Fans have issued a rallying cry for all supporters to back the players and new manager after Oxford United boss Brian Talbot was sacked yesterday.

Brian Talbot

Talbot -- the eighth manager to leave the club under Kassam's regime -- was axed after a string of disappointing results left the U's one place above relegation from the Football League.

Youth team coach Darren Patterson has been installed in the hot seat for tonight's key home clash against Bristol Rovers, with ex-U's player Jim Magilton expected to join later as player-coach.

Trevor Lambert, chairman of Oxford Supporters Trust OxVox, said: "There's no point in despair, there's no point in giving up. Fans have got to rally together and get behind the team and try to lift them, because that can make a difference.

"We've got to forget all this mess and try to get a few wins. It's a big ask for an inexperienced manager but everybody wishes him all the luck in the world.

"We need a balance to strike between protests and supporting the team."

Talbot's sacking by new executive directors Bill Smith and Brendan Cross followed Saturday's 2-1 defeat at Stockport, which made it 10 games without a win.

Patterson has been handed a contract putting him in charge until the end of the 2006/07 season. His first task will be to avoid relegation.

Talbot took charge of Oxford United last summer. Under his management, the U's won only eight out of 35 league games and failed to register three points since January 2.

Patterson was caretaker manager for three games 18 months ago.

The shrinking backroom team is worrying supporters' groups. In recent weeks, general manager Steve Hanks, assistant coach David Oldfield, physio Jon Edmund and now manager Talbot have departed.

Darren Patterson takes over the hotseat

Martin Brodetsky, of website Rage Online, said: "A change was required. Results have gone against us since Christmas and Talbot seemed to have lost the respect of the players, so it's not much of a surprise.

"I feel a bit sorry for Patterson, it's a rotten time for him to come in.

"It's difficult to see how he can turn things around without any backing and the threadbare backroom -- its a change for change's sake.

"He won't succeed with Kassam at the helm because he gets rid of people who don't bring immediate results.

"Kassam has shown he's not prepared to financially back the club and the seven years he's been here have been the worst of Oxford's history. It's time someone new came in."

Some United fans are planning a protest against owner Firoz Kassam before tonight's (March 15) match -- but it is unclear how many will turn up.

This week the ThisisUnited fans' forum has been flooded with messages from supporters who are frustrated at the club's lowly position, which they blame on Mr Kassam.

The demonstration is due to take place from 6.30pm outside the ground. Fans said they plan to hold banners calling for Mr Kassam to cut all ties with the club. It follows Mr Kassam's decision last week to become non-executive chairman of the club.

United fan Ashley Mason, who first floated the idea for a protest on the forum, said: "I want the protest to be about Kassam, not about the team. The most important thing for all Oxford fans is that we stay up.

"I was always quite pro-Kassam before the beginning of this season. I don't think he is deliberately running the club down, but I do think he does not give a monkey's about whether we stay up or go down."

Some fans are also calling for further demonstrations to be staged outside Mr Kassam's properties -- Alexander Palace and The Kings Cross Hotel, in London -- and there is also talk of disrupting this summer's Elton John concert at the Kassam.

OxVox is not behind tonight's protest, but is thinking of protesting at a later date. Mr Lambert said: "Anything that does happen has to take place outside the ground. There can't be any pitch invasions."

Takeover bid off

Businessman Nick Merry abandoned his takeover plans for Oxford United last night (March 14) when it became clear that Firoz Kassam had no real intention of selling.

Fans want Firoz Kassam out

The American-based businessman, a former Oxford United youth team player, had been given hope that the deal was back on when Kassam contacted him over the weekend to claim he was ready to accept his offer.

But after taking it to the brink again, Kassam added caveats, according to sources, to which Merry could not agree.

A deadline of yesterday afternoon to accept the deal without all of these caveats was put to Kassam, but it passed without a response.

The Oxford United chairman had bought himself precious time, and in that time, the man he had appointed as his managing director, Bill Smith, had by then sacked manager Brian Talbot and appointed Darren Patterson as the new boss on a contract until the end of next season.

It had been another incredible day of politics and intrigue behind the scenes at Oxford United.

Merry's trump card with the fans had been to bring former favourite Jim Smith back but that had been scuppered in one fell swoop.

Smith was understood to have lined up a couple of top players to come in, including ex-Northern Ireland international Jim Magilton, a former Oxford United player, who is a favourite of the fans.

But Kassam's new management moved in to do that themselves, and Magilton is now lined up to become assistant to Patterson, his former international teammate, and to return also as a player to help United to try to stay up in League Two.

Merry was considering last night whether to go public over his dealings.

Former United youth player Nick Merry

Kassam, attacked ferociously by some supporters over his running of the football club at the last fans' forum in February, will feel he has outmanoeuvred everybody.

But many supporters feel disappointed and angry at the way things have turned out.

"My own feeling is that the fans of Oxford United have had a great opportunity snatched away from them," said Malcolm Baker, from Witney. "The takeover would have added 1,500-2,000 to the gate for every single home game, and the uplift that a takeover would have provided, would have given the club a great opportunity to go forward.

"We need everyone to get behind Darren Patterson and the team until the end of the season.

"My concern is that putting the youth-team coach in charge of the first team, with very little experience, at the most critical time in the club's 44-year league history, is a risky thing to do.

"Long-term this club has to survive without Mr Kassam."

It was back in January that interested parties first started talking to owner Firoz Kassam about taking over Oxford United.

Kassam admitted at a fans' forum in early February that, while he had succeeded in his first two objectives, in saving the football club and completing the stadium, he had failed supporters in being unable to bring any success on the pitch.

He said he was ready to sell the club, at the right price, but it would have to be as a package with the stadium as well. And he confirmed he had been contacted by two consortiums.

Talks with the main consortium, headed by Nick Merry, continued over the next few weeks.

Several times over the past two weeks the deal was understood to be on the verge of going through, only to be stalled.

Kassam has refused to talk about the negotiations, saying: "I don't discuss business in public".