As they say in Game of Thrones; The North Remembers, unfortunately the south forgets. In the hullabaloo about new contracts and released players last week, the name T’ony McMahon was completely overlooked. The whippet worrying full-back remains on our books despite spending a good chunk of the year on loan at Scunthorpe who he helped steer to a comfortable relegation spot last season. KRob doesn’t expect him to return south next year; he doesn’t want to take a “bad signing and make it into a good signing.”; applying his trademark bewildering logic. Some would argue he spent a decent part of last season achieving the exact opposite. Not us, though, not us.
They say what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger; so we can say with a degree of confidence that nobody killed Robbie Cundy during his time at the Kassam. With his career solidly rooted in a single Oxford United appearance against Dagenham and Redbridge in the JPT in 2015, Cundy dropped out of the Football League in 2017 eventually joining Bath City. As a result of his performances as The Romans’ Jake Wright to their Ryan Clarke, who also happens to be the actual Ryan Clarke, Bristol City have signed him up on a two-year contract.
Johnny Mullins has retired. Mullins was part of the promotion winning team of 2016 before leaving for Luton Town. He was at Cheltenham Town last season, but has chosen to jack it all in. Mullins was known as as The Magnet because he twice scored from a corner in 127 games. At approximately 5 corners a game, that’s a magnetism of 0.2%. Coincidentally, he also has an excellent, if slightly pricey range of kitchens.
KRob has spoken. Let’s face it this is not an unusual thing, he seems to have spoken continuously since the end of the season. So much so that it’s possible he’s still standing pitchside at Kenilworth Road speaking to an increasingly weary Nathan Cooper. That’s probably not true, although it’s exactly the kind of thing he’d do, isn’t it? His latest ejaculation focuses on his wish list for next season. Nothing remarkable about the list, although he did mention that he was hoping to bring back Wonderfoot Luke Garbutt and ban-magnet Ahmed Kashi and the sloth in the box, Jerome Sinclair.
Saturday 18 May 2019
It’s theday that the whole nation stops, gathers together around the TV set and watches a great annual institution play out in front of them. As well as Eurovision, it’s also the FA Cup final. It’s Watford’s first appearance since 1984 when they were captained by former Oxford United player and now Youth Team Officer Les Taylor. You can read him banging on about it like your drunk uncle here.
Our week closes with the news that conscientious objector Callum O’Dowda has joined us the the Republic of Ireland squad. Nothing unusual about that except he hasn’t played for Bristol City since March due to a mystery injury. Always a highly principled young man, O’Dowda and his medical team have searched for a diagnosis. It appears that it could be suffering from a broken contract resulting from an inflated ego with a number of Championship and Premier League teams interested in his signature. All very treatable if you apply a great pile of money to it.
Before it was infested by Under 23 Premier League teams, the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy was a half decent tournament. At least when you got to the final. The last to maintain its integrity was 2016 where we faced Barnsley in the final. It was a joyous affair, despite the 3-2 defeat. Where are those brave men now?
Likeable weak link in an otherwise relentlessly effective team. Shared glove-based responsibilities with Sam Slocombe for most of the season. Replaced by Simon Eastwood once promotion was confirmed. Eventually went to Barnet on loan where he was briefly announced as playing for their ladies team. Now at FC Vaduz, he’s been capped by Lichenstein over 20 times and recently played against Italy.
More than capable right-back signed on loan from Everton filling a not inconsiderable hole left by George Baldock. Slotted seamlessly into the team under the tutelage of Alex MacDonald. Headed back to Everton, playing the final game of the 2015/16 season. He was part of the England team which won the Under 20 World Cup in 2017. Has spent most of his time since in and out of their starting eleven at The Toffees.
Johnny Mullins (captain)
Started the season as a first choice centre-back before falling down the pecking order. Captained the side due to Jake Wright not being fully fit. Headed for Luton at the end of the promotion season where he won promotion, before joining Cheltenham.
Cheyenne Amarni Keanu Roma Dunkley cemented a place in Oxford United folklore at Wembley by doing a Cruyff turn in his own box. Also managed to score Barnsley’s first goal. Spent most of the season overcoming Johnny Mullins in the centre of defence. Scored a decisive goal against Wycombe to seal promotion, dominant in our first year in League 1 before signing for Wigan Athletic. Won promotion to The Championship the following season.
