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Oxford United - Heading in the right direction

Oxford United were once a top flight club and, 25 years ago, they were League Cup winners - and only denied entry into the UEFA Cup because of the ban on English clubs taking part in European competitions.

It would have been inconceivable during those heady days that the club could start a slide that would see them drop into non-league football. But it happened.

Oxford are on the way up again though. Chairman Kelvin Thomas halted the slide and turned the club around, with his team currently occupying a League Two play-off spot.

He spoke to Total Football editor Mark Roach about his early days as chairman, manager Chris Wilder and his hopes for future success for Oxford United. 

When did you first start thinking about taking over at Oxford United?

Only when I was asked by the owners at the time. The day before I actually became chairman.

What were your first thoughts when you became Oxford United chairman?

I probably cannot repeat my first thoughts, but it was an exciting time, with a lot to do.

What were your biggest challenges in those first few weeks and months?

The main challenges were cashflow and finding enough money to make the payroll.

What have been your most significant achievements during your time as chairman?

I set out two challenges at the start, which were profitability and promotion, and have achieved them both. So I would say getting the club sustainable while gaining promotion back to the Football League.

What difference has it made to the club to be back in the Football League?

It has made about three quarters of a million pounds difference to the revenue figures, but it has also given the club credibility once again, and we are on the Football League show and Sky Sports News.

What have been the highlights of this season so far?

Our pre-season trip to New Hampshire was a highlight for us. It was a wonderful trip with our partners at Seacoast United. Our away form has been excellent, especially winning away at Swindon, our main rivals, for the first time in 38 years.

How would you summarise your manager?

Chris has done a fantastic job since coming to the club. He is hard working, honest, and he knows his players. 

What do you enjoy most about being chairman of Oxford United?

The fact that we are so involved in the community, the fact there are many people proud of this club again and of course winning on a Saturday afternoon is always a great feeling.

How has Oxford United changed as a club over the years?

I feel that Oxford United has become a community club again. The club had lost some of its community direction, which I feel is a very important part of football. We try to be a professional winning football club. We try to do the right things and make the right decisions, and we work very hard.

What are your long term plans?

To see the club continue its climb up the Football League, to continue to improve season on season on and off the pitch, and then to try and bring the club and stadium ownership together again.

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