Chris Wilder’s preparations for the new season have begun by releasing five players to make room for new signings this summer.
Paul McLaren, Mark Wilson, Oli Johnson, Anthony Tonkin and Aaron Woodley, whose contracts with the U’s expire this summer, were all told they were surplus to requirements.
But there was better news for Asa Hall, Adam Chapman and Wayne Brown, who will be formally offered new deals.
Wilder held individual meetings with the entire squad and admitted one of the players let go was slightly unfortunate to miss out.
He said: “They are never easy decisions, whether they’re young players just starting out in their careers like Aaron Woodley or more experienced guys like Paul McLaren, who’s done well for me generally in the time he has been here.
“The one which was touch-and-go was Oli Johnson.
“He had a few problems with injury but came on and did well in some games and was up and down in others.
“We felt we needed to give ourselves flexibility in that department and we want to keep our options open in the summer.”
Johnson told the Oxford Mail last week he wanted to stay, but the former Norwich winger is now a free agent after failing to do enough since signing in January.
The other four players were all widely expected to be released.
McLaren, Wilson and Ton-kin’s exits were all down to becoming marginalised by the form of other players in their positions.
Wilder said: “I think the emergence of Asa and Adam, who have done pretty well going into the back end of the season, made the decision for Mark Wilson.
“Paul McLaren has had limited opportunities as well with those two doing well.
“Liam Davis and Tony Capaldi coming through made the decision on Anthony Tonkin, which he understood and accepts.”
The final player to exit was youth team graduate Woodley, who made three senior appearances for the U’s in 2009/10 and has been loaned to Oxford City.
Wilder said: “Aaron’s at the stage when he’s got to push ahead of players like Alfie Potter and Tommy Craddock.
“We felt he hasn’t, which is disappointing for him.”
Scott Rendell, Dean Morgan and Cristian Montano were also released following the completion of their loan spells, returning to their parent clubs.