Oxford United Boss Deserves “Credit” for League One Play-Off Run

Oxford United’s first team coach Craig Short has heaped praise on Des Buckingham for guiding the U’s to the 2023/24 League One play-off final. 

Buckingham was appointed as the Oxford boss in November 2023 following the departure of former head coach Liam Manning. The former U’s youth team coach struggled initially, taking just two points from his first four League One games in charge, as reported by Trasnfermarkt. 

A string of injuries to key first-team players like Marcus Browne and Kyle Edwards added to Buckingham’s early challenges. In addition, the former Mumbai City manager looked to implement a more positive style of play compared to the former setup under Manning.

These factors ultimately disrupted the U’s early season push for an automatic promotion spot. The club were third in the table before Buckingham took charge before patchy mid-season form.

However, the 39-year-old coach eventually led Oxford to a fifth-placed finish – their highest since the 2019/20 campaign. Moreover, the U’s navigated the play-off semi-finals, beating Peterborough United 2-1 on aggregate to set up a final clash against Bolton at Wembley on Saturday.

Upon his arrival at the Kassam Stadium, Buckingham retained several backroom staff, including former caretaker boss, Short. When speaking to the Oxford Mail about Buckingham’s revival after difficult beginnings, Short commended the 39-year-old for his professionalism.

“The manager was out of the country, and even though it was quite familiar to him, coming back to this club, which he loves, must’ve been so difficult.

“He didn’t know me, he didn’t know Lewis [Price, goalkeeping coach], he didn’t know Hacks [Chris Hackett, assistant coach], who has been absolutely outstanding since stepping up, with that link between youth team players, his organisational skills, and his knowledge.

“But we’ve all been through it together, and it was difficult at first. I’m sure it was more difficult for Des because he didn’t know who to trust or where to go to.”

Moreover, Short pointed to one particular game that kick-started a fine late-season run of form that propelled Oxford into the play-offs. Following a 5-0 loss against Saturday’s play-off final opponents, Bolton, Short explained that Buckingham used this setback as inspiration to improve, which led to five wins from eight to finish the League One season.

“Those moments like Bolton away are difficult moments, but you have those, and I think it makes you better.

“Credit to the manager because he said right after the Bolton result, ‘this is what we’re going to do’.

“That was his decision, and we’ve all followed that, and supported that, and it’s worked out well.

“Credit to him, he’s stuck at it. He must’ve gone through some very difficult times, but hopefully he can celebrate what would be a brilliant achievement for him.”

Writer’s View

Short’s public backing of Buckingham highlights the togetherness at Oxford as they prepare for the play-off final against Bolton. In addition, the 55-year-old’s recent comments show how Buckingham’s ability to adapt following the heavy loss at Bolton in March bodes well for the future.

Confidence appears to be growing for the U’s as they face a tricky play-off final against a Bolton side with just one loss in their previous nine fixtures. However, Buckingham’s turnaround from challenging beginnings to U’s hero will be complete if he can lead Oxford to their first season in the second tier since 1998/99.


Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.