We’re in month three of the creeping death of the transfer window. If you can bear it; you can read all about May and June here. In short, Rob Hall renewed his contract, Curtis Nelson didn’t, Alex Gorrin signed plus a slew of under-23s. We’re still waiting on Chris Cadden from Motherwell.
Elsewhere, Kemar Roofe and Callum O’Dowda have been subject to speculation, although news on those fronts has reduced to a dribble. Strap in, July’s here…
Holy moley; Chris Cadden has signed from Motherw… nope, Columbus Crew. A credible explanation for the less-than-conventional signing is that signing via the Crew, who have a tangential link to board member Eric Thohir, avoids paying compensation to Motherwell, which seems like a bit of a scam.
With a sense of resignation, it’s been confirmed that Gavin Whyte has been signed by Cardiff for something like £2 million; some way short of the £5 million the club apparently were asking for. Just as that news sank in, came the news we’ve signed Ben Woodburn from Liverpool on a season’s loan.
Tuesday 30 July 2019
The season must be approaching because there’s been a signing bonanza. Anthony Forde, who last season was at Rotherham has signed along with Elliot Moore from Leicester.
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.
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.