Fan Feature: Plymouth Argyle

PLYMOUTHA few months ago, we spoke to Dave Weeks ahead of the Cobblers’ game at Home Park against Plymouth Argyle. Plenty has changed since then in both camps and Dave is back again this week to give us his thoughts on how the season is going for his beloved Pilgrims, their activity in the transfer window and on the expectations for the run-in. You can follow Dave on Twitter at @DaveWeeks16.

How’s things been at Argyle since we last met?

Better, I wouldn’t say a lot but it is better, we’re finding ourselves harder to beat even if we do play poor. Also being further up in the table proves that, even though the league is tight somewhat.

How was your transfer window? Any big signings or sales?
Ok, we signed Banton and Parsons from Palace, both good signings for this league, although Parsons got injured as soon as he came in so haven’t seen much of him. Deadline day we was all expecting a striker to come in until Sheridan came out and said that it was unlikely we’d get anyone which ruined it. In desperate need of a striker too.

The Pilgrims are still the second lowest scorers in League Two (we’re the lowest!) … have you done much to address this since our last game?
Nope. Well we did, we had Lavery in from Sheffield Wednesday in December he made a big impact but they took him back and we haven’t got anyone in so we’re playing pretty much strikerless as Rueben Reid isn’t really stepping up.

Can you put a run together to make it into the playoffs? What needs to change if you’re going to get there?
I highly doubt it, Sheridan promised attacking football 2 games ago, both of those games we’ve hardly attacked at all. So until we get a striker in (on loan) I can’t see it, be more draws than anything.

Finally, a score prediction for Saturday?
Everything screams a win for Northampton, but i’ll go for 1-1. If it isn’t called off.

Plymouth Argyle Links…

Official Site: http://www.pafc.co.uk/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/plymouthargylefc

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Only1Argyle

Forum: http://www.pasoti.co.uk/talk/

BBC Site: http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/teams/plymouth-argyle

Local News: http://www.plymouthherald.co.uk/plymouthargyle

Wiki: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plymouth_Argyle_F.C.

Stadium Guide: http://www.footballgroundguide.com/plymouth_argyle/

Fan Feature: Torquay United

torquay-united-logo-150x150Torquay United: Fan Feature

Back in August, Torquay United fan Christina Smart gave us her thoughts just before the Cobblers hosted her Gulls at Sixfields. A lot has changed for both sides since with managerial changes all round and, with both sides stuck in the bottom two, it’s set to be a crunch game this weekend as we meet again. Christina gives her thoughts on the latest comings, goings and happenings at Plainmoor below.

You can follow her passionate Torquay United tweets at @stinadreama…big thanks to Christina for taking time to answer these…

So, Chris Hargreaves! A big win in his first game in charge last week… how has the outlook of the club changed since his appointment?

I understand your disappointment that we won the tug of love for our new manager, I wish you well in your next managerial appointment and you can probably guess a lot of what I’m about to say!

Chris Hargreaves (and his assistant Lee Hodges, another young ex-Gull with management experience, at Truro City) feels as right for us as Alan Knill sadly proved to be wrong, and the less said about that sad time (squirrel jokes aside) the better. All credit to Thea Bristow and the Board for returning to our core values of team spirit and work ethic with this bold appointment.

Known affectionately to us as Jesus or Tarzan because of the long flowing hair in his time here as a player, Chris Hargreaves captained us back into the Football League at Wembley on 17th May 2009, scoring an audacious goal in the process. When he collected the cup he immediately gestured over to us, the fans, yelling “This is for you!”

A staggering TEN of those Wembley heroes are right here, right now: 8 of that playing squad (Hargreaves, Hodges, Poke, Rice, Nicholson, Mansell, Benyon, and the recently reintroduced Danny Stevens; GK coach Kenny Veysey, and physio Damien Davey. It is the hunger to preserve the league status they fought so hard for together, and won, that he can immediately tap in to and hopefully translate into results.

Every point is obviously precious now, but even so, for me a draw at Kingsmeadow would have been a perfectly respectable start. Instead, we were treated to a dream come true with a clean sheet, 2 goals, 3 points, 11 man of the match performances and a team effort which everyone could be proud of.

