Saturday, July 31, 2010


Homegrown's alright with me, homegrown is the way it should be

So sang Neil Young, the former Manchester City midfielder. What the old hippy almost certainly had in mind was reflected in new Premier League legislation that is being introduced for this season, according to an article in today's Guardian. Basically, clubs playing in the country's leading money-making competition, are now compelled to include eight homegrown players in their first-team squads, which now must contain a maximum of 25 players. Homegrown players are defined as those who have spent three years or more training at a club in England or Wales before the end of the season in which they turn 21.

There is, inevitably, a lot of debate about the effects that this new rule is going to have, both on the Premier League teams and on the England national team, which this legislation is intended to help. Some, such as Fulham's Academy Director Huw Jennings, claim that reducing the size of squads will help these young English players to develop and come through the ranks, with clubs denied the opportunity to bring in cheap foreign imports to fill any gaps. Others, including Spurs boss Arry Redknapp, aren't convinced, reckoning that if English players are good enough they'll emerge anyway and that this means that the quality of squads is being compromised by having to include a number of sub-standard players, some of whom might just sit on their laurels (a fancy word for arse) once they've made the squad.

However, the question that is on everybody's mind is 'what does Rage Online think?' Well, one concern we have is the knock-on effect that this legislation will have on clubs below Premiership level. If, for example, Oxford produce some decent young players through their youth system, will they be snaffled up by clubs higher up the Pyramid in order for them to fulfill their quota, rather than getting the opportunity to develop their football education by playing first-team competitive football at a lower level?

In addition, we can't help but feel that this new rule is a sticking plaster being used to cover a gaping wound. The problem with England's poor performance on the international stage isn't really to do with the influx of foreign players into the Premier League. The problem is that the foreign players are being introduced because the up and coming English players just aren't good enough, generally, to enable them to perform at the highest levels, either for club or country. What really needs to happen is a change on emphasis in the coaching of kids from under-9s upwards for there to be less of an emphasis on fitness and athleticism and more on technique and skill. Go to any boys' league game anywhere in the country and when a defender has the ball at his feet the coaches (and the parents and the other kids) are yelling 'Get rid' and 'kick it out'. In the same scenario in the Netherlands, for example, a young defender who hoofs the ball into touch is likely to get substituted, as they are encouraged to play neat, short passes to their teammates to get them out of trouble. Just one example, but it's indicative of the difference in coaching style between this country and the continent, and in our opinion is the reason why England, from being world leaders in the first half of the last Century, is now lagging behind many European and Latin American (and possibly Asian and African) nations in their footballing aptitude.

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Wednesday, July 28, 2010


Back to the beginning

After a brief hiatus, we're back to the history lessons boys and girls. We've already seen how, during Headington FC's first few months of existence, they played their first recorded game against Cowley Barracks, losing 2-1, before drawing at home to Victoria 3-3 and then losing 6-0 away to the same opponents. Headington's next reported match was away to City Junior League members Clarendon Press on 10 February 1894, which was covered by Jackson's Oxford Journal a fortnight later:

If your images are disabled, the report reads thus:
CLARENDON PRESS v. HEADINGTON UNITED.- This match was played on Saturday, the 10th inst., on the ground of the former. The home team from various causes were without half their best men, and consequently requisitioned the services of five of their reserves. The visitors won the toss and played with the wind (which was blowing very strongly), and held their opponents for a time, but could not score. Eventually the Press broke away, and from a pass by W. Bowen, Elderfield notched the first point for them, and they led at half-time by one goal to nil. On the change of ends the tables were completely turned, and the home team penned the visitors, who rarely got beyond the half-way flag. A goal by Thomas was ruled off side, but the printers ran out easy winners by five goals to nil, W. Bowen, E. J. Sawyer, Elderfield, and Weller doing the needful in the second half.

(Note that the club is still referred to as Headington United, even though the club didn't change their name to this until the summer of 1911.) The following week Headington again played Clarendon Press, presumably in a return fixture, although the venue wasn't specified, and this time our boys went down 1-0. So five games into their existence, and the side had drawn one and lost four. The only other game reported from Headington's first season was against Cherwell Rovers, about whom I know nothing. The game took place on 10 March, and resulted in Headington's first victory, the lads from over the hill notching up a 2-0 win. Unfortunately there is no record of either the venue or the scorers, but who cares!

