Despite not having a game this week, there is still plenty to cover in our Oxford United weekly round-up.
Karl Robinson reached four years in charge at the club, a youth player signed his first professional contract and one of Oxford’s squad players penned a contract extension.
Oxford United Weekly Round-Up: International Weekend Means No Game for the U’s
Robinson Reaches Four Years at the Helm
On Tuesday, Oxford United boss Karl Robinson celebrated four years in charge at the club. The 41-year-old replaced Pep Clotet, who had been dismissed 59 days earlier.
The former MK Dons manager departed Charlton Athletic on the same day as his Oxford appointment and he guided the U’s to safety after they had plummeted down the table.
The following season, and his first full one in charge, Oxford ended the campaign in 12th place despite spending much of the season in the bottom four.
However, the last two years have seen huge improvements under Robinson. Twice, he has guided the club to the League One playoffs after a fourth and sixth-placed finish respectively, although the U’s suffered defeat in the 2020 final against Wycombe Wanderers before bowing out in the semi-final against Blackpool last season.
This year, the U’s are once again on course for a top-six finish and they will be looking to go one better than the previous two campaigns.
Robinson Reflects on Four Years
Speaking to the Oxford Mail, Robinson said: “I’ve been very proud to manage this football club for four years and hopefully people see it as a positive.
“What I’ve tried to do is bring some pride back to the county and a little bit of sense of community spirit and togetherness as well as playing good football.
“It’s what I’ve done for 12 years, play football that I’ve enjoyed watching.
“It’s something that I’m looking forward to and hopefully we can have many more years together.”
He added: “A lot of eyebrows were raised when I came here, I remember driving from Charlton to here when I resigned and I felt it was right for Charlton at that time.
“Equally I remember getting a lot of criticism on a certain sports channel for going down to Oxford, I thought that’s a little bit disrespectful.
“This was for my family first and foremost, it was for my daughter, but I believed in the owners’ message to me.
“The owners have certainly stuck to their word.
“I think everybody’s now looking at it and thinking it wasn’t that much of a bad decision.
“I want to stay here for a long time, I’ve got another two years on my contract and that’ll hopefully take me to six years.
“You have to keep winning games, you can talk as much as you want but you’ve got to win games of footy, that’s part of staying in the industry.”
Oxford United Youngster Signs Professional Deal
Young U’s defender James Golding has signed his first professional contract with the club.
The 17-year-old, who joined in a two-year scholarship in 2020, made his senior debut in a Football League Trophy match against Tottenham Hotspur U21s in October.
Speaking to the Oxford Mail, he said: “I am so proud and want to thank my family and all the coaches who have got me here, but I hope this is only the start.
“I have dreamed of being a footballer since I first got spotted doing keepy-ups at eight years old and now I have to make the most of my opportunity.
“I think the plan is to go out and play on loan for the rest of the season and then I will come back in pre-season and I hope to start repaying the faith that everyone at the club has shown in me.”
The youngster has also enjoyed a loan spell with Southern League Premier Division Central leaders Banbury United. Robinson has praised Puritans boss and former U’s midfielder Andy Whing in enabling his development.
He said: “He’s a tremendous talent and there’s so much more to come. We’re very harsh on our young players but he’s stood the test of that and I think he’s matured within the first-team environment.
“From our point of view, we believe he’s got a tremendous future with the football club – we’re very happy he’s going to see this as his home for the next few years and he’s one we’re looking forward to working with.
“Whingy’s been brilliant for him and brilliant for us. Whingy is someone we really want to work with next year with the promotion they’re probably going to get.”
Smyth Hoping to Break Into Senior Setup at International Level
In an exclusive interview with the Belfast Telegraph, Oxford United midfielder Oisin Smyth has set his sights on breaking into the Northern Ireland senior side.
The 21-year-old, who is still awaiting his first U’s appearance since joining from Dungannon Swifts on deadline day, has been inspired by fellow overseas players in Gavin Whyte and Mark Sykes, who have not only established themselves at club level, but also on the international stage.
Ahead of Northern Ireland’s U21s games against Slovakia and France, Smyth said: “I’m going away with the U21s this week. I love these trips, and that is obviously the aim – to get into the senior team.
“Obviously I’ve seen a few of the boys do it from our U21s team at the minute, so it shows that it is achievable. I just have to work hard.”
He added: “When you see boys like that doing well it obviously gives you that wee bit more ambition and drive to believe that you can do the same.”
He also acknowledged that breaking into the team at Oxford has been more difficult than he expected but has settled in well since his move.
“What I’ve found is really what I expected to find – the standard is very good, so too the standard of players here at Oxford,” he added.
“When you’re watching the games, it’s not until you are down on the sideline that you realise how good the players are and how fast the game is.
“I’m noticing that in training too, It took me a few weeks probably to adapt to the standard but I think I’m finding my feet and enjoying it.”
Forde Commits Future
Versatile player Anthony Forde has committed his future to the club by signing a one-year extension, with the option of an additional 12 months.
The 28-year-old joined the U’s in 2019 and has gone on to make 93 appearances for the club, but has managed just ten starts so far this season.
Speaking to the club’s official website, he said: “I love being here and being part of what the club is building.
“We still have a bit of unfinished business, I guess, in trying to win promotion and I want to try and help the team achieve that.
“I’d like to have played more games this season, clearly, but it’s what we achieve as a group that matters and I am looking forward to being part of the next few weeks and hopefully a successful end to this season.”
U’s boss Karl Robinson added: “Fordey has been unlucky not to play more this season but we know he is ready and will always do a fantastic job for us.
“He has played over 300 senior games now and is an excellent pro, a really good player. You always know he will give his all in every training session and every match. It’s great news that he has committed his future to the club.”
Whyte Scores in International Friendly
Ciaron Brown and Gavin Whyte both came on as second-half substitutes during Northern Ireland’s international friendly against Luxembourg on Friday night, with the latter scoring in a 3-1 win.
It was a fourth goal in 23 appearances at international level for Whyte, who was also involved in the second goal after the scores were tied at 1-1.