Another thing that has been transformed is our PR. Interviews are suddenly insightful and entertaining, sprinkled with quips about getting in all the Bournemouth players and not being David Blaine.

Upbeat and positive? “How very unTorquay!” you would have said at almost any time in 2013, but things change, thankfully, and sometimes rapidly!

Any transfer news since the window opened?

Yes and no! I’ve lost count of all the loanees that have come and gone. Yeoman, Thompson and Lathrope have been welcomed back into the fold and are very much part of the survival plan.

Initially, the aim is to see what can be got out of the existing players. That’s clearly working already. Nicholson (completely frozen out under Knill, hence the Lazarus twitter avatar) and Mansell are reportedly rejuvenated, and a reinstated Pearce, who I like a lot, scored on Saturday. O’Connor is now playing at RB where he was so effective last season at Burton.

Jayden Stockley is back on another month’s loan and his Bournemouth team-mate Shaun Cooper is expected to be joining us too. Young Brighton striker Shamir Goodwin has also arrived on a month’s loan. Danny Stevens is dividing opinion by reportedly training with us; he was released after 5 years’ service, is still without a club and has always been commited to the yellow cause.

Vice chairman Alex Rowe has enthused that funds can be available for further reinforcements if needed, and Hargreaves believes bringing in the right character is crucial. Realistically, we are perhaps more likely to utilise the more affordable loan market than to look to buy.

Obviously it’s a huge game on Saturday in terms of the relegation battle but are your sights now set on mid-table and beyond?

Looking back at my blindly optimistic prediction in the summer makes me blush with embarrassment! The goal for now is simply to escape the drop, nothing more, nothing less, game by game, point by point.

I wouldn’t go so far as to say another trip to the Conference wouldn’t be a disaster, because in many ways of course it would be. Chris Hargreaves has astutely not dismissed this possiblilty out of hand because let’s face it, he has inherited a mess: he is our Plan A and our Plan B, which very neatly takes pressure off the players, simultaneously indicating that he is with us for the long haul.

I fully expect an open-top bus survival parade in May with Hargreaves milking it for all it’s worth. I can visualise it now! That’s the least he, and all of us who stand united, will deserve if, by force of character and strength of leadership, he makes Saturdays worth living for again.

Management, staff, players and fans have been united from the very first kick of the new era, and whenever the time comes for us to move from crisis management to longer term progression we have a real chance to build a club to be proud of, a whole philosophy with the open expansive style of play Hargreaves tantalisingly promises. The future’s bright, the future’s yellow. And Where’s the Caravan now? It has a permanent pitch in Babbacombe with a freshly painted picket fence and a budding rose garden.

Who have been the star men amidst the struggle in the opening months of the season?

The last few months have been demoralising and disjointed; we simply weren’t set up to succeed. The stars were there, but for a lot of the time we just couldn’t see them for the clouds. It’s impossible to shine when you have no confidence or belief . Having said that, the rise of Martin Rice on being handed the injured Michael Poke’s goalkeeping gloves has been meteoric. I’ve liked what I’ve seen of Jordan Chapell, and Downes has been immense. Marquis and McCourt did well while they were here, but we still need to uncover some shooting stars.

And finally, a score prediction for Saturday?

I’m hoping for a warm reception for Hargreaves from both sets of fans, and it’s easy to predict an emotionally charged atmosphere. Thank goodness this fixture was scheduled for so early in the New Year; I’d hate for us to meet in a winner-takes-all end of season affair. I predict that it will go to the wire and both of our teams will survive! Turning to Saturday’s 6-pointer, in muddy conditions and with the Chris Hargreaves factor, I think it will be much more like a cup game when anything can happen and probably will. A scintillating 2-2 draw… No, no, we must win. We’ll win. 2-1.

2014 has started astonishingly well and is going to be the year that keeps on giving, I just know it.