After a long relaxing summer playing cricket (in those days the football season was strictly October-March and the cricket season was April-September) the Jackson's Oxford Journal reported on 6 October 1894 the composition of the City Junior League for the forthcoming season. Headington were shortly to play their first competitive fixture:

Headington were one of four new teams to join the league, and were allocated to A Division, along with their friendly opponents from the previous February, Clarendon Press. Other teams in the A Division (the divisions were lettered rather than numbered to emphasise that there was no difference in status between them) were St. Barnabas, Cowley St. John, College Servants 2nd., Wanderers 2nd., and St. Peter-le-Bailey. Although the article states that the 'competition commences on October 20th...', Headington didn't actually play their first league game until 17 November.

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Tuesday, July 27, 2010


Trial and error

Chris Triantis
Four more triallists appeared for United last night at Brackley Town, and they were all foreigners. Two (brothers) from Australia and two (unrelated) from Spain. The brothers are 18 year-old Peter Triantis, a central midfielder, and his 22 year-old brother Chris, also a central midfielder. Chris has played for Newcastle Jets in the A League, but both have also appeared for Sydney Olympic, in the division below. Neither particularly stamped their mark on the game at Brackley, although neither gave a performance of Diogo Andrade ineptness either. Andrade had a brief trial with Oxford a couple of seasons ago, lasting just 20 second-half minutes against Cheltenham Town before being found to be totally out of his depth. He has recently had a trial with Hereford United.

Oscar Martin
One of the Spaniards on show was 21 year-old striker Oscar Martin Hernandez, most recently with Lanzarote of Segunda B. Sadly, he failed to cope with the physical side of the game, although he did score for MK Dons in their 3-0 win at Oxford City recently. I say sadly not due to any misplaced sympathy for Senor Hernandez, but because Oxford could do with a back-up striker, and he wasn't it. The other Spaniard was Felipe Guréndez, and of the triallists he was the best of the lot. He played just in front of the back four, was always open for a pass and his own passing was neat and simple. Unfortunately, at 34 years old he is probably unlikely to be given another opportunity, given Chris Wilder's stated focus on youth and athleticism, although possibly there is scope for a more experienced player in the squad, especially if the reserve side is going to comprise largely youth-team players. Guréndez has La Liga experience with Athletic Bilbao, and more recently has played in Segunda B with CD Numancia.

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Saturday, July 24, 2010


Too much Babylon?

There's a report on the BBC today that quotes the Football Supporters Federation (FSF to you and me) claiming that there is still too much policing at football matches. The spokesperson says that fans are "being subject to heavy-handed policing week in, week out". The claim has, unsurprisingly, been denied by the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO to no one but themselves). The Bill reckon that a lot fewer games have a police presence than was the case 20 years ago, and those games that are policed are done so by significantly fewer officers.

So, who's right? Going by my own experience of following Oxford United home and away, I would say that there is evidence to support both sides of the argument. It's certainly true that at Oxford there is hardly any evidence of a police presence except for some of the higher-profile fixtures, such as Luton Town at home last season, and that it is mostly the stewards who are tasked, not always successfully, with keeping order inside the ground. However, especially at some away games, there has also been far too heavy policing on occasion, occasionally leading to problems where none would otherwise have existed. There have also been occasions where a large police presence has proven necessary, such as the away game at Luton last season where the activities of the home fans left little doubt that they still believed it is the mid-1970s.

So, too much policing? Yes, but not all the time. Often there is no policing at all, and sometimes there is a justified level of policing. Sometimes, though, there is a police presence where none is needed, and that has to be looked at and improved. Football is nowadays, like it or not, an activity that is now attended by large numbers of families, as well as individual women, oldsters, youngsters, and people with disabilities. They need to be protected from the Luton-style louts, but they also need to be treated with respect and not be subjected to body searches, rough treatment, or intimidation by thoughtless dog handlers or police horses, etc. All it really needs is a bit of common sense, but sadly that's often lacking from all sides of the divide.

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Friday, July 23, 2010


Sweet OFA

Following a couple of posts about the history of Headington FC, I thought I'd branch out a bit and look at the history of association football in the county more generally. Note that I specify association football, for in the earliest days (mid 19th Century) most teams followed the rugby rules, with 'soccer' being less well represented. I am also specifically not looking at the university, which was quicker on the uptake with both codes, mainly because they kept to themselves and didn't play against non-Varsity sides, although an inter-college league thrived.

