Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Return of The Macc

Tuesday, 28th December 2010
nPower League Two
OUFC 2 Macc Lads 1

Foggy, wasn't it?

I must admit, the way the pea-souper was descending just before half-time, I nearly had a gentlemen's bet with those around me in the East Stand that the match would not last 90 mins. Then I realised that I wasn't really an expert in localised meteorological predictions. Plus there were no gentlemen anywhere near me.

After no less than five full Earth-weeks since I last saw Oxford play, it was certainly a rousing performance to warm the cockles after those freezing few weeks, despite the ghostly presence of the fog.

I started the day in snowless, fogless Reading at the in-laws after an extended few days of engorging myself. After setting out on Boxing Day for the aborted trip to Stevenage, I returned whence I'd came for another day of eating Christmas leftovers.

After Roast Turkey, Cold Turkey, Turkey Salad, Turkey Sandwiches, Curried Turkey and Turkey Soup, I felt an urgent need to sample a manky grot-burger at the football instead.
Even the Turkey had had enough of eating turkey: Here he tries to make a quick getaway.
Sadly for those awaiting news of my latest run-in with Branos staff, I wasn't to make it there for a spicy chicken burger this time out - a new-found aversion to all things poultry put paid to that. So to the McDonalds on the Oxford Road at Benson it was for my first non-Turkey treat of the festive season. Nothing very interesting happened there, but it is an actual fact.

Arrived soon after in Oxford and popped into a very busy Blackbird for a swift pre-match pint; the place was heaving and the spirits were high. Which is a good thing too as any lower and the children might have reached the whisky.

The coming fog had been forewarned to us whilst we supped our mulled fosters - it was bumper to bumper on the M40 due to the reduced visibility and if it moved towards the City the game might be in peril. It seemed unlikely, given it was quite clear and rather mild outside.

The game started then with no serious concerns about fog. The First-half was played at a high-tempo and we knew it was going to be quite a physical affair early when one of the gigantic Macclesfield full-backs up-ended Constable maliciously down by the touchline.
We were clearly causing the bully-boys of Macc problems though and stamped our authority on the game with a very well-worked opener from the magnificent Heslop.

The spectre of abandonment soon became quite evident as the first half progressed though. Not normally one to panic or fear the worst, I was panicking and fearing the worst. My next-door neighbour eased my worries. "Look, you can clearly still see the Vue cinema behind the goal."

He was right. There was hardly going to be a problem of the game being called off if we could still see the Vue Cinema from the East Stand.

Five minutes later, you couldn't see the Vue cinema from the East Stand anymore.

Suddenly I wasn't the only one wondering if we might see our first abandoned game at the Kassam. People were asking each other how many minutes would need to be played for the result to stand? (I believe it is 79 minutes, but someone may be able to confirm or deny that).

The fog was rolling in fast and a half-time plea by Rosie for the East Stand to blow the fog away was taken seriously by some of the children, I noticed. The silly child-fools only seemed to be adding to the problem though, as their warm exhales of breath added to the foggy smoke of the early evening. Bloody idiots.

As the second half recommenced, the Macclesfield players took the field and their imposing back-line emerged from the fog renewed and desperate to stamp their ghastly menace back into the game. Despite this our persistence paid off and a lovely run from young Mr Potter was eventually finished off by Mr Constable and it seemed like the Macc brutes were sure to disappear back into the fog, whence they came.

Macclesfield emerging from the fog: Menacing.
Yet despite this, the hordes continued to terrorise and a dodgy late goal led to a nervy last 10 minutes (can we ever, EVER do it the easy way?!), but we dang well held on as the fog finally seemed to lift on the final whistle, as did our spirits as we march on up the table to the dizzy heights of 11th.

After the 2nd half horror-show at Moss Rose in October, do I think we deserved to hang on for a win after going 2-0 up in the Return of the Macc?

Yes I do. Yes I do, do, do.

Friday, 24 December 2010

In Pursuit of the Perfect Boxing Day

Jingle Balls.

