With the 2018/19 season done and dusted there was time for iFollow to sit down yesterday and talk to Head Coach Karl Robinson for an in-depth look back at the season just gone.
Karl was typically honest throughout a 20 minute interview, available for subscribers to view in full, but admitted that the way the U’s started last season was a huge test not just for him but for those around him.
“Yes, privately it was hard” he said. “I did a BBC Oxford interview early on and people know that my wife and daughter and my mum and dad are people I rely on so much and that I have an unbelievable family behind me. They helped me through what was a really tough start. It was as low as I have ever been in the league and it wasn’t just me, Shaun and Faz that got us out of that situation. It was everyone at this club; everyone at the training ground. It’s easy to all pull in different directions when questions are being asked about whether you are suitable to manage a club. But nobody did that and we got stronger and stronger together.”
United turned things around but for Karl there was one turning point in particular:
“For me the lowest point came after the defeat away at Accrington on a Tuesday night. We got back on the coach and I sat there struggling, knowing what was wrong but also knowing I was getting everything out of my players.
“We got back and six of us sat up and went through it with a bottle of wine and the next morning we took stock and then right away prepared for the next game. I spoke to the players and said just to trust in what we were doing because we knew it would come right. We looked at the predictive goals chart and I told them that we would not be that unlucky all the way through the season. We would get the results we deserved.
“That was a big night and the players deserve all the credit for their response. We never lost faith in each other and the true test is how honest and open you are at times like that. I think we had embedded positives all through the season and then we had players fit, we had substitutes available and all of a sudden I start putting on players like Jordan Graham, Jerome Sinclair, Jamie Mackie on as subs; players who have a massive impact.”
That collective belief extends right through to the Chairman, who Karl was quick to thank for his support.
“The players cared so much but I also got two texts off Tiger after games that will live with me for the rest of my life. The lift he gave us with those messages at difficult times; people would never understand but he has stayed up all night to watch games then he sent me a text saying ‘I have seen first hand the talent in the players and the coaching staff. Just believe in yourselves because I believe in you.’ That meant a lot.”
The way United ended the season means there is plenty of optimism around the club right now, and Karl believes that a season of rebuilding will help the club go from strength to strength next time around
“A lot of managers have tried to give this club an identity” he said. “What Chris Wilder and Michael Appleton did for this club was so important and I think we have started to get an identity again. We have learned a lot about who we are and hopefully people see that the people who work here and the players who play for this club really care.
“There is so much going on. Has the club ever spent big money on a training pitch like we are this summer? Has that ever happened to this level at Oxford United before? No. Has there been a gym like we have here, a training ground, an Academy who are doing great things? We are giving young players a chance to play; Rob Dickie, Sam Long, Cameron Brannagan, Gavin Whyte, Mark Sykes…
“There are still going to be difficult moments; that’s football. But we have shifted things, we have a protocol, a development system, and a togetherness all the way through the building. We are very focussed in our recruitment, which will mean we build on what we have here already. I’ll take a break, we all need to do that, but it is a very very exciting time to be involved.”
See the whole interview in iFollow right now, with a similar, thoughtful interview with Head of Academy Dan Harris available tomorrow.
Get behind Karl this summer: season tickets are available from oufctickets.co.uk or by calling 01865 337533