Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Fans Forum Transcript 07/02/13

The annual fans forum was held on February 7th with owner and chairman Ian Lenagan. Below is a transcript of his presentation (italicised sections are from other speakers). Enjoy.

Welcome this evening. I'd like to say I hope you enjoy the evening, I'm not sure that I was looking forward to it with enjoyment but they're always good things, fans forums, we always get a lot out of them. It also gives me the opportunity to say something at the beginning, because this is my first fans forum where I've been in actual charge in terms of day-to-day, week-to-week running of the club, whereas before as an owner I am getting reported figures and what's happening as much as anybody else is.

The last six months have been quite significant for me, in as much as I've been up to my elbows in Oxford United and I've actually got to the point where I enjoy the game tremendously, not perhaps at Southend last weekend. But from being a bit of an absent fan in some respects – I enjoyed it but I never used to know the players – I actually know everybody now.

What I don't know is, I don't know many of the fans and sometimes I'm well aware of the fact that I give off an exterior view which is not involved, but believe me I am very much involved in Oxford United. In terms of my time, my effort, my commitment and my enjoyment of the players and what we do. Most of the staff who work for Oxford United know me quite well, the players know me but the fans don't. I hope tonight is one of the opportunities where I can say to you, I really welcome the involvement of the fans, at games or whenever I've gone to the bar afterwards – at away matches rather more than at home. But I would love to get to know more of you and you get to know me because you'll trust me more, you'll believe that I have the passion for Oxford United that so many of you have because that's evolved and developed during the last six months.

But what I can't do is, I can't be in the newspaper or on the radio or whatever every week, that's not my style. My style is to deal with the business and deal with it as well as I can and to support the team passionately whether it's home or away and I've probably come to enjoy that part of it far, far more than I expected I would. Whilst I can't say that I've been an Oxford United fan for 20 years, 30 years or whatever, I can tell you that I am very heavily involved in the team and I hope that you'll get to know me a little better and understand me a bit better because you then might appreciate some of the decisions that we're having to undertake on behalf of the club and the team and everyone else involved in this.

So tonight, as far as the fans forum is concerned, we're looking at a review of the last six months. I took over on July 13th, not a very auspicious day especially as it was Friday the 13th, but I took over then and I've been involved for the six months since and there's been a lot of not-so-good and there's been a lot of good as well. But today is about telling you about all of that, to be open and honest . You might not agree with many of the things that I've done – I hope you do. But we're here discuss all of the issues that you want to talk about. Nothing's off the agenda.

We'll talk about matters on the field first of all. If we talk about the first team, if this had been two weeks ago and we'd been two points away from the play-offs we'd have been in a far more positive frame of mind, but the one point out of the last nine has not helped matters and the fact that we're seven points away from the play-offs now is not quite as good as it was.

The issue that's dominated in the last six months is the issue of sack the manager or not and the issue of the playing squad and if that's good enough and whether we should buy more and where that sits from a financial view. Let me just comment on a number of those issues. I said very clearly what the objective as far as Oxford United is: my objective is to get Oxford United into the Championship within a five-year period. I said that the objective – and I stand by it – this year is a very clear target and that as far as the manager is concerned is to get promotion. That's what the club wants. An absolute minimum is to get into the play-offs and we looked as though a couple of weeks ago we might be heading in the right direction after a good run after some bad runs before.

So where are we? We're behind where I would like us to be and I don't want to make excuses in terms of bad luck or injuries or whatever, you know what the reasons are as much as I do. I do know that in terms of the squad, I inherited a squad that had a lot of long-term injuries in it and we've been gradually working our way out of that. I took the decision back in October that we would wait for that situation to resolve itself, once we started to get players back, and then see what the result was.

Why did I make that decision? That was my decision and I don't think it was the wrong decision. I'm not saying there aren't other decisions that could have been taken but that was clearly my decision at the time. I took a view that said if we brought in a new manager, for example, at that time , with the injury load that we've got, that I wasn't convinced we could do a great deal about it anyway in terms of turning around the performance. And because the opportunity isn't there at that point in the season to replace half of the squad. And it would have been costly. It would probably have cost around a quarter of a million pounds to get rid of the manager and replace him with another one and pay the compensation that's involved and then you have to change players.

So I took the view that we owed a loyalty to Chris Wilder, that he has done well by the club and that we would give him the opportunity for the players to come back from injury and see what we could do then. And that nearly proved to be the correct view a couple of weeks ago, we'll see if it proves to be correct at the end of the season but that is my responsibility. I'll carry the can as far as that decision is concerned.

