Reprisal to Comment 33

From the Rage Online newsdesk Thursday, May 1st, 2003  

by Paul Greenwood
Here we are with our play-off dream in ruins, staring at another season in the Third Division, and most of us are gutted and angry. There is a perception that the club is massively underachieving and that the kind of football Ian Atkins’ team has played is ‘not Oxford United’.

Indeed, we are constantly told that ‘Oxford United has died’, by people who have unaccountably continued to follow the club, apparently trying to wake the corpse by whinging.

Of all the supporters in the Third Division we are the ones who spend the most time going on about being a big club and gnashing our teeth at the supposed humiliation of playing down here. The assumption seems to be that we belong in the First Division at least and possibly in the Premiership.

Let’s take a reality check. Our years of top-flight success were bought by a crook who wanted to impress his business associates. The good times were funded by stolen money and people continue to suffer because of it. He didn’t love the club; he used it and tried to destroy it. We were one man’s ego trip.

Oxford is not a football city. It’s too prosperous and too middle class. In Northern wastelands like Preston the football club will always be a rallying point for the community because there’s nothing else. Here there is and it won’t.

Our fan base, the amount of local interest, and our ten year league position confirm the same thing; we are a smallish South Midlands club whose natural home is the Second Division.

The Third Division is underachievement, but only marginally so, and the current spell there is historically understandable in terms of the club’s disasterous financial state throughout the Nineties and the delayed move to the new stadium.

Of course, expressing views like that is anathema to many fans, who seem to believe that somehow, if only we played 4-4-2, if only we had a manager who wasn’t… well, wasn’t whoever we happen to have at that moment, if only we were OXFORD UNITED, the heavens would open, and the whole Milk Cup winning team and management would ride down on white chargers and take us back to the Premiership, just like something out of Tolkien.

In truth, the last thing we should want is a reprisal of the Maxwell years, because this time we probably wouldn’t survive it.

So what should we do now?

Firstly, we should accept that we can only sign the players that will come to the club. The expense of living in the Oxford area, our bad reputation concerning contracts, and our Third Division status is going to mean that most of them are very much lower division players and the standard of football they produce will be poor at times. Whether the side has the fight to get results is going to depend on fan support and we, the fans, should give it.

Secondly, we should accept that we can only get the management who will come to the club. Mr Kassam is not an easy man to work with and Ian Atkins is here because he has been prepared to put up with him as much as for any other reason. Yes, he makes loads of mistakes, but no other Third Division journeyman manager is likely to be much better. It’s useless harking back to Jim Smith because no one as good as Jim Smith would look at the Oxford United job now. Criticise Atkins as much as you like but don’t expect sacking him to achieve anything other than another managerial merry-go-round.

Thirdly, we should focus on our chairman and his strange attitude to the club. He vacillates wildly between supporting us, for example, extending McCarthy’s loan even though it will cost and is 99% certain to be wasted because we are so unlikely to get to the play-offs, and not supporting us at all, for example, messing Savage and other players around with contracts so that they lose their form on the pitch thus meaning that we don’t reach the play-offs. Fans should be as loud as possible in letting him know that replacing his column with an advert for two crunch home games, as has just happened, is not acceptable. Does he want us up or not?

Finally, we should realise that supporting Oxford United is always going to be pain alternated with occasional bursts of joy. We are just another bunch of small club supporters who follow our team for love rather than reward. We are too big for the Third Division and will inevitably be promoted soon unless there is a massive exodus of fans. What awaits us is likely to be many years in the Second and hopefully regular wins over Swindon. That’s gonna be as good as it gets, and as good as it can be, and for me, as good as it needs to be.

Come on you Yellows!

Paul Greenwood

This entry was posted on Thursday, May 1st, 2003 at 12:00 am and appears under Comment. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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