It was announced today that Jack Payne, probably Oxford United’s best player this season, was to be recalled from his loan by Huddersfield. On the face of it this is a disaster for Oxford. Players of Payne’s quality don’t come along very often especially not in League One.
Yet despite this there are plenty of positives to hold fast to even though the season has been a frustrating one. It was pretty well summed up by our last game away at Walsall where we were undone by some comical defending and a slow start. The club and fans were hoping for a concerted play-off push this campaign and although the U’s are not far off the pace they never seem to quite make up the ground on those above them.
It maybe that that remains the case for the rest of this season but the transfer window has again shown that the club are moving in the right direction. Three players have been brought in so far and they all have traits in common. They are young, hungry and full of potential which is exactly the type of player the club needs.
The fact that Cameron Brannagan joined from Liverpool on a permanent deal is in itself a huge sign of how the club are perceived by players. Pep Clotet still has a lot to learn about management and tactics in the third tier but he has a growing reputation for the style he tries to play and that can only be a good thing.
One of the major bugbears I have had with the team is the defending. Silly mistakes and an inability to defend corners has seen us concede some pretty avoidable goals but in fairness losing Nelson has played a part in that.
The signing of Rob Dickie is a shrewd move. The player came with glowing reports from certain football league experts and reporters from other clubs even though I was initially sceptical.
From what I’ve seen of him he fits into the Oxford mould, can definitely pick a pass.
— Gabriel Sutton (@_FootbalLab) 4 January 2018
His confidence on the ball was well noted during his spell at both Cheltenham and Lincoln City and at just 21 years old there is still time for him to grow.
— Luke Saunders (@LukeSaunders17) January 4, 2018
Oxford have had a number of excellent centre backs over the years. During my time supporting the club there was Matt Elliott, Phil Gilchrist and Darren Purse and more recently Jake Wright and Chey Dunkley stand out. Hopefully Dickie can become a player that we all talk about with such strong sentiment in years to come.
The signing of Brannagan was a bit of a bolt out of the blue. Many had suggested that he would join on loan but I did a double take when I saw that the move was a permanent one. I would step back slightly from the rhetoric of those who have suggested we have signed the next Steven Gerrard but clearly he has huge potential.
DONE DEAL: Oxford United have signed midfielder Cameron Brannagan from Liverpool for an undisclosed fee.
➡️Represented England at U18 & U20 level
📝signed a three and a half year deal
— D3D4Football (@d3d4football) January 11, 2018
With Payne leaving the timing of this signing couldn’t be better but it is very likely that he will need some time to get used to the football at this level which can often be robust at best. Then we come to Isaac Buckley-Ricketts (looking forward to hearing what song the East Stand come up with for him) he looks another really bright prospect who will definitely make an impact off the bench in tight games.
We have lacked a tricky winger since O’Dowda left and with Wes Thomas, Mehmeti and Obika in the middle it will be great to see Buckley-Rickets give them something to feed off.
Now all the club need to do is sort out the stadium issue. It has been dragging on for over a decade and I have made no secret of the fact that my love for the club has been tarnished by the place we now call home
It is partly knowing that our old chairman is still taking such a huge sum out of the club each year while we make little income from the place we are paying to play in and partly because the Kassam Stadium is as soulless and detached from the City the club represents as any I can think off in the Football League.
Part of me hopes the club will leave the place and build a new stadium somewhere else but it seems unlikely so we just have to pray that one day the club will own the ground and we can finish building it.
So there are plenty of things to be positive about and this season is far from over but I do sense that we will be better equipped to challenge for a play-off place next season or perhaps the one after given the current state of the squad. For now I am just enjoying watching us back in the third tier after over a decade and a half in League Two or worse. Let’s all get behind the boys and give loads of encouragement to the new charges for the rest of this campaign, COYY.
words James Richards D3D4 Football