Association teams in the county were established as early as the 1870s, but it wasn't until 26 January 1884 that a meeting was held at Oxford Town Hall to form the Oxfordshire Football Association. An article reporting the fact appeared in Jackson's Oxford Journal on 2 February 1884 (apologies for the green highlighting):

I won't transcribe the whole article, but interesting snippets include:
'Mr W. Wing (Caversham F.C.) ... concluded by proposing "That an association of clubs be formed for the promotion and encouragement of the game of Association football in the county of Oxford, and: that the same be called the Oxfordshire Football Association."' It was resolved 'that the association be affiliated to the Football Association, ... The question of a Challenge Cup was then brought forward, and after some discussion, it was decided ... to start a subscription to purchase a cup for competition next season.
'A draft code of rules was then submitted, ... and some modifications unanimously adopted, the most notable being Rule 2, which reads as follows:- "That all clubs in the county of Oxford playing Association Rules (excepting only such as consist exclusively of members of Oxford University) be eligible for membership subject to the approval of the Association.'

The article concluded with a list of the OFA member clubs, which were: Ark House School, Banbury; Banbury Rovers; Banbury Harriers; Bicester; Bloxham School; Caversham; Chinnor; Culham College; Friar Park, Henley; Oxford County School, Thame; Oxford United College Servants; Thame; and Shenington.

The next little snippet comes from 6 December 1884, when the Oxfordshire Association played their first game against Wiltshire, on 29 November:
The first meeting between these Association clubs came off at Swindon on Saturday, before a numerous assemblage. In the first half the former gained two goals to their adversaries' none, and during the latter part the home team only scored one point, whilst the Oxonians, increasing their total, won by four goals to one.

Coming briefly to the formation of Oxford City, the Jackson's Oxford Journal of 21 October 1893 (published just six days before the meeting to form Headington FC took place) carried this report:

The piece starts:

The meeting for the purpose of forming a City Football Club took place at the Three Cups Hotel, Queen-street, on Tuesday evening... it is not intended that the club shall compete for the County Cup, but that it will be formed rather as an association of existing clubs in the town to play other representative town clubs.

So City was intended initially to be a club representing different individual clubs from Oxford, but it wasn't long before City became an independent club in its own right, rather than drawing its players from other clubs around the city.

We'll get back to talking about United in the next post (probably).

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Thursday, July 22, 2010


Forum wars

If it's not one thing it's another in this crazy world of OUFC fandom. Yesterday, the main forum that Oxford supporters post on, Oxfordshire Forums (formerly ThisIsUnited, or TIU), hosted by the Oxford Mail's parent company Newsquest, announced that TIU would be closing and would be replaced by a new forum using the Oxford Mail template.

This in itself wouldn't be such a bad thing - the old forum powered by Snitz was a bit clunky and the navigation wasn't brilliant and maybe it's time for a change. The reason given for the switch was that Newsquest's IT department no longer supported the Snitz platform, so that if the forum crashed, which happened occasionally, it would be terminal. The problem, though, is that the new board's format is a) significantly different to the TIU forum, and b) one third of the screen is given over to very intrusive adverts that make the new format almost unusable, with the administrators adamant that the ads have to stay.

There is, inevitably, an outraged uproar from the users of the forum. Some have signed up for the new forum, but it's unlikely that many will be regular users of it, especially those who post from work, where the new-look advert-heavy screen will render it work-unfriendly. It has also caused people to look for an alternative forum, with two boards immediately setting themselves up as frontrunners. These were the long-established (and obviously my favourite) Rage Online forum, and the dormant but recently revived Yellows forum. The latter board, because it replicated the various sections found on TIU, will probably prevail, but because the Rage Online board already had a core of regular users, enlivened by some new posters from TIU, it will continue to thrive. TIU and Rage Online had different characters as well as different looks, and there is certainly room for more than one OUFC forum to thrive.

In addition, there are some other extant United message boards that don't generate a lot of traffic, but have their place in the OUFC scheme of things. Foremost among them is probably the Oxford United official message board, which suffers greatly from having to follow the template laid down by Football League Interactive, the host of all the Football League websites. Another board, which looks pretty similar to the Rage Online forum because it uses the same phpBB platform is the one hosted by the Oxford United supporters trust OxVox. This is a quiet, friendly forum, but possibly suffers from the perception that it is Trust focused. There is also a little-used forum on the Oxford United Mad site, and the rather corporate BBC 606 Oxford United forum, neither of which are likely to pose much threat to existing specialised United message boards.

At least it gives us something to discuss during the close season, if only we can find a discussion board to post on.

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Wednesday, July 21, 2010


Kick off

Following the unrivalled success of my previous post about Headington FC's beginnings (well one person gave good feedback) I thought I'd follow it up with a look at the side's first games.

