Saturday, 26 November 2011

You Looking at My Bird?

Hello all! Well, I'm back from an overseas adventure. Looks like I chose some good games to miss out on. Southend in the JPT (L), Southend away (L), Sheffield Utd in the FA Cup (L), Crawley away (L). If ever there was a doubt in your mind that I'm a  good luck mascot to the club, it must surely now be gone.

Thankfully, I'm back again and in attendance at the Cheltenham game today. If you were to pick up one of Martin Brodetsky's lovingly-fashioned matchday programmes today - you would see the below article within. Although he'll probably have censored slightly the bit about me not believing in Jesus. Cos he's a Militant Methodist, if you didn't know.

The article below has a very tentative link to football though, if I'm honest.


You Looking at My Bird?

Today we welcome our near-neighbours from the near-WestCountry, The Robins of Cheltenham Town. They will surely be made slightly more welcome than some other Robins might be, perhaps.

The visit of today’s red-breasted friends made me wonder something - why are so many teams nicknamed the Robins exactly? Bristol City, Swindon and Cheltenham all sharing the same moniker; all from nearby each other in the WestCountry, to boot. So what is it about a scrawny little red-breasted bird that makes it such a popular club mascot/logo/nickname anyway?
A Christmas Robin. Ahhh (SHOOT IT!).
I decided to have a detailed and thorough delve into the history books and find out…

Well, OK, I had a 5 minute look on Wikipedia. But that’s good enough research for today’s quick-fingered, surface-not-scratched society, I say.

First up, I couldn’t find any special reason why the WestCountry seem to love their Robins any more than other regions. So sorry about that. If you really want to find out and are willing to fund my research accordingly, please send a cheque to the Campaign for Archive Searching Hunts (or ‘CASH’ for short), to the club marked for my attention.

I can tell you about the general popularity of the Robin though. Sit down – it’s interesting.

According to Wiki, the robin has always featured prominently in British folklore, especially around Christmas when other birds flew south for winter, but the stoic British Robin stuck around to dart amongst holly and mistletoe with us. In the 1960s, the Robin was even adopted as the ‘unofficial national bird’ of the UK.
Wrong Robin.
There is also a rather quaint story that explains the bird’s red-breast as being the stains of Christ’s blood after a robin flew into young Jesus’ ear to sing him a pretty song whilst he was being crucified. Nice idea, but not very well thought through, in my opinion. For a start – Jesus didn’t really exist (my opinion, and the correct one, actually).

Away from Britain, the Robin was also held to be sacred to the mighty Thor, god of thunder in Norse mythology. That might help explain why Jan Aage Fjørtoft decided to spend a few productive seasons at the wrong end of the A420. He thought he was playing for the glory of Thor. Silly boy!
Fjørtoft: In service of Thor.
Thor apart, why has the choice of a well-loved yet still small and scrawny bird as a symbol of sporting prowess become so popular? After all, The Robin is not alone here. I can understand the choice of a majestic, powerful eagle by Crystal Palace, the fictional liverbird and phoenix of Liverpool and Aldershot, the seagull connection with seaside Brighton and Torquay (Although a flying feral rat is hardly a great image, in my view), the wise and wily Owl of Oldham and even the arm-breakingly unnerving menace of Wycombe’s Swan.

But The lowly Norwich Canary, Newcastle & Notts County Magpies, the West Brom Thrush and the Swift* amongst others – all these little birds make appearances on Football League club shirts.

Some of you might say “Yes, but its obvious why Newcastle and Notts County chose Magpie – because they play in black and white stripes you silly man!”

But I say to you – would not the Badger be a better mascot? A big old scary-clawed, sharp-toothed, TB-riddled Badger seems more fitting to strike a bit of fear in the opposition as a sporting mascot than a mangy old shiny-thing hoarding, unlucky bird, wouldn’t it?

“Howay The Badgers, Man!” would go up the cry at St James’ Park.

Well, it’s a thought.
Angry Badger: Watch out Mackems!
One potential answer to the small Bird-love comes in Desmond Morris’ 1981 classic “The Soccer Tribe”, where he states that the choice of a small bird is thought to symbolise agility in darting around the field of play. So there you go.

And yes, that quote was also from Wikipedia, I haven’t actually read the book.

Anyway, back to today’s game! You’ll just need to turn the page to read about that.

Up The U’s!

† He's not really.
*Brownie points for you if you can name the club with the swift on their badge. You are very clever.

Monday, 31 October 2011

Leven on a Jetplane

Saturday, 29th October 2011
nPower League Two
OUFC 2 Port Vale 1

Well just what can you say about that goal? 'Sublime' doesn't even come close really, does it?  'Majestic' gives it too much humanity when it deserves to be exalted higher. 'Divine' associates it with gods who fall a little short themselves by comparison. And 'Splendiferous' is just a bit silly sounding.

Either way though, make no mistake that was the greatest goal I have ever seen scored by an Oxford player. And yes, I was there for Beauchamp's against Blackpool too. Sorry Joey, but this just edges that into 2nd place.

