Much to Ian Atkins’ chagrin, Graham Rix was actually given funds to bring in decent strikers. So in came the curious Lee Bradbury and indomitable Tommy Mooney.
Bradbury was a multi-million pound player at Portsmouth. His career pretty much collapsed thereafter and he eventually found himself at Oxford. Some tried to convince themselves that Bradbury’s ineffectiveness was down to the fact his thinking was ahead of those around him. This was rubbish; in two years he only just broke double figures in terms of goals. Although one was a fantastic overhead kick against Torquay. Firoz Kassam cryogenically froze his Oxford career before his appearance total triggered a contract renewal.
Mooney was a bullish centre forward and grizzled old pro. Like Bradbury, he was a former million pound man. His arrival from Swindon was particularly sweet, although after a single season he buggered off to Wycombe. But, he was brilliant, a proper striker who knew the game. His 25 yard strike against Yeovil was up there amongst the best the Kassam Stadium has ever seen.
Third fiddle was Craig Davies, a precocious Mancunian, who looked like he had all the talent to play in the top division. By all accounts, he was a difficult character; Mooney, in particular, seemed to dislike him.
Although Mooney left at the end of 2004/5, the following season we maintained an embarrassment of riches up front. With Basham, Bradbury Hackett, Brooks, and Davies we looked like we should be threatening the top end of the division. At Christmas 2005, in an act of criminal complacency, Bradbury, Davies and Hackett all left. From Christmas Day to the end of the season we scored just 19 goals, three of those on boxing day.
In place of the departing trio was Eric Sabin, lightening quick, elegant, but underwhelming in front of goal. And Yemi Odubade who first appeared in an Eastbourne Borough shirt during a FA Cup game. I was at the game and when he appeared off the substitutes bench the locals went mad. It was like God was coming on.
In the replay he outplayed us all on his own, hitting the bar and post numerous times. Yet, somehow, we won 3-0 with a Basham hat-trick. Yemi's performances were enough to convince Brian Talbot to sign him on.
When Talbot had gone, Jim Smith scrambled to rescue a sinking ship, bringing Tcham NToya in to spark a revival. The revival spluttered, despite a memorable first game for Smith and Merry against Peterborough in which N’Toya scored.
As we head into the Conference, it’s time to put another one into the Kassam All-Star XI. In a sea of impotent strikers and unfulfilled promises, Tommy Mooney showed in one season what a professional striker was really about. Despite the Swindon background and the Wycombe betrayal, he’s well worth his slot up front.