DEREK Fazackerley admits the lack of a permanent manager means Oxford United have a tougher job of convincing players to sign before the transfer window closes.

The end of January tends to see a spike in activity, with clubs unable to change their squads for the rest of the season after the 11pm deadline on Wednesday.

The U’s head into the crucial phase with a dual focus – they are attempting to strengthen the squad, while hoping to avoid losing any of their key players linked with moves away.

But those tasks have been complicated by the sacking of Pep Clotet a week ago.

With no announcement about his successor believed to be imminent, it looks like United will be the only club in the top four divisions heading into deadline day without a manager in charge.

Caretaker boss Fazackerley, second behind Frank Lampard in the betting for the vacant post, is making the transfer decisions along with the club’s recruitment department.

But he admitted attracting players when there was uncertainty over who they would ultimately be playing under, made the process less straightforward.

“It doesn’t make it any easier, that’s for sure,” he said. “It also depends on the type of player you’re trying to bring to the club.”

It may mean United are more likely to get loan moves over the line, as those players are less likely to be put off than a permanent target committing themselves for a much longer period.

Chairman Darryl Eales has indicated there is room in the budget to invest this week, although Fazackerley knows finding the players to boost the squad is tricky at the best of times in this market.

He said: “The window in January is never the easiest. Clubs are reluctant to release players and they do become a little more expensive.

“We’ve got to be very careful, but certainly we’ve got the green light to strengthen the squad should the right players become available.”

  • OXFORD United slipped to 12th in the Sky Bet League One table over the weekend.

The U’s had a blank Saturday after their trip to Wigan Athletic was postponed due to the leaders’ Emirates FA Cup commitments.

Other results saw United drop two places, but remain nine points below the

play-offs and eight points above the relegation zone.

Their opponents this weekend, Charlton Athletic, were also left kicking their heels due to a waterlogged pitch at Blackpool.

  • OXFORD United’s Under 16s missed out on glory yesterday when losing 2-0 to Hartlepool United in the final of the national competition for clubs with Category 3 academies.

The U’s won the south west section, before beating south east champions AFC Wimbledon to reach the final.