OXFORD United have made a double swoop for two in-demand free agents who cited head coach Michael Appleton as key to them putting pen to paper.

Striker Wes Thomas and centre back Aaron Martin signed two-year contracts yesterday as the squad’s preparations for the new season went up a notch.

After waiting almost seven weeks for the first transfer of the summer, goalkeeper Simon Eastwood, the U’s have now recruited three players in the space of 48 hours.

Thomas joins after a frustrating two years at Birmingham City, which saw him start just nine league games.

United fans may recall the quick frontman scoring home and away against them for Cheltenham Town on the way to 19 goals in the 2010/11 campaign.

He went on to join Bournemouth, from whom he had productive spells on loan at Portsmouth and Blackpool, scoring six goals from 13 starts.

Appleton was in charge of both sides and when Thomas heard there was a chance to join him for a third time, the 29-year-old jumped at the chance.

“Of course, when you do well under a manager, especially when you’ve not had a very good spell for the last couple of seasons, you think ‘I can get my career back on track with a manager who has got the best out of me’,” he said.

“I think he understands what sort of player I am.”

He added: “There were (other teams interested), but it came down to coming to someone who knows me as a player, a team that’s had a good season, plus it’s close to my family in London.”

Oxford Mail:

  • Wes Thomas has signed for Michael Appleton twice before, on loan at Portsmouth and Blackpool

While Thomas adds quality at the top end of the pitch, Martin bolsters the squad’s defensive unit.

The 26-year-old has experienced promotion from League One and the Championship with Southampton.

He made more than 70 appearances in the third tier over the last two seasons, first at Yeovil Town and then Coventry City.

Sky Blues boss Tony Mowbray admitted the decision to release Martin was a tough one, but it was done because he was looking for a different style of centre half.

Known for playing the ball out from the back, he was not short on offers, but the style Appleton wants United to play saw them come out on top.

He said: “I like to bring the ball out from the back.

“I think he’s seen that from me last year – that was a massive thing for me and is what made my mind up really.

“If you ask a lot of the Coventry fans I think they were quite surprised that the decision(to release me) came along.

“I think this summer has shown I’ve had a good season because I did have a lot of options, but I chose to come here and work hard.

“I will give everything and hope we get promoted.”