Friday, 20 June 2014

Club For Sale

A month ago I heard a rumour that there was a 'big one' - a game-changing club annoucement - on that cards and then two days later a random guy on twitter tweeted something along the lines of “my mate has heard that Ian Lenegan has put the club up for sale”. Unfortunately I didn’t capture or favourite it and the tweet didn’t get much in the way of retweets. Most Oxford supporters were bemoaning the lack of signings and any wildly speculative tweet about a club sale wasn’t going to grab attention.

But that tweeter was telling the truth. Lenagan has quietly put the club up for sale.

The news should not come as a surprise to any United follower. Lenagan has taken a lot of flack from supporters for not showing enough ambition or putting enough money into the club. His £4m club debt has grown to a whopping £6m. I’d be pissed at the fans criticisms – and reluctant to invest any more of my money – if I was Lenagan. And this reluctance to sink any more money into an unsustainable club has manifested this summer in at least four potential signings going elsewhere at the last minute for more wages, Constable being offered a hefty pay-cut and the ‘big clear-out’ not happening as Gary Waddock realised he had no money with which to replace them. And if the club is unsustainable in the short to mid-term – because of having to paid a crazy annual rent to the stadium owner - and I was unhappy, I’d be actively looking for an out too.

So the fact that Lenagan is looking for a buyer presents some uncomfortable scenarios for supporters of the club:

Scenario 1: Do nothing
We have no money and no further significant investment from an unhappy owner. Fans do not renew season tickets or attend matches. No break-through signings are made. We have no realistic chance of promotion. Dwindling player resources, and an atmosphere of negativity from the fan base, makes a demotion to the Conference an ever more plausible reality. We lose the manager, what players we do have and the financial situation at the club deteriorates further with no solution to the crux of the problem – the rent time-bomb. We leave the Kassam and end up ground-sharing at Oxford City or Thame United.

Scenario 2: Sell the club back to Kassam
It really could happen and, if it wasn’t for the history and supporter riots that would kick-off, it would probably be in the best interests of the club in the short term. The rent issue disappears, other income from the stadium on match-day streams to the club and everything is back under one roof. But Kassam has no reason to want to buy the club and the status quo is great for him.

Scenario 3: Sell the club to a someone who isn’t Kassam
No one is going to want to buy an unsustainable football club that doesn’t own its stadium unless the price is right or there is another way to clear the debts and start again. £4m to £6m for the club and another £11m to £13m for the stadium, if Kassam is willing to sell (rumours suggest that he is), means an investment of £15m to £19m to bundle things back together. That is serious money. I don’t know what the corporate income streams are on the stadium facilities, but the ROI would need to be significant to cover such an outlay. Alternatively, once purchased, you could knock the Kassam Stadium down and sell the site for development, building a new ground elsewhere in the county.

And that scenario – putting both club and stadium together in a single package and then selling the site for development – is the ‘big one’.

Friday, 29 March 2013

Cupboard is empty

The realists knew the season was up at HT in the Rotherham match. Chesterfield should have killed it for even the most optimistic Oxford fan, but it's taken a dull and dreary 1-1 with Morecambe to finally convince the last bastion of hardcore Wilder support that the play-offs have gone for another year: 1 point from the last 9 is relegation form, not promotion form, and we are getting further from the final play-off position each week.

In all probability we will end up in pretty much the same position as last season. In other words we have stagnated under Wilder. Oxford have not made a single step forward since our return to the Football League, and in fact, in terms of fan-followings, momentum, player confidence and squad stability, we are now behind where we were after our Wembley BSP play-off win.

It's time to rebuild, without Wilder, and grasp the opportunity of the mass player contract expirations.

I'd retain only Clarke, Batt, Wright & Whing as essentials. The rest can be sacrificed to the wages altar and replaced by better players - hopefully hand picked by a decent manager who can take us forward.

Monday, 11 March 2013

Can we play away every week?

After another away win on Saturday - this time against the free-falling Torquay - Chris Wilder live post-match on BBC Radio Oxford managed to have a pop at the fans who sit behind his dug-out. He was clearly unhappy with the reaction he'd got the previous Tuesday night when replacing Andy Whing with Tony Capaldi with the team 4-0 down against Rotherham.

