KARL Robinson took a deep breath when asked to reflect on his first year in charge of Oxford United.

It could have been with surprise at how quickly the anniversary had come around, but it soon became apparent it was an appreciation of an extremely challenging 12 months.

The 38-year-old succeeded in his first mission at United – leading the club to Sky Bet League One safety last season.

But he heads into this weekend’s game at Coventry City with just 20 wins from 61 games.

Robinson’s time in charge has been plagued by an injury-hit squad and several off-field problems – out of his control – which has seen the club make the headlines for the wrong reasons.

But despite having a top-eight budget, poor performances on the pitch have left the U’s, who have also had to juggle the move to a new training ground, embroiled in a 13-team relegation battle with eight games to go.

While it has been a tough first year, Robinson is as determined as ever to deliver success.

“I’ve loved my time here so far,” he said. “But I’ve had some days that have almost become impossible.

“I have never had so many injuries and I have never had so many trying and testing times, but we’ve stood up and faced all the criticism.

“You can see there’s a true identity to the team and every time I feel I get the opportunity to put my best players on the pitch there’s not many sides that can cope with them.”

Read again: Graham determined to deliver against home-town club

Robinson added: “We’re a very unified club.

“The academy is working wonderfully well, we’ve given the young kids opportunities to flourish within the first team.

“The sports science and medicine team has got better, the recruitment protocols have started to change and move forward, the analysis is unbelievable.

“And that’s without even speaking about the training ground and the pitches that aren’t great but are certainly getting there now.

“But I’ve got to be totally honest, some of the performances haven’t been good enough.

“I’ve been embarrassed to find myself in the lowest place I’ve ever found myself as a manager in relation to league tables.

“I don’t look back too proudly on where we are at this moment in time, but I look back with tremendous fondness at how hard everyone has worked.”

Read again: U’s legend Beauchamp confident current crop can beat drop

Eyebrows were raised when Robinson left play-off pushing Charlton Athletic for the U’s last year.

The Addicks now find themselves fifth in the table, but he has no regrets.

“I did this for personal reasons,” he said. “I wanted to be home with my family and that’s not me shirking a challenge elsewhere.

“I also looked at the long-term prospect of where you can take the football club.

“OK, we’ve been delayed with so many things that have gone wrong this year, whether it be the arbitration, stadium problems, or the training ground.

“We didn’t know what was about to materialise, so I don’t look back on it with any negativity.

“I’m still tremendously proud to have the opportunity to manage Oxford United. People did question leaving Charlton, but I had to do it for myself – I wanted to be home.

“This is a great place to live and work and I just knew there was an opportunity here – there still is.

“I have tremendous faith in the ownership with what they tell me and what we’re looking to do.”