Life is a constant struggle between idealism and pragmatism, should you aim to thrive through your art, or survive through results? This struggle is the pathway to madness, or perhaps oblivion, or nirvana. This is why you need philosophy.
The British frown on philosophy; or at least its articulation (everyone uses it every day). It’s a middle class folly, but we are a ruthless expansionist race, a small island with the 6th biggest economy on the planet. We’re results-driven pragmatists; our exploitation of industry, oppression of the commonwealth, and invention of get-rich-quick financial systems are testament to that. Our football is the product of our culture where results are admired over performances. This is our philosophy.
It is the same locally, Aldershot is a garrison town, where people are stripped of their freewill and personality in order to fight for a nebulous ‘cause’. Their football is similarly without personality; effective though it is. Is it ironic or illustrative that in their promotion year the Shots attack was lead by John Grant, a position now occupied by Marvin Morgan who was replaced by another big, black, athletic target man Spencer. Identikit strikers for a pragmatic solution.
So what is Oxford football? Difficult to say given that we’ve lost our way in the last decade. But Oxford is a seat of learning; a place that appreciates the power of intellect. It is a place, above all others, where a footballing philosophy should be allowed to develop.
It is a frustrating process; all art is. Sometimes its beautiful and effective, sometimes it leaves you cold. Saturday’s result and performance was exactly that.
It’s true that we need to find the code for our Alamo setting. On Saturday, we evolved from an expansive attacking unit into a bunch of strangers that became more iterative and less coherent. We abandoned any emergent philosophy in a tactical vacuum.
But this isn’t just vacuous twaddle. If you need any evidence that a football philosophy works, just look at our current world champions. Their current dominance is based on a philosophy almost half a century in the making. Spain’s World Cup is based on Barcelona’s football philosophy, which is an evolution (via Johan Cruyff) of Ajax’s Total Football concept. Rather than waiting for the perfect generation to chance upon each other once in a millennium, a philosophy provides a link from one generation to the next. Continued, long term success.
The importance of this philosophy is that it should last beyond Chris Wilder and James Constable and provide the backbone to success for decades to come.