As some of you may have read in the rather marvellous matchday programme, I was looking at houses in the South of our fair county on Saturday morning. I nearly ended up having to miss this game in fact, due to one of the houses we really had our eye on not originally being available for viewing until 4pm.

Although I'd already missed quite enough of the season already with these house-buying shenanigans, I was still prepared to sacrifice yet another beery afternoon cheering on the U's if it helped in the long-run to make seeing them every week all the easier. But imagine at how miffed I'd have been had I missed this one?

Well, in the end, I didn't of course. Last house viewing finished at 2pm and I was jetting North to Blackbird Leys just in time to soak up a bit of pre-match atmos in a very busy East Stand.

They said that evening on Sky that it was probably 'game of the day' in League Two, and I'd be surprised if it wasn't. Vale are probably the best footballing side we've played at home so far this season and they went at us for the full 90 minutes and will probably feel aggrieved to have not come away with something out of the game. But they did come away with nothing. Ha ha ha I say.

Port Vale Away Kit: Grey.

Port Vale kicked-off proceedings in an odd fashion by appearing in a strange all-grey kit, probably in homage to their favourite wizard, Gandalf.

Well - they certainly tried to cast their spells on us with some good periods of pressure... umm, now something about Alfie 'Harry' Potter weaving some magic on the wing...all in a cauldron-like atmosphere.. la di da, yada yada yada...(all the clichés about wizardry we seem to have all the time because of Potter, and you know them already and  I can't be arsed to finish them off here).

Then Duberry scored a goal. Did you see that one? He liked celebrating that one, didn't he? Well, for a man who has scored almost as many career own-goals as goals in the right end, I'd say he's allowed to go a bit doolally when he heads home a bullet like that. Was he pretending to be a charging bull, do we know?
DOOOOBS. Brilliant.
(Copyright Steve Daniels)
It was end to end stuff throughout and Clarke in goal kept us in it big time with a string of fantastic saves this game - he looked nailed on for man of the match I thought. It would surely take something special to deny him that honour, anyway.

But oh, up steps that cheeky Scot, Peter Leven. Wins the ball in his own half, takes one further touch, then BANG. Oh, the pure arrogance of the man, to even try it.

Here it is again- have a butchers again and marvel at it's majesty.
(Copyright Steve Daniels)
It's the best ever I reckon. The keeper was off his line, but not by too much. So Leven had to put a fair amount of power into this lob, as well as accuracy. That for me is why it's better than Beckham's famous effort. Plus it was clearly not speculative - he meant it so it wasn't a Nayim-style fluke. For both these reasons, I think Leven's goal was better than these other two prominent half-way line efforts I can recall.

Mind you - there was also this goal from loanee Jordan Rhodes for OUFC against Merthyr Tydfil in the FA Cup back in October 2007 (view from about 45 secs). Not halfway line, but about as far away - to be fair, that one was pretty special too. But then Rhodes did claim it was a fluke as he was actually crossing the ball. I don't believe him though.

Either way, I would say it's quite clear from the evidence presented to you today that Oxford United have scored the best two goals in the history of Association Football in the last 4 years. FACT.
Who is this ruddy-faced idiot? Unknown, but he liked Leven's goal. As did Paul Weller, bottom-left.
(Copyright: Steve Daniels)
Once I'd come down from the euphoria of celebrating that strike (a friend commented that it was one of those moments that "You end up kissing a big fat ugly man you don't even know". Well, we've all done it at some point, haven't we?), it really was a nervy last 25 mins as Vale continued to apply pressure. And then...

Penalty. Arrgh. It just wouldn't be on for Leven's strike not to be a match-winner, but looks as though we'd only have a point to show for it after all....

...but NO! Clarkey saves us again! Magnificent! What a game! I know that Leven got MotM for his superlative strike, but really it should have been Ryan's award. Lovely stuff.

And so I returned to London, celebratory Branos spicy chicken burger in hand, a very happy and buzzing man.
Celebration. Well done that man.
(Copyright Steve Daniels)
I'd just seen the greatest goal in the history of mankind. Oxford were up to 4th. I would soon be buying a house and be back in Oxfordshire. And on this coming Friday, I will literally be on that titular jet-plane off on my holidays! So it wasn't just a silly pun for the blog title. It was actually very clever.
Great times to be on OUFC fan. Great times indeed.

Up The U's!

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Turf Wars: Attack of the Biscuitmen

An articleBy Fantastic Mr Ox that appeared in the Port Vale programme 29.10.11


I haven’t been around these parts much, of late. In the whole of October, I will only have been to 3 matches in fact. That might still sound impressive to some of you part-timers, but for me it’s been hard weeks of cold turkey without my own personal opiate, a regular dose of Yellow Fever.

I’ve been trying to buy a house, mostly. There was a wedding anniversary in there as well that I’ve already bored you with, but mostly it’s been looking around houses in South Oxfordshire with smarmy estate agents. And some nice ones too, I might add.

