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Oxford United manager now favourite in the running for Wales job

08 Jul 2024 5 minute read
Oxford United manager Des Buckingham. Credit Ben Whitley/PA Wire

David Owens

Oxford United manager Des Buckingham is now leading the race to become the new Wales manager.

The odds on Buckingham have been slashed in the last 24 hours as he emerged as favourite to replace Rob Page at the helm of the Welsh international side.

As previously reported by Nation Cymru the much travelled, highly regarded young coach with a global profile entered the race at 20-1, then over the weekend odds on him tumbled to 12-1, then 5-1 and he now leads the field at 4/6 ahead of previous red hot favourites Craig Bellamy who is 6/4 and Thierry Henry, whose odds have lengthened to 10/1, according to Sky Bet.

With news emerging today that Bellamy could stay on as assistant manager to new Burnley boss Scott Parker, this will only fuel the fire that the talented Oxford United manager who took the U’s up to the Championship after a playoff final victory over Bolton at Wembley, could be in line for the Welsh international job.

With the Football Association of Wales stating that it will cast its net far and wide in search of suitable candidates, there maybe a few surprises in the offing.

Speaking to the Oxford Mail on Monday, Leon Blackman a spokesperson for betting site Oddschecker said: “The Wales next manager market sprung into life on Monday as Des Buckingham became the new odds-on favourite to replace Rob Page.

“Having been as big as 5/1 on Monday morning, a surge of bets backing Buckingham has seen his odds shorten to the odds-on favourite.

“A staggering 93 per cent of bets on Monday have backed Buckingham for the role, compared to a mere three per cent of the bet share in the month prior. This market will be one to watch over the coming days to see if Buckingham’s price continues to shorten.”

Des Buckingham might not be a name familiar to many but dig a little deeper and you can see why the Oxford United manager is seen as one of the most highly regarded young coaches in world football.

Having taken his hometown club from League One to the Championship for the first time since 2001, at the age of 38, the Englishman has a wealth of global coaching experience at club and international level having secured huge success coaching and managing in New Zealand, Australia and India.

His is also a name that will be well known to the Football Association of Wales.

Des Buckingham graduating with a Master of Science in Advanced Performance Football Coaching from the University of South Wales

While working as New Zealand U23 National Football Team head coach in 2019, Buckingham graduated with a Master of Science in Advanced Performance Football Coaching at the University of South Wales.

The then 34 year old coach was given an Outstanding Performance award as that year’s stand out student.

The Masters, which is run in conjunction with the FAW is the first of its kind in the UK – and it’s also worth noting that the consultant lecturer on the course is a certain David Adams, currently the FAW’s technical director and one of the men leading the hunt to appoint a replacement for Rob Page.

Des Buckingham’s global footballing odyssey

Buckingham’s coaching career began at Oxford United at the age of 18 as he worked through the club’s age-group squads.

As a youth team player, he had spells in the youth and reserve teams at Reading as well as United but a professional career did not materialise.

He progressed as a coach into the first team, under then-manager, Chris Wilder at the start of the 2013/14 League Two season.

The following season, Buckingham left to join the coaching staff at Australian side Wellington Phoenix where he eventually became the youngest manager in A-League history at 31 in January 2017.

He lifted the club off the bottom of the table finishing one place outside the playoffs at the end of the season.

Oxford United’s Cameron Brannagan (left) and manager Des Buckingham celebrate after the Sky Bet League One play-off final at Wembley Stadium. Credit: Adam Davy/PA Wire

Later that year, Buckingham took up a role at then Premier League club Stoke City as an assistant coach with their under-23 team.

He then returned to New Zealand as head coach of the national U20 and U23 teams, during which time he was also the assistant coach with the All Whites – New Zealand’s men’s national football team.

Buckingham joined A-League club Melbourne City as an assistant coach in September 2020 before taking over the head coach role and in his first season claimed their firs A-League trophy in the team’s eleven-year history.

His side went on to complete the double, winning their first A-League Grand Final a month later.

After impressing at Melbourne City, he was appointed as the head coach of Mumbai City in October 2021.

With Mumbai he won the Indian Super League (ISL) putting together a record-breaking 18-match winning run.

Oxford United manager Des Buckingham. Credit: Nick Potts/PA Wire

His move to India saw his side become the first Indian club to win two games at Asia’s premier club football competition, the AFC Champions League in his first season.

As well the winning the league in the most recent campaign, Buckingham’s team sealed a place in the 2023 AFC Champions League group stage, the first Indian Club to secure consecutive qualification to the competition.

In May 2023 he was voted Coach of the Year by the Indian Players Football Association.

In November last year he came full circle and was appointed Oxford United manager, steering the U’s to promotion back to the Championship after more than 20 years with a 2-0 playoff final victory over Bolton Wanderers at Wembley.

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