OXFORD United Supporters’ Panel’s Matthew O’Donoghue reflects on the unexpected departure of Liam Manning and our way forward.

The departure of Manning came as a shock to much of the fanbase. Whilst it is true that winning football matches in the style that Manning likes to play is an attractive proposition to any club, the majority of us did not expect that he would be poached so soon into his tenure.

Having battled to keep the club in the division last season and then rebuilding the squad in the summer, it feels confusing that he would leave, seemingly at the first opportunity.

This particular departure feels very different from others before it in my 16 or so years watching Oxford United. Chris Wilder had been at the club for many years and had been successful. Michael Appleton was going to the Premier League. The Pep Clotet experiment failed and Karl Robinson faced a very tumultuous end, but it can be argued that his reign had run its course.

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It is important to remember that Manning was stung by the end of his time at MK Dons. Having made the play-offs and then been sacked within six months will undoubtedly have left its mark on him. He is an ambitious young manager, and the chance to work in the Championship may have been too much to turn down. In the fullness of time, I think we will look back on the Manning stint as a point where the club was stabilised and stronger foundations were laid.

I do not see Manning’s departure as a negative reflection on our club. I think it shows that we are in a good position, where our top talent on and off the pitch is coveted by others. The joy on social media from fans of Portsmouth and others shows that we are a team that other clubs are wary of.

The job left behind is a very attractive one. We have a squad of players who are capable of beating any other side in League One and many players have Championship aspirations themselves. I think we all hope that the club are ambitious in who they recruit, but also bring in a manager who plays in a similar vein to Manning so that another reset isn’t needed.

Managerial changes are always unsettling by their very nature. Sometimes they are needed and sometimes they are unexpected. Regardless, at this stage of the season it is imperative that the club are assertive and decisive so that the managerial search does not go on for too long. Get the right person, yes, but we cannot afford to let this good squad and start of the season be for nothing. Hopefully the club has a succession plan which is already being put into action.