One of these nice estate agents in fact was a big OUFC fan (well, as big as you can be having chosen a career where Saturdays will always be spent visiting houses instead of cheering on the U’s). We bonded over our mutual love of all things yellow to the point at which I nearly bought a house off him that I couldn’t afford and that my wife didn’t actually like one bit. Such is the power and draw of the Ox.

We also chatted about the most important consideration when buying a house in South Oxfordshire – what is the ratio of OUFC / Reading supporters in the village?

You may think this a rather trite and superfluous question, as did my wife, but if you have spent time living in the South Oxon/Berks borders area, you’ll probably appreciate how important this is. In fact I’m sure those of you living along the A420 border-lands have similar territory-marking issues with our red-breasted friends.

When I was 16, my parents moved to a village 3 miles outside Reading. I eventually had no choice but to join them there and although I could dip my toe into Oxfordshire by just walking across the Thames bridge in the village, I still had a nasty taste in my mouth sleeping each night on the wrong side of that bridge, surrounded by blue & white hoop-shirted buffoons all the time.

Berks-Oxon Border.
So I want to make sure that I’m not similarly cramped in by these Biscuit-loving people by mortgaging my future (literally, as it happens) to a village full of them again. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not Berkshirist, some of my very best friends are Reading fans – I just don’t want them living near me.
The village in question is equidistant between Oxford and Reading. So I’d hope for a decent split of Yellows there. And true enough, the estate agent did reveal that he himself lived in said village, and although there were some Reading fans there, there were quite a few Oxford too. Smiles all round then – let’s move in.

Well, would YOU want to live next door to these goobers?
It took some convincing of the wife that moving somewhere closer to Reading just wasn’t on. It was bad enough that one house we looked at had a Reading poster in the children’s bedroom (bless them; they are so young they don’t know any better).
I tried to persuade her the reason I didn’t like this house wasn’t because of this, but because I didn’t like the wallpaper (It was truly awful wallpaper, mind you).

But she saw through my deception easily enough.

“You just want to be with your people, don’t you?”

“Yes. Yes I do.”

Up The U’s!

My People.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

A Football Trivia Teaser!

An article By Fantastic Mr Ox which appeared in the Plymouth Argyle matchday programme, 25.10.11

Argyle? What’s all that about then? Funny old ending for a football team name, innit?

Call me a geek, but I’ve always been fascinated with how some Football Clubs got their odd team name endings.

For the record, although the history seems somewhat disputed (if like me you are only doing a quick google search to find out the origins of their name rather than really look into it); Plymouth Argyle are officially so named because the two chaps who founded the club lived together on ‘Argyll Street’. The street itself named after the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders that were stationed in Plymouth in the 1880s.

Apparently that street is now called ‘Sutherland Street’. So they might have instead been called ‘Plymouth Sutherland’ then. Perhaps in honour of Donald’s epic performance in the 1978 remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. But I digress.

Back to topic – it is nice though to have a bit of variety and idiosyncrasies in the names of the teams we play, don’t you think?

This reminds me of something I remember being asking in a pub quiz as a young man (just a few years ago, as it happens). Namely, to list all the different endings there were of Premiership & Football League clubs. Although we’ve lost a couple in recent years such as Harriers and Diamonds, there are still a whopping 22 of them.

Can you Clever Trevors name them all? Don’t cheat and look below – have a little think before you read on and see how many you can get.

The rules are simple: you are looking for the last word of a team where they have more than one word to their full name (i.e. not including teams with just one word like ‘Liverpool’ or ‘Reading’).

Also the words ‘Football Club’ or ‘Association Football Club’ (such as with Sunderland or Bradford) don’t count, as all teams have them at some place or other, don’t they?

Similarly it doesn’t count in this list where an AFC appears before the main name. So don’t include ‘Wimbledon’ or ‘Bournemouth’ in your list. You have been warned. Just don’t include them. It won’t be tolerated, ok? So don’t do it.

All Clear? Good – go off and have a think – I’ll wait here.

Got them all yet? Oh ok, just a few more to go….

Still thinking? You’ll kick yourself at the ones you are missing you know…

So, times up - how did you get on?

Did you get all 22, you great big NERD? Well congratulations if so! And please revel in it - being a football nerd is no bad thing. All Football fans are at heart a little bit geeky, you know. Even the ones who look well cool in their trendy slacks and spiky hair-dos are probably still able to tell you the ground names of 95% of the football teams in the country. Saddos.

Were you missing just a couple? Well good effort – are you kicking yourself for not getting Aston Villa? That’s the one I always miss.

Did you only get 2 or 3? Then what are you doing here, reading this? Suggest you go shopping or bowling next week, this football lark just isn’t for you my friend.