Torquay United Links…

Official Website: http://www.torquayunited.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Torquay-United-FC/104156479621220?fref=ts

Twitter: @InsidePlainmoor

Forum: http://www.torquayfans.com/forum/

Blogs: http://greenwichgull.wordpress.com/   

http://gilbertthegull.wordpress.com/tag/torquay-united-blog/

Wiki: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Torquay_United_F.C.

BBC Website: http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/teams/torquay-united

Local News section: http://www.thisissouthdevon.co.uk/torquayunited

Stadium Guide: http://www.footballgroundguide.com/torquay_united/

Fan Feature: Bury FC

buryFor this week’s Fan Feature, Bury fan Stephen Farrar looks at his club’s new manager as well as the expectations from here on in after a disappointing first half of the season. You can follow Stephen on Twitter at @steviebury.

David Flitcroft has been appointed manager this week…after a decent spell in the Championship with Barnsley, does the appointment excite you?

Yes. I think he was very unlucky to be sacked at Barnsley after doing a decent job. Last season he performed a great escape when they looked dead and buried after Keith Hill was sacked. This season he didn’t get off to the greatest start but without trying to upset any Tykes fans, they are not the biggest club in the Championship and from what I believe have one of the smallest budgets. If he is anything like when he was a player here I’m sure he will have the players running through walls for Bury Football Club.

Flitcroft has already said that he plans to reshape the team when the transfer window opens in January…what changes do you think need to be made?

Well….. Centre back is the main problem. Edjenguele & (former Cobblers defender) Nathan Cameron are very prone to making a few errors a game. First choice keeper Brian Jensen’s contract is up in January so that is another that needs filling. Left back is also a bit of a problem for us after experienced Gareth Roberts hasn’t really stepped up to the mark. They are the main areas he could do with strengthening but I will also suggest he gives some of the other players in the squad a game like Grimes, Holden etc.

What went so wrong in the early part of this season?

We actually started off really well. We competed very well against a very decent Chesterfield side in which the difference was them taking their chances. We then beat Crewe in the Capital One Cup after a very good performance. We played very well in the next game against Oxford only to lose out after 2 poor decisions by the officials. Then in the next few games we beat Accrington 3-0, Drew 2-2 at Burton after conceding in the last minute, scored 3 goals against Premier League Norwich although we did concede 6 and finally beat Cheltenham 4-1 to top off a very good August. Since then however we have lost all confidence, making gaffes in our box and missing sitters in the opponent’s box and completely bypassing midfield.

What were your expectations at the start of the season and how have they changed now?

At the start of the season I said top half because I was aware after last season’s financial issues we would be a club in transition and therefore shouldn’t expect to bounce straight back. Right now I would take anything above bottom 2 because I think if we can get through this season we can then keep the backbone of the squad, get rid of the deadwood and add a little more quality. Hopefully then next season we can be up and around the play-offs in the 2014/15 season.

And, finally, a prediction for Saturday’s game?

Sorry Cobblers but I think with the new manager effect we will manage to grab the win in this big six pointer, however we are still prone to an error at the back so i will go 2-1 to the mighty Shakers. All the best for the rest of the season and I hope you stay up as I have always enjoyed my trips to Northampton.

Just a quick added extra to any Cobblers coming to the JD Sta…. Gigg Lane, who like a great pint of real ale: get down to Trackside in the centre of Bury. Great atmosphere and great pint from the board of 10 real ales and it’s only £3 in a taxi to Gigg Lane or a 15 minute walk.

Bury FC Links…

Official Website: http://www.buryfc.co.uk/

Forums: http://www.mannyroadend.co.uk/messageboard.php

http://themightyshakers.co.uk/forum/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/buryfcofficial

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BuryFCOfficial

BBC Sport Section: http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/teams/bury

Local News Section: http://www.burytimes.co.uk/sport/football/shakers/

Stadium Guide: http://www.footballgroundguide.com/bury/index.htm

Fan Feature: Fleetwood Town

Fleetwood_Town_FCFor this week’s Fan Feature I spoke to Cod Army supporter Amy Slater and she gave her thoughts on her side’s fantastic start to the season as well as the emerging talents of manager Graham Alexander. You can follow Amy on Twitter – @AmySlater_ 

Top of the league (and having a laugh?!) at the moment… what’s been the secret to your success so far? What have been the highlights?