The issue in terms of what falling attendances would cost compared with what compensation would cost is about the same. It costs us somewhere between £200k-£250k if we have attendance that are 1,000-1,200 lower than what there would be. So it wasn't in the end a financial decision, it was a decision taken along the lines of when we've got the squad back and then we'll see what we can do. When we have the full squad available, or 90% of the squad available, because you can never have all of it, then we have a team that's more than capable of competing with anyone and for those of you who, like me, were at Bradford you'll understand that. And there's no doubt at all that if we can have our team out on the field most of the time we would be very competitive in this division which is in itself a competitive division.

But things happen. The goalkeeper getting both of his shoulders done was unfortunate when it occurred, Peter Leven and his problems with his knee was unfortunate and he's going to be out for another eight weeks, maybe ten weeks. And of course we have to deal with the issues of where do we get a creative midfielder, which Chris Wilder and myself are very, very heavily involved in, because we've committed the money to do that, yet more money to cover injuries but you haven't got a chance other wise. You can't compete and have whatever outside chance we have of getting in the play-offs without a creative midfielder and hopefully within the next ten days or so we'll see that gap plugged. We can't plug it until a week next Friday because if we do with the 93-day rule that applies in terms of transfers and if we got into the play-offs that player would then not be able to play in the play-offs, so we won't see anything happening until next Friday, is that the 14th, I'm not quite sure what the date is, but that's the salient date in order for the 93 days to allow you to be in the play-offs and we haven't lost sight of the fact that's what we want to do.

If we look at the playing squad in terms of Oxford United we look to have a squad of 21-22 players, plus whatever youth team players are deemed suitable to play, or be around on the bench or fill in if necessary. For the majority of this season we've had two-thirds of those available at best and that's been a real problem.   

We brought in Justin Richards on loan recently, before we signed him, and we needed him to fill in the Constable area. Every time you do something like that you have to remember the salary cap and the fact that it takes good money. We have never once not spent the money, we've spent it judiciously and carefully and we've looked to get the best deals that we always can when doing that, but not once has the manager ever been faced with the prospect of not being able to bring in the next players that are necessary.

So I hope never, ever, ever to go through a season where we start the season with so many crippled players before we actually get to the first game of the season and I can give you my assurance that that's not what we're going to do next term. And we're fortunate that there are quite a lot of people – particularly the expensive people – who are out of contract at the end of this particular season. And we've already started looking forward in terms of the players that we need who are fit and will stay fit moving forward. So with the investment that we've made in the backroom staff as well, we'll have a first team squad as fit as possible. You'll always get injuries, it's not unreasonable to have 10% injuries, but when you start off with 25% injuries then you give yourself something of a handicap.

But in terms of the playing squad itself and the first team, we're still stumbling by because we've lost our number one goalkeeper and we've lost our creative midfielder, we have people like Liam Davis with perennial problems with his hamstring, we've got Jon-Paul Pittman not yet back and unlikely to get back for most of the season, you know what they are as well as I do. But I'm intimately involved day-to-day and week-to-week trying to plan, within the financial constraints of the salary cap.

We don't have to stay within the salary cap. That's how the Swindons and the other clubs of this world get around the salary cap, but good management says stay within the salary cap, that's what the salary cap is all about, it's a guideline and it's a level which says 'this is the level beyong which you shouldn't go' and I have always worked on the basis that this is a level we should not go beyond. But there are times – and at the moment we're very fortunate that we've just had a donation from the 12th Man organisation, which will allow us very easily to bring in the next creative midfielder and pay for that for the next three, four months or so. We could put a donation of £100k into the football club, which is a way around the salary cap and the way that other people do it, but all you'd be doing is spending more on wages than you should. So when you see me talking about the salary cap and saying we can't go beyond the salary cap, there are ways of getting around the salary cap and we choose not to do it because it's bad financial management to do that.

And Oxford during the course of the last three years has gone from spending £950k on basic players' wages to £1.4 million, which is what it is now. We didn't budget to spend that much but there's an extra £200k in there in each of the last two years because of injuries and having to bring in emergency loan players and all sorts as cover.

So in terms of the first team squad that's all I'll say until further questions, apart from one issue, which is Luke McCormick, which has resulted in quite a lot of emails to me personally and quite a lot of different views as far as that is concerned and we're here as a board of directors tonight to justify the decisions that we made or at least explain them if anybody wants to question us. I think my position is very clear but I thought it might be quite useful because you don't know the other two board members . Adrian, would you mind commenting on the board's viewpoint on the McCormick issue?