For the record, the 22 answers are:
15x United (although only 1 worth caring about, of course)
12x City
10x Town
4x Rovers
3x each of Albion, Athletic, Wanderers
2x County
1x each of Alexandra, Argyle, Dons, End, Forest, Hotspur, Rangers, Redbridge, Stanley, Orient, Palace, Vale, Villa, Wednesday.

Which leaves 26 teams with no additional ending, of course. Fun that, wasn’t it?

Hope you enjoyed FMO’s trivia page this evening. Back to the normal silly stories next time I’d wager.

Up The U’s!
Still thinking...."VILLA! HOW THE HELL DID I NOT GET VILLA!!!"

Saturday, 8 October 2011


An article By Fantastic Mr Ox that originally appeared in the matchday programme v. Bristol Rovers - 8.10.11.~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
These are the games you look forward to at home, are they not? The ones against the teams that always tend to bring a decent away following. The Bradfords, the AFC Wimbledons, the Bristol Rovers’ of League Two.

I’m sure many other League Two teams feel that same thing about us when our visit to their place approaches.

Ooh, Oxford – they always travel well - probably the best supporters in the Football League, I’d wager” they probably say.

“Yes, especially that fellow that does those brilliant articles in their programme – have you read them? Hilarious! And worth the cover price on it’s own in my opinion. I think he should have more than just the one page, myself would probably be what follows, I’m sure.

But today, that fellow that does those articles won’t be here to appreciate the carnival atmosphere of the big-game crowd. Yet again, I’m neglecting my duties to instead spend a weekend ‘away with the wife’ (I’m not sure why I put quote marks around that as it wasn’t a euphemism for anything else, I’m genuinely just going away for the weekend).

It’s my wedding anniversary, you see. Now hold on, hold on – before you go firing off about how much of a disgrace I am, shouldn’t get married in the football season and all that yada yada, I should point out that it’s not quite what you think.
If I’d really wanted to come today, I probably could have done. Yes, that’s right – my wife is quite nice like that, she would actually let me go to a game on my 1st wedding anniversary without a fuss. But I suggested, in the interests of being a good husband, that it might actually be nice to go away for the weekend; even if it did mean missing a home game.

Now, this act of self-sacrifice impressed my wife so much she suggested I didn’t need to miss the game – we could go away for the weekend AS WELL AS going to the game, by booking a hotel for the Saturday night.

How about that then? Brownie points earned, plus no football-free sacrifice made in the process. This being married lark is a doddle!

So I left my beloved to book a nice hotel for the Saturday night in Oxford (we live in London, you see), and looked forward to a nice meal somewhere in Jericho after the game Saturday evening, and perhaps a Sunday morning stroll across Port Meadow before returning to the big smoke. It was going to be a great weekend.
That was until I suddenly wondered a few hours later why she had asked me who we were playing. I’d not thought about it at the time, but she’d never asked me before who the opponents were when I’d gone off to a game. Oh no…she hasn’t has she? SURELY not…?

FMO: “Ummm, have you booked that hotel yet, dear?”

MrsFMO: “Yes! Just did so – had to pay upfront but got a really good deal. Oh and booked the train tickets too.”

FMO : “You booked it in Bristol, didn’t you?”

MrsFMO: “Well, yes – that’s what you said isn’t it? Bristol Rangers? I assume they are actually from Bristol?”

FMO : “Yes, yes they are….the tickets are non-refundable, you say?”

MrsFMO: “That’s right – but what’s the problem?”

FMO: *sigh* “Oh, no problem. But do you know what? Let’s just spend the day together in Bristol. I won’t actually go to the game, would rather just look round the city with you, my love.”

MrsFMO: “Really? Oh thanks darling – you really are the BEST husband ever!

And so I am. See you next time…hopefully.

Up The U’s!
Bristol City Centre: Romantic Getaway.

Clifton Suspension Bridge: Impressive work, Isambard.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Sherbet Dib-Dag

Tuesday, 13th September 2011
nPower League Two
Dagenham & Redbridge 0 OUFC 1

Well, a lot happens in two weeks, doesn't it? I've been away from football duties for the past few weeks - neglecting them, some would say. Didn't go to Crewe: Had a wedding to go to. Didn't go to the Burton game: Had house-hunting to do. Whether these excuses are valid ones or not is irrelevant, by the way.

What I'm trying to say is, two weeks ago we were all laughing at Coco di Canio making Swindon a laughing stock, whilst we thanked the stars for our saviour Lord Wilder. Two weeks later and Swindon have offloaded their problem player, won a couple of games, gone above Oxford and they seem to be, sadly, clicking into gear in League Two.

But at the nicer end of the A420, Oxford's form has been mixed at worst, and a bizarre 'Wilder Out' campaign has been started on Facebook and online forums by some seriously retarded coounts who clearly have an agenda with our manager for some reason. I will admit things have not been helped by a subsequently alleged incident where Wilder apparently told a pensioner to fuck off.

But the vitriolic, nasty and personal bile being bandied about by some idiots towards Wilder still seems totally out of context and frankly bizarre only 1 month into the season. Plus, who hasn't told the odd pensioner to fuck off now and then? I know I have, the malingering shits.

