Thursday, November 16, 2006

The managers: Graham Rix (2004)

Graham RixWhilst idly flicking over to check the England score, I found myself not necessarily wanting them to lose, but not really wanting them to win. I want them to suffer, I guess. It's not the individual players, necessarily, it's the institution of England football that I dislike. Overpaid, under-performed and still demanding our respect.

I found myself almost wanting Oxford to lose during Graham Rix's reign at The Kassam. He arrived with a reputation; partly from his conviction for underage sex, but also as one of the best young coaches in the country.

However, the truth belied this reputation, at Portsmouth he spent something like £4 million and steered Portsmouth to 17th in Division 1.

Although Oxford's promotion push in 2003/4 was stuttering, it was far from over. Rix's first mistake was made on day one; the squad was made up of big lumps of concrete drilled to lump the ball to more big lumps up front. The first game against Doncaster we were treated to the sight of Andy Crosby and Matt Bound passing the ball along the six yard box in an attempt to play 'proper football'. The season ended with just one more win; against Rochdale on the last day of the season.

New season, new start. Rix invested heavily in the likes of Lee Bradbury and Tommy Mooney. Despite this, 20 more games and only 5 more wins left Oxford in no man's land, meanwhile the strict regime of Ian Atkins' time collapsed, and Julian Alsop was sacked for sexually assaulting a youth player with a banana. One of the club's finest hours.

'Proper football' was tedious because it always seemed to end in defeat; and in the end I was left hoping that each loss would be so cataclysmic that he'd be fired. He did, of course, eventually, re-appearing at perhaps the only club in Britain more mad than the Us at that time: Hearts.

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