End of season review

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ty cobb
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End of season review

Post by ty cobb » Mon May 08, 2017 4:04 pm

So with the dust finally settled on 2016/17 I thought it would be a good time to take stock. On the face of it the season was a fantastic success, a brilliant FA cup run, stuffing the championship champions and going out proudly away at a Premier league club with one of the best atmospheres I've heard for a long time. Another trip to Wembley is a great achievement regardless of the format of the cup and firmly establishing ourselves as a good league one club beating the Scum twice along the way add up to a season all of us would have taken at the outset.

Yet there was a feeling of frustration at the end I think due to my view that we had a team good enough for the play offs but understandably we ran out of steam when it mattered due to our cup exploits and the shocking pitch we play on at home. If we had our Manor pitch and our home form from there, we would have been challenging for the automatics.

Mapp continues to show his nose for a young player with the recruitment by and large excellent. Eastwood is a star, Nelson gets better and better and we have an embarrassment of riches in central midfield. However, not all went to plan, we got in some injury prone players who guess what got injured which meant we had to consistently rejig the team until we got a settled team which saw us do well. I have not been impressed with Mapps eye for a striker especially as he let our best one go and letting Wright go was a massive mistake at the time - even more so seeing our struggles at left sided centre back this season - Wright and Nelson would have been an awesome combination.

However, the injuries did allow us to get some players in on loan. Conner was amazing and if we keep him at the club next season we will get in the play offs. Edwards also did a good job from full back and I will be sorry to see him go. I thought Johnson showed flashes of brilliance but for me didn't justify the fee we paid, partly because we couldn't seem to find a settled position for him and his defending at key moments was shockingly bad.

Special mention to Maguire as well, yet again he showed he was too good for this league and is an absolute joy to watch as was our football at times. Mapp will be managing at a higher level soon - the question is whether it will be with us.

This leads us on to the off the pitch matters - this is a crucial time for the club - the season has ended and still no update from OxVox about the stadium. Eales has also decided the fans need to take on more of the funding so has raised prices. How these two elements play out will have a big impact as to whether our chairman (who I think has been top class) continues to back the club to such a large extent financially. If no progress is made and season ticket sales are down significantly I think he will question whether the fans share his ambition. If we beat last years season ticket numbers and the stadium is resolved to the benefit of the club I think we can push on.

YF Dan
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Re: End of season review

Post by YF Dan » Mon May 08, 2017 4:26 pm

Hard not to agree with much of what Ty says there, but I'd pick a couple of small points:

Bit harsh on Johnson. Whenever he seemed to find his form - and there were many times he was amazing, we would then move him to another (alien) position. It was almost as if we were trying to put the scouts off by playing him up front. Bizarre.

Bit harsh on Dunks too (although not actually named, certainly implied), who apart from the last month or so, had a pretty solid season as our goals against column suggests. OK, he's no Curtis Nelson, but few are. Dunks will have a decent career, and his improvement over two seasons has been spectacular. I'll be sad to see him leave and remain far from convinced we'll do better.

Nelson is one hell of a player. Damn he's good.

I agree we should have kept Jake Wright though. And I bet App does too.

And at the risk of going over old ground, Hylton (not named, but implied) was offered a contract, but he wanted to leave. We were all sad to see him go, but one of the ways players make a living at this level is by moving between clubs and get nice little signing on bonuses. It's how it works.

It's hard not to look at the table and have deep regret. Two draws against bloody Southend and Millwall, and we'd have been there. Probably. Except we may not have won out last three matches if the pressure was on. You never know.

But I do have a sneaking fear this season was our chance. And great though it was, losing at Wembley and Boro, and watching Scunny and Fleetwood in the play-offs isn't a satisfactory conclusion.

ty cobb
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Re: End of season review

Post by ty cobb » Mon May 08, 2017 4:57 pm

With regard Dunks - I wasn't meaning to imply anything, I think he has a great season considering he only made the step up to league 2 last season - he isn't a left sided defender though. I'd have been very happy with a Dunks/Wright/Nelson choice this season. Raglan has done ok.

Hylton was offered one year, Luton offered two years - we should have tried harder to keep him, if we'd have matched the Luton deal he'd have stayed I reckon.