The first known game that Headington played was recorded in the St Andrew's Church, Headington, Parish Magazine in December 1893. It is reproduced below:

The text of the article reads:
The above club played a match against the Cowley Barracks on Saturday, Nov. 25th, which resulted in a win for the Barracks by 2 goals to 1. Our Headington men played very well, and all they require to become a good team is confidence in each others play, which alone can be gained by constant practice.

Sadly there is no record as to whether the game was a home or away fixture, nor of who had the honour of scoring Headington's first goal. Cowley Barracks was the regimental headquarters of the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry (OBLI) and was located in Hollow Way from its inception in 1877 until it was demolished in about 1966. The Barracks football team would join the Oxford City Junior League the following season, which was also when Headington would join that league.

We know from the Jackson's Oxford Journal of 20 January 1894 that Headington's second reported game was a home match, and that the Reverend John Holford Scott-Tucker scored twice, and the club's founder Dr Robert Hitchings scored the other in a 3-3 draw with Victoria, who competed in the City Junior League. Although Victoria played their home games in Marston, from what I can discover the football team was nothing to do with the Victoria Arms, but instead represented the Victoria Tea Rooms in St Clements. This is the report of the game:

It reads:
VICTORIA v.HEADINGTON UNITED. - This match was played on Saturday at Headington, before a good company. At the start Headington held the upper hand, for the Rev. Scott-Tucker soon registered two goals by good rushes, but it should be mentioned that the Victoria only had six of their original team that was selected to do battle for them, and in consequence of that and the corners only being about 27 yards from the goals, the Victoria for some time were at fault. However, a good run on the left wing by the Victoria forwards was the means of registering a goal, the game at half-time standing at two to one in favour of Headington. Upon re-starting, play for the most part was in the homesters' territory, and a fine run by New equalised. Again that player was prominent by adding another for the "Vic.," but a good bit of play by Dr. Hitchings made the score equal, and though the remainder of the game was in the neighbourhood of the home goal, the visitors could not score, and so a very enjoyable match ended in a draw of three goals each.

Note that the report refers to Headington United, even though the football club wasn't called this until 1911. This was presumably due to confusion with the rather more established Headington United Cricket Club, with which the football club shared many personnel.

The following week the sides met again, this time at Victoria's ground, but Headington were somewhat overwhelmed and went down 6-0, as the Jackson's Oxford Journal of 27 January 1894 explains:

VICTORIA v. HEADINGTON UNITED. - The return match between these teams was played on the ground of the former at New Marston, before a good attendance of spectators, on Saturday last. The Victoria, who were well represented, played a good game, and eventually won by six to nil, the goals being obtained by Plumridge three, Ashmore two, and New one.

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Tuesday, July 20, 2010


How it all began

For those of you who have an interest in the history of this great football club of ours, I've reproduced (below) the very first published mention of the club. It comes from the November 1893 issue of the St Andrew's Church, Headington, Parish Magazine. The prime mover behind the formation of the club was Dr Robert Hitchings, a resident of Windmill Road and captain of the Headington United Cricket Club. However, the football club was known initially as Headington Football Club and it played its first games on the recreation ground at Headington Quarry.

For those of you who have images disabled, the relevant text reads:

The cricket season being over, Mr. Hitchings, with his customary energy and zeal for the welfare of the young men of the Parish, has inaugurated a Football Club. A Meeting for the furtherance of this object was held at the Britannia Inn, on Friday evening, October 27, and report says that there is every prospect of getting together a good playing team. The game will be played this season under Association Rules.

And this little snippet below comes from the Jackson's Oxford Journal of Saturday 23 December 1893 and is the first reference to Headington FC that I can find in a local newspaper.

It reads:
The Secretary informs me that the following clubs have become affiliated through the City Junior Association:- Boulter-street Institute, Cherwell F.C., Headington, Oxford Institute, Oxford Temperance, St. Peter-le-Bailey, and Y.M.C.A.

Over the coming weeks I will try to reproduce some more of these early references to the club, although forgive me if I don't.

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Saturday, July 17, 2010


Dirty Harry?

The latest player to join United on trial is Harry Worley. The uncompromising 6'4" centre-back left Leicester City by mutual consent earlier in the week after completing two years of a three-year contract without getting to play a first-team game for the Foxes, coincidentally Oxford's next home opponents. Worley played the final 20 minutes of United's win at Dumbarton, and is likely to start in place of fellow triallist Leigh Franks at Livingston on Tuesday night.