So, for no real reason, last night's game at Dagenham seemed to take on a bit more importance than perhaps a trip to a de facto non-league side should have done. Anything less than 3 points and the hound-dogs would be out moaning about this selection, that formation, this change, that decision, and on and on.

Lucky then, and one in the eye for the haters and their bizarre anti-Wilder campaign, we did win. And probably by the most convincing 1 goal margin I've ever witnessed. The only criticism I would lay from last night is the same as usual - we should have finished the game off 6 times over rather than leave us fans having to suffer with constant fright for the last 20mins. Finishing. That old chestnut.

This was an easy one for me of course, being a London resident. It was a quick change at Stratford International and the chance to walk through the new Westfield shopping centre on it's first day of opening, to get to the tube station onto Dagenham.

Westfield Stratford City: Busy.

Boy it was big, that Westfield. And busy. Packed to the rafters in fact, with 10's of Thousands of dazzled and awestruck local youths screaming "OMG! Dey got a massif JD Sports!" and running off to buy a new reebok hoodie to cruise the streets in.

The wittering of all these thousands of eager consumers was bouncing off the shiny faux-marble walls and infiltrating the peace inside my head. It was like a very well-lit, well-stocked hell on earth.

Arriving in Dagenham and...well, at least it felt real after Stratford City. I mean, VERY real. 'Gritty' you might say, to be kind. 'Fucking awful shithole', you might say, were you not being so kind.

That said, it is a friendly place, Dagenham. There is no bad atmosphere, no trouble, no hint of intimidation anywhere. It's just run-down and a bit depressing, in truth. But the people seem good sorts, so I should stop being so rude about their home.
Dagenham: No Ball Games Permitted. Oh...
I had a pre-match Doner Kebab from the Eastbrook Cafe, about 5 mins from the ground. It was highly edible, and it was a nice little cafe, but their business card was a little misleading. I didn't spot many snow-capped mountains or tranquil lakes around Dagenham. Perhaps they were a few streets down.
Dagenham: Majestic Mountains (So who needs ball games?)
One thing I really liked on our last two visits to Daggers was a pint in their excellent social club. It's a great place, although you do have to sign-in and pay £1 to take advantage of the cheap beer inside. I signed in as 'Fantastic Mr Ox'.

"You have to sign in with your real name" said the man on the door.
"How do you know that's not my real name though?" I replied, cheekily.
"Fair point. £1 please."
Cheerleaders at a non-league ground. Whatever next!
The ground has changed quite a lot since our last visit in 2006. Well, it hasn't at three ends, but the stand they put us in was a nice sparkly new one, to replace the crumbling old 3-deep uncovered terrace of yesteryear. I'm a strange fellow but I think I'd rather have been on the old terrace, to be honest. Also not really sure why they put us in there rather than use it for their own fans.
Action at the over-zealously named
'London Borough of Barking & Dagenham Stadium'.

So, the game itself, and as I said above it was pretty one-sided, especially in the 2nd half when Leven got his foot on the ball a bit more often, Potter was all over the place and the new lad Robert Hall had a fantastic debut. Plaudits all round.

But it might have been a different story had Dagenham posed any real threat upfront - we could easily have been punished for our inability to put the many very good chances away.

Heroes salute the travelling fans. Well played boys.

Ho-hum though - we won, and our 100% record at Dagenham still intact, which is also nice. What was furtherly (yes that is a word actually) nice was a short 30 minute tube ride home.

Amazingly in 3 years living in the capital, this is only the 2nd London game for Oxford I've been able to go to due to holidays, business trips and other lame excuses yet again. Now I've got two in a week. What are the chances?

Bring on the Buzzy-Bees!

Up The U's!

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Brewing Some Memories

An article by Fantastic Mr Ox which first appeared in the Burton Albion Programme 10.09.11


I have fond memories of visiting Burton Albion. Some of the fondest of the otherwise rather less-than-fond years of 2006-2010 in non-league.
Burton's Pirelli Stadium: Tiresome.
Burton was of course our second ever away game in that first season in the Conference; and I recall that first visit to the Pirelli in August 2006 was a bit of a cracker, too.

From going behind to the annoyingly ‘prolific-against-Oxford’ Daryl Clare in the first half, then surviving three Burton efforts against the woodwork, Oxford went on to win it with two goals from the mercurial Robert Duffy in the last 15 minutes. Cue some delirious scenes on the concrete terrace that Oxford fans were in.

The win continued The U’s excellent start to the campaign with the third win of the first week. After the sheer misery of relegation from the football league just 3 months before, it felt like a good time to be an Oxford fan again, bouncing around in Burton.

I remember in those early months that season we genuinely seemed unbeatable. We weren’t of course, and despite carrying that unbeaten run into November, at times you could have sensed we were papering over cracks and getting lucky, if you allowed yourself to sense it, that is. But most of us didn’t, did we? Instead got carried away with it and thought we’d have the title wrapped up by Christmas.