I think Johnson is a decent player, his fee suggests he should be our best one, however, he has failed to live up to that but I agree shunting him around doesn't help but that I think was due partly to make any position his own - looked ok on the wing, ok at full back and poor up top.

Dr Bob
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Re: End of season review

Post by Dr Bob » Mon May 08, 2017 5:17 pm

I too have used the running out of steam argument more than once. On reflection, however, I am not sure how much water this holds. We finished 8th, having been below this for at least a few weeks. When during the season were we higher?

If there is one thing that bothers me, mainly because it is so frustrating, it is inconsistency. Partly you can say that (at least some) players are in lower divisions because they cannot produce quality on a regular basis. but it is harder to use that argument when referring to the collective of the team. But, never having been anywhere near a professional dressing room, I have no idea what might explain that.

Not sure why it is bloody Southend and Millwall. For me, it is more about bloody Northampton (especially at home). Equally, Scunthorpe and Fleetwood were in the play-offs (at least for a while) because over the course of the season, they accumulated enough points to be there.

And if I am to totally disagree with anything, it is the idea that this was our best chance of going up. As a Pompey-supporting colleague said to me last week - he would be very happy if they finished 8th next year. With this season, we have built on our reputation as a club that plays good football, that can be trusted to develop young players (signed or loaned), and I think one which has the ability to sign players (for actual money!), develop them, then sign them on for more. This upward trajectory cannot continue forever, but to imply that we are topping out at this level is, I (want to) believe, a little pessimistic.

Werthers Original
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Re: End of season review

Post by Werthers Original » Mon May 08, 2017 6:08 pm

I don't buy the argument that 'this was our chance'. We finished 8th despite sometimes looking a bit feeble, never having a settled side, and suffering quite a few injuries and unexpected absences. Imagine how good we'll be with a couple of stronger and more experienced forwards, a full-time left back, and a bigger squad! We've got a lot to look forward to, if we can keep the manager and the better players we have at the moment.

Kernow Yellow
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Re: End of season review

Post by Kernow Yellow » Mon May 08, 2017 10:46 pm

Werthers Original wrote:
Mon May 08, 2017 6:08 pm
I don't buy the argument that 'this was our chance'. We finished 8th despite sometimes looking a bit feeble, never having a settled side, and suffering quite a few injuries and unexpected absences. Imagine how good we'll be with a couple of stronger and more experienced forwards, a full-time left back, and a bigger squad! We've got a lot to look forward to, if we can keep the manager and the better players we have at the moment.
What about the owner? He's pretty key to all this, and hasn't been his usual self this year - falling out with not only Kassam (understandably), but also OxVox and the 'Ultras' too. A lot could happen between now and the start of next season, and you only need to glance down the A420 to see how quickly challenging for (and even reaching) the play-offs can turn into something much less palatable. Not that I think that's going to happen, but I think that's what Dan means when he says this could have been our chance. Of course we all hope it wasn't, but who's to say we'll start next season with a bigger squad and better forwards? It's a funny old game...

Anyway, 2016-17 was a really fun season, with the fact that the pressure was off after last year's promotion making it all the more enjoyable. But one word to sum it up would be inconsistent. Right from the word go, we'd follow up a great run of league and/or cup games with some very average performances and results. So the thoughts of 'what might have been' linger, but an 8th-place finish, the FA Cup 5th round and another Wembley appearance is a lot more than I was expecting last summer. A definite success, and we might even have turned a profit for the first time in decades.

GodalmingYellow
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Re: End of season review

Post by GodalmingYellow » Tue May 09, 2017 12:08 am

I don't have any regrets this season. At the start I said I would be happy provided we avoided a relegation battle. We did that easily and far exceeded my expectations and even most of my hopes.

Of course it would have been nice to have made the play offs, but it wasn't in my list of expectations, so it can't be a regret, or even a disappointment. It is more of a pleasure to see how close we came when it wasn't expected. Next season there will need to be a readjustment of those expectations to greater things.

In my view, we had a team capable of making the play offs, but not a squad capable of that. Having a team capable is not enough because of injuries and suspensions, so it was more to do with the depth of talent in the squad, than the best XI.

