Last Word On Sports have already looked at the favourites Portsmouth. In this edition, we’ll take a look at the side that the bookies are saying will be giving the south-coast club a run for their money, Oxford United.
The U’s had a disappointing season last time out, but a strong end to the season, which included ten games unbeaten, saw them finish comfortably in mid-table, closer to the playoffs than the relegation zone. But it was the end of season performances that showed potential from Michael Appleton’s side, most notably, performances from loan star Kemar Roofe.
And it was the 22 year old that became the U’s first signing. The West Brom forward, who had previously had loan spells with Colchester in League One and Northampton Town and Cheltenham Town in League Two, was in impeccable form at the end of the season, scoring six goals in his final seven appearances, including braces at Wycombe and Tranmere respectively. The forward arrives at the Kassam Stadium on an undisclosed fee, and the U’s fans are keen to see what sort of impact he can have on the Oxford squad next season.
Roofe was soon joined by midfielder Liam Sercombe and forward Ryan Taylor from Exeter City and Portsmouth respectively. Central midfielder Sercombe, aged 25, had spent his entire career with the Grecians, making just under 250 appearances since his debut in 2008, and will bring a wealth of lower league experience to the Kassam Stadium. As for Taylor, 27, he too has lots of experience in the leagues. He began his career at Rotherham, where the forward netted 23 goals in 134 appearances, before a season at Bristol City. During his two years with Portsmouth, Taylor netted 15 goals in 55 appearances, including nine last season as he played alongside the leagues top scorer, Matt Tubbs.
The next signing to arrive at the Kassam Stadium was recently released Scunthorpe goalkeeper Sam Slocombe. The 27 year old spent his entire career with the Iron, becoming the clubs first choice goalkeeper between 2011 and 2014, but he was released after making just nine appearances last season. The goalkeeper has been given the number one jersey at the Kassam Stadium for next season, which will likely result in former number one Ryan Clarke leaving the club in the near future, as the U’s have Jamie Ashdown and youth goalkeeper Max Crocombe on their books.
The final signing, so far, is right back George Baldock. The 22 year old spent the end of last season on loan at the Kassam Stadium, making 12 appearances and scoring one goal. He arrives having just signed a new two year deal with his parent club, MK Dons, but the two clubs have agreed for the right back to spend the season on loan with the U’s.
Head coach Michael Appleton hasn’t always been popular with the clubs fans, but the recent signings he has made have all been greeted in a positive fashion. The U’s have been made the bookies’ second favourites behind Portsmouth to win the league, and with their current squad, which included 15 goal striker Danny Hylton and former Burton Albion top scorer Alex Macdonald, its easy to see why they’ve been made one of the favourites.