6:20am Monday 27th January 2014
By David Pritchard
A TURBULENT weekend at Oxford United finally reached a conclusion last night when Chris Wilder’s lengthy spell as manager officially ended.
At 10pm it was revealed the club had accepted the 46-year-old’s resignation and agreed compensation to pave the way for him to be unveiled as Northampton Town boss this morning.
He quickly signed a three-and-a-half year deal at Sixfields, appointing Alan Knill as his assistant.
It eventually drew a line under what had been a farcical 24 hours.
Within minutes of the final whistle in Saturday’s 1-0 win over Torquay United, Wilder, who took over in December 2008, told the players it was probably his last game in charge.
He left the ground and U’s chairman Ian Lenagan spoke to the media at length, saying he understood the manager had resigned and Mickey Lewis had been appointed as caretaker-boss, although there was no formal letter.
A confusing situation was summed up by the U’s chairman when he said: “In some respects at the back of my mind I’m not glad that we’ve reached this situation, but at least the situation has been resolved one way or the other, or at least I think it has.”
But those comments provoked a swift response from Wilder, who put out a statement denying he had stepped down.
It was clear the relationship between the pair had completely broken down, but after a day of negotiations behind the scenes yesterday, United finally broke their silence to bring clarity to the situation last night.
The move removed the possibility of a drawn-out legal battle, which Lenagan hinted at on Saturday, but there remains the awkward fact that Wilder has walked out on a side in the play-offs to join a club four points adrift at the bottom of the Football League.
The U’s chairman went on record to thank Wilder, who in 2010 ended their four-year exile in non-League and leaves them in contention to win another promotion.
Lenagan said: “He has worked very hard and helped move the club from the Conference to becoming an established League Two side.
“We are grateful for his efforts on behalf of Oxford, but disappointed that he chose not to continue to the end of this season’s journey.”
Wilder’s move up the A43 set his new club on what could be a fascinating collision course with his former employers.
The final round of fixtures in May sees United visit Sixfields, an encounter which could have implications at both ends of the table.
Wilder’s first match in charge of the Cobblers will be at home to Rochdale tomorrow night – where a win for his new side would be a big boost for Oxford’s promotion hopes.
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