Fan’s View – 2020/21 – No.1 – Carabao Rd One plus more

Article by Paul Beasley Monday, September 7th, 2020  

SEASON 2020/21 – FAN’S VIEW No.1

(A retrospective / Finances / New season / EFL Cup Round One)

Looking back

I had intended to write a retrospective Fan’s View of the 2019/20 season but never got round to it so here’s a quick stab as it really does merit looking back on as it turned out to be absolutely unique.

I think my expectation before it all began was that we should, probably at a minimum, be there, or thereabouts, for a play-off slot. I know some fans demand more but for me that ignores the quality of the opposition, some of whom are much bigger entities than we are. There were 22 other clubs also striving to finish as high up the table as they possibly could. (Poor Bury. Steven Dale you b*****d)

August – League Wins 1, Draws 2, Defeats 3. Position in the table 18th. Not a good start. I think it was about then that I left two Oxford United Facebook groups because the language and vitriol against Karl was too much. Possibly Tiger too. A logical argument based on facts and opinion I can easily accept but not just x is a ****** ***t. Not for one moment though did I feeling hopeful on what I was seeing and the 3-1 defeat at Bristol Rovers gave evidence that we were not competitive and with the injury to Matty Taylor, on that ground of all places, it looked like fate had decided to take the piss. Next game though the luck was ours when Coventry’s Fankaty Dabo decided to score two for us. Thanks mate.

September – League Wins 3, Draws 1, Defeats 1. Position in the table 10th.  Getting beaten at Fleetwood must have had us wondering if we were up to L1 standard. Next came a win at last when we put three past Tranmere without reply but for me this tiny bit of positivity was largely wiped out when we failed to beat whipping boys Bolton. Thereafter we became something else altogether. Okay the Cowleys took a sizeable percentage of Lincoln’s belief when they departed for Huddersfield leaving the Imps nothing like the side they’d got firing to two promotions, but to go away anywhere and win 6-0 is something else. Magic is a word much over used in describing football matches but some of the moves and goals we produced were truly magical indeed and that was followed up by a 4-0 tonking of West Ham. Suddenly we were in dream land.  Karl is God.

October – League Wins 3, Draws 1, Defeats 0. Position in the table 5th. The standout result being a 2-1 win at the New York Stadium. Rotherham were a very good side as witnessed by their automatic promotion. We were on the move.

November – League Wins 1, Draws 1, Defeats 0. Position in the table 6th. Only two league games this month but we did get through the first two rounds of the FA Cup by doing professional jobs against Hayes & Yeading and Walsall. Our 1-1 draw away at Fratton Park when we hung on a bit and got a late equaliser showed that we had guts, determination and that never say die attitude. It wasn’t pretty but effort like that speaks volumes about a team. Performances like that are in their own way just as satisfying as what we produced at Sincil Bank. Over a season it’s the gritty battling stuff that is required more often than not as teams are rarely afforded the luxury of footballing their way to victory by a huge margin.

December – League Wins 3, Draws I, Defeats 1. Position in the Table 2nd. For the first time since mid-September we failed to find the back of the net, drawing a blank at home to the Shrews and away at MK Dons where we suffered our first defeat in 11 games. I thought on the day we were quite poor and even though I know every team has significant dips in form, probably didn’t cut the boys enough slack at the time. Perhaps they had the annual visit of Man City on their minds. Having come out of that encounter with massive credit when Matty T stunned them with an equaliser that wouldn’t have looked out of place if scored by a City forward, we got back on it with three straight wins. One of those was the game in which Akinfenwa had to walk.

January – League Wins 0, Draws 2, Defeats 2. League position 7th. This wasn’t good. It needs to be said that Shandon Baptiste and Tariq Fosu-Henry played in all these games. That was it for them they were then off to Brentford. The critics amongst our fan base who keep their mouths firmly shut when we’re winning well now started shouting we lacked ambition by letting these two go. In that argument they’d ignored many things that are so obvious they’re not worth mentioning. The month ended with that superb display at St James’ Park where we fully deserved our draw in the FA Cup. Best away trip of the season with a weekend in a friendly city that rocks with ales and proper drinking pubs.