Signed on loan from Fulham in January 2016, played only nine games before heading back. Started due to an injury to Joe Skarz. A Welsh Under-21 international, his professional career petered out, playing for Wrexham and Bala Town before ending up at Cefn Druids, A man with hidden talents, Evans is a qualified hairdresser and plays in the band Faded Strangers.
Lovable tireless winger signed from Burton at Michael Appleton’s lowest ebb. Boundless enthusiasm for the game dragged us out of the fug and into the 2015/16 season. A regular through the promotion year before being unceremoniously sold to Mansfield Town.
Oxford United survivor originally signed by Chris Wilder from Coventry City. Made the starting eleven due to a lunging John Lundstram tackle which gained a red card and a ban. Players came and went, as did managers, but Ruffels stayed. Mostly played in midfield, but converted to full-back under Karl Robinson, became a specialist in spectacular last minute goals.
Wide shouldered marauding midfielder whose goals from midfield were critical to pretty much everything we did well that season. Scored a decisive goal at Carlisle at the end of the season. The following season in League One he continued his good form until he fell out with Michael Appleton, possibly over his reaction to only being a substitute in the JPT Final against Coventry the following season, where he also scored. Signed for Bristol Rovers in the summer.
Career-minded local boy flitted in and out of the team throughout the promotion season. Scored the opener in the final to wild celebration. Also scored the last goal of the season against Wycombe before flouncing off to Bristol City in the summer. A Republic of Ireland international.
Ethereal goal machine who initially joined on loan from West Brom. Heralded a new era when he was announced as a permanent signing the following summer, smashed in over 20 goals before joining Leeds United for £4m.
Precise, analytical, focussed – everything that Michael Appleton was, Danny Hylton wasn’t. Signed by Gary Waddock weeks before the Darryl Eales revolution took hold. Stuck to the first team like chewing gum on your shoe. Scored the second goal which briefly raised hopes of a revival. At the end of the season, he headed for Luton Town where he won promotion. More recently spent most of his time cheerleading from the sidelines as Luton head for the Championship.
Initially signed to replace Ryan Clarke, Slocombe’s patchy form saw him chopping and changing with Benji Buchel throughout the season. Missed out on Wembley, but played in our 3-2 giant killing over Swansea. The signing of Simon Eastwood pushed him out the door to Blackpool. Lasted a year before going to Bristol Rovers. Loaned to Lincoln in 2019.
A leader of men who was signed by Chris Wilder in 2010. Won promotion to the Football League at the end of that year. Injury meant he missed out on being the first Oxford United player to play at Wembley twice. Led the team to promotion, but re-joined Chris Wilder at Sheffield United in a defensive re-shuffle when Curtis Nelson arrived. Won promotion with the Blades where he still is, albeit now sidelined by injury.
A player who seemed to be so frequently injured, successive managers didn’t have the heart to release him. Survived Michael Appleton, Pep Clotet and became a regular in Karl Robinson’s starting eleven.
Once heralded as the future of the football club; Ashby achieved just seven appearances before being released. Signed for Oxford City.
George Waring (replaced Callum O’Dowda)
A proper unit signed on loan from Stoke City, flitted in and out of the team scoring once. Following a series of loan moves he headed for Tranmere before joining Chester in 2019.
Chris Maguire (replaced Alex MacDonald)
Enigmatic magician signed on loan from Rotherham. Sulked from one club to another, disgusted by the mediocrity around him. At Oxford, however, he bloomed and signed permanently in 2016. Scored twice in a derby win over Swindon and generally oozed genius. Appleton’s departure scuppered chances of a renewed contract where he made a disasterous move to Bury. Following their relegation he was signed by Sunderland where he initially regained form. Slipped out of the reckoning as the season progressed.
Jordan Bowery (replaced Danny Hylton)
One of numerous target men that Michael Appleton signed. Unlike most of the others, he weighed in with seven goals during his time with the club including a critical winner at Portsmouth. Dropped to the Conference with Leyton Orient where he failed to find any form. Signed on loan with Crewe before being made permanent, scoring twenty goals for the club.
