Oxford United chairman feels squad is strong enough, but says January business is possible

8:50am Monday 16th December 2013

By David Pritchard

OXFORD United’s player recruitment strategy is working well and the squad does not need to be strengthened in January, according to Ian Lenagan.

The U’s chairman and owner has not completely ruled out doing any business when the transfer window opens next month, but he is confident promotion can be achieved with those already at the club.

In April, Lenagan announced an overhaul of the way the club’s playing staff was structured, centred around an increased emphasis on a development squad of promising young players.

Their role was to supplement an experienced first team unit and substantially decrease the use of loan players brought in as cover when senior figures were ruled out.

The policy has been tested by a catalogue of injuries in the last month, but the club stuck to their guns and resisted any temporary signings.

Development squad players were used and while the U’s were not at their best, the results have put them top of Sky Bet League Two and into the FA Cup third round.

The youngsters have now made a total of 27 appearances between them this season, and Lenagan feels the approach is bearing fruit.

He said: “What we have in that blend of young players and mature players is a team spirit that is quite extraordinary.

“It hasn’t happened by accident, it’s happened because we’ve all planned for it.

“Chris (Wilder) and I when we recruited in the summer did so very carefully based on the culture of the players, as well as the performance.

“That team spirit is worth a lot when you get on the field and short-term loans do not do that and we will not be taking them on.

“I don’t care who thinks we should, we are following a strategy which is the right medium term one for Oxford. Southampton are doing it to lots of applause at the moment, Crewe Alexandra have done it before many times.”

Many of United’s promotion rivals will be looking to make changes when the transfer market opens shortly, as they did just before the loan window shut last month.

By contrast, Lenagan believes it will be a quiet month for the league leaders, who have long-term injured players Alfie Potter, Andy Whing and Jon Meades due back in February.

The exceptions will be attempts to extend the loans of Ryan Williams, who is believed to be meeting with Fulham today to finalise a stay until the end of the season, and Asa Hall.

“Both of them have contributed well as far as Oxford United is concerned and we would be more than comfortable keeping them going forward,” Lenagan said.

“When we started the season Chris and I were very careful to make sure we got the coverage that we needed. What is happening is while Andy (Whing) is a loss in the middle of midfield, the people who have come in alongside Danny Rose have taken care of it.

“Josh Ruffels is a classic example, he is more than capable of playing there and you can see the strength developing.

“So where would you take on players?

“Our wide players are good – we have Callum O’Dowda and Sean (Rigg), we have Ryan Williams and Alfie when he comes back.

“If you look at the strikers in Dave Kitson, Constable and Smalley, as well as Ty Marsh and one or two others we have the coverage.

“I believe that team is capable of winning the league, it is certainly capable of winning automatic promotion or at the top of the play-offs.

“We are not precluding that we might sign somebody, but to sign somebody we almost have to lose somebody.

“If a very good player came along Chris might persuade me to take them, but it’s not something we are actively looking for at this moment.”

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