It’s funny how quickly football turns, isn’t it? Six months ago we were lifting our third trophy in as many years, now we haven’t got three wins in 16 matches.
Before we start analysis on a game that was seen by different people in many different ways, I have to address some of the stuff from social media last night. I didn’t read most of it, I won’t put myself through reading comments that tear the team apart and finish with ‘then I turned the radio off’. 6,700 tells a story all of its own I’m afraid: FA Cup First Round replay in a period with very few home games and we get a smaller attendance than at any point during our National League run-in.
I despair if I’m honest. I know some groups will blame new fans and the whole split will become bigger than it was before, but whatever the reasons for the low crowd it is very disappointing. £10 to get in, one more home match before Christmas and yet still the apathy sets in quickly. I used to defend us from jibes when other clubs criticised our fanbase around our successful period but maybe they had a point. Yes, crowds rise and fall with success, but that’s a quick fall; last season at £10 a head that’s a sellout. It is a shame because the more fans that stay away, the less the budget will be and the poorer we’ll be as a team.
Oh, I know what some of you are thinking right now; ‘we couldn’t be much poorer’, right? I mean, no goals in two matches and two wins in 16 games tells a story, does it not? We’re struggling to kill games off and paying the price. However, that doesn’t mean speculation about the manager’s future is alright; did nobody listen to Clive’s interview? We’re not going to sack Michael Appleton whatever you think about the situation. Not. Going. To. Happen. When he first signed, Oxford fans said ‘wait six months to see what his teams are capable of’. Some of our fans gave up after six weeks.
I think some of us got drunk on success and have forgotten the aim here; survival. That’s always been the case, we wanted to consolidate in this division. Danny wouldn’t let us say consolidate and so we didn’t, but that’s always been the aim, even if we felt we’d do more. An ageing squad in transition needed stability to be steady at this level and instead, we’ve been smashed by suspensions, injuries and a lack of form from marquee signings. Michael Appleton isn’t the problem here but fans, both old and new, don’t want to admit that for some reason.
I find it fascinating that some people who don’t even follow me on Twitter have turned up on my feed over the last 24 hours to say it isn’t good enough. Some of them were saying the same thing in our run-in last season and now they’re ever-so happy with themselves for being right. I didn’t get blocking last night but believe me I wanted to. Measured responses, like those from Adam Barlow for instance, I have no problem with at all; I respect opinion and I can see why some people are worried. People just getting on their high horse I cannot stand.
It seems whenever we play a game now I’m spending more time talking about the reaction than I am the actual match. I suppose today I’m putting it off a little, because I know what I saw last night differs wildly from what a lot of you saw. However, I write what I feel. I saw Gillingham as a rubbish game and I made no excuses for it. If I think we’re rubbish, I’ll say we’re rubbish. If I think we played well, I’ll say we played well. Last night, we played well. Don’t like that opinion? Not a problem, you respect my right to have one and I’ll respect yours. I know, for a fact, we created more in that game than in some of our draws at home last season. I know, had John scored his clear-cut chance in the first half, people wouldn’t be so glum. I also know that when I’m on the way out of the ground and my Dad, face contorted in despair and despondency, says ‘we did everything right but score’, that we’re on the right track.
My worry here is that being on the right track and getting to where we want to be are two very different things. We might be on the right track but if the destination is a thousand miles down the line, then the crowds will continue to plummet. Let me tell you this for free though; I had no problem with new and returning fans, just as I have no problem with differing opinions, but if I see vocal fans staying away and then expecting to be welcomed back if (and when) things turn around, I won’t be a welcoming face this time around. Right now, your club needs you; not to boo at full time, not to make ridiculous polls about sacking managers as a knee-jerk reaction and not to stay away because things aren’t going our way.
That’s not how being a fan works and if you think it is, you’re mistaken.
That’s the ‘rant’ I suppose, that’s the opinion on the reaction and the run we’re on. No, it is not good enough but what do we want to do about it? More instability at increased cost? Obviously not. Sacking MA now would make this club a circus and it would be the most ridiculous action I’d seen us take in a long while (and I remember appointing Chris Sutton). He’s got a team playing decent football but he’s lost key generals and seen big names fail to deliver. That’s not the manager’s fault and whilst I eagerly await January, I think we’re only a confidence-boosting win or two away from being the team I want to see.
I’m just not sure other fans want to see the same thing I do, judging on some of the more outlandish shit I read last night.