Monday, 30 March 2015

Missed Opportunity

Today bottom club Cheltenham Town appointed ex Yeovil Town manager Gary Johnson as their new boss, is this a missed chance for Oxford United though?

I have been very critical of Michael Appleton this season and I still believe he should be out of a job and that we should have sacked him before Christmas. I have mentioned Gary Johnson as a possible successor in a previous blog, however with him going to Cheltenham this is now unlikely to happen.

If the bottom club of the whole Football League Cheltenham Town can attract Johnson then Oxford United would have had absolutely no problem doing so. Gary Johnson is a legend in football management and Michael Appleton is a failure, I certainly know who I'd rather have. For anyone who is unaware of Johnson's credentials he guided Yeovil Town from the Conference to the Championship, which is the stuff of dreams. He also had a successful spell with Bristol City where he was very close to winning promotion to the Premier League. Despite a failed spell with Northampton Town, he is experienced and at this level is an excellent appointment for any club. 

This whole season for Oxford has just been one big nightmare, yes we have had some ups but it has been mostly downs and that's why the managerial change should have happened. I have said at numerous points this season that we should change the manager and offering ideas for replacements. I have at points this season said Micky Adams, Ronnie Moore, Russ Wilcox and most recently Gary Johnson. They have all joined clubs in similar situations to ours and done well. Admittedly Micky Adams hasn't turned Tranmere around but steadied the ship and improved the team since the stewardship of Rob Edwards. Ronnie Moore has worked wonders with Hartlepool and Wilcox has pulled a few results out the bag up at York. The point I am trying to make is chairmans of other clubs have acted and got their rewards for doing so, we have not and have continued to struggle and the wrong end of the table.

Saturday, 28 March 2015

Carlisle Reaction- Staying Up

A crucial three points for Oxford moves them eight clear of the deadly drop zone, surely that secures safety in League Two for another season?

It was by far the biggest game of the season so far and for the first time in a long while the big occasion didn't get to the Oxford players. I am not getting too carried away because Carlisle were a very poor side and I wouldn't mind a cheeky bet for them to drop into the Conference this season. However, you can't take away the fact that Oxford played very well and definitely warranted the win. 

Patrick Hoban looked like a different player this afternoon, he looked sharp and confident. His goal was a good one as well, it was a great cross in from Kemar Roofe and a bullet header past a helpless Dan Hanford from Hoban. A great way to finally open his account for Oxford United. I would also like to give a mention to Danny Rose as well, he was almost the forgotten man at the club but came in and was different class this afternoon. Especially when you consider that we wasn't even playing in a role that was natural to him. 

I have heavily criticised the manager this season but I thought he got this tactics spot on today, bringing back Danny Rose was a brave decision but turned out to be a great one. I just hope this is a sign of things to come from Appleton. The addition of Kyle Vassell looks to be a decent piece of business as well, not many players that Appleton has signed this season have made an immediate impact like Kyle did today. I don't think you will see a sweeter strike in world football this weekend. 

I thought George Baldock was excellent today as well, he made positive runs forward and looks great with the ball at his feet. One of Michael Appleton's better signings this season. It is also lovely to hear about the passion that he does have for the club as he went to watch the Yellows when he was a young boy. 

Overall it was just a really good day for Oxford United. Results elsewhere could have gone slightly better but if we keep playing like we did today then we don't need to worry about that. Wycombe away on Friday is going to be a really tough game with the Chairboys currently on an excellent run. However if the Oxford faithful can pack the away stand out at Adams Park and sing their hearts out I think we have half a chance of grabbing a surprise win.

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Player Merry Go Round

With another 3 players leaving the club, I question if Michael Appleton knows what he's doing as he continues to treat management like a video game signing players left right and centre.

I honestly think the signing of Jeremy Balmy has to the most pointless signing I have seen since I started supporting the club. To sign a player and for them to not even make the bench is just madness, did he forget that he signed him?