Michael Appleton’s time in charge at Oxford will be remembered as nothing but glorious. It didn’t start that way though. He lost his first four league games in front of an increasingly suspicious home crowd, flirted with relegation and chugged along to finish 13th in his first season. During that time he played no less than 42 different players, performing what he now calls ‘major surgery’ on the squad as the season progressed. Have you ever wondered what happened to them all?
Once so much the future of the club (yes, another one) Chris Wilder named him on the bench of a Conference game just so ensure we could maximise any transfer fees we might get for him. Made a total of seven appearances before being released. Now at Oxford City.
An old mate of Michael Appleton’s from Portsmouth and former FA Cup winner. Ashdown came in late in the season to replace Ryan Clarke. Made a decent fist of it as we started to turn the corner. Now retired.
Gorgeous George was brought in with the help of Dave Jones from Sky Sports from MK Dons. Signed for another year on loan in 2015, but only lasted until January when one Karl Robinson dragged him back to help out with their relegation fight from the Championship. Bought by Sheffield United in 2017 by Chris Wilder.
For a short while Barnett was the answer to all our problems. The big strong target man that Michael Appleton had been looking for. At the end of his loan period, despite efforts to sign him permanently, he moved to Shrewsbury. Now at Cheltenham.
Sometimes there are players who play for minutes before disappearing, and for some reason you remember them when everyone else forgets. Richard Brindley is one of those players for me. Made 3 appearances on loan from Scunthorpe, now plays for Bromley.
Part of an original batch of signings at the start of the Appleton era. Showed precious little, lasted eleven games, including a half decent performance against West Brom in the league cup before being shipped out to Mansfield. Moved to Shrewsbury and was part of the team that nearly won promotion in 2018. Moved to Coventry City at the end of that season. Great hair.
A little glimmer of hope when signed from Bristol City showing plenty of pace down the flank. Lasted nine games before heading back to his parent club. After a series of loan moves, he eventually settled with Fleetwood.
Perhaps the weirdest of all the signings that season. Rumoured to have joined from Jarrow Roofing, it was announced that he’d gone on loan to Torquay before anyone had confirmed he had signed. Lasted three games before heading back north. Now at Whitby Town.
A club legend in the twilight of his Oxford career. Appleton stuck with him for most of the season before passing the gloves to Jamie Ashdown. Clarke joined Northampton Town the following year, but despite winning promotion, didn’t play a single game. He joined Wimbledon and Eastleigh before settling with Torquay and then Bath City.
One of the inherited players having been signed in 2014. Saw his contract out and left at the end of the season in 2016. Headed out to India for while before returning to play for Halifax and Leyton Orient. Eventually ended up coaching at Bradford and was somewhat thrown under a bus when he became head coach briefly in 2018
Perpetual understudy to Ryan Clarke, Crocombe was a New Zealand international whose highlight at Oxford was keeping goal in a heroic League Cup defeat to West Brom at the start of Appleton’s reign. Moved to Carlisle after being released, then ended up at noveau riche Salford in the National League.
Came from Kidderminster but spent much of his early career on the bench. He described himself on his Twitter account as the club mascot. Eventually overhauled Johnny Mullins for a first team spot, did a Cruyff turn at Wembley, scored a goal that clinched promotion, played his part in everything we did that was good for two years before going on to play for Wigan in the Championship.
A player with legs like out of control fire hoses. Seemed to specialise in finding new and interesting ways of not connecting with crosses or misreading through-balls. Went back to Chesterfield where he joined Blackpool.
Most famous for being the ball boy who got in an altercation with a Swindon player during the 2012 derby win. Played just 1 game before moving to Norway. Retired due to injury in 2017 aged just 21 and became a personal trainer.
A battering ram of a striker who came from Dundalk with a decent goalscoring reputation. Never really got going at Oxford, although scored a critical equaliser in a draw at Luton in the promotion season. Went to Mansfield before heading back to Dundalk where he’s started banging in the goals again. Very much found his level.
Yet another bright young thing signed on loan from Charlton. Holmes-Dennis started with a man of the match performance against Tranmere, but in his subsequent 14 games ran out of steam. Headed back to Charlton before going to Huddersfield. Managed a handful of games before heading to Bristol Rovers.
