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.

Friday, 19 August 2011


Oh by crikey, it's almost upon us.

This weekend we wander into the recently-unknown, slap on the war paint and camouflage gear and step foot into the pits of Wiltshire, once again.

The excitement and build-up around this game has been unprecedented in recent memory, given the fact the last time Oxford United took to the pitch inside the dirty cauldron of festered inbreeding known as The County Ground, Swindon - it was as long ago as October 2000.
Urrgh. I feel sick.
Back then, it was just another trip to Swindon. Just another passionate derby. I'd been to a few before, I'd go to more soon. Although some very astute Yellows might have already seen the writing on the wall for our relegation that season, few if any could have imagined it would take another 11 years before we'd present ourselves at the red-breasted swine's doors again. But present ourselves we do - and this time without a kit that looks like it's been dipped in piss.
Early Wiltshire Settlers:
Already confused by that fucking
pointless roundabout.

The Urine Kit. Piss Poor.

I don't know what to expect to be honest. It's been so long since I went there now, I'm actually a little bit nervous about what might await me as I step off the train. By now, the population must surely have mutated even further into a mockery of what should have become humanity, as it crawled out of the primordial Wiltshire swamps and decided to set up residence with loads of pigs on a hill*.

Indeed, judging by the state of some of the population of the town today, it looks like they did more than merely set up residence with those pigs. Of course I jest! I'm sure not everyone in Swindon fucks pigs.

Anyway, enough of this outrageous bile. I'm just getting carried away here with the excitement, I hope you'll forgive me, I am only joking after all.

I'm sure many from outside the Oxon-Wilts environs would come across this game in the fixture list and think little of it. Indeed, a friend commented to me this week that it was a little strange to see such passion inflamed by a match taking place in the basement division. He was suitably chastised for his ignorance of the rivalry - something that wouldn't be any different were Sunday's game taking place in the Premiership or the Hellenic League (probably). Passions that are stoked still further by the 11 years that have passed since we met in the league on equal terms. Oh how patiently we have waited.

And as much as the mere mention of the town makes me instinctively wretch air, I love the fact that they hate us just as much, and we have a proper two-way rivalry. So many football league clubs simply don't have that.

Rivalry: Brilliant.
Fulham despise Chelsea with just as much passion as we despise Swindon. But Chelsea don't give a monkey's about Fulham - so derbies will never be as intense.
Reading hate Oxford, Oxford hate Reading, but both clubs hate Swindon even more, which is actually to the detriment of Reading. As no-one really hates them that much, Oxford-Reading derby days will always be pretty inconsequential in comparison to Oxford-Swindon. And I don't think Swindon care about them at all.

Wycombe - well, Wycombe don't really hate anyone and no-one hates them. And considering the lack of interest from their supporters in their own team, this mutual apathy is hardly surprising. Bad example.

My point being though, I wouldn't have the mutual hate-fest between Oxford and Swindon any other way. For that I salute you Swindon, and not even with just a middle finger, on this occasion.

Fact is though, our record at the County Ground is abysmal. One win, EVER. And that was when everyone was wearing flares or before the war or something. The default score also seems to be 4-1 to Swindon, so we have the handicap of a 3 goal disadvantage to overcome too. So with the weight of history and expectation on the shoulders of the current side, it'll be a tough ask for us to go there and come away happy.

"Fancy a game on Sunday, Joey?"
Total Legend.
But history means nothing. Nothing at all. It's all about the 90mins on the pitch on Sunday, and 22 men -10 in a filthy red rag, 10 in a majestic yellow with navy trim (and two goalkeepers in random colours, obviously. But that ruins the flow of the point, somewhat. As it would if we for some stupid reason wear our blue away kit).

Oh please, please, please, please. Can we please just go there and win this time?

Up The U's!

*Swine = Pigs, Don = Hill.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Shrewd Business Practice

Tuesday, 16th August 2011
nPower League Two
OUFC 2 Shrewsbury Town 0

I wasn't intending on coming up for this one. I know all the jibes - 'part-timer', 'fair-weather fan', 'stupid f*cking c*nt'... I've been called them all before, often with justification. But hey, you non-exiles don't know what it's like traipsing up for an evening game when you work near France and live in the centre of London.

Last Wednesday I drove from work, a 5 hour round journey which cost me probably around £50-£60 in petrol. I wasn't doing that again. I can always drive from London after work, a cost of a mere £20-ish, but by the time I get back to London it's 6.30pm and it means I'd struggle to make kick-off to justify sitting in rush-hour traffic leaving London for 90minutes.

