Oxford United’s Youth Development benefit match proved a big success last Friday night to put a smile on the faces of Kelvin Thomas and Chris Wilder.
The Oxford United Chairman and Manager were among a host of familiar faces present as a U’s All-Star team beat a Celebrity XI 4-3 at the Kassam Stadium.
The night was arranged to help compensate for the loss of Football League youth funding and with over 2,500 fans in attendance, Thomas said the money raised on the night would be crucial to the Clubs Youth development programme.
“Everyone knows how important Youth development is at Oxford United, and every penny we have raised tonight will be put to good use.”
Wilder, who was one of only a couple of the players to feature for the full 90 minutes echoed his chairman’s sentiments.
“It was a fantastic night and reward for the hard work put in by everyone behind the scenes.”
“Youth development is massive. I do find it a little disappointing that we no longer get money for doing this, we are trying to be professional, employ people, and produce young talent, so it’s important that we keep that going.”
“We want to make sure that all the talent in the county comes to Oxford United and not a bigger club because we feel we can nurture them better than many others and give them a great chance to fulfil their potential – but without the money it’s hard.”
Winger Chris Allen was United’s star man on the night, hitting a hat-trick, James Constable grabbing the other in a 15-minute cameo appearance.
Former Olympic gold medallist and Pitch to Podium Ambassador Darren Campbell also hit three goals, but his night ended in agony, when he picked up an Achilles injury and was stretchered off during the second half.
Among other former United stars to turn out were John Byrne, Andy Melville, Paul Powell, Mike Ford and Peter Rhoades-Brown, but the biggest cheer of the night came with the introduction of Timmy Mallett, who was given the privilege of donning his beloved Oxford shirt.
Striker Byrne, who won promotion with United back in 1996, was delighted to play his part in helping his former side.
“I think everybody knows just how crucial youth development is at clubs like Oxford,” he said.
“A number of very fine players have come through the system here and I hope that is something that will continue in the future and I’m pleased to do whatever I can to help.”
United are unable to predict how much money the evening will have raised, but are hoping that the event proved popular enough to repeat it next year.