Arrived from Brighton with a decent reputation but only managed four games before being released at the end of the season. Played for Exeter City, Hemel Hempstead and is now at Northcote City.
Signed on a short term contract after leaving Birmingham City, expected to be the player who would run the team. Only made seven appearances before disappearing off to Eastleigh. Last heard of at Whitehawk.
One of many youth team products who rotated through the first team. Made one first team substitution before having his contract cancelled so he could move to Norway. Returned to Hayes and Yeading, then Banbury.
When Michael Appleton talks about doing major surgery on the squad David Hunt frequently springs to mind (also see: Tom Newey). A tediously dependable full-back in a slowly decaying squad, he was eventually shipped out to Barnet and slipped into non-league with Margate and Wealdstone.
A strange bearded wizard, signed by Gary Waddock and adopted by Michael Appleton. Appleton described him as not very bright, but he carried him through the early months with an prodigious work ethic. Joined the glory train in 2016, winning promotion before joining Luton to everyone’s dismay that summer. I love Danny Hylton.
Goalkeeper who signed on loan from Sheffield United to cover Ryan Clarke’s injury. Played 10 games before returning to Yorkshire. Played a season at AFC Wimbledon on loan before being signed by Hull City.
A true survivor, despite crippling injuries and changes of management, Long is still with the club in 2019 despite only ever making very occasional appearances.
Adopted by Michael Appleton having been signed in 2013 by Chris Wilder. Crippled with injuries meant he was limited to just seven appearances before being released. Played nearly 100 games for Wimbledon, winning promotion to League 1 in 2016, but retired in 2018 following a persistent injury.
The first of many big strong target men Michael Appleton tried. Signed on loan from Norwich, the job of leading the line in a formative team was too much for the teenager. Scored in an early League Cup success over Bristol City, he returned to Norwich after seven games. Still at Norwich now and has had a range of loans, most significantly at Shrewsbury in 2017/18 when he nearly got promoted to the Championship.
A dependable leader and a rare beacon of consistency. Mullins partnered Jake Wright for a majority the season and a good chunk of the promotion season in 2015/16 before being slowly overhauled by Chey Dunkley. Ended the year on the bench, was released in 2016 where he signed for Luton Town. Won promotion in 2016/17 before slowly falling out of favour. Signed for Cheltenham in 2018.
An icon of Chris Wilder’s latter years at Oxford, a soul-destroyingly dependable full-back. Followed Wilder to Northampton Town making no more than a dozen appearances over two years. Retired due to injury and turned to coaching. Currently back with his first club Leeds as Under 16 coach.
One of many juniors rising through the club’s ranks at the time. Looked lightweight in 2014/15, but bulked up considerably the following season. A marginal rather than key player of the promotion squad, he was signed by Bristol City in 2016 and capped by the Republic of Ireland.
Lovable, jinky winger, Alfie Potter is the boy who never grew up. Signed by Chris Wilder, he seemed to have a knack of scoring memorable goals including the winner at Wembley in 2010, one in the opening game of the season against Portsmouth and a JPT winner over Swindon. Lost his way under Michael Appleton. Moved to Wimbledon, then Northampton Town back with Wilder. Now at Billericay Town. If you want to feel old; he’s thirty.
Signed from MK Dons, played one game and leaves a legacy of being one of those players fans reference when trying to make an ironic point. Chugged along with MK Dons until 2018 when he joined Bracknell Town.
Perpetual bridesmaid centre-back, but one who put his heart and soul into everything he did. A graduate from Manchester Metropolitan University and brother of England Cerebral Palsy Goalkeeper Jordan, Raynes left for Mansfield, had a good couple of years at Carlisle before moving to Crewe. Currently on loan at Hartlepool.
A full-back signed on loan from Bolton, played over 30 games before joining Bury just as we thought we’d found a decent player. Signed for Shrewsbury in 2016, one of a number of players who became important to their unlikely promotion push in 2018. Left for Plymouth in the summer of 2018.
Perpetually the answer to all club’s goalscoring problems for three years, Roberts scored a couple of top class goals in about 30 games. His brother was tragically killed in a car accident in 2017, Roberts’ career slowed and stalled following a series of loans. Left in 2018 for Hereford.