But a fellow London Yellow was desperate to go and convinced me to drive us both last night from London at 6.30, even if it meant missing the first 20mins. Well I'm glad he convinced me, as that was a corker last night.

We actually made good time and were parked up at The Blackbird by 7.30, and although that meant no time for a drink or even a Spicy Branos Burger, it meant we were in the ground for kick-off and I was delighted I'd made the effort on such a gorgeous August night for football.

There were an awful lot of police about for some reason. Maybe they were looking for Shrewsbury's Steroid Man whom I mentioned last season. Certainly they were out in force with cameras and what have you, which seemed overkill for a mid-week fixture with no real needle, so I can't think what else they were up to.

Walking down to the ground from the Leys, hearing Perkele's Yellow & Blue song floating across the field and noticing the most spectacular Oxfordshire sunset sky, I had a feeling we were in for a treat tonight - and so we were.

Oxfordshire Sunset: Very nice.

Make no mistake, Shrewsbury are a good side and will be up there at the end of the season. The difference between them and Bradford was striking, in my eyes. It's an old cliché I know but we always seem to do well when a good side comes down to the Kassam and lets us play. And last night, we played.

Special mention I think for the young and oddly named Asa Hall. Odd to me at least, as I've never come across the name before. Perhaps you went to school with dozens of Asas, or had a great-uncle Asa. Well I didn't. I know it's a strange thing to be suddenly bringing up well over a year after we signed him, but it's something that's been bugging me for ages. I've also been pronouncing it in my head as "Assa" for a while too, something I may continue, furtively. Apparently it's an old Hebrew word meaning 'Healer' or 'Physician,' if you are interested. Oh, you're not. OK.
Asa: The Great Healer.
Anyway, back to the game and what more can I say except WOW WHAT A FUCKING GOAL from Heslop. Does it rival Beauchamp's against Blackpool? Well, no. But all the same, what a cracker. And there's an excuse to look at that Beauchamp goal again though.

So, we saw the game out. We passed it around lovely-like, we created and we finished some chances and we kept them out at the other end. To top all this off, Swindon lose at Daggers and we are above them in the League standings for the first time in 11 ruddy years - just in time to play them on their patch.

It's all very exciting, isn't it?

I don't know about you, but I might pop along to that game on Sunday after all. Are there any tickets left?

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

The Taming of the (Oh no, sorry I can't do it).

The below article should appear in tonight's programme against Shrewsbury. Buy it though - as Martin will put some nice alternate pictures next to it stuff.
These games are coming thick and fast at the moment, aren’t they? Three in a week – wow. It’s a good job I haven’t run out of things to say yet, isn’t it?

So… what about those riots in London then eh? Yeah, they were pretty fierce and what have you. And the economic situation is still a little shaky, isn’t it? Oh, and did you hear about that man that…ummm, yeah.

Well, tonight we welcome The Shrews of Shrewsbury to Oxford, for another tough early-season test.

Trips to Shrewsbury’s old Gay Meadow were always a treat for me, I loved that old ground. I guess it reminded slightly of our own old Manor Ground – and certainly on my last trip there in 2005 it felt nostalgic, standing on a rickety old terrace behind the goal again.

Gay Meadow: Just Very Happy.
At the time of course, I had little inclination that I’d be about to spend four long years standing on rickety old terraces in non-league, during which time my dewy-eyed nostalgia for grounds of ‘character’ was lessened somewhat by trips to the likes of Droylsden, Southport and Tonbridge Angels.

But for all the obvious advantages of moving to our respective new grounds, fans of both Oxford and Shrewsbury will still miss their old homes in equal measure, I’m sure. Plus Gay Meadow had an old man in a coracle who retrieved the balls from the river, apparently. That’s brilliant.

Trips to Shrewsbury always seemed to involve sitting in a beer garden of the nice pub near the ground beforehand. And if time allowed, an exploration of the town by walking over the ‘English Bridge’ (I always assumed into Wales, but apparently not) and discover and explore some lovely old buildings. Lovely old buildings that mainly served beer, but some lovely old buildings nonetheless.
Matt 'Guitar' Murphy.
I think google image search
has let me down this time.

