Des Buckingham: Oxford United appoint former youth player as head coach

Des Buckingham

Oxford United have appointed Des Buckingham as their head coach.

The 38-year-old was born in Oxford and played for the U's youth sides before joining the coaching staff aged 18.

He progressed to first-team coach under Chris Wilder a decade ago before coaching overseas and leaves his role as boss of Indian side Mumbai City.

Buckingham has signed what the club describe as a "long-term contract" and replaces Liam Manning, who left to join Bristol City last week.

"There was a huge amount of interest in the role but, from the moment we met Des, he became our number one choice," chief executive Tim Williams told the club website.

"We had a very clearly defined set of criteria to ensure we found the right cultural fit for Oxford United.

"Des knows the club and city already, understands what we are trying to achieve, and we feel is the right person to build on the club's progress to date."

Saturday's 3-2 win at Leyton Orient left Oxford second in League One, one point behind leaders Portsmouth after 16 matches.

After last leaving the Kassam Stadium in 2014, Buckingham joined A-League side Wellington Phoenix as assistant manager before taking over as manager in 2017 aged 31.

A short spell coaching Stoke City's under-23 side followed in 2017 but he returned to New Zealand the following year to coach the national side's under-20s and under-23s, and act as assistant manager for the senior team.

In 2020 he was appointed assistant manager of Melbourne City, helping them land the double in his first season, before moving to another City Group club, Mumbai, in October 2021, winning the Indian Super League for the first time in February and leading the side in the Asian Champions League.

"I couldn't be happier that Des has agreed to become our new head coach," chairman Grant Ferguson added.

"His approach to coaching and developing players is a perfect match for the vision we have for the club."

'Prodigal son returns home' - Analysis

BBC Radio Oxford's Jerome Sale

A prodigal son returns home after leaving to make a name for himself in the world.

Since realising he wasn't making the grade as a player at his hometown club, he's been a teacher, an academy coach at Oxford United - who worked his way up to first team coach under Chris Wilder. He coached in New Zealand - guiding the nation's under-23 side to the Olympic Games - in Australia and then India, where he won the Super League. He's got himself a Master's degree and even a pilot's licence.

Once Liam Manning departed as head coach, Buckingham was the continuity candidate from the off. Part of the City Football Group, where Manning cut his teeth, Buckingham's work in Melbourne and Mumbai may not have provided him EFL experience, but did showcase his style of play and proved him a winner. He is also the same age as Manning.

Buckingham has never stopped caring about his hometown club. Oxford fans will have one of their own as manager. That, of course, is not a guarantee of success. It does mean they will be desperate for it to work - for him, as much as for the club in general.