Arrived from West Browm almost undercover in a blizzard of loan signings, initially Roofe looked like he was just another lightweight destined to disappear. Then scored two in a win over Wycombe and couldn’t stop scoring. Signed permanently in 2015/16 scoring over 25 goals as we were promoted to League 1, scored against Swindon and Swansea in the FA Cup. Bought by Leeds United for over £4m in 2016. After a bit of a slow start, grew to become an integral part of Leeds’ push for promotion to the Premier League.
Originally joined as a teenager in our first season in the Conference from Manchester United. Enjoyed promotion to the Football League with Newport and Aldershot before returning to Oxford in 2013. Chalked up over 80 games, but never really enjoyed a consistent run in the team. Briefly followed Chris Wilder to Northampton before moving to Portsmouth. Played a marginal role in their promotion to League 1. Went to Swindon on loan in January 2019. Urgh.
Signed from Coventry City as part of a policy of solving the club’s financing problems by nurturing youth. Ruffels became one of the squads most dependable players, winning promotion with the squad in 2016 and playing at Wembley twice. Still with the club where he’s enjoying an extended period in the team at a full-back.
The best defender in the land was signed in 2015 from Rotherham. Became an integral part of the promotion winning back-four, heroically playing through injury to get us over the line in 2016. Slowly fell out of favour and left to join Bury, his previous club, in 2017. Dogged by injury, he’s yet to play a dozen games in the in the two years he’s been at the club.
Played a mostly forgettable six games towards the end of the season, his only goal being a critical winner against Carlisle which was a great stride towards safety. Enjoyed a productive two years at Blackpool where he won promotion from League 2, joined Rotherham in 2018.
A grizzled old pro signed by Chris Wilder, all we wanted was a team of Andy Whings. Injuries and age slowly crept up on him, and he announced his retirement to take up a coaching role with the club in 2015. Left the club in 2017 to coach Kidderminster Harriers. Last year joined Coventry City as an academy coach.
Surly, mercurial centre-back Jake Wright joined in 2010, won promotion to the Football League. Led the team through Chris Wilder’s reign and the chaos that followed. Was Michael Appleton’s captain during the 2015/16 promotion season, voted best player of the first 10 years of Oxblogger that year. Left for Sheffield United in what looked like a reshuffle that had gone wrong. Enjoyed promotion to the Championship before injury limited his game time with the Blades.
It was always difficult to calibrate just how good Callum O’Dowda was. The fact he was one of our own biased any assessment of him. There were times when he lit up games, although often from the bench rather than from start to finish. He definitely scored a decent number of goals last year. But he started fractionally less than 40% of our league games, so it’s not like he’s leaving a gaping hole in the squad. He was made a full international but he didn’t go to the Euros; was that because he was genuinely deserving of his place or because the Republic were giving him a cap to bank him as being Irish just in case?
He’s young, of course, and that has to be factored in. Maybe in a couple of years all his qualities will be more immediate and all the potential will become a reality. I think only then will we really know whether this move is better for him, professionally, or us financially. With the deal including bonuses for performances and a 30% sell-on clause, it looks like others feel the same.
O’Dowda’s ambition has always been clear – you don’t get coverage in the Daily Mail about a move to Derby County without someone pulling PR strings and you don’t produce professional show reels on YouTube without wanting someone to watch it. Brand O’Dowda has been nurtured over a long period of time.
O’Dowda is professional in a way that others are not. He is insufferably polite and hardworking, both on the pitch and off the pitch. He seems to recognise that being a footballer isn’t just about what you do on the pitch. No footballer is successful by natural talent alone, hard work is key and O’Dowda undoubtedly has that at the heart of what he does. And for that reason, you suspect he’ll always have teams wanting his services, the question is, at what level?
Moving to the team that finished 18th in the Championship last season? In a few weeks’ time, although separated by a division, we may only be a handful of places below Bristol City. It seems such a moderate move for such a lot of hard work. Suddenly he’ll just be another player in a squad of players, not a homegrown talent fans are proud to call their own. This could be important; he’ll be expected to deliver at City – they need a return on their investment – whereas he’d have been allowed to grow at Oxford. And he still needs to grow. When he becomes a player at a moderate Championship club, will he ever be able to shake that label and move higher?