The secret to our success is undoubtedly the passion of our chairman, without him we would still be in the North West Counties League. The highlight is obviously obtaining football league status.

What’s changed since last season?

The changes from last season are that we have a manager who is willing to change the game in a positive way. Under Micky Mellon we had a manager who was frightened to death of losing, this showed on the field and ultimately his undoing.

Anything that still needs working on?

Midfield and defensively we are pretty sound, the main concern is having an out and out striker. We miss Jamie Vardy very much and we are finding it hard to find a replacement.

Who have been the key men in your run to the top of the table?

The main reason for our run up the table is having a good defence and midfield, plus anybody in the side is liable to score.

Graham Alexander is building a solid record up with the Cod Army…how’s he getting on in his first full season?

GA is proving to be a decent manager who is still learning his trade with us, he seems to have got the team to gel. If we acquire a decent striker in the loan window or in January then I see no reason why we can’t achieve promotion.

Finally, a prediction for the game on Saturday?

2-1 Cods!

 

Fleetwood Town links…

Official website: http://www.fleetwoodtownfc.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Fleetwood-Town-FC/114163671927662

Twitter: https://twitter.com/ftfc

Forum: http://www.independentftff.proboards.com/

Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fleetwood_Town_F.C.

Ground guide: http://www.footballgroundguide.com/fleetwood_town/index.htm

Local News: http://www.blackpoolgazette.co.uk/sport/fleetwood-town

FA Cup Week: Part Four – Bishop’s Stortford Fan Feature

The FA Cup First Round draw takes place on Sunday afternoon

Part Four of the FA Cup Week special blogs sees us catch up with Bishop’s Stortford fan Padraig Curran, a former stadium announcer at the ProKit UK Stadium. He discusses past glories, who the key men to watch will be on Sunday and predicts the outcome of the big game. You can follow Padraig on Twitter at @PadraigSCurran.

How did you come to support Bishop’s Stortford?

PC: I’ve lived in Bishop’s Stortford all my life and Stortford were always my local club, my Dad was born and bred and has lived all his life in the town and used to watch Stortford at Rhodes Avenue when he was a kid. My Grandad was also a Stortford fan and even played for the club for a little while, so I guess it’s in the blood really. I got my first season ticket aged 14 but used to watch the club fairly regularly before that.

What have been the highlights of your time supporting the Bishops?

PC: I’ve had some great experiences supporting Stortford with some great trips to away games and some brilliant matches at home. Watching Dwight Gayle at the club a couple of years back was fantastic and I’m glad that he’s made the move to Palace and is now a Premier League player. On a personal note, my highlight was being Stadium Announcer at Woodside Park for 2 seasons from the age of 16 up until the point I left for University. It was a great experience and I thoroughly enjoyed working at the club.

Who are your key men to watch?

PC: All of them!! Reece Prestedge has always been a great player for us, a commanding midfielder and really sorts the team out. From what I’ve seen so far this year from a distance, Kyle Vassell looks like a cracking player and has scored some great goals too for us so far not least the one only last weekend against Tonbridge Angels. Those two are probably the two to look out for next weekend.

What have been the key reasons behind your excellent start to the season?

PC: This is all down to the great work by our boss Rod Stringer and his coaching team. Rod has been fabulous since he came to this club, we had tough times in the North but he took us successfully through that difficult period in our history and we’re now reaping the rewards for his work on the pitch back in the South. He has brought in some great signings and has brought back a sense of confidence, self-belief and his team really gels together and is such a strong unit.

Any famous fans?

PC: Not that I know of! I suppose the Arsenal legend John Radford who was also our manager could count and also the BBC Radio One DJ Greg James who comes from the town.

Finally, a score prediction for the game?

PC: Stortford to nick it 2-1. Vassell to get them both!

