TWENTY days into the transfer window and Michael Appleton is happy to report Oxford United’s players have managed to avoid being distracted by rumours.
Plenty could still change between now and 11pm on February 1, when the window shuts, but so far there has been no substance to the speculation.
“The reality is, we haven’t had an offer for any of our players,” Appleton said.
“We’ve said it many times over the last couple of months – if we want to achieve promotion this year we don’t want to get rid of our better players.”
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This has not been a normal January for United supporters, who have rarely had so many prized assets to fret over.
Given the football the side have played in recent months, interest is inevitable in young talents like Kemar Roofe, John Lundstram and Callum O’Dowda.
And while Appleton is in the privileged position of knowing a farfetched rumour when he reads it, the window has still been a drain.
United’s head coach said: “It’s been a little bit more difficult than previous months, but not to the point where we use it as an excuse, not at all.”
The club robustly set their stall out several weeks ago – star names were not for sale, and have not deviated.
But there was always the risk individuals could be disrupted by gossip.
For Appleton, the question has been answered by the side’s form.
It particularly applies to last Sunday, despite the 2-1 defeat to Bristol Rovers.
Coming at the end of a week when United had been propelled into the national spotlight for televised cup victories against Swansea City and Millwall, there was every reason for a flat performance.
Appleton said: “Going into the Rovers game the only fears I had were whether our energy levels were going to be where we needed after two tough games – which was answered – I thought they were unbelievable.
“Along with that, were they strong enough mentally to get themselves up for another game in such a short period?
“They ticked both boxes, they were magnificent.
“There were a couple of things that let us down on the day to cost us the goals, but the two things we most feared they were really good at.
“I can’t ask any more of the players and the way they’ve dealt with the games and the speculation which goes with it. They’ve just got on with their business.”
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