Read Darryl Eales' notes from the programme for Hartlepool UnitedGood afternoon and welcome to our penultimate home game of the season against Hartlepool.
Thanks especially to all the supporters, players and officials who have made the long journey today for what should be a very competitive game at the back end of a long season.
I write these notes after a frustrating and disappointing evening at Newport. We secured a potentially valuable point that maintained our position in the automatic promotion places but the performance was below the standards we have set ourselves.
In my career I have tried to adopt a ‘no excuse’ mentality, which is fundamental to strong team spirit. Throughout the season, this is the ethos that Michael has instilled across the club based on an indomitable work ethic, team spirit and a 'win together, lose together' mentality.
The final three games will depend more than ever on these characteristics, where mentality and strength of character matter as much as ability, and I am sure we will deliver three massive performances to complete the league programme.
We can all play our part in this. Our support is fantastic and it has never been more important than now. For sure, it is a nervous time but we should all enjoy being in the mix for automatic promotion - this is what sport is all about.
This is the moment of truth; by standing together and getting 100 per cent behind the team, we can all contribute to ensuring we finish the season on a high. It has been, by any standards, a wonderful adventure - let's retain perspective and light up the Kassam today, creating a cup final type atmosphere. It really does make the difference!
Off the pitch, we have had a week to celebrate!
Kemar won League 2 Player of the Season and he was also voted into the team for the whole Football League, one of only two League 2 players included. This is fantastic and deserved recognition for his outstanding talent and commitment but also, as Kemar said, it is testimony to the quality of football demanded by Michael and delivered by the team.
Wonderful, especially given my desire to make us a true community club, was the recognition for the club in winning League 2 Family Club of the Year. This is testimony to a real team effort but special mention must go to Sarah Gooding, Caroline Robbins and Chris Lowes. Through OX4Life, tickets for youngsters, Olly’s Den, George the Lion, activities on matchdays and all our community and charitable activities, we are seeking to make us a club that all of us can be duly proud of and making match days a great day out for all.
We don't want to rest on our laurels though. Our next target should be to win the award for the whole league, not just the division, and to feature in as many other categories as possible, based on a collective commitment to truly making a difference.
Last but not least, our own Dan Bond won the Strictly Oxford charity dance competition at the New Theatre last Sunday. Supported by many of the coaching and office staff, Dan and his dancing partner, Katie, deservedly won the prize on a great evening where the real winner was Vale House, for which over £30,000 was raised!
Thank you also for the largely positive reaction to our ‘Let the Thumb Point the Finger’ initiative and our call to cut out unacceptable behaviour and to respect all fans, especially by reducing bad language and eradicating the 'c' word.
Let's all contribute to making us a fantastic family and community club.
Finally, today's game marks the 30th anniversary of the 3-0 win over QPR in the Milk Cup final and it’s great to have so many of the team back today for a special pre-match lunch. The team spirit is clearly still there even after all these years and this group of players remain iconic figures at Oxford United, and their achievements are still deservedly celebrated.
I started the season with the phrase: ' this is our time'; this is our opportunity to create the next chapter in club history. With three games left, all of us have the chance to contribute to shape this. What an opportunity!