For me the outstanding players over their time available with the club this season were Eastwood, Nelson, Johnson, McAleny, and Maguire. With Raglan, Lundstram and Ledson not being far away from that elite. For me all those players were well worth the entrance fee.

Those who I do not think justified a place in a play off squad, and by extension could be offloaded without noticeable difference to the squad were: Thomas (contracted), Buchel, Hemmings (contracted), Dunkley, and Skarz (contracted).

Some players have something to prove next season, but justify being retained: Ribeiro, Martin, Sercombe (if he has not already signed elsewhere), Rothwell, Ruffels, Long.

The rest are decent enough squad players who would be in and out of a play offs side.

Appleton has done a marvellous job, and it is much more important to me that he is retained than any player. He adds real value to the team, squad and club. I think we should include Fazakerly in that too.

Eales has also done a wonderful job, but in my view he has cocked up big time on the ticket prices, just to try to save himself a few quid in the short term, whereas I believe it will end up costing him money. I don't think he has handled the negotiations with Kassam at all well either. His first real mistakes as Chairman and majority shareholder. Goodwill is hard earned and easily lost in any business, but perhaps more so in football.

Next season, play offs have to be the target, and we could go a long way towards that by ensuring that our management team and best players are with us.

Kairdiff Exile
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Re: End of season review

Post by Kairdiff Exile » Tue May 09, 2017 9:42 am

Interesting thread. My two penn'orth:

(Over-)achieving
I don't buy the "this season was our best chance" stuff. Back-to-back promotions are rare as hen's teeth, and we lost many of our best players from last season either by reluctantly having to sell them (Roofe, O'Dowda), them wanting to leave (Hylton) or us casting them aside (Wright). In those circumstances, mid-table is absolutely fine - especially with the cup runs and so on. And let's be honest, whilst this season has shown we have a very good team for Division 3, it's nowhere near Division 2 standard yet. More building is necessary.

Stadium
The most frustrating element of things, for me. I back any efforts which OxVox are making to work with Ka££am, but I absolutely share Eales' frustrations, and as time goes on I'm increasingly concerned that (once again) our club is being 'played' by Firoz. As a fan, the frustration is through feeling so utterly powerless about it all and not seeing any practical, tangible action we can take. If we were told that blockading Ka££am's hotels until he sells up would help, I'd do it - but not being able to do anything is maddening!

Everything to do with the Football League
I resent how so much of this season was spent not enjoying Oxford's decent season but venting anger at the Football League (or whatever they want to call themselves this week) for their stupid, misguided tinkering with competition formats, and for their inaction on criminal management of clubs by dodgy owners. The situation with Orient was an embarrassing spectacle, whilst the early rounds of the Spotafan Trophy were the inevitable consequence of taking a major decision on a competition without first asking fans what they thought. The sooner Shaun Harvey does the decent thing and resigns, the better.

Johnson
I don't get the questioning of Johnson on this thread. Yes, he cost us a stack of cash - but when you remember that it was cash reinvested from transfer funds received, I'd say he's been an adequate replacement for Roofe/O'Dowda in terms of what he creates and brings. And frankly, the fact that he can play at left-back, left wing and up front is a strength rather than a weakness. I think we all consider his best position to be as a winger or wing-back - but if he can cover other positions and do it well, that's to the benefit of the team.

Hemmings
I'm going to get slated for this - but I think Hemmings has been a good signing. He had a slow start, but 11 goals in all competitions isn't too shabby and I think he'll get more next year. Maybe Danny Hylton would have scored more, maybe not - we'll never know. But Hemmings gets into the right places at the right time and will score if chances are created.

Maguire
I'm glad that the Maguire revisionism stuff is over - some of the lines being peddled about us playing better without him etc were miles off the mark. Punters pay money to see great players, and Maguire by himself is worth the entrance fee some weeks. Long may he stay with us.


In conclusion, I'd say this has been one of the most enjoyable seasons of watching Oxford United play football that I can remember. The games I saw at Birmingham and Bolton will stay with me for a long time, and even the pain of not seeing us play at Wembley is soothed by the home win against Sw*ndon. If we sign a few decent players and we keep hold of Appleton, I can't see why we wouldn't be able to make the playoffs next year - but sorting out the stadium issues whilst we have a benevolent owner and on-the-pitch stability must surely now be the priority.