The manager's outburst sums him up, as the normally meek and mild-mannered fans who quietly sit in the SSL, were UPSET and ANGRY not by the fact that Andy Whing was coming off - and it is irrelevent if he was coming off due to injury, fitness, or 'saving him for Saturday' reasons - it was the fact he was being replaced on 60 minutes by another holding midfielder. A make-shift, promoted from fullback, no frills, no playmaker-skills, journeyman holding midfielder at that.

What the crowd wanted at 4-0 down at half time, was to see their beloved Oxford - thoroughly beaten and embarrassed by 15 minutes of non-existent defending - come out for the second half and give it a go. At least try to nick a goal quickly after the restart and, hey let's dream a little, put some pressure on the Rotherham goalmouth and get back into a match lost early doors by poor management tinkering. A few shots, a goal or two and some ENTERTAINMENT and reward for the poor PAYING souls who sat there having to watch the dross served up by Wilder and his management team. Shall we bring Beano, or any kind of attacking threat on? Shall we push up some extra bodies? NO, let's sit on a 4-0 loss and forget about having any shots on target. Of course, the poor souls in the Oxford Mail stand decided to make their own entertainment. A bare-chested conga and 45 minutes of The Great Escape tune (the most apt of season theme songs for Wilder) was considerably more diverting than the football being dished up on the pitch.

Wilder seemed to think that holding Rotherham to 0-0 in the second half was an achievement, despite the fact Rotherham missed a sitter of a fifth goal and at 4-0 up had absolutely no need or desire to push on or do anything! Steve Evans could have leisurely handed out cups of tea to his players on the pitch and it would have made zero difference. Pathetically, Wilder described Rotherham as a 'Championship side with Championship players' post-match - a remark that caused my Brighton-supporting Uncle to snort loudly and retort that 'Wilder has obviously never seen a Championship match in his life!'

I shall be at the Barnet match on Tuesday and will again take the opportunity to give Mister Wilder some constructive feedback, whether he likes it or not. When hardcore, loyal, faithful, diehard season-ticket supporters, who have followed Oxford through thick and thin and thin, start walking out after 50 minutes - when they usually NEVER leave early - there is a deep-rooted problem. The Kassam looked like the Emirates after 80 minutes! When you have the management turning round from their dugout to LAUGH at fans who have had enough of seeing their team let them down, then it's the final straw. That Wilder, Lewis and Melville clearly have no idea what they are doing at times - or how to change things when it's going against them - mean it's time for them to move on.

Either that or just play every match away.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

10 days

A week is a long time in football so they say, so imagine the difference 10 whole days could make to the perceived fortunes of a club... Well now you don't have to imagine too hard because miracles of miracles, Oxford's wonderful run of 6 league defeats has been converted into a run of WDW including a big JPT comeback last night. Holy cow! Relegation candidates to promotion form in the blink of an eye! No more "Wilder out!" it's now Clarke and Worley in! We have some much needed physical presence at the back, and now in midfield with Whing and Chapman. And guile too, with Leven back adding creative weight alongside Chappers. Even Constable has got on the scoresheet after actually being given an opportunity. Joy! Perhaps we can now return to a state of sanity? Although I shall miss the gallows humour that was fleetingly generated behind the dug out as we went 1-2 down against AFC Wimbledon...

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Das Bot

Our lovely new yellow submarine seems to have sprung a leak.
Many leaks.

The warning signs have been there for weeks: Aldershot, Macclesfield, even the home win against Northampton, but the flood gates really opened against Bradford and Torquay did nothing to dispel my fears that the rot has started to set in.

Unlike many of the crowd at the Northampton game I thought we were lucky to get away with three points. A commanding Jake Wright second-half performance, a great Payne freekick and a soft penalty papered over the cracks that Worley, Purkiss, Tonkin and Hall left in our defense throughout the game. We keep hearing that they are 'young lads', inexperienced at this level and the odd error is to be expected. But week after week now we are seeing the same players making the same poor decisions, failing to communicate with or support each other, failing to closedown, failing to distribute properly and failing to focus and concentrate the whole 90 minutes.

