columnist Nick Howson looks at Darren Patterson's reign as manager
of Oxford United and feels it could have gone better.
It might have taken four years in the making, but Darren
Patterson is here, and as Oxford United manager he needs to step to the plate,
a job that has bamboozled even the best managers around, Jim Smith I hear you
Having been manager for just over a year now, Patterson is
getting to the stage where he can be judged fairly on his progress, and I'm
going to be straight with you it could have gone better.
After Jim Smith's resignation in November 2007 Patterson has
been trying to drag the club back towards the reaches of the football league.
Now I will admit it's only been a year so in effect he's only had one attempt,
but considering how close Smith came Patterson should have a long look at
Let's take you back to just six months before Smith's
resignation and Oxford's play-off semi-final with Exeter. Oxford were 1-0 up
after escaping with a victory from St. James Park. They went into the home leg
as favourites and soon doubled their aggregate advantage through Yemi Odubade.
With an hour of the tie reaming and Oxford 2-0 up you would
have thought, with home advantage they could see out the rest of the game.
However goals from Lee Philips and then Adam Stansfield sent the game into
Oxford had been given a reprieve and it was left to the
lottery of a penalty shootout to decide who would face Morecambe in the final.
Billy Turley who had already missed a penalty himself saved one from Richard
Logan allowing Steve Tully to smash home the winner.
Now you could debate Morecambe could have overturned that
Oxford side under the stewardship of Sammy McIlroy, but after sustaining such a
crushing defeat, you could excuse the Oxford side for not caring about who they
could have played.
Now with Patterson at the helm that play-off semi-final
looks a distant memory as his Oxford side struggle with the unpredictable Blue
After a finish of 9th in Patterson's first season with a
late surge, the fans had high hopes ahead of the new season.
Intent was certainly made in the summer with the signing of
the dependable Jason Constable from Shrewsbury on loan to bolster the attacking
Patterson knew things had to change and that his own stamp
had to put on the team in his first full season in charge.
However this summer ambition hasn't been reflected in the
results as Oxford have struggled to get going.
They find themselves languishing in 15th, with just six wins
from their 17 games.
Now with five of them coming at the fortress that is the
Kassam Stadium, just one win on the road shows where the work has to be done
there, but Patterson needn't stop there.
Getting the fans back onside is something that will take
time, and that is necessary if he is to be taken seriously as a manager and
more importantly given time to makes things right
Up till now he has been a little bit of a laughing stock at
a club built for the football league.
The club hold the record for the highest ever Conference
attendance of over 11,000, so why can't the team on the pitch reflect the
devotion that the fans are showing?
Well Paterson has inherited a team low on confidence that's
for sure, although Smith had hardly left them high and dry, it was clear after
his play-off effort he had taken them as far as he could.
His outlook on his side's defeats and shortcomings however
has to go further than his team's fault. He consistently blamed his team for underperforming,
which is fine after one or two games but week after week? I don't think so.
With new owners taking the reins you would have thought an
ultimatum would have been thrown down, and to be fair Patterson has reacted
since the takeover.
But that's exactly my point; he does what he needs to keep
his job without taking his team forward, he seems happy to trudge along knowing
he has a job at the end of the day.
Kelvin Thomas the new chairman said results had to turn
around sooner rather than later and to some extent they have but in all honesty
it couldn't have been much worse
Thomas is sure not to have too much patience with Patterson,
he is sure to know the record before he took over, and won't let it continue.
They go to struggling Grays this weekend before their FA Cup
replay with Dorchester and then go to high flying Histon next week so it's
three difficult away trips in a week, a tough ask for any team.
Patterson would be aiming for at least two wins and most
importantly a place in the 2nd round of the FA Cup.
Patterson has definitely bought himself some time with the
new owner but he'll have to use it effectively. But just a few defeats here and
there and Christmas could be a quiet one for the former Oxford defender.