Oh how naïve.

By the time Burton made their visit to The Kassam in March the following year, the wheels had well and truly fell off the Belief Bus and a snore-draw 0-0 was an apt pointer to how our season had fizzled out into mediocrity after such an early charge at the title.

We were back at The Pirelli again in August, this time in the new season, our second in the Conference and the one we knew we’d be going up in this time, having learnt the failures of our first season. We were certainly well on our way with another repeat 2-1 victory at Burton. By this our second visit we knew our way around a bit – and by that I mean we had our designated pre-match boozer settled upon - The Beech Inn, just a 5 min walk down the road from the ground past the big booze factory itself.

What a lovely place to go for an away day it was becoming!

The same can’t be said to when we welcomed Burton to Oxford however, where it ranged from goalless snoozefests such as previously mentioned or a 3-0 tonking at their hands the following year.

Our last meeting in non-league was another fond memory though, where a point for Burton in April 2009 would have sealed the title for The Brewers in front of the Setanta cameras at The Pirelli. Although Schadenfreude is not always a pleasant thing, it was really rather a lot of fun to deny Burton their promotion party on the night courtesy of a Chapman free kick, and another fond memory of visiting Burton was added to the list.

Chappers celebrates his free kick winner.
Sorry about that, Aaron.

We only postponed Burton’s party of course as they were crowned champions a few games later. So they shouldn’t hold a grudge.

It was nice to be renewing acquaintances with The Brewers last season after these grand memories of visiting their place in our non-league stint. Long may they continue in the Football League, I say.

Up The U’s!

Wednesday, 31 August 2011

There's a Circus in the Town...

The magic roundabout isn't the only comedy installation in Swindon these days.

After last night's antics between Paolo di Canio and his newly-signed "star striker" Leon Clarke, I don't know why they don't just erect a big top around the County Ground and be done with it.

County Ground Big Top: Roll Up, Roll Up! Come See the Circus!
 For those who haven't yet seen the latest unprofessional behaviour of the current Swindon Town manager, you can see the video right here courtesy of Sky TV. Comedy gold. He also appears to have got angry more than once during last night's defeat to Southampton, judging by the picture alongside this article by the Telegraph.

This is of course just the latest in a string of poorly-judged decisions for di Canio since he took over at Swindon. The first being probably taking the job in the first place, the stupid fascist. One of the others being the attempted unsettling of two-goal hero James Constable ahead of the A420 Classico two weeks ago. A game in which said Constable scored two-goals, and was a hero, of course, and di Canio was sent to the stands for acting like a clown on the touchline.

Coco di Canio: Clown.
The only problem I can see with all of these amateur managerial moves that Coco di Canio is 'managing' to pack into the first few weeks of the season is that he'll soon  run into a brick wall. I was hoping we could string things along with our favourite Mussolini-lover in the County Ground hotseat for the best part of the season. But the way he's exploded onto the scene I'll be surprised if he's still there at Christmas.

Please stay Paolo. We love what you are doing down there. xxx

Both racist AND mentally ill. What a combination!

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Shots Across The Bow

Saturday, 27th August 2011
nPower League Two
OUFC 1 Aldershot Town 1

Urrgh. Another one that finished ugly after starting so promisingly. Come the end of the season, will we be ruing these dropped points at home against Bradford and Aldershot? Who knows, but at least it's still early enough in the season to crack on and get on with the next game without too much undue reflection.

You wouldn't have thought that though given the negativity and moaning from the crowd around me at this game. Jesus, I know it wasn't particularly good but I've never understood the mentality of booing your own players. You might -just about- convince me that it's worth doing at the final whistle if they have been exceptionally shite. Not that I have even ever done that though myself, to be honest. But to do so during the match is a fucking ridiculous way to support your team. Nice one, if you were one of those doing so. I'm sure it motivated the players to up their game.

Shot Down.
(Copyright: Steve Daniels)
The day had started so brightly, quite literally so. I drove up from London with my mate and his young lad, leaving behind the London sunshine to the unsettled Oxfordshire clouds; whose changeability was to become an unwelcome comparison for the performance on the pitch, it seemed.

I seemed to take leave of my senses on arrival at The Blackbird, as rather than take my traditional Branos spicy chicken burger, I decided to take a punt at the Caribbean BBQ foodstuffs being hawked in the pub car park. I'd already been told that the offerings being sold looked "interesting to say the least", and always one to try something different, I went for it.

BlackBird BBQ: Belting.
The chef behind the BBQ reeled off the list of what they had on offer for my pre-match prandium.
"We got Jerk Chicken, Jerk Pork, Curry Goat, Dumplin', we got Rice..."
"..And Peas?!" I cut in.
"No. No peas."
...and there followed an awkward silence.

Well, serves me right for expecting the cuisine to conform to a stereotype.