The additions of Giorgio Rasulo and Armand Gnanduillet weren't much better. I just don't know what Michael Appleton is doing. They are all panic signings, I don't buy Michael Appleton's calm persona for a single second. Behind the scenes I think he knows what a woeful job he has done and that he needs to chuck even more money at it. I have been saying for a while that Michael Appleton's knowledge of players is extremely limited and he alienates the players that he does sign by constantly chopping and changing the team. It is soon going to get to a point where very few players are going to want to play under Appleton because they want to play regularly and security that they'll be at the club for a while which they obviously won't get at Oxford under the current management. If Appleton is still here in the summer then I think he's going to find himself in a situation where everyone is going to be rejecting him. That is one of the many reasons why we have to dismiss him. 

To be fair Kyle Vassell doesn't look like a bad player but I would much rather have a settled squad coming into the final few games. Don't get me wrong Gnanduillet didn't look great but he was barely given a chance at the club. I am even more worried about the prospect of dropping back into the Conference following today's revelations and even more confident that our manager is out of his depth. Somebody like Gary Johnson would be perfect to come in with experience and knowledge of the market in the lower leagues. However the board seem completely oblivious to the crisis that Oxford United are currently in. We have to get behind the players now, despite the fact we don't know who half of them are anymore.  

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Team for Saturday

After a series of questionable team selections from Michael Appleton, this is what I believe the team for the huge Carlisle game should be.

Ryan Clarke- No real competition from Jamie Ashdown at the moment, Clarke looks to be back to his best and he should remain in goal.
George Baldock- He has some passion for the club because he comes from a family of Oxford fans. Not a bad player either, I think he is better than previous right backs in Damian Batt, David Hunt and Joe Riley. 
Jake Wright- One of our most consistent performers in the past few seasons, he hasn't been at his very best this time around but still an excellent centre back at this level. I disagree with the criticism he has got this season.
John Mullins- His form has dropped a little of late but still a leader with great passion for the club. When he plays at his best he is the best centre back in League Two in my opinion.
Joe Skarz- Very average so far but we simply don't have many alternatives. Jon Meades isn't bad but hasn't played in ages and would be too bigger risk. 
Andy Whing- If he is fit then Andy Whing simply HAS to play. He is the exact player any club would dream of in a relegation battle because he will work his socks off and inspire others to get stuck in.
Michael Collins- On his day he can be very good, has a bit of creativity but also offers some good defensive attributes as well.
Kemar Roofe- I don't really rate him that highly but we don't have anyone else with the MacDonald suspension.
Callum O'Dowda- A definite contender for player of the season, when he gets the ball something happens and I think he could be the man to keep us in the Football League.
Danny Hylton- Hasn't scored much lately but we have really missed him when he hasn't played. He can make something out of nothing and should be the first name on the team sheet.
James Roberts- Hoban hasn't done enough for me and we have a great player in Roberts sitting on the bench. He has masses of talent and ability, he will also offer some pace up front which we have really lacked lately.

I would also take a gamble on Will Hoskins and chuck him on the bench, if we're paying his wages and he's fit then he should be on the bench at least because he definitely has talent. 

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Shrewsbury Reaction- Barrow away anyone?

After Oxford United lost yet another game are we sliding back to the hell hole of the Conference?

3 games without a goal and the fact we are now celebrating a shot on target teamed with a delusional, clueless manager. Is Oxford United a club in crisis? I certainly think so. I think Michael Appleton has to realise that football is not a statistic game, he can't keep hiding behind possession stats and how much of the ball we had. It's a joke. He's got to realise that we have below par strikers and that we don't score enough goals. Patrick Hoban proved once again that he is a Conference North/South standard striker that will probably end up playing for Oxford City. He may well be physically strong but he is poor in the air, a dreadful finisher and slow as a sloth. Not exactly the recipe for a striker that is going to get a decent amount of goals at this level is it?

Michael Appleton's delusional post match interviews hardly give me much hope either, I still don't know he can honestly say he 'isn't worried'. There is also a huge difference between being calm and not actually caring. Appleton couldn't care less about this club, he has proved in the past when he quit Blackpool after a few months for Blackburn that he only wants to progress his own career. His criticism of the fans is unacceptable as well, he slates them everyone calling them just 'white noise' and then is confused when they don't show up and back the team. If he wants us to cheer the team on then give us something to cheer about. 