Adrian Lenagan: We had a very long discussion for several hours concerning all the issues between the three of us and from the beginning one thing was clear. It wasn't a football question and it wasn't a financial question, it was unquestionably a moral question. And I suppose it's a tragic fact really that situations occur when ordinary people make terrible, terrible misjudgement which have lasting ramifications and this is clearly one of those instances. But then if you ask a group of people such as those here today what you should do when someone has served their sentence, paid their debt, whatever you want to call it, you're going to get as many different answers as you can possibly think of. It's clearly a hugely emotive issue and the validity of people's emotions is not to be questioned – how you feel is how you feel and that's really your own business.

But I think that we three obviously don't subscribe to the view that says that society should forget about a certain group of people, they've had they're opportunity and that's it. We do believe that people deserve a second chance and we have to stand by that decision and that's what we did.

Thanks for that Adrian. So it was a decision that we took in the full knowledge of the fact that a certain percentage of the Oxford fans would perhaps be passionately against it. But equally there could be another group of fans who supported the moral view that we took, the view that people should be granted another chance. A lot of people get praised  for making that sort of decision; I was interested to see that Richard Branson had put out an edict for the Virgin companies that they should employ ex-offenders and give them another chance. That's what we've done. We don't expect everybody to agree with it, I have no problem with the emails that I have received from people who passionately believe in the other direction, but that's why we took that particular decision.

In terms of the management and the backroom staff, I've talked about the manager's element of it. I think we're in a good position now with backroom staff particularly as well as the manager, with Andy Melville, Mickey Lewis and Chris Wilder – whether you think Chris Wilder should be there as manager or not, I think he should be at the moment, he gets his chance to do that – but I think that that group, particularly the two assistant managers, have come on in leaps and bounds in the last few years.

I'll introduce some people who you may not know; Alasdair Lane is our strength and conditioning manager, Dan Bond who has shown amazing commitment to the club in the last six months in working in a completely new area which is video analytics. Oxford United, you may not know, are clearly the leader in Leagues One and Two in the use of technology in sports science and the development within the football club. We've even had Premier League people come looking at what we do here in the Academy and with the first team squad and you should be immensely proud of where Oxford United is.

But we won't see a great degree of benefit of that for 12 months, that's the unfortunate thing. There's no quick fix, but in those people – and I include Andy Lord the physio and the doctors who stand in – we have a great backroom staff capable of taking us well beyond League Two and I'm proud of them and I'm delighted with the way they've taken up the cudgel and taken up the challenge in the last six months. And if any of you get the chance to go onto and look at the websites and what it is that we do in analytics and sports science you'll be very proud of your club, because I am.

We've always seen the youth team as something that's undervalued and underplayed at Oxford – probably because the previous owner decimated it for so long and by the fact that we allowed Oxfordshire-based to kids to move on to other clubs rather than through Oxford United.

I am particularly pleased with the fact that Ty Marsh and Max Crocombe have both played at least once for the first team this season and, to be frank, if Max hadn't been called up for the New Zealand squad for the four weeks that he's likely to be off in March we probably would have stayed with Max Crocombe as the goalkeeper for the next 12 weeks. But that's a very difficult decision, one which Chris Wilder would not necessarily agree with because if we're going to fight for the play-off places we need to have an experienced goalkeeper. On the other hand, I might have a view that said we have to give the young players a chance and somewhere between the two is what we've got. It's interesting that Ty has just gone off and got the man of the match award in a lower level game last weekend.

And because of our injuries there's no way that we can organise behind-closed-doors friendlies for the first six months of the season because we couldn't risk another injury, could we? And that's the problem, we can't even play them so someone like Max Crocombe can't seriously be thought of as a stand-in goalkeeper because he hasn't played a game for six months. That's the sort of problem that's been a perennial problem as far as Oxford United are concerned, but I guarantee you that problem is solved now.

One of the areas that we are investing in heavily is the whole youth structure and it's nice to see Richard Blackmore here tonight, for example, who does so much in the background at Oxford United and you should give him a big thank you, that's for sure, in terms of how the Academy is developing, how the ladies are developing and how the education side of the club is developing.

