HE is one of the most saluted players in Oxford United’s history, yet he was at the club just a week, and played only one match.

But Guy Whittingham ensured he would always have a special place in the hearts of U’s fans by scoring on his debut in a 2-1 defeat at the County Ground – the last time Oxford played at arch rivals Swindon on Sunday, October 8, 2000.

The legendary striker came to United on loan, netted on his only appearance, and was then recalled by new Portsmouth boss Steve Claridge.

Oxford return to the County Ground for the first time since on Sunday, in a game that has got the whole of Oxfordshire and Wiltshire licking their lips in anticipation.

And Whittingham revealed that he had no idea of the regard in which was he held by U’s fans.

“I didn’t know I was so popular here,” he said. “I only played one match – normally that means you are very quickly forgotten.

“But it’s nice to be remembered in that way. I really enjoyed my time here – even if it was only for a week.”

He added: “I suppose I ought to have thought that people would remember that, because even in my short time here I got to find out just how big a match that was for Oxford and the fans.

“In fact, I think I remember that we didn’t even say the name of the team we were playing, they were just referred to as the team that play down the road at the County Ground.”

Whittingham explained how his move to Oxford came about.

“Tony Pulis had taken over as Portsmouth manager and I wanted to play football,” he said.

“Oxford were interested in me, and the move suited me down to the ground – a club who played good football, not too far from where I lived, and a city that I knew from my time with Oxford City.

“Steve Claridge had told me before I went that there was a chance he might get the manager’s job if things didn’t go to plan at Portsmouth, and after one game at Oxford, he took over and I was recalled.”

What about the goal?

“It was a scrambled effort, I can remember that,” he said.

“I also recall that I had numerous other chances that day and probably should have had a hat-trick.”