Ins and outs
Having seen long-term manager Les Taylor depart after the 2016 season and Andy Cook brought in, Oxford continued to waver through the Spring Series, the team still overly-reliant on Ini Umotong’s goals. An issue that will be a non-factor now, as the prolific striker has left to join Brighton.
A loss for any team, Cook has nevertheless been busy this summer handing new deals to Lauren Allison, Riva Casley, Charlie Deeley, Ella Franklin-Fraiture, Evie Gane, Lauren Haynes, Demi Lambourne, Madi Lee and Ellie Noble.
The squad also injected with a healthy dose on new blood as Emily Allen, Dan Carlton, Chloe Chivers, Florence Fyfe, Kayleigh Hines, Hannah Short, Claire Skinner and Steph Williams have all joined from around the UK with Corinne Yorston coming in on loan. In the other direction, Oxford have only lost Gabby Ravenscroft and Rosie Lane as well as the aforementioned Umotong. With the new players comes a crop of new ideas and various levels of experience, some ready to make a name for themselves, others used to the rigors of WSL 1, let alone WSL 2.
Finishing dead last in the Spring, there is little wiggle room for Oxford who desperately need to change their downward trajectory, especially with Watford having picked up pace under their new coach for 2017, Keith Boanas. Without a win in nine games and a paltry seven goals, Cook will at least be aware that the team can’t do much worse over the coming season, but the additions he’s made to the squad have been smart, the side much more rounded out than before. With many of the players left from Oxford’s best season in 2015 – when the team managed seven wins and 26 goals to see them finish sixth – there is no reason that the team can’t start firing on all cylinders once more. However, with the standard going up across the league, the U’s are aware they don’t just have to get back to where they were in 2015 but to continue to step up to fall into line with the rest of the league.
Looking down the barrel of the first ever WSL 2 season to have relegation, Oxford will know many have already written them off as the first to drop into WPL, however the squad is more than capable of avoiding the drop and causing a few upsets along the way.