Sunday, 17 July 2011

Some Concerns About Our Preseason Preparations

As a football club with a tendency to start the season in title-winning form only to suffer a catastrophic capitulation in the later stages (think 94/95, 03/04, 06/07, 09/10), it seems we are traditionally better prepared than most clubs at the start of the season – it's only later on that problems appear! However, this year I feel we may have made some mistakes which could later come back to haunt us.

Firstly, while I am far from any kind of expert on fitness training, I would question whether our players are going to be in the best position to start the season at peak fitness. Players were greeted to their first day of preseason training with a gruelling fitness test with each player's endurance being measured by being made to run until complete exhaustion. Further to this is the preseason tour to the United States; a tour which has seen the United players train daily in temperatures of 100 degrees Fahrenheit, as well as play three matches in the space of five days – again in blistering heat. Having undergone such a rigorous preseason schedule it seems likely that players will be exhausted before the season has even begun and this makes players vulnerable to injury.

In fact, the injury list could prove to be a concern before the season has even started. New signing Peter Leven spent the end of last season sidelined with a broken foot and he has already indicated that he will not be fit to play before the home friendly with MK Dons, possibly creating a question mark over whether he will be fit to participate at all during preseason or even to start the season proper. Tom Craddock has so far missed all three preseason matches Oxford have played so far through injury. Yesterday's match against Mass United appeared to present further cause for concern, as Deane Smalley was taken off injured and Simon Clist was also treated for cramp.

The second cause for concern is from a commercial standpoint (ie the home friendlies). For the three matches against MK Dons, Birmingham City and an Everton XI fans are being charged the relatively high price of £12 and, unlike in previous years, the club is offering no discount package to fans who buy tickets for all three matches. This is compounded by the fact that all three matches are to be played in the space of one week which, as well as having the potential to tire the players out further, could also prove to be a step too far for supporters who would have to pay out £36 in one week (£42 if paid on the day) to see non-competitive football. The result is that many supporters will likely pick and choose which of the friendlies they attend and the attendance may suffer as a result.

Finally is the fact that we have arranged to play a friendly against the Milton Keynes Dons. I don't simply mean to use this as an opportunity to heap opprobrium on MK Dons, but instead to suggest that a friendly against them sends out the wrong message to our fans and also the football community at large. The decision to play League 1 opposition is, in my opinion, a good one and is the ideal standard of opposition to provide a useful test in our preparations for the coming season. Admittedly our choice of local League 1 opposition to fill this role is limited, but to choose to play MK Dons (unlike in a league or cup situation where we would have no choice), and presumably to pay them, is an action of support for an entity that many supporters still feel passionately opposed to. Since Kelvin Thomas took over as chairman of the club, he seems to have made communication with the supporters a main priority (a good example would be his impromptu Tweeting during the Mass United friendly), but to a football franchise such as MK Dons 'supporters' do not even exist, let alone engage in any meaningful dialogue with 'their' club's owners, they are merely consumers of the MK Dons product. This is the very opposite of the transparent, community-focussed approach to leadership that Kelvin Thomas has so far brought to Oxford United and to be seen to support a franchise sends out the wrong kind of message about the type of football club Oxford are trying to be. Finally, a move such as this threatens the hard-won goodwill of the fans, some of whom may feel insulted not only that we have chosen to play the MK Dons, but also at the price they are expected to pay to watch an unglamorous preseason friendly against a side that is unlikely to offer football of a much higher standard than we will be seeing during the season anyway.

I don't mean to put a dampener on the positivity surrounding the club ahead of what will hopefully be an exciting season, simply expressing a few concerns. I would be disappointed if any of these factors hurt our start to the new season, but as all Oxford fans know, the fortunes of the club during preseason do not often reflect the team's performance once the real football gets underway!


What an ill-informed and insulting article this is, written with arrogance and exposing a lack of research and knowledge.

The last thing the club needs is idiots like this trying to undermine the squad and its tactics before the season begins.

And the author needs to be reminded that the FSF and AFC Wimbledon agreed that the MK Dons boycott should be lifted years ago.

I see nothing wrong with us playing the Dons and am embarrassed by these comments coming from one of our own fans

I would be supremely worried if 'the squad and its tactics' could be undermined by one blogger merely expressing some degree of concern about whether the preseason schedule is too gruelling. Read any football forum and you'll find a plethora of far worse comments and, fortunately, it's very rare that any comments made by supporters on a forum, in a blog or even in the media could undermine 'the squad and its tactics'. That someone merely expressing an opinion could even be construed as an attempt to 'undermine the squad and its tactics' is frankly laughable.

