I’ll be cheering just as loudly if Sunderland beat Swansea as I did with Oxford

Oxford United's Kemar Roofe celebrates scoring his side's third goal during the FA Cup tie against Swansea
Oxford United's Kemar Roofe celebrates scoring his side's third goal during the FA Cup tie against Swansea
2
Have your say

Indulge me if you will.

Sunderland was my first love; I lost my heart at Roker Park over 30 years ago, the famous Roar gripped me and will never let me go.

I’ve invested a lot of time already in Oxford United but it doesn’t mean my passion for Sunderland has dimmed

David Jones

That little boy in me still feels the tingle of excitement whenever I step foot in the Stadium of Light, still feels his heart leap when Sunderland manage to win.

But 12 months ago I was offered an opportunity I just couldn’t turn down; the chance to join the board of Oxford United, a League Two club which had lost its way but with good management and a little bit of luck possessed the potential to climb and climb back up the football pyramid.

The evolution was beginning before I came on board, thanks in main to an ambitious new owner/chairman Darryl Eales (a Birmingham fan) and a manager in Michael Appleton who was desperate to prove himself after a stop-start beginning to his career.

Since then the club has gone from strength to strength on and off the field.

As we speak, Oxford sit in the automatic promotion places in League Two, are preparing for the Area Final of the Johnstone Paints Trophy and are through to the fourth round of the FA Cup for the first time in 17 years after knocking out Swansea on Sunday, more of which later.

The players are full of confidence, playing a brand of passing football which is winning admirers way beyond Oxfordshire and the scouts are circling.

There’s talent in our team but the spirit in the group is the real X factor: they are desperate to win for each other and that’s evident in every game they play.

We’ve recruited lads from West Brom, Everton, Exeter and Scunthorpe and all have been impressed by the professionalism of our football club: how many teams at this level employ a head of logistics, a full time analyst, and a sports psychologist?

Off the field, while the recruitment team work tirelessly to try and improve the squad, the office staff are doing all they can to engage the fans.

Crowds are up – with room to swell even further – we’re attracting new investors and beginning to make inroads in the community which is the chairman’s real passion.

And because we have a small staff, as a director I’ve found myself involved in very aspect of the club: from recruitment meetings to building new relationships with clubs higher up the leagues; from advising on shirt designs to finding new sponsors; from debating ticket prices to handling growing media enquiries.

It’s already been an amazing experience and it feels like the journey is only just beginning.

Sunday was the highlight; our three-sided ground full for the first time in years, TV cameras there for the first time in years and watching the lads I’ve got to know so well play Swansea off the park.

The media response was incredible: the headlines, column inches and air time for our club invaluable.

I’ve invested a lot of time already in Oxford United but it doesn’t mean my passion for Sunderland has dimmed.

I’m loving the challenges and the experience of hands-on involvement in professional football which was never going to come my way at Sunderland.

But I love going back as a supporter and that will never change, regardless of my involvement elsewhere.

And tonight I will be glued to the radio, hoping that Sunderland can complete a Swansea double for me this week.

No doubt their team will have changed considerably but Sam Allardyce can certainly take some advice from Oxford’s manager on how to get the better of the Swans.

When I spoke with Michael last week about how he intended to approach the Swansea game he was adamant he wasn’t going to change anything.

As usual we played with two up, pressed them high up the pitch in the first phase and then dropped off in our own half ready to hit them on the break when we won the ball back.

If Sunderland can play with the intensity we’ve shown in patches under Allarydce against Newcastle, Stoke, Aston Villa and Crystal Palace we should have enough.

It’s a massive game for both clubs but if Sunderland can see off Swansea I’ll be cheering just as loudly as I did on Sunday.