Retain or Release? I look at the players out of contract and give my opinion on their futures

Oxford are due to release their player retain list tomorrow so I will take an in-depth look at the players who are out of contract and give my opinion on their futures. The list of out-of-contract players (As taken from The Oxford Mail) are as follows:

  • Danny Rose
  • Jake Wright
  • Andy Whingoufc v wba
  • Will Hoskins
  • Jamie Ashdown
  • Jonathan Meades
  • Joe Skarz
  • Max Crocombe
  • Sam Long
  • Josh Shama
  • Sam Humphreys
  • Aiden Hawtin
  • Matt Bevans
  • Jéremy Balmy

Retain

Danny Rose – Spent most of the season sat on the sidelines but since coming into the fray in the final third of the season, Rose has certainly been a big factor in the U’s fantastic end-of-season run-in. He has given the midfield a different dimension and provides energy and creativity. Definitely keep.

Jake Wright – Been criticised throughout the season for below par performances but as the season has progressed so has he. With the addition of Skarz and Baldock the back-four have stabilised and have become very convincing – this has also sparked the U’s captain to rekindle some of his form we are more familiar with. It would be nonsensical to release our captain who has such a cultured centre-half partnership with Mullins.

Jamie Ashdown – Fantastic cover for Clarke and would allow Crocombe a full season out on-loan, which I believe is much needed. A very composed figure with a large stature and has certainly impressed in the final five games despite one prominent error in the home game against Northampton.

Joe Skarz – Has solidified the defence and brings much needed experience. At only 25 he has made over 300 appearances in the Football League. I love his traditional style, and although not entirely effective going forward, he is defensively sound. Retain retain retain!

Max Crocombe – Fantastic prospect with a bright future ahead. Needs a season out on-loan but he is already making a name for himself particularly at Nuneaton Town where he made five consecutive clean-sheets. He also put in a marvellous performance away at West-Brom, saving 3 penalties in the shoot-out. May have to be patient with him before he becomes a regular but retain nevertheless.

Sam Long – Providing excellent cover before at centre-half and more recently at right-back, Long’s defensive ability collaboratively with attacking threat are two fantastic traits to have as a fullback. Contract talks are seemingly already underway as Appleton is unsurprisingly keen to keep him.

Sam Humphreys – Made his debut away at Newport and Appleton has spoken highly of him. Has made a number of appearances on the subs bench, however only making one appearance. Seems to have a future ahead of him at Oxford

Aiden Hawtin – Seems to be very focussed and has a tenacity to succeed. After multiple serious injury set-backs he finally made his professional debut away at Tranmere. Will be someone to look at in coming seasons

Matt Bevans – Missed this season with injury but based on the previous campaign he plays with a maturity and is an adequate right-back at League Two level. Lets hope that injury hasn’t thwarted his development too much.

Release

Andy Whing – I do love Whingy, I really do. However age is slowly getting the better of this robust figure and injuries are taking their toll. Talks of him getting a role behind the scenes is more than welcomed and I’m sure I speak for all Oxford fans that we would love him to stay at the club in some way.

Will Hoskins – This one is fairly self-explanatory. Injuries have seem him sidelined for almost the entirety of the season and, although I have regarded his performances highly when he has played, if we are only going to see him for 5-10 games a season, he simply isn’t worth the money.

Jonathan Meades – Has certainly not lived up to the player he was supposed to be and seemingly isn’t in Appleton’s plans. During brief appearances he looked very nervous on the ball and was ineffectual at best. Release.

Josh Shama – Doesn’t seem to be near to first-team quality quite yet. Although I haven’t seen him play too much, when I have during pre-season and whatnot, he wasn’t overly impressive.

Jéremy Balmy – Part of the famous Le Havre set-up, Balmy hasn’t lived up to the expectations with him failing to register a place on the bench during his six months at the club.

That concludes my round-up of players who I would retain and release. Feel free to get involved on Twitter if you have any disagreements or would like to share your own views on the matter.

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Bad Apples at Oxford United

Michael Appleton has been subject to a lot of criticism in the season as a whole but a select few fans maintained faith in the United boss. Tuesday’s demise to Hartlepool changed this, however. The performance lacked emotion, passion, tactical deployment and desire. There was a real anxiousness and tentativeness about the way the U’s played even when they were matched up against the worst side in the entire Football League. It was dire.

