• Thu. Jun 13th, 2024

Oxford United coach Craig Short on Des Buckingham and play-off final


May 15, 2024

CRAIG Short has commended Des Buckingham for the character and leadership he has shown after his time as Oxford United head coach didn’t initially go to plan.

Buckingham arrived as the replacement for Liam Manning, who departed for Bristol City in November, and endured a tricky opening few months in charge.

The 39-year-old wasn’t helped by an ever-growing injury list, loss of form for key players, and an adjustment period as he looked to implement his own playing style.

United dropped from the automatic promotion race to challenging for the play-offs, but found some rhythm at the right time, allowing the side to seal a top six spot on the final day of the regular season.

Coincidentally, it was a 5-0 defeat at Bolton Wanderers in March which proved to be a key turning point, with the teams now set to meet again in Saturday’s Sky Bet League One play-off final.

READ ALSO: Ciaron Brown looking to make family proud after circuitous route into football

U’s first team coach Short said: “For a young man coming into his own club, never underestimate how hard that is.

“The manager was out of the country, and even though it was quite familiar to him, coming back to this club, which he loves, must’ve been so difficult.

“He didn’t know me, he didn’t know Lewis [Price, goalkeeping coach], he didn’t know Hacks [Chris Hackett, assistant coach], who has been absolutely outstanding since stepping up, with that link between youth team players, his organisational skills, and his knowledge.

“But we’ve all been through it together, and it was difficult at first. I’m sure it was more difficult for Des because he didn’t know who to trust or where to go to.

“Those moments like Bolton away are difficult moments, but you have those, and I think it makes you better.

“Credit to the manager because he said right after the Bolton result, ‘this is what we’re going to do’.

“That was his decision, and we’ve all followed that, and supported that, and it’s worked out well.

“Credit to him, he’s stuck at it. He must’ve gone through some very difficult times, but hopefully he can celebrate what would be a brilliant achievement for him.”

Short meanwhile says he would rank success this weekend, and promotion to the Championship, as one of the biggest achievements of his career.

That’s some statement for someone who as a player, enjoyed top flight football with Everton and Blackburn Rovers, and won the League Cup with the latter.

He said: “It’ll be one of the best achievements of my career. I’ve been fortunate to be involved in a few, but to get this club into the Championship really will be one of the best after four years of ups and downs.

“I spent six years at Blackburn and four years at Everton, and once you stay at a club, you start building really good relationships.

“I care a lot about the backroom staff here. Look at Jonny Edmunds. He’s one of the best kitmen I’ve ever met in my life.

“I’ve been at a lot of clubs, and he’s outstanding. People like him and Amy [Cranston, head of medical], who are local and really follow this club through their younger years, and then start to work here.

“Football is a religion to a lot of people, and we’ve got to respect that. We’ve got a huge responsibility to try and guide the players in the right way.”