Manager's statement from press conference
Manager Chris Wilder spoke at yesterday's press conference about his passion and pride at being manager of Oxford United. Speaking directly after chairman Ian Lenagan had announced that Chris had been offered a new deal with the U's, Chris issued the following statement:
"I’m delighted to be re-appointed as manager of Oxford United. In the way that football seems to be run these days, I’m very aware that many Chairmen might have got rid of me last autumn - or now at the end of a disappointing season - So I’m grateful to be given the chance to continue doing a job that I’m passionate about.
I’m very keen to reward the Board for keeping faith in me as manager. I know that many fans will criticise the chairman for doing this – and I understand that view as well – but I’ve got real belief that he’s made the right decision and that better times are ahead for Oxford United.
In the last 50 years, Oxford United are one of only about 30 clubs in England to have played for more than one season at the top-level and also to have won a major trophy. Similarly, less than 30 clubs could take 35,000 fans to Wembley for any game, let alone the Conference Play-Off Final.
I’m honoured to be Manager of an institution with that kind of history, and I am well aware of what the people of Oxfordshire want for their club. The goal for all of us is to be playing – and competing -at a higher level.
Turning to this season, first: the bottom line is that we have not reached the standards - or indeed the points total - that I was aiming for at the start of the season.
That is something for which I take full responsibility. The players were selected by me and coached by me and my team but we were simply not good enough.
We all know the issues that affected us at various stages but we can’t hide behind those. I have to analyse the areas in which we fell short and put them right quickly. The last three years have been a massive learning experience for me. I came to Oxford having already had a spell as a manager in the Conference, and was confident I understood how to get out of that league.
League 2 has been a different matter: we are competing against teams with similar resources and aspirations and against managers who’ve been around the block already. I’ve learned tactically, and intend to carry on doing that since that’s where I believe I can add real value to the club.
I probably also made some mistakes in the way in which I built my squad two summers ago. Some of the decisions I made then, I wouldn’t do again.
In particular, I’ve learned that at this level – with relatively small squads – you need fit, robust, well-conditioned players more than anything else. The Chairman and I have been working hard on the recruitment plan to improve that side of things and -with a significant number of players out of contract this summer -we believe we are in a strong position to deliver that kind of squad at Oxford United next season.
Whilst Oxford’s budget is competitive, it’s no secret that it’s not the highest in the division. So if we’re going to achieve our aims - and beat clubs with higher budgets than ours on a regular basis - we’ve all got to get it spot on.
I need to sign robust, good-value players… keep them fit…add the good young players we have coming through as replacements into the mix and be smart tactically. If my team and I get that balance right, then I know that the marvellous Oxford fans will play their part by supporting us to the hilt - as they have done so often in the past.
Integrating the young players into the First Team squad is a big part of this task and I just want to address that issue fully since I think there has been a lot of confusion about me on this one.
I am extremely keen – as any manager would be – to see good young, local players coming through to the First Team. Apart from making Oxford a stronger club and potentially generating future transfer revenue, having good youngsters coming through also frees upsome wages budget when opportunities arise to bring in even better players from outside.
The fact is, though, that when I arrived at the club, the youth set-up was only just starting to recover from a long period of under-investment under previous ownership.
More than at any time before it a huge amount of attention has been given to our youth system in the last 12 months with Simon Lenagan, Les Taylor, Richard Blackmore, Chris Allen and our Chairman himself concentrating on it. It takes a huge amount of time and effort to identify, recruit and develop a young player in the right way.
Max and Tyrone were the first players that I thought of as possible League potential and they’ve been introduced sensibly into League football this year. They’ve started 2 and 3 games respectively and done well. Next season, they can kick on again and start to fight for their First-Team places.
Now, we’ve just signed 3 more Oxford lads on professional contracts - Callum, Sam and David. It’s very exciting for us all because they all have more of the quality we’re after. I think they’ll benefit hugely from the new Development Squad which the club is investing in - playing men’s football every week even when they’re not in the First-Team.
Following behind them are other good young local players coming through the Academy and that is good for us all to see. It’s exciting - it really is - and I’m delighted that I’ve got the opportunity to be here to see it happen. If Oxford United is going to get back to where it should be, this is a large part of how it will happen and I am very aware that I - as the Manager - have a big part to play in making that happen.
Finally, there’s one other thing that I’d like to clear up once and for all -that I don’t care about the history of Oxford United.
I don’t recall any comments from me that suggested that and I certainly didn’t mean it in the way it seems to have been taken. All I have ever meant is that my job is to focus on the here, the now and the future of Oxford United rather than looking backwards. That’s a big enough job as it is.
I certainly care for the history of this club, particularly since my working colleagues are all legends who played at the top-level for Oxford United: Mickey, Andy, Les, Chrissy and Rosie.
If they thought I didn’t care for the club’s history, they’d rip me to shreds!
I’ve had a rocky ride from many fans over recent months, and I fully understand the reasons why, even if it has been personally very uncomfortable at times. It’s probably taken me a while to learn to deal with all of the pressures involved in being Manager of what is a club with serious expectations.
As they say….what doesn’t break you makes you stronger….And I definitely feel far stronger and more experienced now than I have done ever before in my management career.
I love living in Oxfordshire and I’ve got a great job which I am fully appreciative of….and I’d like to think I have a better understanding of what the fans need from me as manager of their club on and off the pitch.
Having talked about the disappointments, I’d just like to say how much I’m looking forward to what I still believe we have in front of us. We have the backbone of an excellent squad here, with some good young players coming through.
With a large number of players being out of contract, I also have the opportunity – not available last year – to add some real steel, determination, ability and goal-threat to that squad.
I know that ultimately it’ll be what we do out on the pitch that counts but I personally - and everyone at the club- would greatly value your on-going support for the team for the start of next season.
After three progressive years, what followed it was a disappointing 14 months or so for everyone at the club — but if we all re-gather and unite as a club with one aim – United we Stand–it’s my firm belief that we can do special things together next season.