grave marker. If you look closely, it clearly marks the end of our season...

We arrived swiftly in Burton after a good run and straight to The Beech Inn just down the road from the ground, an old haunt ever since our first visit there back in 2006. Just in time to see Count von Count from Sesame Street commence the 2nd Round draw.

"Welcome to FA Headquarters for the FA Cup
2nd Round Draw. Ha-Ha-Ha-Ha"

Always nice to be in the hat for the next round, and for once we were in it before knowing whether we'd progressed due to the Sunday kick-off of our game with Burton.

Much excitement in The Beech, as it was possible not only to draw Swindon, but perhaps even Swindon Supermarine. Imagine.

As it was, The Count wasn't able to give us a plum draw, instead getting the League 2 leaders Chesterfield at home. Shit draw.

Not that it would matter anyway of course by 5pm, as a grossly inadequate performance meant we were out and this season's cup exploits over without even the hint of a whimper.

Not sure where to start on the game itself. I don't think I've ever seen an Oxford side look so inept, so woefully out of shape, so lacking in desire for the ball or inspiration as the one that took to the field in the 1st half.

I'm loathe to criticise what I don't understand, but I don't think I've ever seen a team start with 4 full-backs on the pitch before. Quite novel. Perhaps Wilder has come up with a revolutionary new tactic designed to totally baffle the other side.

Sadly, it seemed more to baffle his own players, none of who seemed to know where they were supposed to be, weren't picking up their men and become totally over-ran by a Burton side who looked a division above Oxford for the entire first half.

After the woeful form of Tonkin in recent weeks, and the lack of decent crossing in the team noticeable especially against Turkey in mid-week, you'd have thought Kinniburgh & arguably our best crosser Purkiss were due a recall. Well, they were recalled, but not instead of the incumbents, AS WELL as them.

Wilder on acid? Such suspicions seemed to have more weight when changes in the 2nd half saw one of the four starting full-backs, Purkiss, moved to centre-midfield. Strangely though, this seemed to improve things somewhat - which sadly only highlights how inept and out of the game our midfield had been until this point.

As my hangover seemed to get worse, the home fans seemed to be taunting me with chants of "Brewers, Brewers!" ringing out around the ground. Well, I say ringing out - I more mean shallowly audible above the swearing and tutting from the away terrace.
Although we did start to play in the 2nd half, you just always felt it was a matter of time before Burton grabbed something - and only the most blinkered of fans would suggest they deserved anything more than to progress to the 2nd Round at our expense.

Make no mistake, had we been playing a more clinical side yesterday, or Clarke hadn't had another good game closing down quickly when the players in front of him had let Burton waltz through the middle of them, we'd have lost the game by a hatful of goals.

Something clearly is wrong somewhere right now. Confidence is low and there seems to be a general malaise at the moment among the players and the fans.

Things change quickly though and we can only hope that Wilder gets to the bottom of it soon before the season really will be over as far as any ambitions of sneaking into the play-offs are concerned.

To quote the bard - "Something is rotten in the state of Denmark".
To quote the bloke stood next to me yesterday - "Fucking Hell Oxford! Sort it fucking out you fucking cunts!"

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Pre-Christmas Turkeys

Tuesday, 2nd November 2010.
nPower League Two
OUFC 0 Turkey 2

 For some reason, I knew it wasn't going to be a good evening early on yesterday, when I had an argument with the man in the Branos fast food outlet on Blackbird Leys on my way to the game.

Regular readers will know that I often chow down on a Branos spicy chicken burger before home games. It's become something of a ritual this season in fact. Even though I'd heard alleged stories about them cooking flies in their chicken, I simply can't resist their spicy secret recipe, and if it does allegedly trump the Colonel's 11 herbs and spices with the addition of insects, it's a winning recipe. As I said, allegedly.

So, imagine my disdain last night when having ordered a Spicy chicken burger, waited 15mins as others got served before me, the cheeky chappy tried to pass off a NON-spicy chicken burger to me. He obviously didn't realise I was a seasoned Branos man, and fully aware that their chicken pieces have a slight orange tinge to them if they've been coated in their spicy glaze. The one he'd presented to me was not orange...


What really incensed me was his dismissive tone, saying that they didn't have any spicy pieces so I would have to have a non-spicy burger.

OH WOULD I INDEED, MR BRANOS MAN?! Maybe I could just demand my money back and take my spicy chicken lust elsewhere!!! That would teach you, wouldn't it, you spicy-burger tease, you!

As it was, I was pretty hungry after a 2 hour drive from work, so I begrudgingly took the non-spicy burger, with or without the alleged flies. But not before I'd made him feel slightly awkward. A small victory, I thought.

It was only after I left the shop that I realised that the Turkish-run Branos had clearly deliberately refused me my spicy chicken in a bid to upset me before Oxford played their fellow countrymen that evening. Dastardly behaviour indeed, but I had to admire their cunning attempt to put me off cheering on Oxford that evening due to mild food-based disgruntlement.

As it was, my disgruntlement was further heightened on watching the teams come out onto the field - Turkey, not in their traditional red kit, but in YELLOW. What the flying fuck? It was bad enough having to for some reason play a nation state as part of the League 2 campaign (and a rapidly improving football nation at that), but they also get to play in our home colours?

I'd already aired my reservations about the new mostly blue kit earlier in the season - but this now highlighted exactly why it wasn't quite sitting right with me. A team could come to our home and get away with an all-yellow kit, so un-yellow was our own current strip. Very disappointing and I'm blaming that as much as the lack of a pre-match spicy burger for the inept performance last night. Oh, and the players as well. I'm blaming them too.

This was my first match in exactly a month - since the victory over table-toppers Port Vale. How things have changed in that time, and I don't just mean the performance on the pitch, I mean more specifically the attitude of the fans.

True, I wasn't at Bradford last weekend so didn't have to endure the 2nd half collapse, so perhaps the anger was partly justified by those who'd travelled up to Yorkshire to see that. But something that someone who has been away for a few games (such as I) can truly notice more than those there every week is how different the atmosphere was at the KasStad from a month ago.

The optimism - gone.
The confidence - gone.

How quickly things can change. How fickle is both the form of players and the attitude of the fans.

I'm not going to pretend that the outcome last night, against 10 men, was anything less than woeful -  but I'm still astounded that people are so quick to get on the players' backs and boo the team. Do people actually think the players will take inspiration from that, or just lose more confidence and play even worse?

Anyone that seriously concludes the former is delusional.

Certainly, we can take little away from last night's performance except that a couple of players may need to take a look at themselves and perhaps have a little time on the bench for the next few games. Some questions again on the tactics, team selection and substitutions from 'Tinkerer' Wilder - we all remember when he got that label last year and the turgid couple of months that came out of it.

To top it all off, the chap in the seat in front of me won the 50/50 draw.


I'm not saying I deserved it more than him, but I did deserve it more than him.

Well, the game is over now. I returned to my car and drove back to London, listening to the rants of the callers on Radio Oxford in a slightly depressed state as you might expect.

It's tight in the league this season - before last night we were 4 points off the play-offs and 4 points of relegation. Things can change quickly, for better or worse. Let's just hope the optimism and the form of just a few weeks ago returns sooner rather than later.

A diversion into the FA Cup might be just what we need right about now.

Up The Yellows! Mostly Blues!

Oh, and did you spot the deliberate mistake? The above flag was of course the flag of Tunisia. The flag of Turkey is here below. More Islamic flag-based tomfoolery next time, folks!
The Real Turkey Flag. Similar to Tunisia.