Oxford United's chairman, Sumrith 'Tiger' Thanakarnjanasuth, wrote the following for this afternoon's programme against Sunderland:
I guess that for many fans, today’s game against Sunderland is the one they have been looking forward to the most this season. I am told that it is 20 years since the teams met in Oxford, so I would like to welcome the Sunderland fans for their first visit to this stadium; it is a fantastic club that attracts amazing support. That means nothing for the game itself though. The two teams were very evenly matched earlier in the season and, having beaten Portsmouth and drawn with Barnsley, we have shown in the last two home games that we enjoy playing against the teams at the top of the table.
I thought we were unlucky not to win against Barnsley, and definitely unlucky to only draw at Burton last Saturday. We created so many chances but lacked a little bit of sharpness in the penalty area. That will be key over the last third of the season and we feel we improved things up front in the transfer window, with Jerome Sinclair and Jonté Smith joining. They are very different players, but both have a hunger to succeed and score goals and, with Jamie Mackie always giving his all, I think we have better options now than before the window opened. The same is true throughout the team: Jordan Graham, Ahmed Kashi and Mark Sykes are all good players and don’t forget that Samir Carruthers is fit again now, having missed the first half of the season.
Those are big positives for us and somebody sent me a message on social media showing the last 20 games in League 1; we are in the top ten on form over that period, so I am confident that we can climb the table and move away from danger.
Off the field, we have made another good appointment in Gareth Hamer, who joins us to head up the recruitment team for the Academy. I don’t want to see the best young players in Oxfordshire being picked up in minibuses to go and train with Reading and Southampton. As Gareth and Dan Harris keep telling me, the best players in Oxfordshire should be learning the game with Oxford United. Gareth will help us build that and over time I think this will be a huge benefit to the club.
I have always talked about the potential here and a crowd of around 10,000 just shows what we can achieve. There was a very clear decision made to try to fill the ground with Oxford fans, even though we knew Sunderland could sell many times their allocation of tickets. I thank you for showing us that we made the right decision, and now it is over to you to make as much noise as you can and really get behind Karl and the team to turn a great occasion into a great performance.
You can read the full programme online at www.matchdayfix.com/oufc