First of all, I am unsure to why Appleton persists with the central midfield pairingApples of Collins and Ruffels particularly against lower-league sides. In their own regard they are two extremely valuable players in the fourth tier; Collins brings composure and an ilk of class when on his game and Ruffels is neat and precise – mostly doing the unnoticed. But one thing that really bugs me is when they play together. They are too similar. They both lack creativity and drive, so what we get is a very motionless midfield, with most passes heading horizontal or backwards. The game needed an injection of pace, particularly against a Hartlepool defence which looked very nervous. We would have been able to get this through out-of-favour Danny Rose. He is not afraid to pick the ball up and do something positive with it; whether it is driving forward ten yards or feeding a centre forward through, these are his capabilities. This raises the question to why Danny Rose is out-of-favour? Has he done anything wrong? This would have immediately brought another dimension to the game. A dimension which perhaps could have had a very positive effect. But then again Appleton doesn’t believe in a ‘Plan B’.

The wide midfielders were ultimately ineffectual. Callum O’Dowda was brought off early, with Appleton admitting that he was tired – If this was the case then it seems nonsensical to start him. That would have enabled Kemar Roofe to play in his more favoured position on the wing and the likes of James Roberts to come into the fray up-front. Roberts also brings that cutting edge, an instinct in front of goal which has seriously been lacking since top-scorer Danny Hylton picked up a suspension due to an accumulation of yellow cards.

Ultimately the U’s looked very despondent and the naivety shown by Appleton was bewildering. In his post match interview the comments he made dismissing the fans as “white-noise” was probably the worst thing he could possibly have done. appletonoutOur fans have consistently turned up week after week, despite only seeing 5 home wins in 19 so it hurts badly when labelled as white-noise. Then to add insult to injury, he openly said that he would not have changed the starting XI if he was to play the same game again, nor change anything tactically. Never have I witnessed such a delusional statement, particularly after such an abysmal display of ‘football’. Is he this naive that he can’t see through his own sides flaws. If thats the case then we’re in trouble.

It’s not entertaining. It’s not pretty football. It is boring and lethargic. I’m not sure how Appleton will turn this around and now he has lost the fans I can’t see him staying long. Lets just hope Eales sees through Appleton’s various ploys and sees sense in the matter. Only time will tell…

Callum O’Dowda: The Prodigy

Callum O’Dowda has embarked on a marvellous coming of age over the course of the season so far. At the beginning of the campaign nothing was expected of him. We had seen him introduced by Chris Wilder, a skinny teenager who in all honesty was ineffectual at best, and although he was a regular in the 18-man match-day squad he only mustered 10 appearences and failed to score. He seemed to lack self-expression and seemed restricted. But along came Appleton.Appy

Michael Appleton has come under a lot of pressure this season due to the magnitude of the spending but the vast amount of distasteful results. However, credit needs to be given to the U’s boss for the way he has nurtured the youngsters and how he has developed them into competitive first team players. During Appleton’s very first interview with the club he said this:

“I want to see players who express themselves”

For a young, tricky winger, this is exactly the type of approach that you want to hear. Wingers thrive playing their own game and when playing with the utmost freedom. I believe this has acted as a catalyst in O’Dowda’s development. He now plays with a prowess and a confidence, which has seen him evolve from a one-in-four man into a three-in-four man. With this has come goals, assists and apparent interest from a host of clubs. It is also not a surprise that he has earned himself a call up for the Republic of Ireland U21’s.

The home game against Accrington Stanley was undoubtedly O’Dowda’s best all-round performance of the season so far. He took the game to seasoned right-back Nicky Hunt and tore him to shreds. His trickery and pace proved too muchDowda.jpg-pwrt2 for the Stanley full-back and although he did not get on the scoresheet, his chance creation was through the roof and he helped his side to a 3-1 victory. This came just a few days after scoring his first U’s goal against Exeter and set the tone for an upwards spiral. Since then he has become consistent and has been a serious threat to the opposition and has put in radiant displays against play-off contenders Stevenage and Bury, in each case scoring the winner. Consequently, Luton Town manager John Still labelled him as a threat when they visited the Kassam and various other managers have been probing to cancel him out of the game as he is becoming an ever-present nuisance.

Now, all Oxford fans should know that we should not get carried away by the emergence of O’Dowda as we have seen far too many false dawns for our liking. But the Kidlington Kid, a lifelong fan of Oxford and one of the most auspicious emerging talents we have seen for years, is someone who may be a big name in years to come. It’s his destiny.