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The rising young star among favourites to become Wales boss

04 Jul 2024 4 minute read
Oxford United manager Des Buckingham. Credit: Nick Potts/PA Wire

David Owens

Since Rob Page left his role as manager of Wales, there has been no shortage of names being bandied about as his successor by fans and pundits alike.

Amongst the front runners for the job are former Wales goal ace Craig Bellamy and French superstar Thierry Henry.

While they are viewed by Welsh bookmaker Dragon Bet as the red hot favourites – Bellamy at 8/11 and Henry 5/4, there has been much conjecture over who else may be in the frame.

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.

Veteran manager Sam Allardyce (7/2), who had a brief tenure as England manager has already declared his interest, while as previously reported by Nation Cymru former Wales international, now Brighton coach, Andrew Crofts is currently in the frame at 10/1.

Meanwhile, appearing in the running in recent days – and currently fifth favourite at 12/1 (now fourth favourite at 5/1 – updated Saturday, July 6) according to Dragon Bet – is a rising young star in the coaching world with an impressive global pedigree.

Des Buckingham might not be a name familiar to many but dig a little deeper and you can see why the highly regarded young Oxford United manager could be one to watch.

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.

Buckingham joined Oxford in November 2023 from City Football Group-owned Mumbai City.

Buckingham’s coaching career began at the U’s 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 Ben Whitley/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 was appointed Oxford United manager, steering the U’s to promotion back to Championship after more than 20 years with a 2-0 playoff final victory over Bolton Wanderers at Wembley.

Quite the CV then and certainly a name to watch.

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