Chairman's notes ahead of the game against Southend
Over the New Year I prepared my new year message which I circulated to all Oxford staff, playing and non playing. It allowed me to reflect on our first 6 months at the club and, most importantly, set the framework for what we aim to achieve over the next 12 months.
Oxford United - More than a Football Club
My overarching message is that the opportunity and potential for the Club is much greater than I anticipated, and most importantly, if we all pull together and operate only in the best interests of Oxford United, we really can make great strides over the coming year and begin to build sustainable success across all areas of the Club.
My message was intentionally thought provoking and challenging. In any walk of life, success is hard won. We will, inevitably, have set backs and difficult times, but this is where the true measure of a team of people is tested. To me, life is about passion, commitment, enthusiasm, loyalty, fairness, trust, continuous learning, ambition, aspiration, friendship and camaraderie combined with perseverance, courage and resilience and finally, humility and a sense of fun.
I try to bring these qualities to everything I do but, most of all, adopt an approach which is inclusive to all. Hence, I believe the message has equal relevance to everyone connected with the Club, especially our loyal supporters.
Participation in the next stage of the Oxford journey really is open to all. If we all bring our enthusiasm, commitment and passion to games and, indeed to every aspect of Oxford United, leave cynicism behind, then I am certain we can truly make a difference and achieve great things together.
I learnt early in my career that cynicism is a corrosive quality. Most people, including me, can lapse into being cynical, especially when we are under pressure or feel let down and disappointed. The reality of my experience is that no-one performs badly or makes mistakes on purpose and the true measure of each of us is how we give support during periods of adversity. Criticism rarely improves performance whereas constructive advice and sincere encouragement do.
An Oxford United Charter
The perspective I have outlined above leads me to one of my major personal objectives for the year ahead. I would like to create an Oxford United Charter. It will be the articulation of the type of football club we want to be, providing the framework for how we seek to operate everyday and how we hold each other to account. It should be enduring and aspirational.
Critically, it will characterise the attitudes and behaviours which we will try to adopt at times of maximum pressure, those moments of truth, which occur all too frequently in the sporting arena. This will not be easy - the Charter will be aspirational and inspirational, its adoption will require patience and perseverance as well as the commitment and participation of all.
I really do look forward to the engagement process of building the Charter - it will be a big step on our journey towards building sustainable success.
Our Fantastic Supporters
As a lifelong football fan, I have always enjoyed away trips almost more than home games. Often there is a greater sense of excitement and the expectation of a good day out rather than necessarily winning the game. As Chairman, I have been overwhelmed by our away support and am delighted that our away form is rewarding your commitment and loyalty. It has been great to meet many fans on the road and engage directly, to tangibly express our thanks for your magnificent support. We did this at Morecambe and Plymouth specifically and will try over the next couple of months to share a couple of beers at an away game.
As highlighted earlier, we have an open door policy at the Club. We are happy to talk to any fan at any time, especially listening to constructive comments on how we can do things better. Your support is vital both at home and away. I have commented before on the crucial role season ticket holders play in giving the Club a sustainable platform to build from and extend the fan base.
I am also a realist. Our home form is not as consistent as any of us would like and trying to understand this is challenging and perplexing!
What I do know is that we can all help change this round. The players know that they have to play their part but, undoubtedly, we can all contribute. Bigger crowds, a positive atmosphere and louder support will all help. In similar vein, we are looking at ways we can reward season ticket holders and encourage more people to come to games. I am delighted to be running our "Bring a Friend for Free" scheme for season ticket holders today, for the second time this season. The commitment to buy a season ticket each year is a huge investment in terms of both money and time and we truly appreciate the backing that you give to the team week in, week out. If you are a guest of a season ticket holder, we trust that you enjoy your day with us and we hope we can persuade you to attend more regularly going forward.
On the Playing Side
We have stressed from day 1 that improving the squad was our key imperative and that we need to build for sustainable long term success - and that this will require patience, not quick fixes.For me, our league position does not reflect the quality of our performances but I am confident that the squad is getting stronger. We will look to make 1 or 2 additions during the January window, providing the right quality is available, ahead of making more significant changes over the summer.
Overall, I think Michael and the coaching team, despite some frustrating results, are moving the Club in the right direction and this augurs well for a strong second half of the season.
Finally, it is good to have Will Hoskins and Patrick Hoban returning to fitness after injury and, hopefully, they should both be involved this weekend.
Trust in the Future
I see no reason why we should not be upbeat and excited about what we can achieve over the next 12 months and, more generally, look to the future with soundly based confidence and optimism. Always remember, we can all play our part. This reminds me of one of my favourite quotes:
“Success is empty if you arrive at the finish line alone. The best reward is to get there surrounded by winners. The more winners you can bring with you, the more gratifying the victory.”
I would like to end today's note with a word on trust. Trust must be earned and requires patience. What I do know is that everyone at the Club is seeking to serve the best interests of Oxford United. There is much to do, as there always will be.
Trust requires a special bond. Trusted to be honest, forthright and steadfast, trusted to be fair and trusted to do the right thing.
At Oxford United, your club, you can trust in the Board and senior management. We will make mistakes, but always honestly. Most of all, we will always seek to do the right thing. Oxford's reputation and the trust we build together is fundamental to our success and our effective stewardship of the club. We must all guard this preciously!