Jim Rosenthal believes Oxford United must do all they can to keep Chris Wilder as manager for the foreseeable future.
It is five years to the day since the U’s boss took up his post at the Kassam Stadium with the team languishing in the lower echelons of the Conference.
The former Halifax boss got United back into the Football League in his first full season, and they go into today’s away game at York second in Sky Bet League Two.
Rosenthal was on the club’s board when Wilder was appointed, and still feels that he is not given enough credit for what he has achieved at Oxford.
“To be the manager of one club for five years is rare and a fantastic achievement,” Rosenthal said. “Just look at where we were and where we are now.
“I don’t mean that only in terms of league positions, but Chris has turned Oxford into a winning club, and it was a losing club.”
Wilder’s contract expires in the summer and U’s chairman Ian Lenagan told the Oxford Mail this week that talks over a fresh deal would start in the new year.
Rosenthal is under no illusions as to what the outcome of those discussions should be.
“The longer anyone stays in one job, the more they get taken for granted,” he said.
“But the proper Oxford fans realise how much they owe to Chris for the job he has done.
“You have to go a long way to find a harder working or more committed football manager.
“I know opinion is a bit divided on him, but my deep belief is that if he were to go, it would be a huge loss for Oxford United.”
He added: “One of the things about Chris that I find it strange is that he seems to be under continual examination.
“It has been agreed that he is a very good manager and if you are a very good employee, no matter what job you do, the people in charge should show a bit of faith and say ‘you have proved yourself and we want you to stay’.
“It has surprised me that hasn’t happened.”
The television presenter, who is extremely well-respected throughout football, says Wilder’s achievement in leading the U’s to top spot despite an horrific injury list has not gone unnoticed.
“Winning promotion this season would be a fantastic feather in both his cap and Oxford United’s cap,” he said.
“The time to strengthen is when you are top of the league and I would love to think that we could strengthen a little bit in January to make sure we stay on top.
“Having to work with all those injuries has made his job very difficult, but here we are, on top of the league and in the third round of the FA Cup – what a place to be at Christmas.”