I went to Gay Meadow on three occasions and the games were all very different affairs indeed. First up was an FA Cup tie in November 1999. I remember this being an exciting game, with goals from Matt Murphy and Rob Folland salvaging a 2-2 draw for Oxford and a replay back at the Manor. The replay was also a cracker which went into Extra-Time – but a brace from the unfairly maligned Murphy again saw us through the tie.
McNiven: Not a goalkeeper.

The second trip was a very strange affair in March 2003. After a collision during the Shrewsbury equaliser on the stroke of half-time, Oxford keeper Andy Woodman had to be taken off with facial injuries, and with no substitute goalkeeper on the bench, the 5’8” Scott McNiven went in goal for the last 45 minutes. I remember wondering why the hell the shortest man on the pitch had been given the gloves, but he had and that was that.

So, imagining the rest of the game was only going to go one way with an under-tall novice in goal, straight after the re-start Jefferson Louis defied my expectations and bags a goal to give Oxford a 2-1 lead.
Gay Meadow: I never saw it this packed.
It was a mad end to the game, with Oxford having numerous chances to finish it off and McNiven thankfully not having much cause to test out his goal-keeping skills with Oxford attacking the Shrewsbury half. There was still even time for a red card apiece in this bad-tempered affair, but Oxford managed to hold on for the victory, somehow. Great game.

The third and last trip to Gay Meadow was in April 2005, and the home side won 3-0. Don’t remember much about that game. Think it was probably a load of old rubbish.
Up The U’s!

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Bantam Wait

The below article should appear in today's match programme against Bradford City. That's only if it was deemed worthy, of course.

Ahhh, the new Football League season is upon us at last!

It might not seem very long since the season finished, especially if listening to my wife complaining about the paucity of football-free weekends. But the summer break still seems to last too long for me and I suspect many of you reading this.

So what do you do to get through the barren months? You could watch a spot of cricket, perhaps. You could even spend your Saturday afternoons shopping, god forbid.

Or, like me, you could try and distract yourself and leave the country on a summer holiday. I decided to go to East Africa and have a real adventure. Now ridden with bilharzia and fearful of having contracted malaria and dysentery too, I wish I’d just got those tickets to Lord’s instead, to be honest.

I must admit – I love August and watching the football in the sunshine in those early weeks of the season. Decked out in shorts and shades, the pre-match lager-shandy, and entering the ground full of confidence and expectation for the coming season.

Passerine: Scum.
And what is this? A long-overdue trip to Wiltshire added into the mix in these early weeks? Surely not! But yes indeed, there it is, burning a hole on all our wall-calendars with a very thick ring circled around it – the date of August 21st. It’s easy to get carried away of course by this upcoming trip, but let’s not lose track of the bigger picture of promotion out of League Two and that the games against the red-breasted passerines are just two games on the way to that goal. But oh, what two games, eh?

Today we welcome Bradford City to sunny Oxford - so last season’s two best-supported sides at this level should hopefully create a great atmosphere for our first home league game of the campaign.

Although obviously we played each other last season (can’t seem to remember playing them away though, for some reason), my most distinct memories of playing Bradford come from when we were in the same division from 1994-99.
The most vivid memory was my first trip to Valley Parade in Jan 1997. The Coach was delayed on the M6 for hours and we eventually arrived at the outskirts of Bradford only to hear that Bradford had gone 1-0 up. By the time the coach limply pulled up outside the turnstiles, there was just 30mins left and many of us were debating whether it was worth paying the entrance fee (which had only been reduced by £2!) to go in. We decided it was with the result of the match still in balance, but just as we entered the stand we heard the roar of 12,000 people above us, and rightly surmised that Oxford hadn’t on this occasion traveled in such great numbers, so it must mean Bradford were 2-0 up and the game was done and dusted.
McElliott: Classy Scot.

To make the memory even more painful, this also proved to be Matt Elliott's last game for Oxford and those dreams of play-offs to the Premiership faded forever as January wore on and we slipped down the league.

It’s a long time ago now – since then Bradford of course did spend time in the Premiership, and the less said about where we went the better, but today we both find ourselves in League Two hoping to bounce back up the leagues.

I’d be quite happy to re-visit Valley Parade, even to watch just the last 30mins, if in a few years’ time it was in the 2nd tier again (And with a 1997-era Matt Elliott playing for us too, if I’m allowed to be greedy).

Up The U's!

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Welsh Scarebits

Wednesday, 10th August 2011
Carling Cup, 1st Round
OUFC 1 Cardiff City 3 AET

Always the way isn’t it? The amount of football clichés last night almost defies belief.

