Friday, 11 May 2012

Why Chris Wilder Should Go

Failure to even reach the playoffs this season has sparked heated debate over the future of manager Chris Wilder. Yellows Forum has come to resemble an online battleground since the curtain went down on our ultimately disappointing season, with every discussion degenerating into petty squabbling about whether Wilder should retain his job. Many of the sensible, well-reasoned points from both camps seem to be getting lost amongst the insults and childishness, so we've opened our pages to some sensible debate. Having brought you the views of several Oxford fans who thought Wilder should stay, we continue our debate over the future of the manager with why Wilder should leave.


I do love you but I’m not in love with you.

First of all let’s get something straight; I think Chris Wilder is a decent manager and he has done an ‘OK’ job. He came to a club that was at its lowest ebb for 50 years and restored some much-needed pride. He didn’t do it with particular style or panache and there were some spats along the way, but he did it. The Wembley final was my finest day as an Oxford supporter. I’d been to the Milk Cup Final and other magnificent games but nothing meant as much to me. That day is the primary reason why I will always love Chris Wilder. The titular phrase to my article is often used by husbands and wives as they come to the end of their marriage and to me that’s the stage I’m at. I want a divorce and I want it now.

Throughout our marriage Chris has been unpredictable. Just when I thought things were going well he’ll throw a curveball at me, derisory comments about the club's history, snarling at the fans, inexplicable collapses and an incredible lack of consistency in team selection. Somehow though, although those things hurt, I always felt that the marriage was worth it. He had generally made me happy and, as the cliché says, every marriage has its up and downs.

Last year was a sticky patch, no more than that. I ended that year feeling that we could have achieved more and I watched Stevenage claim a place in League One feeling that it could have been us, but not to worry, we’ll do it next year.

Well ‘next year’ has come and gone and we didn’t do it. In fact we didn’t ‘do it’ due to one of Chris’ spectacular collapses. Over this season I have become tired of Chris, in fact I have started to dread
him. The dread of his post-match media work, dreading being told that I should be grateful for being in League Two, dreading hearing that I should remember that we’re only in our second year back in the league, dreading seeing the 367th combination of strikers, dreading his tactical intransigence, dreading the lack of desire to build upon a one goal lead and most recently dreading seeing Chris choose a player like Dean Morgan over players who have more desire in their little toe than Morgan possesses in his entire body. That dread has taken the love from our marriage and familiarity has bred contempt. I happen to think that that contempt is now mutual, he clearly isn’t in love with me any more. We need to part before all the happiness that the marriage brought vanishes entirely. The marriage counsellor would say “stick at it, progress is slow but you are progressing”. That’s a word that I keep hearing – progress. The numbers don’t lie, we have progressed; is it enough though? We have spent significantly more this year and got a few more points but fundamentally nothing has really changed. If I did speak to a marriage counsellor I’d ask one question, “what will really change to make next year different?” It certainly won’t be Chris; he has shown he is incapable of change.

Chris Wilder is a decent manager. He is certainly very good at setting teams up to avoid defeat. The problem is that only a special few can stay at a club for years and keep the magic alive. I’m so tired of hearing him, dreading him and of watching his team play. He could go to another club and be the breath of fresh air that they, as we, need. The time for him to go is now, before it turns from mild contempt to outright hatred. Think of the kids Chris, think of the kids.


Firstly I would like to thank Chris Wilder for his successes so far at Oxford United, but I unfortunately I feel, as well as many others, he has taken our club as far as he can. This season in particular he has seemed somewhat tactically inept at times and doesn't appear to have a plan B when his wretched 4-3-3 system isn't working. I have never seen the sense in having your star striker (Beano) stuck out wide chasing the ball, only to find that no one is in the box to cross it to, or the ball does get whipped in only to be cleared by a 6 foot 6 centre half because he is head and shoulders above Alfie Potter. Wilder seems to find this an acceptable way to play when in reality our goals for column shows it isn't.

When his beloved 4-3-3 system is failing – and quite often this season it has – he seems to think throwing another striker on and kicking the ball long is the answer. How many sides have come to the Kassam this season and just mopped up the long ball due to aerial prowess and our lack of height up top? If it's that predictable for a fan to see what is happening, surely that makes the opposition manager's team talk very easy indeed.

