Positive thinking has reaped rewards and United chairman Darryl Eales tells DAVID PRITCHARD he can now relax

GIVEN his relentlessly upbeat personality it is striking to hear Darryl Eales refer to Oxford United’s season as nine months of stress.

Alongside head coach Michael Appleton’s composure, the chairman’s cheery outlook has been the great constant throughout the campaign.

While so many aspects have come together to create the successful season, above all else this has been a victory for positive thinking, which has flowed from the top.

United openly set out to achieve promotion from the moment they returned for pre-season – and it became a self-fulfilling prophecy.

“You’re always in danger of being knocked down,” Eales said.

“But why not give an open, honest appraisal of what you’re trying to achieve?

“The benefit of that is if you keep saying something people start to believe it and they act accordingly.

“There’s a sense of satisfaction on a job well done across the club, allied to a sense of disbelief that it’s actually happened.

“In some ways my whole career in business has been like that in my own head.

“I’ve always felt ‘I’m not sure why this happens to me’, but I think I’m just one of those people that I pick a general direction and just say ‘we’re going there’.

“I’m very fortunate that by luck or good judgement I end up being surrounded by fantastic people and their talent delivers it.”

Eales’s credit for what has happened should go far beyond the fact he has been the one writing the cheques.

Not many clubs enjoy success without a sense of unity between the first team and the fans – at different times they need to lean on each other to get through.

That bond is stronger at United than it has been for years and Eales’s approach has been key.

Some board members across the country would run a mile if they walked into a pub full of their fans on an away game, whereas the U’s owner’s instinct is to get a round in.

He is at heart a fan and had total confidence United’s season would have a happy ending, even if when promotion was confirmed it came with a sense of surprise.

Eales said: “This is the first time I’ve not been stressed for nine months. You don’t actually realise that until it goes.

“A lot of people, including my daughters, say to me ‘I don’t understand how you stay so calm’.

“I think it’s because you’re always legislating for the worst.

“A lot of my thought process during the Wycombe game on the final day was ‘how do I need to behave if we are in the unfortunate position of going into the play-offs?’

“That compounds the disbelief when you get the success, because you have to move from pretending everything was OK to ‘blimey, we’ve succeeded’.

“If you look at the season, promotion was the primary objective.

“But to ally that with scoring four at Brentford, beating Swansea in the FA Cup and getting to Wembley in the JPT, you couldn’t really make it up.

“I think the success of this season will only dawn on me fully over the summer.”

This story is part of today's 32-page supplement in the Oxford Mail reviewing Oxford United's promotion-winning season. To order a copy, call 01865 425262