Kernow Yellow
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Re: End of season review

Post by Kernow Yellow » Tue May 09, 2017 3:51 pm

Kairdiff Exile wrote:
Tue May 09, 2017 9:42 am
[...] the pain of not seeing us play at Wembley [...]
Can't have been as bad as the pain of seeing Us play at Wembley! That game, the truly awful performance combined with the ridiculous abuse I took - directly and indirectly - from people I thought were friends for attending the match in the first place, was the real low point of recent seasons for me.

The FA Cup matches were without a doubt the high points. The day out at Rotherham and the atmosphere at and after the Newcastle match were really special. Oh, and Maguire's second goal against Sw*ndon of course...

SWA
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Re: End of season review

Post by SWA » Tue May 09, 2017 3:59 pm

You took personal abuse KY? :shock:

Kernow Yellow
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Re: End of season review

Post by Kernow Yellow » Tue May 09, 2017 9:13 pm

I got sarcastic texts from one person; comments about 'f*ing Wembley shit' on my facebook timeline from another (on stories which had nothing to do with football!); and people I follow on twitter were posting seemingly endless provocative tweets clearly designed to do little more than criticise those who were going to the game. Nothing serious, and I probably let it rile me more than I should have, but it was all just a bit sad and unnecessary, and left a rather nasty taste towards the end of the season. One of the reasons (though certainly not the main one) I didn't actually attend a game after Wembley this season...

Boogie
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Re: End of season review

Post by Boogie » Tue May 09, 2017 10:03 pm

Very happy overall but the Checkatrade distraction did, I feel, cost us a few league points and a play off semi would have been more exciting and meaningful than the Wembley trip - which I did not attend.

Would like to see Nelson made captain next season so that Lundstram can be dropped, if necessary. His long diagonal passes look great when they work but in later matches I started counting how many of them either go astray or the recipient cannot control them and became less convinced that is the way to break teams down. We are not short of midfielders, especially if Johnson is not at left back (see below) and there would be more rotation if a midfielder was not captain.

A new left back will be an important addition to strengthen the squad.

We just have not cracked the striker issue and need some height and more strength. Either Hemmings or McAleny (please!) would score more with lay-offs in the centre rather than waiting mostly for crosses.

Old Abingdonian
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Re: End of season review

Post by Old Abingdonian » Tue May 09, 2017 11:06 pm

I think it has been a very good season. I chose not to go to Wembley, but was annoyed we let ourselves down against an inferior team.

Apart from that, like most on here, I recall Eddie Hutchinson, Rob Duffy etc., and I am grateful I can watch genuinely skilful players playing for us. There is also pleasure in just watching the team get incrementally better.

However, I am particularly appreciative that we have made progress the traditional way, in the sense of trying to create a club identity, having a plan (thank you Darryl), and holding on to a manager for more than five minutes so that we can create an ethos and a way of doing things. These are precious - just look at Leyton Orient, or even Coventry City / Nottingham Forest / Blackburn - and one could go on.

If there is one sour taste in the mouth, it is the current discussion of budgets, which sounds awfully like negotiation through the media. Of course, better players cost more money, and the likes of Darryl Eales have the onerous responsibility of working out how much to spend, but the closed season is dominated by talk of 'ambition'. To listen to certain pundits (not that I do!), there would be no point in playing any football, because once we've worked out who's got the biggest wedge, everything is done and dusted. I almost despair that several million football fans, who by and large are interested in true on-the-field competition, are powerless to stop the game being ravaged by the greedy. Football (globally, nationally) does not need money, but each club craves it so that it can keep up with the club down the road, and so the merry-go-round carries on.

Rant over. I hope we keep Nelson, Maguire and Johnson in that order, but if we need to sell Johnson, then that would be OK. I do think we need a more effective striker.

Dr Bob
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Re: End of season review

Post by Dr Bob » Mon May 15, 2017 2:58 pm

Just found this:
https://experimental361.com/2017/04/30/ ... ts-201617/

Confirms our late run (Sheffield United were the only other team to finish in the highest place they occupied all season). OK, so it is just numbers (this website has lots of those), but it is interesting reading nonetheless.

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