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League 1 Spotlight: Oxford United

Tom Hancock welcomes the return of the M40 Derby.

24 July 2018

After a couple of seasons without an ‘M40 derby’, this fixture makes a welcome return to the calendar – and with the first meeting of the campaign taking place just six weeks from now, the countdown is already on.

Oxford came within four points off the League One play-offs on their return to the division in 2016/17, so last season’s lower mid-table finish must have come as a disappointment – although it was always likely to be tough after the departure of talismanic boss Michael Appleton.

Perhaps unsurprisingly given their inconsistency, the U’s got through three managers over the course of 2017/18. Pep Clotet left in January, with Derek Fazackerley spending two months in caretaker charge before the eventual appointment of Karl Robinson.

The U’s will have to cope with the double blow of losing Ryan Ledson – their standout performer last season – and Joe Rothwell over the summer. Although replacements – in position at least – have come in for the key central midfield duo, only time will truly tell how big an effect their departures will have.

Robinson has had time to put his stamp on the place now, though, making some encouraging signings. That, along with his solid track record at this level, should restore some optimism heading into the new campaign.

Last season: 16th in League One

In charge: Karl Robinson
Robinson was appointed in March after leaving Charlton. Prior to his time in charge of the Addicks, the 37-year-old – who’s the third youngest boss in League One – held the reins at MK Dons, guiding them to promotion to the Championship in 2014/15, and recording a memorable 4-0 thrashing of Manchester United in the same season’s League Cup. As a player, he turned out for a number of non-League clubs in Wales and the north west of England.

Star player: James Henry
Oxford’s joint top scorer with ten league goals in his first season with them, Henry will surely be keen to push on after coming to thrive in his best position – sitting just behind one or two out-and-out strikers. He netted five times in the final ten games of 2017/18, including in each of the last three. If he can carry that form into the new campaign, he’ll continue to be a valuable asset to the U’s.

Key ins: Jamie Mackie is the biggest name among Oxford’s seven new arrivals so far, with the forward joining after his release by QPR. Sheffield United midfielder Samir Carruthers and Everton left-back Luke Garbutt have come in on loan for the season, with midfielder Armani Little and experienced right-back Tony McMahon arriving on frees from Southampton and Bradford respectively. Former Norwich right-back Cameron Norman has returned to pro football after an impressive spell with Southern League King's Lynn Town, while winger Gavin Whyte has moved for an undisclosed fee from Northern Irish champions Crusaders.

Key outs: The aforementioned Ryan Ledson and Joe Rothwell have joined Championship Preston and Blackburn respectively, both for undisclosed fees. Among a further eight permanent departures from the Kassam Stadium this summer, former Chairboy Mike Williamson has been released, along with striker and last season’s joint top scorer Wes Thomas.

EFL head-to-head:
Meetings: 22
Wycombe wins: 9
Oxford wins: 7
Draws: 6

First meeting: 07/12/1994 (League One): Oxford 0-2 Wycombe (scorers: Keith Ryan, Simon Garner)

Last meeting: 07/05/2016 (League Two): Oxford 3-0 Wycombe

Last Wycombe win: 19/12/2015 (League Two): Wycombe 2-1 Oxford (Wycombe scorers: Garry Thompson, Jason McCarthy)


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