A plucky underdog battering a higher-placed team for 60 mins but giving away a poor goal early on.

Referee giving said plucky side nothing, despite numerous penalty claims and dodgy tackles.

Referee not going into his pocket to punish the infringing team for their reckless tackles until 20mins into extra time.

Fantastic Mr Ox grabbing a Branos Spicy Chicken burger on Matchday. But what is this? Getting one AFTER the game rather than before it? Good lord!

That apart though, it was the same, well-worn old story of we played well, probably should have won, but lost to a technically better side last night. I say technically better, because they technically were, technically at least, if you look at things from a technical perspective. But you wouldn’t have noticed that for much of the 2nd half last night, in my opinion. With our new YELLOW shirts* we were like a swarm of bees round beekeepers (cos Cardiff were wearing white, see?).

Beekeepers: Calm.
That’s actually quite a good analogy as despite buzzing round the bastards for ages we never ended up stinging them in the end and Cardiff saw out the last 20mins with a kind of calm and ease that only a beekeeper in his protective gear would retain when bombarded in such a manner.
Well, OK it’s a silly analogy, but I still like it.

As usual, it was quite an effort for me to get up to a night game, working as I do in deepest darkest Kent, before having to return to a currently riotous London after the game. That I made this round trip of 250 miles probably makes me a better person and a bigger fan than you. Probably.

I set off early from work and on the way enjoyed the last few hours of Test Match Special from Edgbaston in the late afternoon sun, listening to lovely Mr Strauss pick up his 50 and help England on their way to becoming the number 1 test side in the world. Ahh Cricket!

But of course, the cricket season was symbolically drawing to a close for me with the close of play last night. From here on in until May, it’s football season, and I was very excited about my first Oxford game of the new campaign.

Arrived in good time at The Blackbird for a quick pre-match pint and discussion of the riots in London this week. A friend of mine thinks he has the solution – a crack Serbian-style Containment & Discipline Battalion to be deployed onto the streets with free rein to kick the living shit out of anyone causing trouble. Whilst I had my doubts that jackbooted martial law was actually the answer, he was quite adamant that it was, and proceeded to expand on the potential for his Battalion’s deployment for much of the rest of the evening.

First half then – not so convincing from Oxford, we didn’t seem to be gelling at times and looked a little out of sorts. Cardiff’s goal though was pretty shocking – I still don’t know how the buggery it went in.
At half-time, a complaint I had about the stink of all the buggers smoking in the toilets and the meekness of the stewards in dealing with it was another opportunity for my friend to expand on the potential of his C&D Battalion.

Battalion members should be issued with metal bars and if the smoker denies they are holding a cigarette behind their back and it is discovered to be a lie – a quick rap from the bar and a broken arm should prevent them from doing it again. All of a sudden I was coming around to the idea.

Second half, and my rose-tinted blinkers convince me that we should have won it in the 90 minutes. We played well and I tell you what, that Leven does look like a touch of magic. Let’s hope he proved to be as anticipated. I also really hope Constable doesn't go to Luton as it seems he might. His work-rate can never, ever be faulted and last night I thought he put himself about and harried the Cardiff back line with aplomb. He would most certainly be missed, for all his faults, in my opinion.

Constable: Respected.
 I really didn’t want extra time, given the drive back to London to still come. And given that we ended up losing anyway and have a far more important League fixture in 3 day’s time – I’m sure Wilder and the players didn’t really want it either. In the end, despite their ET goals being more defensive errors than anything else, they saw the match out and that was that. Disappointing, but loads of positives too and I’m still excited about this season. Just like I am every season.
London Riots: Actually quite merry.
And so back to London. Thankfully the journey home took my car only through Marylebone and Bloomsbury, quite salubrious districts that were hardly likely to see any bricks coming through my windscreen. No police about round there though, so if you do fancy grabbing some free organic muesli or putting together the ingredients for a quinoa salad, I suggest you rioters abandon looting the obvious chavvy branches of Footlocker you live in and smash up the West End instead. Although leave it until I’ve moved back to Oxford, if you could.

I’m totally shattered today after an early start and late return, but despite the defeat it was worth it, as ever. A good game and a good performance and great to see all the old faces again, and hear all their giddy stories.

I’m already looking forward to the Bradford game at the weekend, and I’m back in the programme then too. So pick up a copy and read that, if you want to help the club and my ego at the same time.
Up The U’s!

*Yes, I am quite pleased about that.