I always found it strange that he let Jack Midson leave, a player who scores week in week out for his new club because he is playing in the right system and not left out wide foraging for scraps. The signing of Smalley was also very strange, a player who Wilder himself bigged up to score goals but then left him on the bench week in week out, then discarded him at the first opportunity. Granted not every signing works out, but at least give the guy a chance. There have also been some panic loan signings which have turned out to be very poor, like the lad from Sheffield United, who was so bad I can't remember his name. Robbie Hall was an exceptional loan signing, as was Holmes but why oh why didn't Mr Wilder beat down his best mate Kelvin Thomas's door to pay the extra money to keep him rather than waste wages on Morgan (bad attitude) and Montano (not good enough).

In my opinion, I think Wilder has looked a bit like a rabbit in the headlights at times, especially when we are trying to defend one-nil leads at home. Surely he can see this is not our best form of defence as our home record shows, but yet he still persists in using this failed tactic to try and limp us across the line, which has cost us many points this season.

Having said all this, I have renewed my season ticket for the 20th year and shall be supporting the team from the the East Stand (left sider) hoping for promotion, whether it be with Chris Wilder or A N Other


Imagine if you will, you're not an Oxford supporter, you support, say, Luton Town.

After failing in the playoff final this season, Luton find themselves languishing in the lower reaches of the Conference absent a manager (are we all on the same page?). In comes an unproven manager, let's call him Chris Milder, and in the remainder of that season works magic and steers the Hatters to not only safety but to what would have been a play off place if the Luton club secretary knew how to use a fax machine. No doubt you'd be thinking that this Milder bloke is some kind of football genius.

The next season starts off in an amazing fashion and you find yourself well clear at the top of the table come January. Then Milder starts messing with the team, bringing in new faces. Instead of the team pushing on, they begin to falter. By the end of the season Luton finish third with a run in that included home and away defeats to Hayes and Yeading and playing some of the most lacklustre football seen at the club in years. No doubt you'd be thinking that there is still a chance of going up via the playoffs but might also be forgiven for doubting their chances. In any event, Luton go all the way, winning the playoff final in style. Milder is a football genius again even though he has shown that he isn't as adept in the transfer market as you might have hoped.

First season back in the league starts okay, with Luton skirting around the play off positions. They would be much higher in the league if they didn't fail to win so many at home with a lack of width making it hard to break teams down. Milder blames teams "parking the bus" and on a couple of occasion the fans for being so negative. Still, going in to April, Luton are only 3 points outside the playoffs despite not playing anything approaching decent football, the majority of the fans still see him as some kind of god. More team changes lead to a pathetic 7 points on run in see them drop to 12th. You might be forgiven for thinking "it's okay, we consolidated our league status but Milder needs to stop tinkering, get some stability and push on for promotion next season".

"Oh my," you think as the next season starts, "What a team, we'll be pushing for promotion with this". Your hopes are realised, up until January at least, when the tinkering begins. Baffling team selections, players dropped for seemingly no reason and drawing too many games at home due to the formation allowing for no width. Again despite all this, you are still looking good for a playoff berth in the final weeks of the season. Luton however pick up 3 of the last available 21 and slip to 9th.

"Well, Milder has improved on last year" some might say. "Luton are going in the right direction". If you call repeating the same transfer and tactical errors year on year progress, then fair enough. If you call throwing away a realistic chance of promotion progress, fair enough. If an improvement of three league places, winning the same number of games, scoring one more goal than the previous season and gaining six more points (over 46 games) as sufficient progress then you're entitled to your opinion. To not see that the growing number of discontented fans might actually have a point, even a little bit of a point, maybe even questioning whether they are "real" or "loyal" supporters, is just plain ignorant.

Excuse the long-winded example, but sometimes at your own club, it's hard to see the woods for the trees. If you supported another club and looked at the 'progress' of Oxford United over the last three seasons, you might start to ask questions about the manager's ability yourself. Rose tinted specs can cloud judgement, mine were taken off last season as far as Wilder is concerned! "But we beat Swindon home and away," you might say. Look what happened to Swindon and what their 'clown' of a manager achieved. I know who got the better end of the deal.

Wilder has found his level. If we want real progress (i.e. promotion) we need a man with a "plan B" (i.e. something, anything other than 4-3-3) and knows when there's a good thing going.

So I say "Thanks for all you have done Mr Wilder and where you have taken us, sadly I fear you have neither the ability or adaptability to take the club any further".


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