After just over six months in the job, Oxford United sacked manager Pep Clotet as a result of a barren run of only two wins in nine games. Hopes of a playoff push are all but gone, despite United’s positive start to the season, with the side’s loss to bottom club Bury symptomatic of the tactical problems of Clotet’s reign. With the club looking for a fresh start, we take a look at the potential options that could take charge of the Us.
Frank Lampard- The Chelsea legend has been the shock bookies’ favourite since the revelation that he discussed the job with United board member Dave Jones. His pedigree is unmatchable for a club of Oxford’s stature, it is not everyday that a League One club is linked with a Champions League winner, but the appointment would still be somewhat of a risk. Despite his vast experience as a player, Lampard has minimal coaching experience, and so would represent something of a punt were he to be appointed. Lampard has ruled himself out of the running for the job, but football is not famed for its participants to always stick to their word.
Simon Grayson- The former Leeds manager is out of work following a brief and unsuccessful spell in charge of Sunderland. However, prior to this Grayson has had an excellent record, achieving promotion from League One with no fewer than three clubs. Sunderland are a club in crisis, and it would be harsh to dismiss Grayson from the running given his successes at the likes of Leeds and Preston North End. If Oxford’s ideal candidate is a safe pair of hands with a proven track record then Grayson seems the perfect fit.
Derek Fazackerley- At 66, it may perhaps seem a little late for someone to make their first foray into management, but if the caretaker manager is given time and performs well in the role then he cannot be ruled out. He has refused to confirm any interest in the role, and has been a permanent number two throughout his backroom staff career, but should Fazackerley demonstrate a marked improvement in results then he may find himself in high demand for the top spot.
Michael Appleton- Having ditched the Us in the summer to head to Premier League side Leicester City to become assistant to Craig Shakespeare, Appleton quickly found himself as caretaker of the top flight side. Having reverted back to assistant under Claude Puel, Oxford would surely jump at the chance to bring him back to the Kassam Stadium. For Appleton, however different his circumstances are to what he agreed to in the summer, a return may represent somewhat of a step back in his career, but the foundations of his side remain in place should he decide to go for a top job once again.
Danny Cowley– The Lincoln City boss earned acclaim and notoriety for his role in Lincoln’s superb FA Cup run last season, and alongside his brother Nicky has been able to replicate this form in the league, taking Lincoln up into League Two and challenging for a second successive promotion. They are a highly sought after pair, and it is certain that Lincoln will not give them up without a fight. Whether the Cowleys would be willing to join Oxford is another question, they have turned down higher division clubs before, as is the style of play they adopt. Whilst their direct style, utilising a strong target man, is effective given their squad at Lincoln, it is not what Oxford’s fans have become accustomed to over recent years. If it were to bring promotion however, Us fans would not be complaining.
Steve McClaren- The former England manager has returned to the nation from Maccabi Tel-Aviv, declaring ‘I just want the opportunity to manage again’. For a man whose stock is low following disappointing spells with Derby County and Newcastle United, a step down to Oxford may represent the perfect opportunity for McClaren to prove himself as the quality manager he, albeit infrequently, can be. Recent disappointments have not distracted from the fact that he remains a highly respected coach, once touted as the replacement to Sir Alex Ferguson, he became the first English manager to win a foreign league in nearly two decades when he lifted the Eredivisie with FC Twente in 2010. Given his drive to prove himself, perhaps he would be worth a chance, provided he has interest.
Tim Sherwood- The very definition of a longshot. Failures with Tottenham, Aston Villa and Swindon have not dented Sherwood’s ambition to succeed. Win-ratio aside, there is little on Sherwood’s CV to suggest he has the ability to rescue Oxford’s season. Could we see the famous gilet gracing the Kassam turf any time soon? For the sake of the Us fans, we can only hope not.
Perhaps a surprise candidate will emerge to lead the Us, but from the assembled contenders, Grayson and Cowley appear to seem the strongest candidates. Whoever takes charge will not have long to turn around performances if promotion is a genuine aim for Oxford this season.