Ahh, Christmas time! Mistletoe & wine! Children singing Christian rhymes…

Doesn’t it make you feel all warm inside, thinking about all those lovely Christmas things? Actually though, I don’t know about the children singing Christian rhymes - certainly hearing local youths rapping about Jesus isn’t something I’ve really seen this Christmas or any.

Perhaps Cliff meant Christian carols? But then that wouldn’t fit with the song, would it? Unless it went “Christmas carols, mistletoe and barrels” perhaps. But then that just sounds odd.

Anyway, I digress.

Once I’ve listened to a bit of Cliff, what Christmas really means for me is a long, exciting build up to the big day itself.

And no, I don’t mean Christmas Day – I mean the day after that, for the big Boxing Day Oxford game. When we all forget about stuffing our faces, trying not to swear in front of granny and pretending to be happy with the nice reindeer jumper she’s knitted for us.

Indeed Boxing Day for most people reading this programme is likely to be the day when we put on our bobble hats and scarves (and maybe even Granny’s jumper, if it’s very cold) and head out for a few hours to the most anticipated game of the year.

It’s always one of the first fixtures you look at when the list comes out in the summer. It’s the only one you really, really want to be a home game. There’s nothing quite like a Boxing Day home game, after all.

A quick poke of the head into your regular drinking hole before the game, merry Christmases all round and everyone there with all the family in tow. Old faces you haven’t seen all season, all then making their merry way to Grenoble Road, perhaps with a festive bag of chips, and a few larks throwing snowballs at your friends.

You take your seat; you’ve warmed up with a nice cup of Bovril and get ready to cheer on the Yellows in front of a packed, full-capacity stadium. After the game and a resounding victory for The U’s perhaps back to that drinking hole again for a few more winter warmers – after all, there are at least another two or three days left before having to think about going back to work! So ends the perfect Boxing Day and Christmas are complete.

Sadly, this perfect Dickensian rosy picture of how I love the day-after-Christmas to pan out hasn’t quite worked out for the last few seasons. In fact you have to go back to 2007 since we last had a home Boxing Day game.

Last year, the game was postponed of course due to the weather. I’d already driven up by the time I found out so it was a disappointed trip to the pub with other aggrieved faces before a last minute decision to take in Didcot v. Oxford City instead on the way back home. It was a good game in truth (4-4 if you are interested. You’re not you say? Oh), but hardly made up for the Boxing Day experience I was expecting.
A Sorry Sight.
The year before that, 2008 brought a miserable trip to a windy field on the outskirts of Salisbury to what is surely the most disappointing place to hold a Boxing Day game of football.

Too far from the City centre to use it as a base, the nearest pub a 45mins walk away down a busy road with no pavement, so either up to the ankles in boggy mud or running the risk of getting a festive smack by a car.

To top that off, away fans not allowed into the supporters’ bar on the day. In fact, I think I remember being told there wasn’t a supporters’ bar by the very helpful stewards. So having turned up at the giddy hour of 12pm expecting some great pre-match Boxing Day atmosphere in a nearby country pub, I instead sat in my car for two hours, before another two hours queuing for a mediocre burger amongst other hungry, cold and disappointed travelling Oxford. Then we lost the match and Sam Deering had his leg broken by a dastardly rogue. I also got lost on the way home and my sat-nav directed me into the middle of a field somewhere in the wilds of Wiltshire. This wasn’t a good Boxing Day. The only good thing about it was that it marked the first game in the hot seat for a certain Mr Wilder.

So this year, it was a bit disappointing to again know there was to be no home Boxing Day game. Stevenage away isn’t quite the festive treat it might otherwise have been.

Orange Balls, Please.
In fact, as I write this, the weather is still touch and go and may still scupper the game anyway, and after already seeing the pre-Festive game on the 18th against Shrewsbury postponed due to Jack Frost being a mischievous little tyke – in my mind, Christmas is almost ruined.

Almost though, but not entirely because of the game against Macclesfield on the 28th (which WILL go ahead. Yes, it will. Bright sunshine all over Oxford today, mark my words).