 

Bishop’s Stortford Links…

Official Website: http://www.bsfc.co.uk/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/bishops.stortfordfc

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Bis_Storford_FC

Forum: http://forums.footballwebpages.co.uk/forum.jsp?id=30

Local news site: http://www.hertsandessexobserver.co.uk/Sport/

Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bishop’s_Stortford_F.C.

Podcast: http://bsfc.podbean.com/

Fan Feature: Plymouth Argyle

PLYMOUTH

This week’s Fan Feature sees Plymouth Argyle fan Dave Weeks take the hot seat. You can follow Dave on Twitter @DaveWeeks16. Below he gives his thoughts on a relieving victory for his side last weekend and a barren run in front of goal….

 

How much of a relief was it to win at the death last weekend – your first victory in eight league games?

It was a massive relief for everyone at the club. Although a draw would’ve been an ok result away from home, it would’ve also meant 9 games without a win. So yeah it was a massive relief and gives the fans a bit of a lift and a bit more confidence going into Saturday’s game.

You’re the lowest scorers in League Two with nine goals…what are the main reasons for the barren run in front of goal?

Our strikers – they’ve been so poor it’s unbelievable, although I suppose they aren’t really getting much service either. There doesn’t seem to be much confidence in the team, especially attacking. We had 21 shots against Hartlepool, scored 0. Then again, their keeper was on form.

Do you expect more this season or is mid-table realistic in terms of ambition?

I expected more, a lot more. Drawing at home 0-0 to Newport and Accrington Stanley wasn’t what I thought we had planned. Now I expect mid-table but if we manage to go on and progress further up the table, I’ll take that.

Is John Sheridan the right man to take you forwards?
Right now? No. Simple as that. I hope he does take us forwards as we need a settled experienced manager. Right now though I can’t see it being him, let’s hope I’m wrong.

What are Argyle fans’ views on Northampton?
Obviously after last week’s win, the views are now is that we should win. You’re below us in the league, only won one away this season, struggling to score by the looks of your away games this season. We really should be winning, no disrespect to you lot obviously.

Finally, a score prediction for the game?

You can’t score, we can’t score: 0-0. Although the last two games at Home Park have produced five goals in both games.

 

Plymouth Argyle Links…

Official Site: http://www.pafc.co.uk/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/plymouthargylefc

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Only1Argyle

Forum: http://www.pasoti.co.uk/talk/

BBC Site: http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/teams/plymouth-argyle

Local News: http://www.plymouthherald.co.uk/plymouthargyle

Wiki: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plymouth_Argyle_F.C.

Stadium Guide: http://www.footballgroundguide.com/plymouth_argyle/

Fan Feature: Cheltenham Town

Cheltenham-Town-FC-logo (1)Fan Feature: Cheltenham Town

As the Cobblers host Cheltenham Town in a repeat of last season’s Playoff Semi-Finals, Rubies fan Matt gives us his thoughts on what has been a stuttering start to the season  and whether Mark Yates can turn things around at Whaddon Road for another shot at promotion. You can follow Matt on Twitter at @ctfcMatt.

The Rubies have had a similarly poor start to their season as the Cobblers albeit with a couple of more victories and Matt says a lack of consistency has been the main issue.

“After a pretty promising summer, in which we bought in a few new players, (Terry Gornell, Jamie Cureton, Matt Richards) to name a few, the feeling around the camp is that we had experience, and these guys knew what it took to gain promotion,” he says,

“I think most Cheltenham supporters went in to the opening game of the season high on confidence but after losing a two goal lead, and star-man Jamie Cureton to a dislocated shoulder, an opening day draw at home to Burton Albion was not a bad result at all. Since then, with a fantastic trip to West Ham United in-between, we haven’t even come close to showing the kind of consistency which is needed to gain promotion, or even replicate last season and climb in to the play-offs.”

Before the 3-0 win over Morecambe last weekend, manager Mark Yates appeared to under some pressure and fans have been split over whether he should stay and have another go at promotion. Matt says:

“It’s a tough one. His strength, without a doubt, is finding himself a player. In his past few seasons here we’ve seen plenty of players come in who look like they could cope at a higher level (Marlon Pack, Luke Summerfield, Sido Jombati) to name a few. His weakness however, this being key, is his tactics. Since his arrival, we’ve never really had a solid foundation to build on. He doesn’t always know how he wants to set up his own team, and tends to favour certain players, despite their performances, higher in the pecking order than others, which at times is frustrating.”