February – League Wins 5, Draws 2 Defeats 1. League position 6th. That’s a ridiculous amount of matches to have to cram into the shortest month of the lot. Also we fitted in the thoroughly entertaining replay against the Geordies where we came so very close to marching on to the fifth round.  Losing by three goals and being outplayed by Peterborough, a team I rate quite highly, followed by dropping two points at home to Burton and then losing to Sunderland didn’t bode well. Perhaps we’d run out of steam. Four wins on the spin, including one at Ipswich, said not.

March – Shrewsbury away. Josh Ruffels late winner and then the rest is history.

Goodbye for a while, although we didn’t know it at the time.

There had been drama throughout and again in the tightness of the play-off semis and final. We were oh so close. I could smell the Championship. I got over missing out surprisingly quickly. Naturally not happy but there are more pressing issues worldwide to occupy one’s mind.

One of the most sensible posts ever

Many of our fans will know, or know of, Swiss Yellow. There’s so much inane drivel to be found on social media and on football forums but two days after the anti-climax at an empty Wembley, Swiss came up with one of the most sensible and level headed posts I’ve ever read in relation to OUFC. It was on Yellows Forum and I was going to steal a quote or two from it but on reflection, given it was so good, I’m just going to copy the lot.

“There’s a critically important factor for next season and that’s us. We need to forget Monday, move on.

Previous play-off losers, follow 3 paths:

The most common is mid-table obscurity. A team takes a while to get going the following season, it lingers on unjust defeat or is suffering from a nervous hangover – this happens with new players or old, it comes from the fans. That sense of loss, the frustration builds to reduce patience in the crowd and can subdue morale.

Next is relegation it’s surprising how many teams have been relegated following a play-off final loss, especially loses with a massive injustice or “luck” event. Swindon, losers of the play-off final in 2010 and Charlie Austin’s “bobble” suffered a complete collapse because they felt they’d been unlucky and should have won. That mental weakness shot through the squad and is VERY DANGEROUS for us right now.

Leeds, Sheff Utd, Preston, Blackpool all went down in the years following after a losing final, Leeds also being relegated the season after losing a final.

The rarest route is promotion, surprisingly few teams have been promoted following a play-off loss, and those that do, didn’t suffer too much from a heart breaker final – they got beat, they built on their squad and they went again.

It’s critical for us as supporters to support. We could already be writing off next season by sticking to a morose, morbid, we’re all doomed mind set. James Henry is a fabulous player but if his head goes because he’s not allowed to forget the shoot or pass blip, it could slow his decision making process by a 1/2 second which would have a devastating effect on his ability and output.

Yes we’re frustrated and of course we’re angry but we’ve got to park it and now. I’ve played in teams that suffered losses in finals, and been in teams that then won, or lost the season after. It’s absolutely 100% mental now, and we have to help or we could complain our way to nothing or worse”.

It is indeed difficult to avoid the blame game but we have to do it, well certainly with regard to the players that are still with us. We move on. We learn. I’ve got a mate who’s not a Simon Eastwood fan. For him Easty was the main culprit. That said there’s no way will he publicly criticise him. He wouldn’t have it that Elliott Moore should have ignored any call, real or imaginary and just got the ball away. They’ll both learn from this. I’m probably allowed to have a bit of a go though as Marcus Browne is no longer with us. To restate, I consider him to be a tremendous player and would welcome him back in the blink of an eye, but I found it hard to forgive him at the time. Play to the whistle. Sprint after the weak pass back to the keeper. At worst the clearance that lead to the penalty would have been prevented and at best he could have rounded Ryan Allsop and scored or got brought down and won a penalty and sending off. When I’ve chatted to others about this no-one else seems to have highlighted it as a pivotal moment. Just me then. I will move on. I have to.

