The Appletonometer, which measures the manager's rolling 46 game points total meandered away throughout October before ending the month on 71 points, exactly where he was at the end of last month. The defeat to Barnet and draw with Orient didn't help, but otherwise, the month was a good one. It's just that October last year was also pretty good by the low standards we came to expect.
Five game form illustrates the month's performances much better, while the long term trend flatlined, in the short term we're still better than we've seen since Appleton's arrival last year. Even with the dropped points against Orient and Barnet, in the short term we're still showing title form.
Five game form
Run rateIn so many ways, the most important measure it how we're doing against our target of promotion. And the answer is that we're bang on track, if not a little ahead. We closed the month with a points total that would see us winning the title in May if we kept it up. And if you need any more assurance we're on the right track, which you don't, look at the droopy grey line at the bottom. That's where we were last year.
When Tim Walker asked me last month for a reverse polynomial of David Kemp, I thought he was inadvertently referring to a practice only found on the dark web. It got me thinking; one thing about the grinding mundanity of Oxford United’s performance over the years is that both success and failure, when they come, are in stark relief to everything around it.
The best of times, the worst of times
The comically awful 2000/2001 season represents, without question, our worst ever season performance-wise. It wasn’t just Kemp, of course; Denis Smith, Mike Ford and somewhere along the line Joe Kinnear got involved in the debacle.
We won seven games, conceded 100 goals and ended with a goal difference of -47. We played with over 40 players, including Dean Whitehead and current Swansea manager Gary Monk. Incidentally, we scored the same number of goals as Wigan in 6th but conceded 20 goals more than any other team. The top two teams; Millwall and Rotherham, conceded less goals than us combined. And if you thought that was bad; goalkeeper Richard Knight - one of five goalkeepers that season - without irony, was awarded player of the season.
But, when was the peak? That’s easy too; we’ve only won two titles in my lifetime; 1983/84 and 1984/85. I was about 12 and thought this was how life was always going to be. Of those titles, the first saw us amass 95 points, 10 more than the following season. And if you say that we played less games in 84-85, then you're right, but we still had a better points average by 0.04. I've checked.
Although we’d have our moment in the sun at Wembley, as a season of performances, 1983/84 was the best it ever was. Incidentally, in those two promotion seasons we lost just two games at home. That's Oxford United - from Aldo to Anthrobus.
But then, this is Maths of the Day. How does that look in some sexy graphs?
Well, pretty obviously, the run rate in 83-84 was a steep incline while 00-01 limped along all year to a paltry 27 points. By comparison, in 83-84 we passed that mark after 14 games. This season we're getting to that point, so at least this isn't going to be the worst season ever.
What is pretty interesting is just how closely the record run rate aligns with this season. Admittedly, it coincides with the only slump we suffered that year, and there's a long way to go, but better to be closer to the red.
The five-game form book looks as you'd expect. Basically the best form we ever displayed during 00-01 was barely better than the worst form we shows in the promotion year. Again, this season chugs alongside the right line. There is a slump in all three seasons around the 10 game mark. From our perspective it is worth noting the two or three slumps we suffered even when accumulating record points. One in particular, early in the season, was close to relegation form. That, perhaps, reminds us that we will, probably, suffer the worst of times, even at the best of times. The challenge is toughing it out and bouncing back, in the long-term, as long as the goal is reached, the short term blips will be long forgotten.