When Karl Robinson moved from Charlton Athletic to Oxford United, he was buzzing with excitement. A thrilling new challenge had presented itself.
The U’s had been taken over by Thai businessman Sumrith ‘Tiger’ Thanakarnjanasuth in February 2018. There was a new structure to create and new investment to be implemented.
However, with the summer window in full swing, there has been little spending extravaganza. In the window so far, the U’s have signed three players on a free; making Tariqe Fosu the only player the tiger has bought so far this window. Thanakarnjanasuth planned to cut the budget earlier in the year to produce a more sustainable culture around the Kassam Stadium.
They previously had the eighth largest war chest in League One but had underwhelming results. They finished 12th thanks to one defeat in their last 10 games.
“The playing budget will be very competitive again. I’m talking to Karl this week about it” the Tiger said in March. “We all know we have underachieved this year for the budget available. I don’t know exactly (the level)…. It will be about the same, or a little less. Next season we’ll be aiming for the play-offs.”
His reluctance to spend loosely came after three winding-up petitions were ordered by HM Revenue & Customs earlier in the year. Since then, Oxford have settled their debts and have looked to change their tactics to pursue promotion.
In April, it was revealed the U’s had made a loss of £2m – the sixth time the U’s had been below the line in seven years. The unsustainable model prompted football finance expert Kieran Maguire to call the U’s a part of the group where football owners are “wanting to follow the dream of promotion.”
As Maguire also says, football clubs sit on a ‘fine line’ between dilute finances and the fantasy of challenging in the bigger leagues. The lucrative gamble is rarely a sustainable future, so the Tiger’s decision to be tight on their transfers is a sign for the progressive future he hopes to build with manager Karl Robinson.
“I’m here for the long-term” he noted in March. “I really want to build this club to be bigger in a higher-level league. That is what we’re going to do and that’s what we’re doing now.”
Heading into pre-season, Robinson has been pleased with their physical performance to revivify the momentum they started towards the end of last season.
U’s fans will hope last season’s winding-up petitions is a thing of the past and the Tiger’s promise of building towards the future is an unbreakable bond. He has made strides to do so. Come 3rd August, it is in Robinson’s and his players’ hands to jump-start the bright fortune the Tiger has planned.