You may have read Ralph Turner’s back page report last week in this publication on the Blues’ one-nil loss to Oxford Brookes. This might have jogged your memory slightly, but the chances are, with no disrespect to my editorial colleague, that the report and the match itself didn’t stick long in the memory. A preseason loss at Iffley Road to Brookes in Freshers Week, you say? Sorry mate, I was too busy nursing my hangover, awkwardly socialising, tidying my room, or doing one of the 1,000 other things that rank as more important.
Those who didn’t spend their noughth week valiantly attempting to destroy their short-term memory might also recall that the match had to be played behind closed doors as large numbers Brookes students were planning to crash the game. As it transpired, Iffley’s gates were closed but they still came, sitting on the fence on Iffley Road and watching from there.
The Blues more used to playing in front of an assembled group of WAGS and hangers-on are probably appreciative of all the support they can get, and the lengths that these Brookes students were prepared to go to in order to watch the game reveals something startling: the one-way Oxford rivalry.
While our principal rivals will always be Cambridge, it seems our nearest geographical neighbours are cultivating a rivalry of their own. Whether this stems from an inferiority complex or the prospect of a Varsity trip to Reading seeming particularly unappealing, this author would not like to say. One thing is for sure though: feelings aren’t mutual.
Oxford Brookes’ relationship with its older neighbour is perhaps best likened to a schoolboy crush on the stunning girl in sixth form: cute, but ultimately misguided. The fact of the matter is that no matter how many fans they send down to Iffley in pink T-shirts for the rugby, the sentiment won’t be reciprocated. You won’t find Oxford University students chanting against Brookes, nor will you find them revelling in any sporting victories. In fact I would go as far to say that it’s totally the opposite from our perspective. Most students I have spoken to like Brookes. Those who bother to venture beyond the Cowley Roundabout find a social scene where the girls are pretty, the guys aren’t dull and the venues are both cheaper and bigger than the crushing monotony that is the Oxford clubbing scene. Maybe we should work harder to make them like us? Maybe we should stop arrogantly dismissing this rivalry, start a turf war and invade Milano. Or perhaps we should just let them hate us: it’s always nice to be wanted.