Oxford United's Chairman, Sumrith 'Tiger' Thanakarnjanasuth, wrote the following notes for the Papa John's Trophy quarter-final programme against AFC Wimbledon:
Good evening everyone, wherever you are. I hope you are well and I hope you enjoy reading the match programme for this Papa John’s Trophy quarter final.
The early rounds have seen us use a lot of younger players, such is the nature of this competition. Look back and you will see Nico Jones, Kyran Lofthouse, Michael Elechi, Leon Chambers-Parillon and Gatlin O’Donkor all playing, with Gatlin breaking the record for our youngest-ever player at just 16. The academy has a major role to play at any club but especially here at Oxford where we have a great history of bringing through young players and giving them a chance. Karl is very good at that as well, always ready to look at all of his options and always with one eye on the future.
Now, with maybe two games to go before a Wembley final, he will face an interesting choice: whether to stick with those same young players or give senior players their chance to try and get us through to a major final. We have a strong squad and everyone has had opportunities this season; just like you I will be sitting at home watching on iFollow and really wondering what team we might field tonight.
All of the preparations will have been done on transfer deadline day. Maybe I should explain the recruitment system right now. It was always going to be more complicated this season because of the new Financial Fair Play regulations and squad size restrictions, but then you add in the Covid pandemic, the disruptions to the season and it becomes even more difficult. But we like that sort of challenge and Karl, his staff, the Board and the recruitment team meet regularly – daily over the last week or two – and we have just one aim, ultimately: to make the team stronger. We are now in a fantastic position and we have to try and build from that.
Sometimes we have one eye on the longer-term future. Luke McNally signed last week from St Patrick’s in Ireland. There were five or six other teams chasing him but I think our reputation as a club that plays good football and who help players develop is now a major draw; Elliott Moore and Rob Atkinson are playing very well, having followed Rob Dickie, who followed Curtis Nelson, who followed Chey Dunkley… I hope you can see how we work and plan ahead.
Sometimes you need to bring players in for an immediate impact, sometimes you have to let players go and replace them with players who are even better. It is a difficult thing to do and sometimes we have made mistakes, but I think generally we have got it right many more times than we got it wrong.
Eight wins in a row, a team closing down the gap to the teams at the top and a quarter final at home with a place at Wembley at the end of it: these are exciting times for all of us at Oxford United.
You can read the full programme online at www.matchdayfix.com/oufc