9:10am Friday 17th January 2014
By David Pritchard
A DECADE on from his last run of games in midfield, Johnny Mullins has revelled in reprising an old role for Oxford United.
One of manager Chris Wilder’s headaches this season has been the form of his three senior centre backs.
Michael Raynes and Mullins have been in good form alongside skipper Jake Wright, but without playing a back three one of them has had to miss out – until last weekend.
Against Portsmouth, Mullins was pushed into midfield, just in front of Wright and Raynes.
The 28-year-old was a revelation in an otherwise frustrating goalless draw.
He retained the position in Tuesday night’s 2-2 draw at Charlton Athletic in the FA Cup, scoring the first goal and playing a key role in the second.
In both games he came out on top with supporters in the Oxford Mail’s online man of the match poll.
Mullins, who could be played in the same position against Wycombe tomorrow, admitted the switch was not quite a trip into the unknown, but it had been a long time since he playing out of the back four.
“I used to play there when I was a kid in Reading’s reserves,” he said.
“It was a good ten years ago, but I did enjoy it, although my body was hurting a little bit.
“I like to get on the ball, move it around and give it to people who can do a lot more with it than me.”
The former Royals apprentice revealed he had been offered some expert advice.
He said: “It’s a bit more work, but I drive in with Whingy (Andy Whing) every day, so I get tips from him.”
Mullins is not getting carried away after two games, but has no qualms about playing there more regularly.
“The gaffer decided to put me in there and I think he has a bit of faith in me there,” he said.
“I’m not saying I’m ever going to be a Steven Gerrard-type passer in midfield, but the thing in football is to have as many strings to your bow as possible.”
Wright has been impressed, but not surprised.
He said: “He’s a talented footballer and he plays well wherever you put him.
“I don’t care where Mulls is playing as long as he’s out there.”
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