Maybe, maybe not. Maybe another season with us as a regular starter, developing as a player, becoming a more central figure, would have seen his stock rise higher. Appleton’s Oxford United develop players, so it’s not like he was likely to go stale. But, maybe as a player you just take the money and opportunity when it’s available, because you may not get a second chance. Maybe Bristol City is a perfect springboard to other things. Maybe this was part of the Brand O’Dowda plan, but it’s hard to imagine anyone sketching out a plan with such meticulousness which had such an underwhelming objective.
The good news is that there’s little pressure to replace O’Dowda given the embarrassment of riches we have in midfield. While it’s always sad to lose a locally developed player, from our perspective, there’s little doubt it’s better to have the money now than the player if you think that players like Liam Sercombe and John Lundstram played more games and cost nothing.
Like all homegrown players, Oxford fans will follow O’Dowda’s progress with interest, perhaps lamenting what could have been had he stayed. I hope he has made the right move and look forward to seeing him playing internationals and one day in the Premier League. But will he? I just can’t tell.
For the first time ever, it looks like we’re in for a nervy transfer window with players that other teams might actually want to pay money for. That’s the price of success, I guess. You can see my initial verdict on our six most likely flight risks here, but to try and keep up with the possible comings and goings, I’m going to keep a rolling blog post here throughout January here.
25 January: Baldock returns to MK Dons
George Baldock being recalled by MK Dons strikes me as a pointlessly cynical move by Karl Robinson. Yes, they’re in a relegation fight and having access to good players is important, but apparently they have two good right backs already. Where does Baldock fit into that equation? It appears he is so crucial to Robinson’s plans, he’s so desperate to have him fit and available, that he’s allowed him to play for us against Blackburn on Saturday.
Perhaps Baldock will sail into their starting line-up igniting a breathtaking revival of their fortunes; in which case it was all worth it. Perhaps Baldock will sit on the bench where his form and fitness will ebb away and he’ll become the player that Robinson wanted shoved out of his plans in the first place. Can Baldock’s qualities even benefit MK Dons’ way of playing? It’ll take more than just a flying right-back to replicate our form. Maybe, just maybe, they’re planning to sell him or one of those currently in front of him. That would, at least, make some sense.
I don’t know, and care even less; it just seems a pointless thing to do. Is it just a sign that Robinson has lost his way and is just desperate to appear to be doing something because he’s under pressure? What a tool.
For Baldock he gains almost nothing from the move; he loses out on the opportunity of a crack at Wembley and promotion, of developing a profile that could take him into a Championship first team or even higher, of the high quality coaching he’s clearly had under Michael Appleton.
The hysteria around Baldock has grown in recent weeks. There’s been an odd cult of people expressing a homoerotic love for him. It’s one of those things that started as a joke and went viral, even though it wasn’t that funny in the first place; like most of Michael McIntyre’s career. As a result this morning’s announcement has been greeted with confirmation that the empire is on the verge of collapse.
But, in reality; while quality full-backs can certainly make you better, their absence doesn’t make you a bad team. Their primary role is to defend, the better players, like Baldock, can also act as an attacking threat. If you don’t have full-backs with an attacking threat, then you already have wingers to play that role.
13th January: George Baldock back to MK Dones?
We woke up to the news that George Baldock is not for sale and may even be heading back to MK Dons. Really? I haven’t heard the whole interview with the Dons manager Karl Robinson, but what I have heard of it appears to suggest that he was asked about Baldock by a local MK Dons journalist, probably off the back of our win over Swansea. Robinson said he wasn’t for sale and also implied he wasn’t wholly out of the picture despite good coverage in Baldock’s right-back position.
This is the equivalent of someone knocking on your door asking whether your house is for sale. You say no because a) it isn’t and b) by showing that it isn’t you maintain its value. That’s not quite the same as saying never, regardless of the price.
In terms of a possible recall, Robinson’s response seemed to be more ‘never say never’ than ‘it’s possible’. There are lots of scenarios by which Baldock might be recalled of which his form is only one. It could be that they have an injury crisis or receive a bid for one of their preferred right-backs. I still think the more likely scenario is that they will receive a bid from another team that they can’t refuse.
It’s called the media because they ‘mediate’ messages, it’s a filter which can change the meaning of a story. To me it looks like this is nothing more than a slight twist on an interview to make it more newsworthy.