December 28th should thus be treated as the REAL Boxing Day by all Oxford fans - I urge you all to treat it as such and have a right rollicking good knees up in front of a decent crowd.

Just write off the two days inbetween – if you are anything like me you’ll have pretty much done so anyway, sleeping off that turkey for the past 48 hours and sticking my fingers in my ears and pretending I don’t have to go to work on the 29th.

I’m sure my boss will understand…

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

No Football

Ok, this is getting ridiculous now. It's now a whole calendar month since I attended an Oxford United game.

It just doesn't feel right. Assuming the game goes ahead on Boxing Day, that'll be 2 days short of 5 weeks since I last saw the (mostly Blue &)Yellow on display. Actually, we were wearing white the last time out anyway. Ho-hum.

It'll be the second time already this season I've gone a full calendar month without being to a game.

In my entire adult life (other than a year travelling (and yes, obviously also the summer, smart arse)), I have never gone more than 3 weeks without watching Oxford; until this season. Now I've gone and done it twice within 3 months. I don't like it.

The first time was due to a once-in-a-lifetime thing. A marriage. My own in fact. Hopefully a once-in-a-lifetime thing, anyway. All the pre-and post thingummies around that marriage, like planning it and going on a honeymoon, all took me away from football-watching duties.

Impossible as some of you may think, it was actually worth missing a few relatively unimportant games over.

But with all this weather nonsense hot on the heels and providing me yet another football-free month at such notice, I'm a little worried I may get out of the habit.

At the moment, oh yes I'm chomping at the bit to get to the Stevenage game. If it's off I'll be forced to spend Boxing Day watching TV, eating more food and socially engaging still-further with loved ones. Dear god. I'm not sure I can stay socially engaging myself for such prolonged periods - I need to get out, jump around and sing and swear at the football a bit. It's just not Christmas otherwise.

However, it's very easy to fall out of the habit. One thing I've noticed over the years is that whilst faces come and go, most that do go tend to go for good.

Those that do still go are the hardy common or garden perennials that rarely miss a game, certainly not at home. You do get the odd sighting of the Lesser-Spotted new parent, the Rare-Crested Exile or the Fair-Weathered Great Tit. Generally though, if someone flies south for winter for an extended period, you rarely see them back again.

I was actually guilty of nearly falling off the badly-metaphored bird-seed feeder of support after returning from my travels in 2004. Having spent 14 months traipsing across mountains, atolls, glaciers and backwaters, I had come to terms with an absence from the world of football. I had concluded that I had wasted too much time watching it and should do more with my spare time on my return to Britain, or more likely just bugger off around the world again.

This mindset lasted about 3 weeks. I thought I'd be social and go and say hello to the hardcores still going every week, before continuing my voyage of discovery in different fields. Perhaps I would pop in every couple of months like the Great Tit mentioned above, perhaps disappear forever into legend.

It only took a 0-0 bore-draw with Rushden & Diamonds to convince me to get a season ticket again. The magnet had been too strong, my inkling to leave this mad, crazy, obsessive compulsive world too ethereal to stop it's onslaught on my senses and sensibilities.

The Oxford United juggernaut steam-rollered me into submission once again. Even now, married and living in exile, I still attend around 80%* of games.

Only time will tell if this year's double-hiatus will send me back to the dark, football-free thoughts of Autumn 2004.

See you on Boxing Day!

*This statistic made-up on the spot, but rather convincingly, I'm sure you'll agree.

Monday, 6 December 2010

Holding Message

Sorry if you turned up here expecting something about the game at the weekend this morning.

Afraid I didn't go to this one. Heard it was an exciting end though. Suggest you go and have a look at someone else's blog for an idea of what happened. To be honest I don't even know who were were playing.
Might be going to Lincoln next Saturday- havn't decided yet though, as the weather may not be fair enough for a part-timer like me.

I'll definately be at the Shrewsbury game on the 18th though. You can be sure of that.