THE support of Oxford United’s players for manager Chris Wilder has been critical in Ian Lenagan resisting the temptation to make changes in response to the club’s slump in form.
The U’s chairman has come under pressure from some supporters to wield the axe after losing six npower League Two games in a row.
But Lenagan, United’s owner and chairman, has made it clear Wilder will be given time to find a way out of the problems.
He spoke yesterday of three potential “tipping points” when a judgement could be made.
The first is once the vast majority of injuries clear up by the end of next month.
Similarly a decision would need to be made when there is no longer a chance of promotion.
Finally – and most gravely – if the U’s became embroiled in a relegation scrap.
The stance will clash with supporters who want to see a change made swiftly, but with none of those tipping points reached so far, Lenagan is conscious of the need to make a “considered and balanced judgement”.
One key factor which has encouraged the patient approach is the chairman’s assessment the playing staff remain loyal to Wilder.
“I think probably the crucial factor I had to ascertain is whether or not (Wilder) still had the dressing room – and he still has and they want to play for him,” he said.
“There are always players who haven’t been picked, feel aggrieved and may have negative things to say, but there are not many of those at all in the squad.
“The team spirit and camaraderie in the squad is superb, I can see that myself.
“Had we been in a position where we’d had six losses and there was some sense that Chris was losing the dressing room then I would have been more concerned, but I still would not be in sacking mode, that’s for sure.”
Another area unlikely to change in the short-term is the squad itself.
The run of defeats, combined with the players missing through injury, have led to calls for loan players to be brought in to strengthen Wilder’s options.
Lenagan made it clear in the summer the club would not bring in players on short-term arrangements, which proved to be expensive and largely unproductive last season.
While it remains a point of principle, there are also financial restrictions.
Clubs in npower League Two can only spend up to 60 per cent of their turnover on wages and United are reportedly close to their limit.
Lenagan respects the regulation, which was put in place to help prevent clubs from getting into financial trouble, so the prospect of new signings before the January transfer window is remote.
The U’s chairman said: “We are very, very close to the limit we can spend.
“If you look at the salary cap, it’s there because it’s a sensible view of a line beyond which a club should not go without jeopardising the financial future of the club.
“You could always fiddle your way round it with donations or whatever and some clubs do that.
“But to me the cap is there to protect the club, it says beyond that point you should not go and I will not go beyond that point.”
Lenagan has come under fire in recent weeks for not commenting on some stories, such as Jim Rosenthal’s resignation from the board.
The chairman makes no apologies for taking a contrasting approach to his predecessor Kelvin Thomas, who made regular comments in the media.
Lenagan said: “I know one of the frustrations is when I say I’m not going to comment.
“Just because somebody wants an answer is no reason to give an answer before it is right.
“To be available to silly questions as well as good questions I think is the wrong status for a chairman.
“I stand by my decisions and I will speak on them at the right time and the right place, but not all the time.”