TEAM PREVIEW: Oxford United – Mike Ford expects play-off push this season

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Michael Appleton is embarking on his first full season with Oxford United and won’t be too unhappy with how his opening months have gone. Oxford were well safe in mid-table and under a good manager with some solid signings, Oxford have what it takes to make a push towards the top six spots.

Last Season: League Two (13th)

Manager: Michael Appleton

 

Squad

GKs: Sam Slocombe, Max Crocombe
DFs: George Baldock, Joe Skarz, Johnny Mullins, Jake Wright, Sam Long, Freddie Grant, Robbie Cundy, Chey Dunkley
MFs: Kemar Roofe, Danny Rose, Liam Sercombe, Alex MacDonald, Josh Ruffels, Callum O’Dowda, Michael Collins, Josh Ashby, AJ George, Sam Humphreys, Aidan Hawtin
FWs: Patrick Hoban, Danny Hylton, Ryan Taylor, James Roberts

 

Transfers

In: Kemar Roofe (West Brom), Liam Sercombe (Exeter City), Sam Slocombe (Scunthorpe United), Ryan Taylor (Portsmouth), George Baldock (MK Dons – Loan)

Out: Jeremy Balmy (Released), Matt Bevans (Released), John Campbell (Released), Will Hoskins (Released), Jonathan Meades (AFC Wimbledon), Josh Shama (Released), Andrew Whing (Retired), Ryan Clarke (Northampton Town)

 

First Six: Crawley Town (H), Luton Town (A), Notts County (H), Mansfield Town (A), Yeovil Town (H), Bristol Rovers (A)

Likely Lineup: (4-4-2) Slocombe – Baldock, Mullins, Wright, Skarz – Rose, Ruffels, Collins, Roofe – Taylor , Hylton

 

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A word from…Mike Ford

On his time at the club It was a strange one actually because I was playing for Cardiff, my wife had a good job in Bristol and when we moved we bought a house near Swindon and I didn’t really realise the rivalries between all the clubs around there!

I spent ten years at the club and when I came back I moved nearby so I’ve been in and around Oxford for 25 years, half of my life!

On the highs and lows of the football league I joined the summer after they’d been relegated out of the top division. Mark Lawrenson had taken over the team and I think I was one of his first signings that season.

Mark didn’t last very long for various reasons and then Brian Horton took over. To be fair Brian made some good signings, that’s what we were always like, always trying to stem the tide because we were a tiny, tiny fish in a huge pond at that time. But in the end we got relegated again a few years later down to Division 3 but I was very fortunate to be a part of that side that did more than it should have done.

When I left Oxford and went back to Cardiff in Division 2 I found it quite easy making the step back up. You always had to be on it, we felt like we had to be bang on it every week because we knew we weren’t good enough to win if we weren’t playing well.

On having a top class striker As a player, it’s massive. We put the ball in the box, Paul Moody put his head on it and we won the game, that’s how it worked. I knew if I did my job then the striker’s at the other end would win us the game, it’s huge to have someone who scores goals, that’s why they cost the most and they get paid the most.

On the current side I think play-offs this year is a requirement looking at who the manager has signed. There was never an expectation around us back then because as I said we were a small fish in a big pond, now they’re a big fish in a smaller pond.

They get good crowds, bigger crowds than most down there and the expectation is they should be in and around the top six and if they don’t it’ll be classed as a disappointing season for them.

It’s a club I worked for and played for for so long and I still live locally so I read the paper and talk to the fans down the local pub, it’s difficult to get away from so I definitely follow them. I look at who they’re bringing in and what’s happening at the club, there’s always a link with me and that football club.

On summer recruitment I watched Oxford a few times last season and we won all four games but it seemed people were a bit disappointed with what they were seeing. There was a new style of play and Michael Appleton coming in but now he’s had the chance to bring his own players in.

He’s brought in a new goalkeeper and a midfielder and a striker, you need players who know that level, as the old saying goes ‘you’ll never win anything with kids’, but I’m sure we’ll see one or two more come through the youth team if they’re good enough and mix it with the experienced players.

 

The Offside Rule Podcast Prediction: Oxford might just miss out on the play-offs this season, but they’ll certainly be right up there and have every chance. They’ve kept the majority of last season’s key players and added some good, talented players to an already solid squad.

Key Player: Danny Hylton – 16 goals last season for a mid-table team showed the quality Hylton has at this level. In a team that may thrive even more this season, he could easily hit 20 goals and guide Oxford up the table.

One to Watch: Kemar Roofe – The young attacking midfielder spent a part of last season on loan at the club, scoring 6 goals in 16 games at the Kassam Stadium. Now here on a permanent basis, he could be an eye-catching addition.

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