Matt goes on to state that the Rubies’ defence is the key thing that his side needs to work on if they’re to start moving back towards the right end of the table. He says,

Having been hit with a few injuries early on, our problem, without doubt, has been in the defence. With the back four being different every week, we’ve shipped so many sloppy goals this season, I have started to lose count! Scoring goals definitely hasn’t been a problem this season, but like I say, conceding them has been!”

cureton2

Cureton…landmark goal

At the other end of the pitch, Jamie Cureton scored his 250th career goal a couple of weeks ago having joined the club from Exeter City in the summer but others seem to have upped their game to give Yates a welcome headache in the striker department.

“After getting hit with an injury on the opening day of the season,” Mark says, “he (Cureton) certainly has hit back with some vital goals. Terry Gornell and Byron Harrison didn’t struggle during his absence, and in my opinion, those two should be the two that start, but it’s always a luxury to have well-travelled player like Jamie at the club.”

As always, we end with our guests’ score prediction with Matt going for a narrow win for his side:

“Cobblers 1 – 2 Rubies/Robins…Harrison and Matt Richards with our two goals.”

Cheltenham Town Links:

Official Site: http://www.ctfc.com

Blogs: http://cheltenhamtownchatter.blogspot.co.uk/

http://www.wearegoingup.co.uk/category/cheltenham-town/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ctfcofficial

Twitter: https://twitter.com/CTFCofficial

Forum: http://www.robinsnestforum.co.uk/

BBC Site: http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/teams/cheltenham-town

Local News: http://www.thisisgloucestershire.co.uk/cheltenhamtown#axzz2ifiujpvQ

Wiki: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cheltenham_Town_F.C.

Stadium Guide: http://www.footballgroundguide.com/cheltenham_town/

Fan Feature: Oxford United

oxfordThis weekend sees the Cobblers attempt to build on a morale boosting away win at AFC Wimbledon as we make the shortest trip of our season. The Kassam Stadium hasn’t been a happy hunting ground for Town over the last few years barring that fantastic day in 2006 when we took a giant leap towards promotion with a 3-1 win at the home of the U’s. The stadium hasn’t been kind to our hosts this season, though, with away form the backbone of their early success.

I’m joined for this week’s Fan Feature by Scott Walkinshaw from the excellent Oxford United blog Oxblogger and he gives his thoughts on the positive start to the season for his club and their early home struggles…

After missing out on the playoffs last season, Chris Wilder has rebuilt his Oxford side and has them already battling it out at the top end of League Two. A thumping 4-1 win at Portsmouth on the opening day sent a message to the rest of the division and set their own standards for what has been a positive opening. The U’s are unbeaten away from home but at the Kassam Stadium they haven’t won since overcoming Bury in their first home game of the season with two draws and two defeats since.

“In simple terms,” Scott says, “we’ve got a very low shots to goals ratio, we don’t miss many, but we don’t shoot much either. When we’re away from home teams tend to come at us and we have more space to attack on the break. At home teams sit back and we don’t seem to have the guile to break them down. We really need to make count the few chances we create and more often than not recently, we don’t.”

“On top of that is a growing psychological barrier; a fear that we simply can’t win at home. We’ve had bad runs before and you get to a point where you can’t imagine winning ever again. That seems to be with us at home at the moment. The Kassam Stadium is still not a comfortable home for us, there’s a sense that something about it is conspiring against us. People talk about teams upping their game at the Kassam. I don’t really buy that, but it must be an easy place to come and play. The pitch is great, the facilities are nice, and the open end of the stadium means the atmosphere can drain away so it’s not too intimidating.”

“The Firoz Kassam years were full of failure, perhaps playing in a stadium bearing his name, given the woeful legacy it carries, puts us on the back foot before we’ve stepped on the pitch. If you can knock our confidence, we can be pretty fragile. Away from home, we don’t seem to have these constraints.”

