In less than 24 hours, the great cull of our squad will have begun. So, just before two-thirds of the squad become ex-players, let's look back on a wretched 9 months and see how the squad has fared.
It’s customary at this time of year to pick through the bones of the squad. That seems a bit of waste of time this year as half the squad look set to leave and the other half seemed unable to string together more than half-a-dozen games before heading for the treatment room with a grazed knee.
Jake Wright was majestic throughout the season, and therefore becomes the first player to win Oxblogger Player of the Year along with Player’s Player of the Year and Supporters’ Player of the Year. I’m sure he’d be delighted if he ever found out about that. One day, I’ll buy a trophy or something to mark the honour.
Thankfully, I think we’ll see Wright playing at the Kassam next year. He's intimated a desire to 'play at a higher level' (i.e. leave) with the normal safety caveats of loving the club and all that jazz. He’s still under contract so would command a fee. Even though he's only 27, I still think he's too old for a Championship club to take him on, even if they were looking to a League 2 team with a negative goal difference to solve their defensive issues. Few in League 1 or 2 are likely to spend the required amount to bring him in.
To my mind, there were really only two other contenders for the title of player of the year. Sean Rigg got the games in and was solid and reliable throughout; although his end product was lacking. It's somewhat ironic that his last contributions to our season were the lung busting run down the flank for Alfie Potter’s goal against Rochdale followed by his tap in against Accrington, that is, plenty of end product. Darn that man.
Potter probably had his best season in a yellow shirt, but his form and confidence faded in the bog of our pitch mid-season. Both Potter and Rigg suffer from that thing with wingers; that their job - providing goals - means that they're always likely to fail more than they succeed. So, on a game by game basis they can be frustrating, it's only when considered over a period of time, when you've had the chance to edit out the frustrating times, that you realise the contribution they make. For this read: Joey Beauchamp.
Of the rest, Andy Whing seemed to be the difference between the team being in and out of form; he just didn’t play enough, James Constable had a solid but unspectacular season; the prospects of him racking up 20+ goals in a season seem increasingly remote, but his presence for the fans is important. Damian Batt was similarly solid, Ryan Clarke, when fit, seemed to lack something of the sparkle of previous seasons; perhaps a sign that he was carrying his shoulder injury for some time before he jacked it in for the year.
Age seemed to catch up with Michael Duberry though he let nobody down when he did play. Peter Leven didn’t seem fit at any point and only really contributed from deadballs and set pieces. I have a soft spot for Michael Raynes who never lacked in endeavour.
Others' performances were fleeting in the main, Liam Davis and John Paul Pitman played reasonably in between bouts of injury and Scott Davies' brief flurry of appearances demonstrated a robustness which was a virtue others weren't able to offer. Tom Craddock had sublime moments accetuated with periods of almost other-worldly distinerest and Simon Heslop looked like he wanted to be anywhere but a football pitch.
Jake Wright aside, the squad was ridden with injuries and patchy form. Both Chris Wilder and Ian Lenagan have talked about a squad of youth and robustness, it's fair to say there wasn't much of either on show over the last nine months.