Following Saturday’s 1-0 victory over Didcot Town, Oxford United fans should be discussing their teams three wins from three so far in pre-season. However, the strange way in which manager Michael Appleton handled the absence of Dave Kitson has led many supporters to discuss whether the former Premier League striker will still be at the club by the start of the season.
Kitson, who had played a part in the first two games of pre-season at Farnborough and Oxford City was a notable absentee from the United squad which lined up at Loop Meadow. When asked before kick-off about the striker’s absence, Appleton declined to comment and said he would explain why after the final whistle. This rather strange approach, coupled with a new blog post (see here) by ‘The Secret Footballer’ – who is widely believed to be Kitson – sparked suggestions that the former Reading man could have retired or had his contract with the U’s torn up.
After full-time, Radio Oxford’s Nathan Cooper asked Appleton about Kitson’s absence and was told that the 34 year old had been given the weekend off following a heavy week of training and would return on Monday morning ahead of the squad’s trip to Bisham Abbey. Appleton also remarked that a number of other players could have also been given time off – the question is, why was Kitson the only one to be granted this time?
It is no secret that Kitson spent time thinking about his future at the end of the 2013/14 season, an interview given after the final game of the season at Northampton Town suggested that he would go away and think about whether he would carry on for the second year of his two year contract at the Kassam Stadium. But having returned to pre-season training under Gary Waddock and now new manager Appleton, it had appeared that the veteran had decided that he would be able to cope with the rigours of another League Two season.
Of course, if during the heavy running sessions that come during the first stages of pre-season training, his mind had changed, then calling it a day now would represent a much better time than halfway through the season. Michael Appleton would be able to use his alleged high salary towards at least one replacement, probably more, whilst Kitson would be able to go out through his own choice rather than through an injury.
Equally, the heavy running sessions could have just left their toll on the frontman and left him needing a weekend off to be fit and raring to go for the training camp at Bisham Abbey. A fully fit Dave Kitson will be more valuable during this time than a fatigued Dave Kitson.
The way the club and Appleton in particular have approached this situation has created the opportunity for fans to present their own opinions and suggestions. Personally, I think it may have been a weekend granted for Kitson “to have a think” about his future and whether or not he can or wants to commit to another full season at Oxford United. He came to the club hoping to win things and after last season’s collapse may not want to bow out just yet.
Monday could well be an interesting one.