But we are committed to bringing young players through. That is probably one of the most important principles of the way the Lenagans approach Oxford United. The young players like Tyrone and Max will be able to stay with us from League Two to League One to the Championship, hoping that we do get there. Whereas if you've got to go out and buy players every year as you move from League Two to League One and then from League One to the next one, that's an ongoing problem where you're only as good as the players that you buy in. Whereas if you develop your own players you've got a much, much better chance less expensively with a much greater commitment.

I spent three quarters of an hour with Ty Marsh on Monday, talking about the next three years and we have an option for the next few and we're taking those options on. But we want to sign those young players for the next three years at least going forward, speculatively even because if we're not sure about them we'll still sign them on because they're the future of Oxford United.

The fact that they've done so well this year in terms of the FA Cup on the youth side of things is great. The fact that we've got a number of players – five, six, seven of them – who we think could challenge in a year or two years time. The fact that we've got the development squad being put together and the accelerator squad to take young players forward, both physically and in terms of their skill, that's where a lot of effort, money, time and commitment goes in as far as Oxford United are concerned.

You heard me use the phrase 'development squad' there, for example. We've never had a development squad. Again, because this is not just me, the other directors – Simon, a comment on the development squad?

Simon Lenagan: I think all of you appreciate that there is a gap between playing in the youth team and playing in the first team. We're aware of that and we think that the creation of the development squad, which is essentially taking youth teamers and combining them with people that we're not quite sure about, people who we traditionally would have let go. Being able to hold onto them, keeping them together as a group and giving them an extra year and allowing them to play 14-16 games perhaps across the season arranged by us behind closed doors against professional opposition in the local area – we think with the right development it would take and fly.

The problem with taking Max and Ty and expecting them to go and turn it on like that with them not having played enough will go next year, because they will play in the development squad 14-16 times throughout the season and they'll be much more ready. It'll also allow us to put into that development squad, because you can have a number of players who are above the age group,to play some younger pros in there and mix the culture of both and allow us to see which ones can move on.

It's a very important stage between the first team and youth team – it's not a reserve team, it's about development, it's about seeing how they grow and how they go after they leave the youth team. Or if they're in the second year of the youth team and we think they are ready, to see them play at a higher level that's not first team football. It's really important and I'm really glad we're going to get to do that next year.

But that will cost us £100k, for example. That's £100k of development cost, but if Oxford United doesn't do that we'll never have the young Oxfordshire players coming through into the team. And it'll take three years before you see the benefit of that. And in the background, whilst we're trying to get promoted this year and we are trying to do all the other good things that you are naturally very concerned about, we are spending an enormous amount of time and effort trying to get the basics right, but the futuristic basics. Nobody's got a development squad at our level, nobody's running the football squad software at our level, we're the only ones in League One and League Two that are actually doing that. We're way ahead on some of those things but you won't see the benefit of it for a while. But I think it's important that you can see some of the jam of tomorrow while looking at the mess that we've got in certain areas at the time. Hopefully we'll see the positives of that.

The Academy – and it's confusing because we talk about the Education Academy and the Academy as being the scholars which used to be the whole Centre of Excellence concept. They've all been renamed as Academy now so the under-9s right the way up to the youth team, the 19-year-olds, that is the Oxford Academy. And Oxford United Academy has actually achieved Category Three, not Category Four as most League Two and League One clubs are getting, but Category Three in the evaluation that's been done by the Premier League and the Football League in terms of how we develop young players. And that's a good position to be in as well, apart from our facilities – and our facilities down at Horspath are excellent and that issue will come up later on as well.

The ladies team: the ladies are actually playing on February the 24th at the Kassam. We're using one of our two matches that we're allowed to play to let the ladies team play against Newcastle United Ladies, who are two divisions above us, they're step one where we're step three, but we've already beaten one step one team in Charlton to get to where we are. But I would ask that you come along on that Sunday at one o'clock. Watch them play here at the stadium and be proud of what they've done, because if they win that game against Newcastle they will play against one of the eight elite Super League teams and that's a great position for Oxford United to have got to and I hope you're proud of them in the way that we are.

If we look at off the field. Well, that’s not been a very good year, I have to say, from a monetary viewpoint and an investment viewpoint.

I thought it would be useful for you to know when we identified that there was a financial problem, because you know the amount of money that we’ve had to put in during the course of the last seven or eight months or so and it’s quite substantial. The problems last year – that’s the year that finished in June of 2012, the season before this current season. I was at the fans forum here as the owner in March of 2012 when the loss for the year was being projected as £210k. That’s what the projections were of the loss for Oxford United for that year. By June, when I was starting to get involved in rather more detail, you could see it had gone up to £660k and for that year now it’s looking like £750k loss in that one year. That’s why I’m the chairman and chief executive of Oxford United, because you can’t afford to allow those kind of losses to continue and a lot of things had gone wrong at that particular point in time financially.