The good form has come from hard work in pre-season, according to our U’s expert, with a summer clear out followed by some tough work on the training ground. Scott says,

We had a big clear out in the summer which has made a big difference. Many of those let go, such as Michael Duberry and Peter Leven, had their moments, but they weren’t fit for much of last year. We got dragged down waiting for all these players to get fit and find form, it never really came. We didn’t put the same team out from one week to another.”

“This year we have a much more robust side and the close season focussed a lot on building fitness. That seems to be offering a bit more stability. We have a core squad of players capable of playing most of the season.”

“In addition, the club have made a commitment to developing young players. Although we haven’t seen many coming through to the first team, the long term view is welcomed by most. It feels like we’ve got a cause to get behind; a plan for the future, which has brought people back together after a fairly fractious season last year.”

wilderChris Wilder, who played one game on loan with the Cobblers in 1998 during his playing career, is now the third longest serving manager in England having joined Oxford in 2008. Whilst that says a lot about the quick fire nature of managerial jobs in the country at the moment it’s admirable that the club has stuck by the man who has led them back into the Football League. Scott says that taking the focus off the man in charge has been key:

It’s pretty ridiculous that he is the third longest serving manager given that he’s been with us for less than 5 years. Part of the key is that he brought us back to the Football League, which has bought him a lot of time with the fans. Also, our owner Ian Lenagan, I think, has been very astute in focussing on stable growth, of which keeping Chris Wilder is undoubtedly part. Lenagan’s also moved us away from the manager being the focus of all our success or failure, so if there’s a problem at the club, we don’t default to sacrificing the manager.”

“So, for example, when it came to light that we’d been signing players without putting them through medicals – meaning they’d look good on paper but they’d spend loads of time in the treatment room. The answer wasn’t fire the manager, it was to invest in a more robust sports science function.”

“That’s not to say Wilder’s untouchable. Many fans have doubts in his ability to take us further. It was a surprise when he was kept on at the end of the season, and it’s quite conceivable that failure to make the play-offs this year will see him moving on at the end of the year. Personally, I hope he does stay and succeed, I quite like the idea that our club has the maturity to retain the 3rd longest serving manager in the league.”

So what of the overall expectations for this season? After missing out on the playoffs by just four points last time out, going a few places better seems to be the general feeling. Scott explains,

“I think we’ll probably end up between 6th-8th. Chesterfield look favourites, despite their recent results. Exeter, Fleetwood and Scunthorpe all look capable of sustaining a challenge. You wouldn’t rule out Portsmouth and Southend despite slow starts. That said, Chesterfield and, at the other end, Accrington aside, pretty much everyone looks capable of going up or down. I can’t quite get to grips with where we’re at. It’s not exactly normal to win 72% of your points away from home.”

In terms of the Cobblers, it appears that Oxford fans have a bit of time for us with some shared links and history. Scott looks back on some famous players who have donned both Oxford and Cobblers shirts over the years whilst celebrating one of our more recently departed heroes.

“I think there’s quite a lot of affection for Northampton,” he says, “We have quite a lot of shared history – Martin Aldridge, Ian Atkins, Andy Woodman – so that helps. You’re near enough to make the away game a good one, far enough away to make sure the rivalry doesn’t get too bitter. I think everyone enjoyed the snow and the orange ball from last season’s game at Sixfields and you’d have to be dead not to have enjoyed the phenomena that is Ade Akinfenwa. Plus, I think you have a really nice kit.”

Finally, a prediction for Saturday’s game?

“If you get an early goal, the doubts may consume us. But, we’re not a bad team at all and it’s hard to believe that we’ll lose a 4th home game on the trot. You don’t seem to have had a great start, so I’m thinking that we’re looking at an extremely uncomfortable (for us) narrow home win.”

