Jack Stevens Contract Extension a Positive Move From Oxford United
Improvement in Form With Jack Stevens Between the Sticks
The news is a real positive for the U’s. Having come in for the experienced, yet out-of-form, number one in Simon Eastwood, the 23-year-old has steadied a side that was shipping goals at an alarming rate.
In the league alone, Oxford had failed to keep a clean sheet in the opening 13 games, conceding 23 goals. Since the introduction of Stevens in December, the U’s have kept eight clean sheets and conceded just 12 goals from 15 matches.
That’s not all. Stevens has helped Oxford move from the relegation zone to within just three points off the playoffs with an impressive run of just two defeats in 17 games in all competitions, before defeat against Portsmouth on Tuesday left the U’s five points off the top six.
With the experienced Eastwood having surpassed 200 appearances for the club since his return in 2016, the number one spot is no longer his. Like Stevens was, Eastwood is out of contract in the summer and it seems highly unlikely that the club will extend his current deal, or that the 31-year-old want even want to stay as a number two.
It also signals intent from U’s boss Karl Robinson. Despite Eastwood’s commitment to the club and consistency over his five years, if something is broken then he is happy to fix it. Stevens was relatively untried before being introduced ahead of games against Ipswich Town, Hull City and Blackpool, but the Oxford manager put his faith in the youngster.
And it isn’t the first time Robinson has done that. Throughout his Oxford tenure, the U’s boss has bled youth players into the first-team setup. Admittedly, not at the same rate as what Stevens has achieved, but the ambition and opportunities are there.
With Stevens signed, the club must now act and tie-down other key players that are out of contract in the summer.
Among them are James Henry, Alex Rodriguez Gorrin and Josh Ruffels, although the former two have the option for an additional year. Ruffels, however, does not, but the left-back has revealed in an interview with BBC Radio Oxford’s Five Minutes Fans Forum that he and the club have held discussions over a new deal.