So that’s where most of the money has actually gone in during the course of the last six-to-nine months, it’s paying off a lot of things from last year. A lot of my efforts have been involved in correcting those mistakes and we’re coming out of that now – not without cost, unfortunately, our cost.

But again in June of 2012, six months ago, having been projected in the budget a £40k profit, it was apparent in June of that year that the projected loss was either going to be £250k or £425k, depending on who you listened to. Either of them were not good. Some of it was out of our hands, like the Football League’s commercial drop in income, which was poor. Some of it was in our hands; £200k of it is overspending on players - £300k at a push. If you’ve got a budget of £1.1 million you shouldn’t spend £1.4 million and you certainly should know it’s going to happen.

That’s what it looks like to me now in February 2013 in terms of what the loss will be this year and that’s where the money has had to come from to pay for all of that, for the problems of last year and problems with injuries and falling attendances into this year. Now you might say, ‘last week I said £825k’. I did, last week, but we put another £125k in on Monday because the attendances are down, because we’re having to pay more for salaries for players and because the betting stuff that the Football League said they were going to deliver haven’t been delivered. They’re things that happen with football clubs unfortunately and you have to grin and bear it – you as fans have to grin and bear it and we as owners have to grin and bear it, we don’t enjoy it but we’ve worked damn hard to turn it round and change it. And you’ve seen what will happen if we don’t manage it properly, with people like Swindon. Swindon were looking archetypally perfect in terms of going up through the leagues until you actually see the reality of what overspending can actually cost.

So balancing the cost against your income – and I’ll come back to that issue in terms of next year because before you buy your season ticket you might like to know what’s going on in terms of wages next year, that makes a big difference in terms of how good the team’s going to be next year. I also have to ask the question myself of what are the attendances going to be? Are we a 7,000 average attendance club or are we a 5,500 average attendance club? And I’ve got to second-guess that for next year, in terms of deciding what we do from a financial viewpoint. The answer is if you’re winning you’re a 7,000 average attendance club and if you’re not you’re a 5,500 or maybe even less – sales of tickets for this coming weekend are pretty awful. Nut the economic situation is difficult, the McCormick issue might be putting people off, the seven points away from the play-offs might put people off but I’d like to debate the question of what do we spend on wages next year in the next few minutes.

That’s where the £1 million has gone, it’s gone to pay off debts – we had £200k worth of loans that I didn’t know about that we’ve had to pay off over the course of the last 18 months and I don’t believe in being in debt. That’s one source of it, but there are others.

We’ve way overspent on injured players, having to bring in players. I don’t mean the Michael Duberry type position, which was a complete misfortune that in the close season he got a problem with his neck sleeping in his bed at home, that’s the kind of situation where you have to bring in a Michael Raynes and carry the cost of doing that. But it’s all the other stuff that has been over-the-top.

Again we couldn’t do a lot about Firoka and the fact that they charge and charge and charge for everything, much as we negotiate it down. They’re property people, that’s what they want to do, they want to make money out of the property.

We’ve lost £100k in the commercial arena by not meeting our forecasts last year, where the forecasts were just unreal or unrealistic for the business that we could do from a sales viewpoint. We now have far more realistic forecasts. I’m not saying that was anybody’s fault, because it’s very difficult to reduce forecasts, but you have to be realistic in the way that you look at it.

Attendances cost us £200k because they’re down below where they should be.

£100k on the community. We built up a debt of £100k by not paying people for the community operations. We’ve paid that off in one fell swoop, so that’s £100k wiped out. And now that business is developing extremely well. They’ve got a salesperson of their own and Richard driving it forward, so we’ve got a good base going forward.

That’s all negative, but the positive is the cup runs secured another £300k extra, because we budgeted not to get beyond any level in the cups and by getting through in both of the cups that’s what it meant, it meant over £200k of additional income, most of which was spent on players and other things as we go forward.

So that’s the financial position as far as the club is concerned. It’s been a difficult 12 months, it’s been a disappointing 12 months, but I am completely confident that we know exactly where we are. We bridged the gap because that’s our problem to do that and in that respect you haven’t got anything to worry about. It’s a soft debt and the club hasn’t any debt other than to Lenagans, none whatsoever. I don’t think there’s any more loans that can pop up from anywhere, I’m hoping to God there aren’t anyway!