In his post-match interview, Chris Wilder intimated that the club may possibly offer deals to both Worley and Franks, which would cast some doubt over the injured Rhys Day's continued presence in the squad. Worley, who had a successful loan spell with Crewe Alexandra last season, would go some way towards introducing a healthy return to good solid names of the 1950s that have been conspicuous by their absence in English football recently, and Harry would combine well with Alfie Potter in that respect. In fact, Harry and Potter could form a decent combination.

Meanwhile, United's third pre-season triallist, Ryan Crockford (whose name is obviously not in this tradition) didn't travel to Scotland, but Wilder has hinted that he may take a look at him in the Leicester game. Present at the Dumbarton game was United's former Rangers loanee Ross Perry, but it appears that despite Wilder's best efforts he is too highly thought of at Ibrox to be allowed to leave on loan again.

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Friday, July 16, 2010


Scots wahey

With United's pre-season tour to Scotland about to get underway tomorrow with the game at Dumbarton, followed on Tuesday with a visit to Livingston, I thought it might alleviate the boredom to have a quick squint at the club's previous visits north of the border. Or maybe it's just an excuse to update the blog with a lack of anything else of substance to discuss (newsy stuff like the fans forum gets its rightful place on the main site).

Oxford's first game in the land that spawned Rabbie Burns, Bill Shankly, Roy Barry, etc. was as recently as 3 August 1991, when the Us took on Saint Mirren. The Saints won 1-0 before a crowd of 1,200. This was followed three days later by a 2-1 win over Clydebank, with Oxford's goals scored by Mark Stein and Paul Simpson, witnessed by just 400 hardy souls.

The next trip to Scotland wasn't until 1999, when United lost 1-0 to Ayr United on 19 July. Two days later a Jamie Cook goal was enough to account for Saint Mirren, and on the way home Oxford beat Blyth Spartans 3-1 with goals from Matt Murphy, Steve Anthrobus (good grief), and Joey Beauchamp. However, as Blyth isn't strictly speaking Scottish it probably doesn't count.

Last season, of course, Oxford won 3-0 at Greenock Morton, just over the Clyde from tomorrow's venue, with strikes from Jack Midson, Sam Deering, and James Constable, watched by 869. Three days later, on 21 July, in a behind-closed-doors game, the Yellows were beaten 2-0 by a Rangers side that included Ross Perry and Steven Kinniburgh, the latter of whom recently signed for Oxford on a two-year contract and who is presumably in charge of translation duties and sorting out the best clubs to visit in the evenings.

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Wednesday, July 14, 2010


Is it that time already?

Well, it's been almost five years since our last blog post, which could be some sort of a record. Put it down to despondency at having to suffer the non-league (although the real reason is probably a combination of laziness and forgetfulness). So here we are, ready to blog again to celebrate a new division, a new kit, a new kit sponsor, and lots of new players. Who knows, we might even post again in less than five years.

There are a few things we cLeigh Franksan regale you with, but we'll start with last night's 6-2 win at Didcot Town in this season's first pre-season friendly. On show for United, in addition to the plethora of new signings, were two triallists, neither of whom has a page on Wikipedia. Leigh Franks is a tall centre back released recently by Huddersfield Town. He joined the Terriers' Academy from Bridlington Town and had a spell on loan last season at Fleetwood Town. The other triallist, RyaRyan Crockfordn Crockford, a Wales under-17 international, has a slightly more colourful past, having been on Reading's books, who he joined from Crystal Palace, and spending some time on loan at Aldershot Town. He has recently signed for Hungerford Town. However, two years ago he was sent to jail for four years for a rather nasty stabbing incident, and has recently been released on licence. Not being judgemental, all we will say is that he had a good game and scored a cracking 30-yard goal.

Elsewhere, United's leading scorer for the past two seasons, James Constable, has been honoured by his home town of Malmesbury for being a sporting hero. Obviously, sporting heroes are fairly light on the ground in that part of Wiltshire.

Former Us doing stuff include Joe Burnell, who has signed for Conference new boys Bath City, Steve Basham, who has joined the growing throng of ex-Us at Brackley Town, and Julian Alsop, who has rejoined Bishops Cleeve. Meanwhile, Paul Simpson has been named as manager of Fourth Division basket cases Stockport County, Craig Davies has signed for Division Four rivals Chesterfield, and Port Vale's Lewis Haldane has had to go to hospital after his ankle swelled up following an insect bite during training. Apparently Vale train somewhere in Amazonia.

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