Finances

With football suspended and the country in lockdown there was much to contemplate and much free time to do it in. As the economy came to a shuddering halt one such matter was obviously finances across the board, including football clubs and individuals. We’re now at the stage where many businesses have gone to the wall, and those that have re-opened with restrictions are experiencing a much reduced turnover, people have lost their jobs, and the entertainment industry has been badly affected. Football has been back for a couple of months now but without us, the fans, being present, what is it?

Many football clubs were already in a precarious financial situation, especially those whose owners I’ve heard described as “wrong ‘uns”.  Throw Covid into the mix and there are clubs all over the place that may now be little more than houses of cards about to disintegrate. Bury have gone. Bolton survived but look at them. Not long ago they were a Premier League outfit. Look at the state of Wigan and then there’s Charlton too and more.

Premier League teams will have the Sky, BT, and Amazon Prime money still coming in but for the rest of us where gate money makes up a very high percentage of our turnover, we’re on dodgy ground. The recently introduced wage cap merits a whole article to itself so I’ll leave alone here but whether you believe it is a good or bad thing at least the EFL have tried to address a problem.

No true fan wants to see their club struggle let alone go out of business. Up and down the country season ticket holders were given various options. Ours was get a refund for games that didn’t take place, put the money towards a 20/21 season ticket or let the club keep the money. It wasn’t as though we were out of pocket; what we were out of was the product we’d paid for. I totally get that some will have wanted and needed the cash in these uncertain times when they might not know where the next wage packet, post furlough, is going to come from. For some families the amount could be quite significant.

It was immediately obvious though that for many there was no question: let Oxford United keep the money. It wasn’t a look at me, what a hero I am, it was just showing support and commitment when it was impossible to get behind the Yellows in any other way. No more turning up and roaring them to victory, or trying to influence the referee with abuse.  Instead a few hundred quid donated I suppose. I strongly suspect though that if the club had not already got the cash and had come asking for that hundred pounds or whatever people would not have been so generous. The non-season ticket holders in our fan base will still have their match day money in their trousers. Swings and roundabouts.

A SSU season ticket for one of the priciest seats cost £520. That’s £22.61 per game with a home fixture list of 23. But the Shakers never crossed the start line so that became £23.64 a game. Then with a further five games lost the amount rose to £30.59.

So what do most of us do? The minute season tickets go on sale for 2020/21 we commit again not knowing when we’ll next be allowed to enter the Kassam. What we do know is that we’ll miss some of the fixtures for sure and when spectators are allowed in again there will be rationing.

Here we go again

Up to now my season ticket at Minchery Farm demands I enter the Kassam Stadium via the South Stand turnstiles closest to the East Stand. There’s a choice of two. Forty nine times out of fifty I opt for the one on the right. It’s superstition. It’s madness. Even if we’ve lost the previous game and played badly next visit, to the right I once more go telling myself we’ve more chance of getting it right this time. I’ve tried to force myself left but my body refuses. It’s habit. (Or is it OCD?)

First home game of every season as I go in I have turned to the man (it was the same one for season after season but last campaign he’d gone) checking or scanning my season ticket and said “here we go again”.  In 20/21 that cannot happen. Oh how I’ll miss all this. Sat at home watching on the TV, care of iFollow, is second, or more truthfully third, best but without doubt we have to be thankful for what we can get in these Covid ravaged times.

I’d begun to experience a slight feeling of distancing from my football club as I’d not seen them in the flesh for a considerable time and knowing there is as yet no pencilled in date when that can be put right. I wasn’t sure whether it was a case of absence makes the heart grow fonder or I’m not missing it all as much as I thought I would. That said I was a bit twitchy and clearly raring to go to get back to live football. That need was sated to some extent by an extra preliminary round in the FA Cup. Ardley United 0 Edgware Town 0.  Edgware won on penalties. Playing centre half for them was Scott McGleish. Yes that one. He’s 46 years old now.

