THERE were plenty of unanswered questions at Sumrith ‘Tiger’ Thanakarnjanasuth official unveiling – and 12 months on in many ways Oxford United fans are none the wiser.

Today marks the first anniversary of his takeover, but few connected with the club will feel like celebrating.

While there have been areas of progress, it has been a period remembered for vague promises, winding-up petitions and too few victories.

It is a toxic concoction which has given rise to the feeling of a club drifting away from its fanbase, almost unrecognisable from the upwardly mobile outfit from just a couple of years ago.

The slide had started before he arrived, but the trend has accelerated over the past 12 months. Tiger’s intentions may have been precisely the opposite, but the buck stops with the man at the top.

Also read: A timeline from the last 12 months at Oxford United

Details about his plans were thin on the ground at his unveiling. At the time it could be put down to a combination of first-day nerves, jet lag and the language barrier, but one answer in particular was a concern.

When asked about the relationship with landlord Firoz Kassam, he said: “I haven’t gone deep into the details yet. I don’t think it’s really critical.”

Oxford Mail:

  • Tiger with Darryl Eales, who stepped down as chairman following the sale in February 2018

Top of his agenda was finding a new manager. Having planned to make an appointment within a couple of days it took more than three weeks, but when it happened there was a sense of relief.

Karl Robinson had a track record of success in League One, unlike the vast majority linked to the post – although talk of a ‘wow factor’ set the new man up for a fall before the contract had been signed.

With Robinson steering United to safety, after a bumpy start, the new regime appeared to settle down.

Much of the early change involved a rebranding to capitalise on the city of Oxford’s worldwide reputation.

It was key to getting the first big-name backer on board.

Singha Beer agreed a sponsorship deal, thought to be the biggest in the club’s history, while there was also talk of the firm buying a stake. Finally, there was some substance – a few more deals like this and United could have some real clout.

Oxford Mail:

  • Tiger’s contacts helped attract a significant sponsorship deal with Singha, which was announced in June with Pavin Bhirombhakdi (left) Picture: Ed Nix

It was followed by the appointments of Zaki Nuseibeh, Horst Geicke and Erick Thohir. This appeared to be the big plan coming to fruition – Tiger as the front man, using his contacts to attract the investment needed to make progress.

On paper, the U’s now had a board with pockets deeper than most in the entire EFL. It even made the prospect of funding a new stadium rather less pie in the sky than under previous regimes.

The summer also brought the promised squad overhaul.

Robinson was backed with what he said was the division’s eighth-biggest budget. How it was spent is another matter, but the money was there to compete.

There was also investment to set up an under 23 side, helping to develop young talent to improve the first team.

That is a genuine passion for Tiger, whose flying visits from Thailand have seen him take in games at all levels.

Also read: Owner is fully committed to Oxford United, says Karl Robinson

Below the under 23s is an academy making real progress, all housed at a training ground which is the best in United’s history.

There are dedicated people doing excellent work at the club which is being overshadowed. Indeed, when asked last month to give his assessment on his time in charge, Tiger said: “I think besides HMRC, I think every part of this club is getting better.”

A year ago, the term ‘winding-up petition’ will have meant little to most U’s fans, but it is now all-too familiar.

The first one arrived within a month of the takeover but was swiftly settled and blamed on a temporary gap in funds caused by the change in ownership – not ideal, but no real damage had been done.

The same could not be said when HM Revenue & Customs came knocking again.

Of all 365 days under Tiger so far, November 8 stands out as a neat summary of the bizarre contradictions which have characterised his reign.

On the same day Thohir, who had just stepped down as president at Inter Milan, was appointed as a director, it emerged United had been served with a second winding-up petition.

Whereas the first HMRC action could be easily explained away, this was different and a fanbase who had given Tiger the benefit of the doubt steadily began to lose faith.

The scenario of an ownership who appear to have untold wealth but cannot pay the tax man remains baffling.

It may well have got more difficult to transfer money from overseas, but in that case more needs to be held in the UK – something Tiger felt was not needed when the idea was put to him last month.

The second petition took a month to settle, but was quickly followed by a third. This alone was worrying, but coming on the back of Tiger’s assertion to the local media and supporters’ trust OxVox that it would not be repeated was hugely damaging.

Oxford Mail:

  • United fans hold up banners in protest against the ownership before last month’s home game with Barnsley  Picture: David Fleming

There is also the suspicion that if you are routinely paying the tax man late, it’s hard to imagine it stops there when it comes to creditors.

Kassam falls into that category, this week revealing a winding-up petition of his own as he pursues the first instalment of debts believed to reach £800,000 for the back-dated service charge which had been put on hold during arbitration, which was ended in the autumn.

While there is no suggestion the U’s will not pay, it is another blow in a chaotic year.

The arbitration process pre-dates Tiger, but would have shown in any due diligence when buying the club and cannot be filed under the ‘unexpected costs’ which he last month argued was the reason for financial troubles so far.

Now talk about the relationship with the landlord “not being critical” needed revision.

Tellingly, seven months into his reign, the U’s owner told a fans’ forum: “It has taken me by surprise how deep the (stadium) problems are and how complex everything is.”

At best, it showed a naivety he could succeed where his predecessors had failed, but it also hinted at a fundamental lack of understanding about what he had taken on.

That had already been shown over the Singha sponsorship, where the club appeared to agree a deal which included an intention to sell the beer at the stadium before getting permission from the landlords.

Is the situation irretrievable? Not if the money really is there and a way to access it more easily is arranged.

But it seems clear those working feverishly on the ground, without whom the problems would be even more dire, need more control.

Being a fan should be about escapism, where your biggest worry is about who is playing up front on Saturday.

Instead, supporters have been reduced to the role of fretful accountants, troubled by far more serious concerns.

The biggest threat in the short-term is the off-field problems – and the anger towards them – have such an impact that it wrecks United’s survival chances.

At a time of division, that is just about the only thing everyone can agree on.