As for the second part of your comment, at no point have I suggested a boycott of the match. But I believe that there are plenty of OUFC fans who would be unhappy with us organising a friendly against the MK Dons. You may see nothing wrong with us playing them, but others don't necessarily agree and it would be a shame if something as insignificant as a friendly undermined the relationship between the club and the fans, which has been so good recently. The post is not about whether the existence of the MK Dons is right or wrong (that goes way beyond the remit of this blog), but whether it's a good idea to partake in such a potentially divisive friendly.

You seem to have some strong views on the subject and if you if you really strongly disagree then you are welcome to write a rebuttal (you can find the email address at the side of the page), which I would be happy to publish on here.

Get over it.

Mk dons happened. We now have two clubs in the football league doing well, rather than none. Wimbledon would have died, Winkelman gave it a life line.

Grow up and move on.

Thank you so much for the constructive comment. If you'd kindly scroll back up and actually bother to read you'll see that this article is not concerned with how MK Dons came to be or whether their existence is right or wrong. It is instead concerned with whether the decision to invite them to Oxford for a friendly was a good one, given the passions that are aroused by their existence.

PS: Your arguments for their existence are ridiculously weak, I'd suggest you revise them.

Sorry but I agree - this blog IS embarrassing! Isn't the whole 'MK Dons' thing old hat now? I'd move on if I were you. Firstly it's just a pre-season friendly FFS! Secondly, they are here to stay, thirdly, If AFC Wimbledon are already over it why can't you!

Outraged for outraged sake....

Oh dear. I'd clarify it for you, but as you could quite easily have read my above comment I doubt it would do much good. Also, what makes you think AFC Wimbledon ARE over it?

Anyway, as you say it's only a friendly and I expect the world won't have ended by the morning of Sunday the 24th July.

Good blog I agree with the concerns on pricing and that it might not have been the wisest choice by KT to pick MK Dons.

"MK Dons 'supporters' do not even exist, let alone engage in any meaningful dialogue with 'their' club's owners, they are merely consumers of the MK Dons product". This comment betrays your complete ignorance about MK Dons and its fanbase. You may like to mock but MK Dons could teach many football clubs a thing or two about engaging with supporters and the wider community.

Perhaps you're right about engaging with supporters and the wider community, I'm sure MK Dons will have had to make more of an effort than most to build links. I maybe went slightly off-point there. What I should have said was that franchising is, in the eyes of many football supporters, a betrayal and so for a club that has tried to engage much more closely with its fans over recent years to be seen to support them might not be sensible.

Dear TBFUTH - as an MK Dons fan I am very impressed with the way the club engages and communicates with the community and fans.

And one other thing. I was going to pop £36 plus a bit into the Oxford coffers, but now I can't be arsed. I'm not that bothered and have robbed myself of an opportunity to tell where you can shove my £36.

I will also be writing a letter to Mr Wonderful Kelvin Thomas and suggest he uses some of his great leadership and educates half-wits about how outdated and frankly wrong opinions have taken £36 plus a bit away from him.

Thank you.
Good luck next season against Swindon.

Well I was going to pop along and watch the PSF against Oxford but I think I'll go to the Ampthill PSF instead and watch the Dons 11 side instead.
So some money lost there for Oxford and Ampthill's gain.
This use of the word franchise and the assumption every club is in danger is totaly ridulous the FA said at time and have said many times since the situation was unique the FSF called off boycott's years ago so your stance is totaly against the agreed footballing stance.
But if we are not welcome we wont bother coming plenty of other things to spend petrol money and admission on.

Well as MK Dons seem to have survived so long despite being the pariah of football, I'm sure OUFC will survive if a few over-sensitive MK fans decide not to come because someone has pointed out that playing a friendly against them might make some Oxford fans unhappy.

Not being over-sensitive, we're used to being social pariahs, just for a PSF got better things to do now. You'd be surprised at how many people like us now :-)

I was going to come along as well, but given this article, and other comments that have come from oxford fans, I wont bother. Its Ampthill Town for me next week and I shall gladly hand over £14 to them even if its a fiver to get in.

A few reasons why I am a proud Dons fan.1.the togetherness of the whole club from the Chairman downto the youngest fan.2.2600 fans turning out to see their under 15 team play.3.14 disability absolutely superb acadamy.5.players that would rather stay with us than take alot of money and go to a championship side, and lastly 2700fans singing for the team having lost in the playoffs.I too will not come to oufc but instead would rather give my money to Ampthill.Iwillnot be insulted by your fans because of who I support

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