Oxford United FC

Key player: James Henry

31-year-old winger James Henry proved to be Oxford’s source of inspiration on many occasions last season, 21 times in just 30 League One appearances to be exact (12G, 9A). The former Wolves man enjoyed a blistering end to the season in which he contributed to 10 goals in his final eight games, including an assist in the Play-Off semi-final second leg against Portsmouth as well as another in the Play-Off final defeat to Wycombe. One of the more senior members of the side, the U’s will be looking for him to lead by example once more this campaign.

See the whole League One Season Preview 2020/21

Manager: Karl Robinson

Few managers boast a decade of Football League managerial experience by the age of 39. Karl Robinson will be hoping to secure his second promotion to the Championship after having done so with MK Dons in the 2014/15 season. An opening day win against Lincoln would secure his 50th in charge of the club from 123 matches since taking over in March 2018 following his surprise departure from Charlton. 

Defensive rock: Elliott Moore

A commanding centre-back, the 23-year-old will be expected to fill the void in defence left by Rob Dickie who joined Championship side QPR during the summer. Despite finding himself in and out of the side following a move from Premier League Leicester City, the former OH Leuven loanee became a regular fixture in the side towards the end of the season, playing the full 90 minutes in each of the final six League One matches and then also playing maximum minutes in the Play-Offs too. A defender that is comfortable with the ball at his feet, the youngster will only get better under the stewardship of Karl Robinson and has already impressed during pre-season.

Last season: 4th in League One

Oxford were unrecognisable from the side that shipped 12 goals in their opening four games of the season, going on an 11 match unbeaten run which included the 6-0 drubbing of newly promoted Lincoln City. City lost just a further six matches before the season was curtailed, winning their final five matches but missed out on automatic promotion by just three points.

Heading into the Play-Offs, Robinson’s side narrowly shrugged off Portsmouth, winning the second leg 6-5 on penalties before facing Wycombe, a side who only entered the Play-Offs via PPG (Points Per Game). Despite being heavy favourites, it was a Joe Jacobson penalty in the 79th minute that separated the two sides at Wembley, extending their absence from England’s second division to 21 years.

Key transfer: Matty Taylor

The former Bristol City man made his stay at the Kassam Stadium permanent over the summer after impressing U’s manager Karl Robinson last season.  The 29-year-old scored 13 in 26 appearances in League One, assisting a further two in the process. The former Bristol Rovers player upped his contribution rate considerably after the departure of right winger Tariqe Fosu to Championship side Brentford in January, contributing to nine goals (7G, 2A) in his final seven games of the regular season. 

Target: Promotion

Having kept the vast majority of the squad that so narrowly missed out on promotion to the Championship last season, Karl Robinson’s side will be looking to go one better this time out. The quality of Matty Taylor and James Henry supplemented with new signings such as Linfield’s Joel Cooper, Marcus McGuane and Liam Kelly (both on-loan) should provide better competition for places and squad depth which should help turn last season’s draws into three points. Centre-back could perhaps be an area of concern with no defensive signings over the summer but should Elliott Moore and Rob Atkinson continue to impress, it should be another solid season ahead for the U’s.

Opposition view:

(provided by Oxford United fan and editor of D3D4 James Richards)

Oxford come into the 2020/21 season in excellent shape. They have kept the bulk of last season’s play-off final squad together and added in areas where we struggled. Losing Tariqe Fosu and Shandon Baptiste in January was a blow and Chris Cadden heading back to the MLS saw our best full-back leave too, yet this summer has seen Marcus McGuane (he played for Barcelona you know) join on loan from Nottingham Forest and Sean Clare fill the right-back void.

Most importantly, goal scorer Matty Taylor is back on a permanent deal after leaving Bristol City. His goals made a huge difference and will be vital if we are to match the exploits of last season. Rob Dickie joining QPR is a blow but not unexpected and in Rob Atkinson we might have a ready-made replacement waiting in the wings. There is a sense of optimism heading into the new campaign and another play-off challenge should be the aim for 2020/21.

 

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League One Season Preview 2020/21