It’s always a busy time during the close season and this has been the busiest week yet for Oxford United. The U’s have signed a new player, seen one departure, have announced a new batch of scholars and triggered a one-year option in two key players.
Oxford United Weekly Round-Up: One in, One Out and Duo Extended
Sam Baldock Signs Two-Year Deal
Oxford United have made their first signing ahead of the new season with the addition of striker, Sam Baldock.
The boyhood U’s fan joined the U’s in February until the end of the season and scored four goals in seven games before picking up an injury.
Speaking to the club’s official website, he said: “I walked through the door back in February and it felt like the right place straight away.
“The badge has always had a special place in mine and my family’s hearts ever since it was the first club we watched live at the Manor.
“Having previously worked under the gaffer, I knew I wanted to play for him again – he got the best out of me earlier in my career and I hope that can happen again.
“I want to thank the gaffer, the staff and my teammates for making the last few months so enjoyable and I’m already looking forward to next season. We have a strong squad that I firmly believe is capable of achieving something special for this club.
“The fans have been great and I am sure will continue to support this team and help us in our goal to gain promotion.”
U’s boss Karl Robinson, who worked with Baldock at MK Dons, added: “He’s not just a really good player, Sam is also a tremendous character, a winner and a leader.
“He fits in so well with what we are building here and clearly understands what it means to pull on the yellow shirt.
“After three years of going close, this year is all about mentality and there are certain non-negotiables. Some players will leave as a result but Sam will certainly fit in with it straight away.
“The fans took to him immediately and I am sure they will be just as excited to see him sign as we are.”
Mark Sykes Joins Bristol City
In the most unsurprising transfer of the window, Mark Sykes has finally joined Championship club Bristol City.
The 24-year-old, who was out of contract at the end of the season, failed to agree to new terms with the U’s and joins the Robins on a free transfer.
The midfielder joined the U’s in January 2019 and turned out 137 times for the club. He follows Rob Atkinson to Ashton Gate, with the defender making the switch last summer.
U’s Announce Eight New Scholars
Oxford United’s latest batch of youngsters have been announced with eight new players have been offered two-year scholarships.
Goalkeeper Monty Marriott, defenders Rashane Maxwell, Richard Gerrard and Max Smith, midfielders Zaide Took-Oxley, Tobias Brenan and Aidan Elliott-Wheeler, and striker Josh Iheanacho will all be hoping to have a positive impact on the club.
Academy Manager Dan Harris welcomed them to the club, saying: “It’s massively exciting for them and they have a wonderful opportunity over the next few years to develop not just as footballers but as young men.
“Some have been with the club since they were eight or nine, others have joined more recently, but they all understand the values we hold and we look forward to working with them over the next couple of years”.
The eight new arrivals join second-year scholars Fraser Barnsley, Ibby Sankoh, Erion Zabeli, Owen Giles, Josh Johnson, George Franklin, Enrique Tiamuna, Amari Davis-Stephenson and Gatlin O’Donkor while goalkeeper Eddie Brearey and winger/full-back Will Owens have been offered third-year scholarships.
Harris added: “Eddie and Will were part of a group who joined the club just as Lockdown started and we are pleased that they will be given that extra time to develop and be part of things next year, and combined with the second years and the new intake we can’t wait to get back and get started again.”
Oxford United Head of Recruitment ‘Rejects’ Portsmouth Offer
According to The News, Oxford’s head of recruitment Mark Thomas has rejected a move to Portsmouth.
Thomas has been with the U’s since 2014, having joined the club following a four-year spell at Fratton Park.
During that time, he has helped the club earn millions of pounds in transfer fees, with seven of the 11 players to leave for a seven-figure happening during his tenure.
Oxford made a significant profit on Kemar Roofe, Marvin Johnson, Gavin Whyte, Rob Dickie and Rob Atkinson, with Callum O’Dowda and Shandon Baptiste coming through the academy.
U’s Duo Pen Contract Extensions
Oxford United have triggered a one-year contract extension for duo James Henry and Elliott Moore.
They have also offered fresh terms for midfield pair Alex Rodriguez Gorrin and Billy Bodin, while youngster Slavi Spasov has been offered a short term deal.
Henry, who joined the U’s in 2017, has 54 goals in 213 appearances and has become a key player despite an injury-hit past couple of campaigns.
Speaking to the club’s official website, Henry said: “I think we all feel we have unfinished business after going so close to promotion for the last three years now and I want to be part of a successful season in which we hopefully go one better.”
Moore, who became captain in December 2020, has been ever-present in the Oxford defence. Despite seeing several defensive partners come and go, the 25-year-old has become a permanent fixture.
He said: “I’ve loved my time at the club and am more than happy to be part of what we are building here.”
U’s boss Karl Robinson said: “Both of them are really good players but also terrific pros and great people to have in the building.
“If you look back over the last three or four years you can see so many crucial goals that James has scored or helped create while Elliott has been outstanding in defence for us.
“It was an easy decision to trigger the extensions on their deals and I am sure the fans will be just as pleased as we are to know they remain as Oxford players.”
On Bodin and Gorrin, Robinson added: “We have made offers to Billy and Alex and hope they are with us next season, which means our senior retained list is done now.
“With Slavi, he has had a terrible time with injuries and we have offered him a deal that covers pre-season and allows him to get playing again, hopefully with us.”