Oxford United’s first team may have finished their pre-season programme but the Women's side are also putting the finishing touches to their preparations as they get set for a new campaign in the National League.
Liam Gilbvert’s side have strengthened over the summer with a number of new arrivals and he told us:
“Pre-season has been going well. We have been in for four or five weeks now and the girls have been working very hard. We have a good bond within that group and the girls are just looking forward to getting started now. A few players have moved on, a couple into the league above which we wish them good luck for but we have also had a bit of a recruitment drive this summer and brought in not just good footballers but good people as well.
“A couple of players have returned after playing elsewhere and you speak to them about their experiences and they seem happy with how we are doing things here and there is a bit of a buzz about the whole group, which is great.
“We don’t have the resources that the men’s team have but there are a variety of ways to recruit. We watch games and know people across the game in different areas and situations. But everyone we have signed so far we brought in first to get a feel for the place and see how they fitted into the group because that’s important. We have been building so well for the last couple of years and need to keep doing that.
”We almost had to build from scratch after the league structure changed a couple of years ago but we work to improve week on week, month on month and year on year. If you look back at how we have worked then we have got good results and want to keep that going.
“Last season we weren't able to get into our full stride. There was a three month break between fixtures at the start of the calendar year, we had two of our fist five games rearranged and it was all a bit frustrating. We had a 12 game unbeaten run in the middle of that but it all got a bit disjointed. We had a three month break then two games in four days against teams who had been playing regularly! To get results in those games just shows the character of the group. They dig in and fight for each other.
“Karl Robinson has been brilliant with us. He is always approachable and whenever I pop down to the Training Ground he will take time out of his schedule to have a word and ask how we are doing. We operate at different times in terms of training but he takes a genuine interest and we believe we are becoming more and more part of the fabric of the club. We have a new Development Squad this season and that shows an intent and a belief from the club who have supported that. The club as a whole is in a great place right now, top to bottom.
“Our fixtures are out and we’re not home until 4th October. Crowds can come in by then - we play at Oxford City where we have a certain capacity. We play at two o’clock on Sunday usually and talking to our fans we play a nice brand of football and I think people seem to enjoy watching the way we play.
For those who haven’t been along, we are in the National League South which is the equivalent of League 1 for the men’s side and we have the same way of working at the men’s side as well, or so I have been told.
“I can’t wait for the first game now. We have had five months to wait but we can’t wait now until we play Gillingham in that first game of the season.”