For the first time ever I’m going to miss an Oxford v Wycombe professional league fixture. It’s the only Oxford fixture I can truly talk about with any authority.12 games and fifteen years, plus the 2006 cup game - I’ve seen it all; Matt Elliot’s sending off, Stuart Massey hanging off the cross bar, and a goalie named Hubert Busby.
In ’94 our rivals were Reading and Swindon. Wycombe were well run and non-threatening. Other derbies were blood-letting affairs, our Wycombe game plan was the equivalent of putting our hand on their forehead and letting them swing punches wildly. They were upstarts and pipsqueaks.
In truth by running their club properly, they produced a very effective football team. Adams Park is a neat little ground surrounded by the Chiltern Hills, or at least it was. In a fit of ambition they’ve added a huge main stand, which towers over the other three sides. It looks like someone’s decided to stop a few hoodies from smoking by moving a robotic killing machine in to watch over them.
For the first three meetings we simply expected victory, on each occasion we left miserable and usually a bit humiliated. The run was broken in ’96 whilst in the middle of a once in a generation run of games in which our juggernaut of a team sweep to promotion. The victory was marked by the aforementioned, now iconic, Massey monkey hang and Moody dad-gymnastics. The highlight of the sequence.
Between then and the last meeting in 2006 I stare at the fixtures desperately trying to recall much at all about any of them. I remember Pal Lundin scoring the winning penalty in the Auto Windscreen Shield game I missed, and a barely deserved away win in 2000, and Hubert Busby’s single appearance at a shambolic game I arrived late for, but that’s it.
We’ve traded blows, won a bit, lost a bit, but all the while we were drowning and they were not. In fact, having played in two major cup semi-finals they’ve had a recent history we’d have killed for.
The penultimate league game was probably the best in the sequence, a 2-2 draw with us equalising a couple of minutes from time. A classic in the great scheme of things, but with the crowd nearly 30% down on its ’95 vintage, most had lost interest in the fixture as a derby, in fact it was just another game.