It would actually be nice if some of these players managed to focus and concentrate for even 45 minutes a game - it would at least be an improvement on what we are getting right now.

Without Jake Wright we are lightweight at the back. During the Northampton game he was having to talk to the rest of the back four incessantly and clearly wasn't happy with their positioning or work rate. That second half we were a one man team and the 3-1 result could easily have finished the other way if Wright hadn't have shaken off his lack of match fitness and upped his game. Creighton's introduction was also a blessing.

I feared for us at Bradford and although Creighton's first yellow was a little harsh, the second - and his sending off - was justified. Quite why Wright then reacted as he did to the elbow flung at him to secure his own straight red, I do not know. The game effectively already lost at that stage at that moment became a disaster, as with Wright out for three games we are sitting ducks.

During a pre-match drink before Tuesday night's Torquay game I expressed my feeling that Worley and Franks are not up to the task. My first impression of Worley on his debut was a positive one. But as the games have gone on his decision-making has become increasingly questionable and without Wright alongside him to continuously mentor and guide, he looks a liability right now. Franks has been sporadically good, but like many of his team mates he seems inconsistent. Tonkin - who should be a vessel of experience - is likewise all over the place since coming back into the side. Whether it is a lack of confidence or a niggle, with Tonkin unforced-errors directly behind at least two of our recently conceded goals, why hasn't Wilder turned to the very capable Kinniburgh?

And so I was unfortunately proved right... An early own goal from Batt - who did his best to try and get a head to a poorly-marked freekick - set the scene for another comedy of errors at the back. Even with 10 men for 75 minutes, Torquay showed more discipline, a higher work rate and unbelievably, more efficiency and effectiveness upfront.

What are Hall and Craddock currently doing on the park?!

Hall fails to contribute anything positive as far as I can see: nothing going forward and certainly nothing on the back foot. He doesn't track back. He doesn't win challenges. Despite his height he fails to win any aerial balls. Poor Heslop looked knackered second half - and with no support from Hall who can blame him?! Why is Bulman out on loan at Crawley when his presence on the pitch instead of Hall would immediately strengthen our core and protect our back four? Has Wilder forgotten the old saying that 'you build from the back'?

And Craddock... what an anonymous figure he is. Apart from a couple of late goals and a soft penalty kick what has he contributed since his arrival? His support of Constable is poor. His link play is poor. He seems half a yard off the pace at times. Nobody but Wilder seems to know why he is continuously getting the nod ahead of Midson.

Midson might not be the best player on the planet but at least he puts in a graft and his performances were improving game after game until he got benched in favour of the new boy. Perhaps Wilder has also forgotten that classic saying 'you defend from the front'? I'd rather have Midson's strength, height, ability to hold the ball up and willingness to get involved alongside Constable at present, particularly as so much of our Plan A football seems to be route one hoofing.

The callers to Radio Oxford post-Torquay bemoaned the lack of finishing as our problem. Wilder said the same. It may be true that Constable's miss should and could have changed the course of the match for us. But it is also true that with 4 or 5 wonder saves from our MOTM keeper Clarke we could easily have been looking down the barrel of another 5-0 defeat. At home. Against ten men!

And that should tell you everything: You don't lose games 5-0, or 2-0 at home versus 10 men, due to poor finishing. You lose these games due to atrocious defending.

Forget shooting practice boys, start again at the back. Mister Meville has his money to earn and if Wilder was serious about looking outside the club for answers, can I recommend another quality centreback and a tenacious midfielder?

You know the kind of tenacious midfielder I mean...
Someone like Bulman.

I'm getting a horrible sinking feeling. And I'm not the only one - that was the biggest mass exodus from the Kassam before the final whistle since the Orient relegation match. Could we please direct the submarine back up before it's too late? I do not want us plunging the depths again. Thanks!

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Odds update

OUFC have slipped to 20/1 out-right winners, but remain 4/1 for promotion.
Torquay, with their 100% record after 4 matches, are now the bookies favourites at 6/1.

Johnstone's Paint Trophy

Aldershot 2 - 0 Oxford United

So that was the JPT...