I can't say I was disappointed at what got served to me though, when I asked for the Jerk Pork (and was told by the landlady sat chowing down on her grub that the jerk pork "Goes very nice wi' the dumplin". So I had Jerk Pork with Dumplin', and it did indeed go very nice with the dumplin'.

And this is what it looked like:
Jerk Pork @ The BlackBird BBQ. Stonkin' Haunch of Meat.
It was an absolute feast of delicious meat. One that I couldn't get through unaided, but as luck may have it there were a few blokes on hand to help out inside the pub. In fact, I've never had my dinner analysed so intently - at some point or other the whole pub seemed to stop by and poke around in the pork to see for themselves what on earth I'd been given to eat. It was certainly an interesting meal.

It wasn't a cheap meal though. It was a shit load of meat, but not sure £6 was value for it. Probably back to the Branos next time, you'll be pleased to know. Especially considering the effect that jerk sauce had on my bowels later on.

So after wiping the jerk-sauce from my face, we toddled off to the ground and watched a disappointing game. I had a feeling it was going to be a twat of a game when they had the man sent off on 12 minutes. It's amazing how having an extra man on the pitch so often does not end up being an advantage at all.

Thankfully, I spent a good portion of the 2nd half in the East Stand toilets ruing my earlier food decision, so missed a lot of the rubbish. In need of cheering up afterwards myself, my friend and his kid stopped off at my parent's pub on the way back to London, where they were having a Wild West Hoe-Down. As you do on a Bank Holiday.

A couple of hours messing about on a rodeo bull was just the ticket, as it transpired. Yee-Haaa! See you next time, pardners!

Rodeo Action: Post-Match Japes.
Up The U's!

Saturday, 27 August 2011

I Don't Like Cricket (as much as OUFC)

The below article should appear in today's programme for the game against Aldershot.
I say should, because I really don't know what the editor will cut out. He might end up cutting it out altogether. And frankly I wouldn't blame him.
I'm writing these programme notes on Monday evening just gone. The day after the last game. You know, that one we just played last. The one against Swindon. The one we won.

I just spent today at The Oval watching England beat India and pick up the trophy for being the best test cricket side in the world (Well I say Trophy; it was actually a gilded mace. But I digress). The point being, I was watching the pinnacle of achievement for this all-conquering England side, you see. I was watching the two best sides in the world of a sport I also love, probably as much as football. I was even watching a batting innings from Sachin Tendulkar, the leading test run-scorer of all time.

Cricket: Not Football.
Yet all day, all I could really think about was the day before, and that win against Swindon, in Swindon, by my beloved Oxford. And who could blame me, really? It was “38 years of hurt” and all that, after all.
Constable Scores the winner. Oh Yes.
(Copyright: Steve Daniels)
That means I was hurting even before I was born. Indeed, it means I was hurting a few years before my parent's had even met each other. That's how deep that hurt was. Until last Sunday, that is. No hurt anymore. Just joy, joy, joy.

As I write this (on Monday, if you remember) my throat is still sore, my legs are cut to pieces from jumping around amongst the Stratton Bank seats, I've had a cracking headache for the past 24 hours and worst of all, my face seems to have come out in sympathy with our near-neighbours by turning the colour of their shirts after the afternoon in the open sun (Something I've only added to at The Oval today, incidentally. I thought Spiderman was in my bathroom when I just caught sight of myself in the mirror). Indeed, I also seem to have mild sun-stroke. But I'm still smiling and happy and can't stop looking through the various photos, status updates and tweets posted online about Sunday's victory. It's a great feeling, isn't it?

(Copyright: Steve Daniels)

Let's not lose sight though of the greater goal. As amazing a buzz as Sunday was, the buzz will be so much greater for me if we are a League 1 side next season, just as the buzz was greater (although only just!) after promotion at Wembley last year. I won't say the result against Swindon would be irrelevant if we didn't end up picking up any more points for a while, but the gloss of the result would fade somewhat if we didn’t go on a bit of a run now. The target always has to be promotion this season and today Swindon are irrelevant, it’s all about doing our best against Aldershot.

The Shots haven’t had as good a start as they might have liked so far this season, so will be raring to have a go at us today and hoping we are still a bit hung-over from our derby day exploits. And I think we all know Aldershot like to come and play football, so will be no pushovers today. So let’s all try and sing and cheer Oxford on to another three points this afternoon – even if you did shred your vocal chords on the Stratton Bank last weekend.

And always remember – Up The U’s!

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Chim Chimeny

Sunday, 21st August 2011
nPower League Two
Swindon Town 1 OUFC 2

I'm sorry it's taken me so long to write an update. I'm still coming down to be honest.

It's hard to even begin thinking about thinking about* where to start in writing up this particular day out at the football. I'll try at the beginning.

(Copyright: Steve Daniels)

I set out for this match 24hours early, by spending Saturday night at my in-laws' house in Reading. It was a most civilised and refined evening, I'll have you know. Certainly as I sat in the garden washing down a finely grilled slab of rib-eye steak with a fine French wine on this balmy Berkshire summer evening, it was quite far away from the day that was likely to follow in it's understated tranquility.

