Welcome to Last Word on Football’s team of the decade series. Today, we take a look at the Oxford United Team of the Decade. It’s been a positive ten years for the U’s, having started in the Conference and finishing high in League One, in addition to two Football League Trophy finals.
Oxford United Team of the Decade
Manager – Michael Appleton
Despite arriving with a poor managerial history, Appleton re-established his own career and helped the U’s to some memorable moments. Oxford won promotion from League Two under the stewardship of the former Manchester United player, reached two Football League Trophy finals and enjoyed notable cup runs. Appleton also signed numerous young, exciting and talented youngsters, something which helped the club both in and off the field.
Goalkeeper – Simon Eastwood
The current number one Simon Eastwood is the goalkeeper for our Oxford United Team of the Decade. The 30-year-old has been ever-present since his arrival in 2016 and has made well over 200 appearances for the U’s, with just injuries limiting his game time.
His talent between the sticks have kept Oxford in games on many occasions, and the authority of his defence is equally as impressive.
Right Back – George Baldock
Sheffield United defender George Baldock has the lowest number of Oxford appearances in this team but became a key figure during his short spell at the club, and is the right-back in our Oxford United Team of the Decade.
He joined the U’s on loan from MK Dons in 2015 and scored once in 12 appearances. Oxford agreed to re-sign the full-back on loan the following season and he picked up where he left off.
Unfortunately for Oxford and Baldock, he was recalled by the Dons in January and wasn’t part of the side that achieved promotion to League One, but he was a fan favourite despite his short stint.
Centre Back: Jake Wright
Jake Wright is probably the best central defender the club have had in the last ten years and is well deserved of a place in our Oxford United Team of the Decade.
The defender was appointed captain in 2011 and became an ever-present figure, also winning promotion to League One in 2015/16. The defender left following the promotion and, despite failing to score in 281 appearances, he left the club as a leader and a legend.
Centre Back – Johnny Mullins
Picking a defender to partner Wright was difficult as the U’s have had some solid members in the last ten years but one just edged it. Johnny Mullins also joined on loan and scored two goals while remaining solid in defence.
The U’s snapped him up the following season and made over 40 appearances in all three seasons at the club. Mullins also won promotion from League Two and captained the U’s on their Football League Trophy final defeat against Barnsley.
Left Back – Josh Ruffels
Like Eastwood, Josh Ruffels is still at the club. The Oxford-born midfielder came through the ranks at Coventry City but joined the U’s in 2013. Despite failing to secure a regular position, he switched to left-back in 2017. Since then, Ruffels has gone on to make over 250 appearances and has become a key player, winning promotion from League Two in 2015/16.
Solid defensively, the 26-year-old has also chipped in with assists and crucial goals, with many coming as late winners.
Centre Midfield – John Lundstram
The first midfielder in our Oxford United Team of the Decade is Sheffield United star John Lundstram. The now 26-year-old epitomised the style of transfer the U’s looked for in the noughties – a talented youngster from a top-flight club looking to cement regular, first-team football.
And he did just that. He joined on a two-year deal from Everton and played over 100 appearances for the U’s during that period. Solid defensively while controlling the holding role, Lundstram also had a wide array of passing that could open up a game and produce a number of attacks.
He won promotion from League Two in 2016 and captained the side for 53 of his 57 games the following season at the age of just 22.
Centre Midfield – Cameron Brannagan
Cameron Brannagan is another player that left the glamour of Premier League football to drop down for regular game time. Like Lundstram, Brannagan left Merseyside for Oxfordshire and has settled in perfectly and has remained the first name on the team sheet since.
The 23-year-old joined from Liverpool and has made over 100 appearances for the U’s since his arrival in January 2018. He is still an integral part of Karl Robinson’s squad and can dictate the game with his range of passing and his dribbling ability.
Left Midfield – Chris Maguire
The Scot assisted Kemar Roofe during Oxford’s famous FA Cup third-round win over then-Premier League side Swansea City, before joining the club permanently. After he signed, he scored four goals in the final six league games as Oxford won promotion to League One.
The following season, Maguire scored an impressive 17 goals in 54 appearances as the U’s finished eighth. He also scored a brace against rivals Swindon Town at home and was integral during the away win also. His antics made him a fan favourite, but he decided to join Bury before ending up at Sunderland, where he is now plying his trade.
Right Midfield – Kemar Roofe
Appleton signed him on loan and he scored six goals in 16 appearances. Fans were desperate to see him stay, and the club pulled off another coup by signing him permanently. The following season, he was unstoppable. Roofe scored from just inside the opposition half as Oxford won 4-0 at Brentford in the League Cup and scored a brace as the U’s knocked Swansea out of the FA Cup.
He netted a hat trick in the 4-0 win against Dagenham & Redbridge and scored twice against rivals Swindon Town. Roofe finished the season with promotion to League One where he scored 26 goals in all competitions, with 32 from 64 during his time with the U’s. He left to join Leeds United for a club-record transfer of £3 million and now turns out for Anderlecht.
Attacking Midfield – James Henry
Signed by Pep Clotet, James Henry has gone on to be one of Oxford United’s strongest players, and his performance this season have remained as consistent. During the change of manager and with much of last season being spent in the bottom four, Henry’s goals and assists had maintained the clubs League One status.
The former Wolverhampton Wanderers winger has been the top scorer in the past two seasons with 11 and 15 respectively. This season, despite spending time out injured, Henry has still scored 14 goals but has also added ten assists.
Striker – James Constable
The striker in our Oxford United Team of the Decade needs no introduction. James Constable is a club legend in more ways than one.
‘Beano’ joined Oxford, who were in the Conference at the time, on loan from Shrewsbury Town in 2008 and scored 24 goals. He joined on a permanent basis the following season and bettered his tally by two as Oxford won promotion to League Two, where Constable scored in the play-off final victory at Wembley.
Constable netted 17 goals as the U’s finished 12th in League Two but, despite only scoring 11 in the next campaign, he scored a brace against rivals Swindon Town as the U’s secured a first league win at the County Ground in 38 years.
Fourteen goals followed as the U’s struggled to reach the play-offs for a second successive season, before scoring 12 in his final season with the U’s. Constable finished his impressive Oxford career with 106 goals – just one short set equalling the all-time record set by Graham Atkinson in 1974. He would have broken the record after he scored a hat-trick against Chester City in his first full season but, after the club were expelled from the Conference, it was expunged from the records.
Goalkeeper Ryan Clarke and right-back Damian Batt were both a part of the 2010 promotion-winning side. Clarke went on to play over 250 games for the U’s and was a key figure at the club. Batt played just under 200 games for Oxford, but his pace and skill down the right was integral for the U’s as they remained a sustainable club in League Two.
Current defender Rob Dickie was certainly unlucky not to make the first 11 but since his arrival from Reading in January 2018, the defender has got stronger in each game and has been linked with a number of top-flight clubs as a result.
Central midfielders Liam Sercombe and Ryan Ledson are another duo unlucky to miss the cut. Sercombe only played for two seasons, but the former Exeter City man scored 22 goals in 101 appearances. Ledson, like many others, left the Premier League to join the U’s. He made 50 appearances for a struggling Oxford side but remained a consistent performer.
Winger Alfie Potter will be best known for his goal in the Conference play-off final, but the former non-league player made just shy of 200 appearances for Oxford. Striker Danny Hylton completes the bench, having scored 30 goals in 101 appearances and winning promotion to League One.