I really knew the answer though when I watched our friendlies against both QPR and Brentford on You Tube. In the greater scheme of things they were quite meaningless but I was punching the air when we scored and got to thinking that we’ve achieved something here when Derick Osei Yaw got those two late goals to give us a draw in the first game ever played in the imaginatively named Brentford Community Stadium.  I felt a smug satisfaction when the Brentford commentators said hang on a minute Oxford, haven’t you read the script?

In those two matches I thought we had a good shape and, given that Rob Dickie had departed, the defence didn’t look too shabby.  Marcus McGuane was a standout performer.

However truly competitive matches are something altogether different.

Carabao Cup Round One: Oxford United 1 AFC Wimbledon 1. (Pens Oxford 4 Wimbledon 3)

Although I hate losing football matches, even friendlies, I was with KR when he said that this competition is not as important this season as it has been in the past. I’ve reported this before and it is still the same. The prize money is scandalously low. The winners of the whole thing only get £100k. There’s nowt for a win in the first four rounds. What money there is to be made is through gate receipts and TV if you’re lucky enough to draw a very big boy at home. Like Man City for example. Most of this has gone at present and with expenses to be paid money was probably lost.

I was asking myself why wasn’t this cup ditched for this season, a season where we’ve started late and have to cram so many games in as it is? Then it came to me: the sponsors. Carabao will have paid the EFL so we have to play. Money talks.

We paid our tenner and the iFollow connection didn’t let us down.

Our style of play was understandably exactly the same as last season and in the first 15 -20 minutes the ball was all ours. I was thinking we’ve made more passes here already than Wimbledon will do throughout the entire season.  An exaggeration of course but you get my drift.

For all this possession we didn’t really penetrate and Taylor hardly touched the ball.  Other than a fairly routine save from a Cameron Brannagan free-kick, Connal Trueman, on loan from Birmingham, was not asked any telling questions. It was actually Simon Eastwood who was probably more extended when he saved with an outstretched right leg from a Terell Thomas shot after Mark Sykes misjudged a high ball. By then the visitors had very much come back into it and by the break had done enough to make any claims that we deserved to be in the lead without foundation.

Again in the second period we did nothing to set the pulses racing but did take the lead on 63 minutes with a decent strike. If we’d then seen the remaining minutes out without conceding it would have been a rather satisfactory job done especially as Karl had said he was treating it like a friendly not the 2019/20 version of the competition.

Our goal scorer was Brannagan from just outside the D with the ball coming out to him after an Anthony Forde centre was headed away. Forde had been set up for that by Taylor who produced probably the neatest bit of play seen in the whole game. Neat close control, turned 180 degrees in a flash followed by the perfect simple pass.

A couple of Wimbledon high balls into our box had shown that we weren’t totally comfortable in dealing with them and just four minutes after taking the lead we were nowhere near good enough when having to deal with a corner. Forde didn’t seem to judge the flight quite right allowing Luke O’Neill to head towards goal. Ryan Longman was then able to turn and make a connection but sent the ball nowhere near the goal. The deflection off Taylor did though. All the way in. A scruffy shambles of a goal to concede.

We weren’t playing well enough to win it but the same could be said of Wimbledon. McGuane never quite got the pace of the game and pace in general was something that appeared lacking. Sykes was anonymous for long spells with the question of balance there to be asked. Both he and James Henry are better down the right. We’re weaker on the left and down that side we have no natural cover for Josh Ruffels who still looked a little jaded despite the break.

If either side was to win it and spare us penalties a mistake looked like the most likely source. Referee Lee Swabey, for me, was the man who made that mistake not Forde the man who was adjudged to have given the penalty away. Nesta Guinness-Walker just ran straight into him and as our man does not have the ability to vanish into thin air there was no other outcome.

Man of the match Eastwood did the business though keeping out that spot kick and two of the five he faced in the shoot-out. He looked confident and focussed.

Well done to our lads who put their kicks away too.

We’d found a way into the next round without playing well. Early days. Remember last season.

This entry was posted on Monday, September 7th, 2020 at 10:29 am and appears under News Items. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

© Rage Online 1998 - 2018 All rights reserved. If you want to copy stuff, please quote the source

another fine mash from ox4encoding