The Mail suggests that Oxford ‘risk’ pricing themselves out of the deal. I’m not sure what the risk is. The club don’t seem to need to sell at the moment, so either we keep the player or we get someone to pay silly money, I can’t see what we’d be losing.
I don’t doubt O’Dowda’s commitment to the club, but it would be wrong to ignore his ambition. He’s very media friendly, he markets himself well (see his professionally produced promotional video), and you don’t become subject to million pound speculation without hard work and focus. If it is him and people around him, it should be viewed as him being professional rather than mercenary. O’Dowda wants to be successful, when opportunity knocks, he’d be wrong not to investigate.
The transfer window is opens and we’re in the unusual position of actually having players other clubs might want. For a club like us, that fills you with dread because there’s a sneaking suspicion that you won’t be able to replace them. It’s not as if we can just plough into the market and pick sign another Kemar Roofe. January is going to be an anxious month. So, who may be of interest to other teams, and what are the prospects of them going?
There’s a lot of hype around Roofe; he scores goals, spectacular ones, and he has two songs about him, apparently Newcastle United are interested. Roofe himself hasn’t been as prominent in recent weeks; partly because he’s playing on the wing rather than down the middle. Plus, while he’s quick and skilful, I’m not sure he’s that different to others out there; I’m no expert, but there’s a reason why West Brom put up so little fight to keep him. I don’t think Premier League clubs are going to take an interest, but I can see Championship clubs sniffing around. There was a suggestion that Hull might be interested, which I think sounds very credible as to the type of team that might try to sign him.
Sercombe’s surging runs through midfield give us a dimension we’ve not had in years, he also scores goals. One of those anonymous Twitter accounts said there were a few Championship clubs taking an interest. I can see why scouts may turn up to the Kassam to get a better look at Sercombe, but they’re watching players all the time. Again, I’m not sure; Sercombe has been on the scene for quite a while with 8 years at Exeter before coming to us. Are clubs going to take a punt based on half a season in a successful team? Plus, he’s on a contract and will cost a fee.
Lundstram was a bit of a surprise signing for us; he’s played at a good level for England and although he was injured, it wasn’t as if it was career threatening. An Everton fan friend of mine says he was well regarded at the Toffees and earmarked as another to roll off their talent conveyor belt into the first team like John Stones and Ross Barclay. I do think that in a sense we got lucky and he’s playing at a level below which he’s really capable. He’s still young and well schooled. I can’t quite see a clamour for his services, but I judicious financial bid may see him leave.
He’s one of our own; and he’s got the temperament and skill to forge a very successful career at the top of the game. Is he ready? We don’t play him regularly and Michael Appleton has mentioned a couple of times that he’s been left out of games because he’s exhausted. Clubs will certainly be interested in O’Dowda, I’ve no doubt about that. I don’t know about January, there’s an outside chance of someone buying and loaning back just to secure his services at a later date, but I don’t think he’s going to fill a gap in anyone’s first team at a higher level yet.
He’s not one of our own. Baldock is perhaps the best player in his position in League 2, perhaps in the bottom two divisions. Plus, while the club might be prepared to put up a fight to keep their names, they have no such option with Baldock. I can see a bid coming in for him from a team at League 1 or maybe even the Championship, and I can see MK Dons cashing in on him, because for reasons I can’t quite fathom, they don’t seem to want him. The question is, I suppose, if a bid does come in, will we take on the fight to keep him?
Nobody has talked about Appleton leaving, but a couple of managerial movements recently has got me thinking whether he might, eventually, fall into the frame somewhere. There’s no transfer window with a manager so there’s much more opportunity for him to move. He’s well schooled, of course, and well regarded. Has he shaken off any bad reputation gained from him time as Blackpool, Blackburn and Portsmouth… and even us last year? Also, will a team in trouble want an Appleton-type of coach to get them out of the crap? He’s proving a very good analytical coach, but sometimes failing clubs need more of a crisis manager to shake things up a bit. If you’re threatened with relegation, I would choose a Chris Wilder type over Appleton. However, it might be that a successful club with a good infrastructure further up the chain find themselves with a vacancy, I can see Appleton being approached in that situation.