Another busy week at Oxford United has drawn to a close. There have been more pre-season friendlies, a takeover update and plenty of transfer news, with Nathan Holland and Gavin Whyte becoming the latest players to join the club.
Oxford United Weekly Round-Up: Nathan Holland and Gavin Whyte Return to the Club
Two 2-2 Draws Against the Posh
Wednesday afternoon brought simultaneous pre-season friendlies against Peterborough United at Oxford United’s training ground.
It was the first match of pre-season for several players, including Elliott Moore, Cameron Brannagan and Ryan Williams, who were forced to self isolate the week before.
Pitch one included Jack Stevens in goal, a debut for Steve Seddon at left-back and Matty Taylor up top. However, it was right-back Anthony Forde who opened the scoring with a direct free-kick.
Moments later, Dan Agyei scored a brilliant solo goal from range as the hosts looked in control.
But after the break, Posh reduced the deficit through Joe Ward before the visitors equalised with just five minutes remaining.
Pitch two featured Simon Eastwood in goal, Joel Cooper in midfield and Sam Winnall in attack. Posh took the lead but Oxford levelled after half an hour when Mark Sykes converted from the spot after Tyler Goodrham was brought down.
After the break, Ethan Hamilton restored the visitor’s advantage with a penalty but Winnall was on hand to head home an equaliser late on.
Both games ended level against their Championship opponents but it was a good blend of experienced first-team players and youngsters in both teams.
‘He’s Not Going’ – Karl Robinson Rejects Aston Villa Offer for Jack Stevens
Oxford United have rejected an offer from Aston Villa for goalkeeper, Jack Stevens, according to manager Karl Robinson.
News emerged on Sunday that the Premier League club had identified Stevens as their third-choice goalkeeper after losing Tom Heaton to Manchester United and transfer target Paulo Gazzaniga to Fulham.
But Robinson quickly dismissed claims, saying that the academy graduate will be staying. Speaking to the Oxford Mail, he said: “He’s not going.
“There’s a price tag on our players and Jack appreciates that. It’s fantastic for him, but it’s also fantastic we said no.
“It’s not the only bid we’ve said no to. Just because people don’t read it doesn’t mean we haven’t turned away bids for some other players as well.”
U’s Miss Out on Transfer Target
Oxford United have missed out on transfer target Joe Tomlinson after the 23-year-old joined Peterborough United.
The Eastleigh left-back emerged as a possible replacement for Josh Ruffels at the start of June, along with Brighton & Hove Albion’s Alex Cochrane.
However, Cochrane joined Scottish Premiership side Heart of Midlothian at the back end of last month while Tomlinson has now joined the newly promoted Championship outfit.
Return to Oxford for Nathan Holland
Despite missing out on Tomlinson, the U’s got one of their targets over the line with the return of West Ham United winger, Nathan Holland.
The 23-year-old first joined the U’s in January 2020 and scored three times from 12 appearances for the club, including a last-minute equaliser against Newcastle United in the FA Cup.
However, the West Ham winger returned to his parent club in March after suffering a hamstring injury, although the season was curtailed early due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Holland has joined Oxford on a season-long but some reports suggest the club could take up a permanent deal.
Update on Indonesian Consortium Takeover
Oxford United director Anindya Backrie is hopeful that he can take a majority stake in the club before the end of the transfer window.
In March, an Indonesian consortium consisting of Backrie and former director Erick Thohir, had said that they hoped the deal would be completed “in the coming weeks.”
But now, having been quiet in regards to the move, the 46-year-old has spoken publicly for the first time, and he echoes Karl Robinson’s ambitions of becoming a top-30 club.
“I think that should be the intention,” he told BBC Oxford.
“I’ve seen some of the transfers in and out and we can work with the team to elevate it to the next level.
“Me and Erick, we are here to support and we are honoured to be a part of Oxford United.
“It is something we are very happy to take on, but at the right time I’m sure the club will make an announcement.”
Reports suggest that Backrie and Thohir would both take a 25.5 per cent stake, resulting in a majority holding of the club and taking control from the current chairman, Sumrith ‘Tiger’ Thanakarnjanasuth.
Gavin Whyte Follows Nathan Holland in Oxford Return
Nathan Holland wasn’t the only familiar face at Oxford this week after the club saw a return for former winger, Gavin Whyte.
The 25-year-old joined the U’s from NIFL Premiership side Crusaders in 2018 and enjoyed a stellar debut season.
The Northern Ireland international scored nine goals in 47 appearances, including a hat trick as Oxford won 3-2 at Shrewsbury Town, and added seven assists.
Whyte has joined the U’s on a season-long loan from Cardiff City.
U’s Lose at Bristol Rovers
Oxford United ended their pre-season with defeat against Bristol Rovers. The U’s took the lead through Steve Seddon but were pegged back before the break through a Luke Thomas penalty.
The visitors restored their lead through James Henry but two late goals from Brett Pitman secured the win for Joey Barton’s side.
Jordan Thorniley Becomes Seventh Summer Signing
The transfers didn’t stop with Nathan Holland and Gavin Whyte. On Sunday, the U’s added central defender Jordan Thorniley on loan from Blackpool.
The centre back joined Blackpool in January 2020 and was part of the Seasiders team that won promotion from League One last season.
Before his time at Bloomfield Road, the defender came through the ranks at Everton but failed to make an appearance for the Premier League club.
Thorniley enjoyed a loan spell at Stockport County before signing for Sheffield Wednesday in 2016. The defender spent four seasons at Hillsborough, making 33 appearances, along with a loan at Accrington Stanley, where he turned out 17 times.