Michael Collins' post match interview pleased me and frustrated me at the same time. It pleased me because he said that 'we need to put our body's on the line' which is the attitude that we need. However it frustrated me because I realised that I have never seen Michael Collins putting his body on the line and willing to get hurt, it's all well and good saying it but we actually have to do it on the pitch. 

I'd also like to talk a bit about the incident where Ryan Clarke and Alex MacDonald went head to head soon after Shrewsbury's second goal. I don't think that is passion being shown, I think it's the signs of divide in the camp and massive lack of team spirit in the squad. This poor result makes the home game against Carlisle on Saturday by far the biggest of the season so far, if we lose it I think non-league beckons for Oxford once more.

Thursday, 19 March 2015

Where has Andy Whing gone?

I have been a huge fan of Andy Whing since he joined the club and I think he has been a very consistent performer over the past few seasons, so where has he gone?

We definitely lacking in the midfield area and I don't think he have enough grit and desire in the team. We desperately need someone who is willing to put their foot in and fly themselves into challenges with a never say die attitude. The exact player that we need is being wasted in the reserves and I don't understand it. When fit and off the treatment table, Andy Whing is by far and away our best midfielder. He's got a good pass, tackle and is so hungry to win football matches. Doesn't sound like much but it is exactly what we need at the moment and the sort of player you want in a relegation dog fight. 

In my opinion, Josh Ruffels isn't the type of player that we should have in the midfield when we play against fellow strugglers Carlisle and York in the coming months. He isn't a bad player, very neat and tidy in the middle of the park. However, Andy Whing would be much better suited. Michael Collins is incredibly frustrating because on many occasions this season we have seen what a great player he can be at this level but he just hasn't done it enough. 

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Hartlepool Reaction- Woeful

Last night was one of the worst displays at the Kassam Stadium since the dark days of the Conference under Darren Patterson, however could this performance contribute to a demise that leads to us going back to those dismal times?

No passion, no desire, no hope. If losing at home in that manor wasn't bad enough it was against a Hartlepool United side rock bottom of the Football League and that couldn't buy a win just a matter of weeks ago. It really is worrying times at Oxford United.

I think the problem last night was down to the management yet again. Playing Callum O'Dowda despite Appleton admitting post match he knew before the game he was unfit was just utterly senseless. I also find the manager saying that he wouldn't have changed anything that he did in the game baffling, we have just been comfortably beaten by the team bottom of the league and he wouldn't have changed a thing? Is he losing the plot? I have said since the very day he was appointed that he has never done anything to prove that he's a good manager. He failed at Portsmouth, he failed at Blackpool and he failed at Blackburn. Hardly a good track record is it? I just think he is completely out of his depth. He may well be a decent coach but as far as I can see he isn't cut out for management which of course is a completely different kettle of fish. 

Appleton's signings have been shocking in my opinion, the only good signing he has made in his tenure is Tarieq Holmes-Dennis who doesn't even play for us anymore. Joe Skarz seems incredibly average to me, he is easily better than Tom Newey but not even on the same level as Holmes-Dennis.The latest on the lengthy list of poor signings seems to be Armand Gnanduillet who has the mobility of a lamp post. I don't think Patrick Hoban is much better either, he may well offer a physical presence but if that's all he offers we may as well have Hulk Hogan up front. As a centre forward you have to score goals otherwise you aren't good enough and he just doesn't look like a player that he is going to get 15+ goals a season which is what we need. I feel a bit sorry for Kemar Roofe, he isn't a centre forward and yet that's where he is being forced to play. He spent most of last night battling in the air with lumbering centre backs which is just ridiculous. He may well be a very good wide player at this level but we won't ever find out if we continue to play him out of position. 

With a lot of the teams around us picking up points we are back in trouble and if we lose to Shrewsbury on Saturday then we could be just 3 points above the drop zone. We have to change something, if that is the players or the manager then so be it we just cannot continue like this. It's going to be a huge last nine games of the season for the Football Club and Carlisle at home in a couple of weeks could be one of the biggest games of our season.