Sunday definitely started with a bit of a jolt, as I was awoken at 4am to find myself choking on my own vomit. I know that sounds disgusting but just think how worse it would be if it wasn't my own vomit? I'd also only had 2 glasses of wine and there was no sign of food poisoning in the house so this was clearly nerves. Not the best of starts to the day, I found it hard to get back to sleep as even after a bit of listerine that throat was still a little raw.

By 8.30am I was out of the house and on my way to the train station, even though my lift from Didcot wasn't leaving until 11am. I had ants in my pants to go with the earlier vomeur in my oesophagus, and I simply had to go and do something, even if that something was walking in a big circle around Reading town centre for 45 minutes.

45 minutes is long enough to spend walking around Reading town centre without risking more vomit-in-the-mouth shenanigans, so I caught a train to Didcot, arriving at about 9.30am. I was greeted of course by about 300 Oxford fans stood waiting for either the Prince of Wales pub to open, or the next train to Swindon to start the day boozin' early there.

I waited and shared some pre-match chat with fellow Yellows there before my lift arrived. I'd organised this lift rather than getting the train purely because a.) I'm a nancy that doesn't really think he could stomach an all-dayer starting at 9am anymore; and b.) I could not be arsed being kettled and treated like cattle by Wiltshire Police from the moment I stepped off the platform in Swindon - something going on past experience I fully expected to happen. As it turned out, so I am informed, the policing of the matchday experience was low-key, non-invasive and actually done very well. So I feel a pat on the back is due on this occasion for our nipple-headed fluorescently-attired friends. Well done, plod.

There were four very excited and very nervous souls in that car, travelling down the A420. We parked up on the rather foul estate next to the ground, and proceeded in an orderly fashion straight into the Stratton Bank, about an hour before kick off. Time enough to soak up the derby day atmosphere as it built inside the ground. Also time to purchase a dirty burger from the van inside the away end. My god it was rank. I'm not sure whether they actually eat their own dead in Wiltshire but I know where they sell it if they do. It was certainly no Branos Spicy Chicken burger, I can tell you that.
Pre-Match Tension.
The ground quickly filled up and in the Oxford end it was a funny atmosphere. People were clearly enjoying themselves and excitement was mounting, but there were also a fair amount of nerves and it felt a little edgy to be honest. A nervy edginess that didn't really abate during the 90 minutes. Of course I enjoyed the immediate aftermath of both goals and shouted and screamed in delight then for what seemed an age. But other than the immediate euphoria following each constituent part of Constable's brace, I was pig-sick nervous and simply couldn't enjoy it like I should have done. It was agony.

Beano celebrates his first goal. What a shit Swindon fan.
(Copyright: Steve Daniels)
With Swindon's equaliser came a feeling in the pit of my stomach that I haven't felt since I was last stood on that same feral concrete. "Here we go again," I thought.

Just as we had gone 1-0 up on our last visit, so we had again only to piss it away again. As I watched the utter, utter cock of a man that is Sig. Paolo di Canio skipping like a demented goat towards the Oxford fans with his fists punching the air, I felt that awful feeling, once again. Urrgh. They were going to win, weren't they, yet again.
An Oxford United Legend. Interviewing a Swindon fan.
(Copyright: Steve Daniels)
My pessimism was mis-placed though, of course. Di Canio's attempts to unsettle Constable couldn't have been more misguided, and whatever happens now he will surely go down in OUFC folklore as the man that broke the 38 year County Ground hoodoo. But my god, we battled and rode our luck on the way to that win.

I don't think anything will ever quite beat the feeling of when Potter smashed in the final goal in in the dying seconds at Wembley. But seeing the referee extend his arm skywards and toot three blasts on his whistle last Sunday ran it close. It was certainly worth throwing up into my mouth for.

The Final Whistle...And Relax.
Leaving the ground was a joy of course. 3,000 exuberant singing Oxford fans all spilling into the park next door with smiles on their faces. I quite enjoyed the journey home too, listening to the most bizarre, inane and rambling soliloquy from di Canio, which seemed to last about 20 minutes and go absolutely nowhere.
See you next year, Scummers!
Thankfully my lift home did go somewhere - it took me back to the Prince of Wales in Didcot where I ended up staying drinking with friends until early evening, with grins the size of a donkey's testicle on all our faces.

The one bit of sense I did make from di Canio's post-match rant was that he thought Swindon were the better side and should have won. Well, maybe. But they didn't win, did they? And do I care if they should have done? Do I bollocks.

Up The U's!

Chim Chimeny, Indeed.(Copyright: Steve Daniels)

Dubes. The Rock.
(Copyright: Steve Daniels)

*Yes, the repetition was delibarate**.

**As was that spelling mistake.
And yes I know the Swindon badge is old too. I just love how shit this old classic really was.