Sunday, October 05, 2008

Yellows 2 Rushden and Diamonds 1

I know a bloke who knows a bloke who plays down the same golf club as Ian Lenegan. I also once spent a night at my sister’s wedding drinking with Mickey Lewis – a night I vowed that, as funny and charming a bloke as Mickey is, I would never befriend an ex-professional footballer. I may have done these things; but I’m not part of any Oxford United in-crowd, still, why didn’t anyone tell me that we don’t like Nick Merry anymore?

The response to Nick Merry’s resignation as chairman – even from those you would expect to have been more supportive (new chairman Kelvin Thomas and Darren Patterson) has been surprisingly negative.

Merry’s legacy will be the revitalisation of Oxford United ‘the club’- a group of people with a similar focus. Its been shaken on a number of occasions; but in comparison to the fractured culture under Firoz Kassam, Merry’s contribution should be recognised.

The business and the team, of course, are in a worse position. The biggest criticism one might level at Merry was to do with his wide-eyed optimism. His were the decisions of a fan – bring back Jim Smith, save us from relegation, buy stadium, enjoy back-to-back promotions like the good old days. Plan A was based wholly on Jim Smith; there was no plan B.

Firoz Kassam is a stubborn and ruthless businessman and it would appear, from corporatehospitalityfood-gate, that Merry does not command the respect needed to resolve the stadium purchase problems. Kassam is probably not really into Merry’s sports jacket, car salesman, slightly Americanised burr style. Let’s hope that Kelvin Thomas is, if not an equal to Kassam at the negotiating table, a credible adversary.

So, there’s been a lot of negativity around the club of late. The talk going into yesterday’s 2-1 win over Rushden and Diamonds was about how Darren Patterson was a defeat from the sack (again). But looking at the performance, it’s clear to me that Patterson has the ability to do well – subject to the finances being such that we can bring in extra players when needed.

We shouldn’t be going into games worrying about failure; I suspect Histon, in fifth, aren’t yet panicking that they’re only 8 points off relegation. Which demonstrates just how tight this division is, so you can look at us being 1 point off the relegation zone or 7 points off the play-offs. Three years ago the gap at the end of September from play-offs to relegation was 12 points, two years ago it was 11, and Morecambe, who ended up promoted, had 16 points, just one more than us.

We are not alone in having financial problems, we’re a small squad, but a good team. If Nick Merry’s legacy is to mean anything, we should be looking at the season as a challenge to be excited about, not a series of disasters waiting to happen.


WAOU Editor said...

I agree with your optimism about Patterson, but I think your analysis of Nick Merry's time as chairman is far too uncritical. Perhaps you're right that he is 'too much of a fan'. He excelled at creating a positive feeling when things went well, but sulked and hid when things weren't, and when he did emerge to say anything, it was by and large void of content. Perhaps that's just a result of his 'wide-eyed optimism', and this is the chairman's version of the fan's conviction that we'll go on a winning streak to the end of the season, and make everything alright.

Whatever the root of his faults as chairman, I do think his legacy is to leave the club in an incredibly difficult position, and it seems notable that despite the project to unite the club again, at the point of his departure it was more fractured than ever in some ways.

I really enjoy your blog by the way.

Oxblogger said...

Thanks WAOU - at risk of sounding like empty praise, I'm a big fan of your site too.

On Merry, I was really trying to redress the balance of coverage. A chairman should be 1 part fan to two parts hard nosed business man. He strikes me as all fan, I think he was hurt that not all the fans stayed with him. He should have handled that, but couldn't.

Kassam was three parts business man, so Merry's added 'fandom' helped revitalise us as a club if not the sustainable business. His arrival had all the hallmarks of the situation at Newcastle - it was a fans solution. Which, to a point, should be recognised although I accept that longer term he could have killed us with kindness.

In my view, fans tend to be good at being fans. Everyone in the stands think they can do better than those on the pitch, but I look around me in the Oxford Mail stand and I know who I'd prefer representing the team.