Ryan Clarke- 7 (saved a penalty and made some decent saves)
George Baldock- 6 (nothing special)
Jake Wright- 5 (looked nervous and shaky)
John Mullins- 6 (poor game but at least showed some passion)
Joe Skarz- 4 (very poor, made mistake for first goal)
Michael Collins- 6 (not a great game)
Josh Ruffels- 5 (looked very nervous and was hiding at times)
Callum O'Dowda- 4 (unfit and was subbed off early)
Alex MacDonald- 6 (very quiet game again)
Kemar Roofe- 6 (out of position but came closer than anyone to scoring)
Patrick Hoban- 5 (very poor, didn't look like scoring)
Subs- Roberts- 5 (didn't make an impact) Gnanduillet- 3 (hopeless)

Thursday, 5 March 2015

How Would B Teams Affect Oxford United?

In May 2014, Greg Dyke and the his tea boys from the FA Commission came up with the ridiculous idea to bring B Teams of the top 10 Premier League clubs into the Football League. This was met with uproar and we all thought it had gone away, however apparently they could still compete in the Johnstone's Paint Trophy. How would this affect Oxford and the rest of the Football League though?

First of all, to make sure there is absolutely no confusion I think the B Team is a stupid idea and disagree with it entirely. I personally think the problems with the lack of growing English talent is the fact there are so few coaches. A coaching course can cost over £2000 in England comparing to Spain where it is at most £435. Losing 4-0 to Morecambe on a Tuesday night isn't going to help young players grow. Good coaching is the key. So not only would B Teams devalue and the Football League and insult lower league clubs, I don't even think it would make a tiny bit of difference. 

By the sounds of it, the new plan would mean B Teams would only be in the JPT and not in the Football League with the addition of a "League 3". Now this wouldn't affect Oxford United as much as the initial plan but I don't think I'm only person who doesn't fancy a competitive game against Swansea City Reserves. 10 years ago we were hammering them 3-0 in League football and now we have to play against their Reserve team? No thank you Mr Dyke.

I believe it would be a wasted game with no one there to watch it. It may as well be a normal Reserve game. Attendances are traditionally lower for the Johnstone's Paint Trophy anyway, can you imagine how low they would be if Oxford were playing against B Teams? I can't imagine too many Newcastle United B die hards out there who would be willing to travel all the way to Oxford to watch a pointless, inconsequential game of football.

I think another plan could be to abolish all loan restrictions for players under the age of 21. This would mean they are in a changing room of senior pros, not just players of a similar age range and they would get the benefits of playing competitive football. I'm sure the reason Tarieq Holmes-Dennis played so well for Oxford earlier this season is because experienced pros like Ryan Clarke, Jake Wright and Andy Whing would have been there to put their arm round his shoulder and show him the way. You simply wouldn't get that in B Teams and that's one from the long list of reasons why Greg Dyke's plan wouldn't work and should not be implemented on the English game under any circumstances.

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Morecambe Reaction- Getting Away With It

As performances go, well they don't get much worse than Morecambe last night. However judging how poor the display was, could getting a point out of the game show progression under Appleton?

Michael Appleton still claims that Oxford are sticking to plan A and playing a passing game, what I didn't realise though is it was a passing to the opposition game that we appeared to be playing last night. I lost count of how many times under no pressure we gave the ball away. Morecambe were average at best but we made them look so good in the opening twenty minutes of the match. We got back into the game and looked okay for the last five minutes of the first half. However that all ended as soon as the second half kicked off as we reverted back to bad habits yet again. How Michael Appleton can stand in front of the media and honestly say 'we deserved a point' is beyond me. It happened against Exeter and it happened again last night, a touch of quality from the only Oxford player who played well getting us out of a hole. Lady luck won't be on our side forever though.