Oxford United Links…

Official website: http://www.oufc.co.uk/

Stadium Guide: http://www.footballgroundguide.com/oxford_united/

Blog: http://oxblogger.blogspot.co.uk/

Forum: http://yellowsforum.proboards.com/

BBC Website: http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/teams/oxford-united

Wiki: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oxford_United_F.C.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/OxfordUnitedFC

Twitter: https://twitter.com/OUFClive

Local News site: http://www.oxfordmail.co.uk/sport/

Fan Feature: Morecambe

morecambeThis week’s Fan Feature sees Morecambe fan Jack Steer take the hot seat as he talks all things Shrimps! You can follow Jack on Twitter at @morecambejack

Straight to it this week (more of a q an a due to lack of time but still a great insight into the visitors to Sixfields tomorrow!)

How’s the start of this season gone?

Its been a very good start overall, currently sitting just outside the playoffs. Unbeaten in 5 and they could have all been wins had it not been for a late goal in injury time last week. Despite the squad being stretched with injuries, we seem to be coping and getting points on the board.

Any major changes from last season in personnel or tactics?

There has been quite a bit of change in the playing squad due to further budget cuts. A lot of senior players have left and have largely been replaced by younger players looking to prove themselves, but based on the season so far the younger players are proving better, if not as experienced.

What’s your realistic ambitions for the season?

Staying in the football league is the main focus, but as soon as we hit the 50 point mark, we will only be looking up. The sooner we get points on board the better, so we can play without any real worry. I’m sure most would be thrilled if we had a chance of a play-off place come May.

Who are your danger men for Saturday?

As always Kevin Ellison will prove a handful and can score out of next to nothing. Padraig Amond looked lively last week so hopefully he will keep performing well, but generally our goals have been coming from all over the park!

Any up and coming young players?

Many. Jim Bentley seems to have picked a bunch of exciting young players who, with a bit more experience, could potentially play at a much higher level. New striker Jack Sampson has been particularly impressive as a target man.

And, finally, a prediction for the game?

Given the way the last 5 games have gone, we will probably go behind but win! The pressure is on Aidy Boothroyd to get some results, so hopefully we can go out a little less nervous and play some good football.

Fan Feature: Exeter City

exeterWith Exeter City in town this weekend, the latest Fan Feature comes via Keiran Hutchins who gives us the low down on all things Grecian…

After a disappointing fall away from the playoff places last season, Exeter would have spent the summer planning another go at an attack on the top seven. It was their first season back in League Two following relegation and Paul Tisdale looked to be on the way to taking his side back into the running for an immediate return but his side fell at the last with six defeats in the final seven games. Keiran discusses this and more below. You can follow him on twitter at @ecfc32

A tenth place finish last season…were you expecting more or was that a decent finish?

Honestly I was expecting more, especially as with 10 games left, we looked more than comfortable in the top 3. A horrendous run of form at the end ruined it for us and dreaming what might have been.

Paul Tisdale is the second longest serving manager in England behind Arsene Wenger with more than seven years under his belt…what’s the secret to his longevity in amongst the cut and thrust nature of the game these days?

Honestly I do not know his secret! I believe it’s because he knows how to keep the board happy, and has constantly done well (apart from the relegation)

How are the new signings settling in? Any big moves in January?

The new signings seem to be settling in well. Not sure whether we will bring anyone in January. A RB would be a start though, seeing as you lot stole our RB!

Who’s going to score your goals now that Jamie Cureton has left? How is Sam Parkin looking?

Now Curo’s gone, we’ll be looking at Alan Gow and John O’Flynn, along with midfielders chipping in. Parkin is looking like a shrewd signing by Tisdale this season. Knows what to do with the ball at his feet or in the air.

What are your ambitions for this season?

I’d like us to push for the play-offs, but realistically can see us just missing out, again.

And, finally, a prediction for the game on Saturday?

Cobblers 1-1 Grecians

Big thanks to Keiran for that!

 

Exeter City Links…

Official Website: http://www.exetercityfc.co.uk/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/exetercityfc

Twitter: @OfficialECFC https://twitter.com/OfficialECFC

Forum: http://www.exeweb.com/forums/

Wiki: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exeter_City_F.C.

BBC Website: http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/teams/exeter-city

Local News section: http://www.thisisexeter.co.uk/exetercity