Commercially, we have changes in commercial staffing. Owen Clark’s been doing a good job for us in terms of driving forward the commercial side of it, but we haven’t been able to address a lot of the requirements, particularly the requirements of marketing and commercial sales, because we’ve been too busy dealing with the ongoing problem of who’s doing what because of changes of management and everything else, but you’ll see an advert come out shortly for a sales and marketing director for Oxford United, because we have to get on the front foot in terms of marketing and everything. Where people like Chris Williams or Martin have been willingly covering the gap at the moment but we need to move forward now and we will see about doing that shortly.

Attendances are disappointing, but attendances are affected by the different problems we’ve had. By the economic situation as it is at the moment, by lots of matches together. We’ve been very unfortunate from the way the fixtures have actually dropped, we didn’t get a good fixture at Christmas and New Year in terms of being able to make money, it’s been a bit of a pain, I have to say, but I’m not surprised at where we are. I’m not blaming things on any of the Oxford fans, I’m praying and asking them, please come back and support because it does the team good as well as the finances good. But relative to £1 million it’s not that over-significant, the attendance drop – but then nothing is, compared to £1 million, is it? And I hop never to be there again with Oxford, that’s for sure. But attendances are what they are.

The training ground: we’ve had newspapers trying to say we’re going to lose our training ground and ‘did you know that Cowley Sports and Social have been given notice’ and whatever. We are very good at working with BMW in partnership and working with the local authority in planning forward future years to ensure that Oxford United maintain if not improve the level of training facilities that we’ve got and I am 99% confident that that will continue and that we will end up with better and better and better facilities in partnership with those two organisations. So we have no problem about the bowls club being given notice or the sports and social club who have been struggling for years and sadly they have to finish in 2015, but nothing’s at threat in any way at Oxford United.

Stadium issues: the non-issue of London Welsh was well publicised in the press a month or so ago. We get on extremely well with London Welsh, the chairman rang me up to apologise for the stories that had been run, for the fact that a loose conversation from an ex-employee of theirs had caused us some embarrassment. But the position as afar as the stadium is concerned is that Kassam is now getting twice the rental that he was getting from us before and there’s no way he’s going to sell the stadium to anybody so long as he’s getting £1 million a year of income. So it’s a non-event for at least the period until London Welsh either decide they’re here forever, or until London Welsh, God forbid, are unable to sustain themselves in the Aviva Premiership or financially. So we’ve marked time for at least 18 months.

We’ve been encouraged to actually set up a group of people, an advisory group, to help us look at all the alternatives around the stadium side of things and it’s quite likely we will do that in the near future. But there is no sharpness, there’s no immediacy. And you will recall that I said at my opening session that we don’t need the stadium and conference centre to be financially sustainable. None of this is dependent on the stadium or conference centre, the way we are. We can actually move forward through the leagues as a Football League club renting the stadium. But we’d like to buy it and I think that at a point in time that might be a possibility, but it’s less of a possibility now than it was 12 months ago – in particular because he’s getting twice the rental that he was getting before and the numbers don’t work at £13 million and we’re not going to buy it at £20 million are we? And if he’s getting twice the rental with the market as it currently is, that’s where we stand.

As far as the Education Academy is concerned, again Oxford United has an Education Academy with all these people in and we have the youth team going through advanced apprenticeships and gaining qualifications. But in addition we believe that Oxford United is in a position to get 16- and 17-year-old from Premiership and Championship clubs, so we’re attracting them to Oxford via education. So we’ve got a one-year under-17 group of people who are ex-Championship and ex-Premier League players who are not getting contracts at that higher level and who want a second chance. And the second chance is that they do a year at Oxford United, they get qualifications whilst also trying to get into our youth team and get a contract at the club – that’s what the under-17s are for. The semi-elites, the 16-19-year-olds – we have 50+ of those – go on to education and BTECs, level threes, that earn income for our club, give us jobs for our coaches and spread out into the community every year over 50 young men and girls who are committed to Oxford United and may play for other clubs, whether it’s North Leigh or Woodstock or wherever. And finally the developmental squad, which Simon’s already talked about.

And now it’s time for questions…….. 

Q & A to follow...maybe.

Share this


Just wanted to say thanks a million for posting this. Must have taken you ages, but is very much appreciated by this exile who couldn't make the forum. Many thanks.

I've very much enjoyed reading this. Many thanks for posting this.

Thanks from me too, not least because it all makes good sense! @highlandyellow

Post a Comment