|What Do We Want? Something Else! When Do We Want It? NOW!|
Written by Moggasknockdown on Monday, 24th Feb 2020 15:58
The long slog back to the station after Saturday’s familiar witless performance felt like another Groundhog Day. The wind whipped in from the river and the grey skies threatened to spill into rain.
Oxford fans jubilant at their team’s performance converged with the hordes of home fans. Some tried to coax a reaction from Town fans outside of the ground, some were simply reliving the game with a modest enthusiasm.
More Town fans trudged heavily onto Princes Street, an air of acceptance and apathy heavy in the chilly February air. Some headed off to town have a conciliatory beer, some simply to join the snaking traffic out of Ipswich.
After three straight league defeats against rivals, and a subsequent walloping of a pretty poor Burton team the week prior, the familiar taste of defeat was well and truly returned.
I met up with my dad’s mate, Steve, an Oxford fan after the game. He has seen the highs of the league cup triumph (John Aldridge, Ray Houghton et al) and the near extinction of his club at the hands of Firoz Kassam. He has seen his club in non-league, he has seen them concede 100 goals in a season. He knows what it means to be a fan.
He offered gracious platitudes about the game being ‘dreadful’ in which neither team deserved victory. He spoke of the good turnout, decent atmosphere. We both agreed that the Kayden Jackson incident was a red card then we both went off home, he in slightly better shape than I, both to forget a pretty turgid affair in which we had both spent much of the day hopelessly beholden to our clubs’ fortunes.
Afterwards, I felt genuine irritation at our performance - decent enough first 40 minutes (without being genuinely incisive) followed by a moment’s naivety at the back, an inevitable Oxford goal and all too familiar lack of response from Ipswich.
Witless in attack, lacking guile or conviction through the middle thirds whilst looking vulnerable on the flanks when the ball is turned over.
Yet again, we played without ‘having a right go’ as Lambert has promised of this team, barely laying a glove in the second half, lacking a definitive point of attack - Long? Short? Through midfield? Overload the flanks a la Sheffield United? Who the hell knows?
Saturday felt as though the wheels are slowly, but very definitely coming off. I suppose we should tip the hat to Karl Robinson and his Oxford side as key protagonists in our failures, but too often you can see the script is written long before the game has ended.
Jon Nolan picking the ball up off the centre-half and then safely moving the ball sideways before promptly wandering off to get himself marked and absolve him from further responsibility is pretty much the subtitle of this squad. Safe, promising occasionally but delivering rarely.
Lambert was spikey and combative as a player; his early managerial incarnations were full of spirit and endeavour. He seems to have lost his touch a little. Our surly lot don’t look capable, they look lost and ponderous, and increasingly keep rocking up to must-win knife-fights armed only with bananas and a lack of stomach for the occasion.
As I looked on at the some of the 19,000 souls disappearing into the night, I wondered whether that loyalty will start to soon dissipate as an extended stay in the third tier looks to become a reality. We are told to reset expectations - ‘we’ve no divine right’, flattered by accolades of our rich history, or the numbers in which we travel. It is 'nae normal' as Paul says.
As Stuart Watson of the EADT rightly points out, four wins in 22 is pathetic, but there is no assurance of any improvement. Our recruitment has been botched for two seasons, resulting in an imbalanced and bloated squad - losing James Norwood and now Jackson has further exposed January’s lack of additions as particularly foolhardy.
The assertion that Premier League striker Connor Wickham might have been a serious target points more at the club’s lack of coherent transfer policy than yet another crass diversionary PR attempt by the club.
Lee O’Neill joins a long list of professional spin doctors to divert attention away from the ambitionless owner. Wonderful things are afoot behind closed doors, a Cat One status for the academy, that the roof will be cleaned, turnstiles painted, posters erected, Playford Road is now a smart and decadent place to go to work for the players. Great names of the past are now on-site 24-7 having been wrongly marginalised in the past - some will even coach the young players in new and ‘bespoke’ roles!
Yes comrades, it will all get better soon enough. The glory days will be back again for that you can be assured. A poor result? The team is young, we should have no worries as we are playing unbelievably, dear oh dear, and just need to convert our chances - the many clear chances that we had in the game.
Stricken comrades are now all returning to the grass and will soon return for the promotion push, Freddie needs minutes, Teddy will be brilliant if he can stay fit. I am boring myself typing this.
Spin is prevalent in every professional club. Sometimes, as my dad will often grumble, it feels like the country exists on it alone. Perhaps the lot of the modern football fan is to roll up and shut up - spend your money, buy our overpriced food and drink, pledge allegiance to the flag and sod off home until we do it again in a couple of weeks.
Despite the gap between the Championship and League one, you do not need much to get your act together and get out of the league (look at Charlton), you just need to box a little cleverer than your competition with the resources you have.
Oxford, for example, must sell players to make their rent. Maddeningly for their fans, their best will be sold when the club is on an upward curve - see Kemar Roofe, Che Dunkley, Curtis Nelson, Gavin Whyte George Baldock, John Lundstrum.
In January it was Tarique Fosu and Shandon Baptiste. This summer it will be Rob Dickie and Cameron Brannagan. As a system it relies wholly on being forward-thinking, both in the short and medium term to ensure that these players can be replaced and so the cycle restarts.
They have a manager and a scouting system that will replace them effectively, the club may well maintain a play-off push on meagre resources supplemented by some shrewd loans see Marcus Browne and Nathan Holland on Saturday.
Peterborough too are comfortable in selling off players at eye-watering profits and replacing them shrewdly and with conviction from careful scouting in the lower leagues. They are both better set than us and looking good for either the play-offs or automatic promotion. They are both significantly smaller clubs with smaller resources but a clear method.
Marcus Evans has shown a strong hand when it comes to selling players (Tyrone Mings, David McGoldrick and supposedly Andre Dozzell in the summer), so why can’t we aspire to be more effective in the transfer market as well?
I guess it’s the lack of conviction and method across the board that worries me the most. I have my doubts that both Flynn Downes and Luke Woolfenden will be adequately replaced in the summer. I have my doubts about Lambert as a manager. I have my doubts that the owner cares enough to do anything remotely forward thinking, or whether we will forever be stuck in a cycle of failed five-year plans.
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