I would also like to reiterate a point I made a few weeks back when I was calling for Appleton to be sacked. His signings are poor. Armand Gnanduillet looked like a player who hadn't played football in ages. I am not convinced he actually moved after being introduced. Kemar Roofe looks like your average League Two winger, has a bit of pace and skill but not much else really. Very similiar to Wes Burns in a way. I also thought Danny Hylton was very poor, we have relied on his so much this season that he just looked physically drained of energy from the first whistle. His decision making wasn't good enough and at times it looked like he didn't trust his team mates. He looked like a school kid on the play ground hogging the ball and not passing to anyone, when in certain situations it would have been better if he'd passed. I definitely think he needs a well earned rest sooner rather than later.

However, despite all the negativity that has surrounded the game a few of us are forgetting that we didn't actually lose. We should have lose but we got a point. We hear the phrase 'it's a sign of a good team if you don't play well but still get a result' all the time and that's what we have done. I admit, I think we should be beating the likes of Morecambe at home but it is a point closer to safety. I still think we can do better than Michael Appleton but we're stuck with him so I may as well get behind him and the players for the rest of the season. I really think next season (if we're still in the Football League) that we have a good chance of promotion to League One with the amount of money the owner is pumping into the club at the moment. However, I still believe the chance would be much greater with a more experienced coach in charge. Yes, we probably would have lost last night if it was earlier in the season and that is progression but the progress is too slow for my liking. Let me know what you think!!!


Monday, 2 March 2015

Who Is Armand Gnanduillet?

Today Oxford United have confirmed the signing of Chesterfield striker Armand Gnanduillet on loan until the end of the season, I look at what sort of player the U's have signed.

What position does he play? Armand is an out and out centre forward
What sort of player is he? A real throw back, a proper old fashioned target man. The sort of player that centre halves with dread coming up against. He'll cause problems, put himself about, win headers and score goals.
Who has he played for? He has most recently played for League One side Chesterfield, he has played 30 times this term but recently not found himself part of manager Paul Cook's plans. He had a brief loan spell at Tranmere Rovers in October, scoring two goals in four appearances. He started his career in France with Le Havre and Poissy before moving over to the English game. 
Why have we signed him? He offers us something we don't have in the final third. We needed a new striker I think, especially after the lack of any sort of spark in the final third against Portsmouth. 
How will he fit into the team? I would have thought he would start most games on the bench. He was known as a bit of a super sub and an impact player at Chesterfield. 

Was Hoskins Signing a Waste of Time?

Oxford United Head Coach Michael Appleton confirmed this morning that Will Hoskins would be back in the reckoning for tomorrow night's clash with Morecambe after his latest injury, however was his signing just a complete waste of time and money?

Signed in August and yet only a handful of games for ex Rotherham and Brighton centre forward Will Hoskins. He put pen to paper with the U's just a few weeks after coming back from a serious knee injury that had kept him out for a whopping 18 months. Was it a gamble from the management or just a stupid waste of time and money? Well, I personally think it's the latter. I don't blame Appleton for taking the gamble really but with Oxford having brought plenty of strikers in since, did we even need to take that gamble in the first place?

You can't help but feel sorry for Will, there is no questioning his ability as a footballer.The constant injuries have completely ruined the career of a promising player. He certainly wouldn't be playing in League Two if he had been off the treatment table and on the pitch more often. He would probably be playing for a decent Premier League side. He just has that touch of class about him, similar to what we saw from Dave Kitson last season. This isn't enough though, he might play very well when he does play but that's not much good if its just once every few months. We could have the best player in world football in Cristiano Ronaldo in the team but there is no point if he is just permanently unfit and watching on from the sidelines like Will Hoskins is doing. If you ask me whether we should offer him an extension to his contract that expires in the summer, it be a categorical no at this stage. This would be unless he can come back, stay fit, have a run in the team and most importantly have an impact on the team. I think it's a waste of time to carry passengers at the club, that applys for people like Jon Meades and maybe even for recent signing Chey Dunkley as well who I think has been below par as well. 

The coming weeks for not just Will Hoskins' career not just at Oxford United but in football in general because if things don't go well here, no club is going to want to touch him. Michael Appleton has even said this is "his last chance" and Hoskins himself probably knows this himself. He simply has to perform and I hope he does because he undoubtedly has talent. If he doesn't though I think Appleton will have to face up to the fact that the signing of Hoskins was a complete flop.