With the January transfer window fast approaching, a flurry of activity is imminent, and given Wilder's track record at the club we can expect to see a host of new signings pulling on the famous yellow shirt in January. However, our ability to deal in the transfer market will be dependent on whether we can ship out some of the unwanted players on our books, many of whom are currently out on loan to other clubs. With several players currently out on loan, from the youngsters gaining experience lower down the pyramid to those players who have served their purpose here and will be looking to put themselves in the shop window, now seems a good time to catch up with those Oxford players currently plying their trade elsewhere.
Ben Purkiss and Stevie Kinniburgh have both returned to the club after loan spells in the Conference. Purkiss joined Darlington at the start of the season for an initial one month spell, which was later extended for another two months after he established himself as a regular starter. Purkiss performed well at Darlo and became a competent first team player, notching up 12 starts at right back. However, the move ultimately proved to be less than successful, as Purkiss spent the last month of his loan sidelined due to tendonitis, reduced to moonlighting as a commentator for local radio. Following his injury the club parted ways with manager Mark Cooper and his replacement will want to bring in his own players wherever possible. With the club looking to offload players due to mounting debts, and with a new manager now in place at the Arena, Purkiss seems unlikely to return there after his recovery.
Like Purkiss, Stevie Kinniburgh has also returned to Oxford, following a brief loan at Cambridge. Signed as cover for injury and suspension, Kinniburgh made two starts and one substitute appearance before leaving at the end of the month. Our own injury problems have seen him make a handful of unlikely appearances since his return, but Kinniburgh is under no illusions that he will feature much for us this season, and has stated his intention to find another club in January.
Another player deemed surplus to requirements is Simon Clist, who has been on loan at Hereford since the end of August. Clist joined a Bulls side that was stuggling in the league and has since established himself as a regular in the first team, making 14 appearances so far during his time at the Edgar Street club. Though initially signed to fill a gap on the left side of midfield, he has since been moved to his more natural position in the centre. His performances have been met with a mixed reaction from the Hereford fans and with Clist being a central player during Hereford's terrible early season form he has found it difficult to ingratiate himself with the supporters. Clist's performances have, however, reportedly improved with the side's recent upturn in form. With the club desperately needing to trim their playing budget, the chances of Clist's tenure being extended beyond January don't appear to be great, but he has been playing regular football at Hereford so mark this one down as a maybe.
The most successful loanee so far has undoubtedly been Matt Green, who secured himself a half-season loan at Mansfield back in the summer. Green proved to be an instant hit at Field Mill and has established himself as Mansfield's top scorer, scoring 11 goals in 21 appearances for the Stags. Green's goals fired Mansfield into early contention at the top of the table, but their form has since waned – though Green's goals have not dried up, he has at times displayed a wastefulness in front of goal that will be familiar to Oxford fans. Despite his failed loan move to League Two Cheltenham Town at the end of last season, Green has this season demonstrated his quality at Conference level and Mansfield have acted to make the move permanent, the two clubs having already agreed an undisclosed fee for the player, though he has yet to agree personal terms with the club.
Perhaps the most surprising loan move this season was Jon-Paul Pittman's move to Crawley. Having only signed for the club in in the summer, Pittman made just five substitute appearances for Oxford before he was sent out on loan to Steve Evans' Crawley Town. Crawley had themselves shipped out a summer signing with Wes Thomas' move to Bournemouth and moved swiftly to bring in Pittman as a replacement. Pittman returned to familiar territory, having spent 18 months at Crawley between 2007 and 2009, and was greeted with a hero's welcome. Meanwhile, the move was met with anger from some Oxford fans who felt Pittman had not been given a fair chance, but this quickly subsided following the good form of his replacement, Rob Hall. However, Pittman's chances in a title-chasing Crawley side have also been limited, being restricted to just four cameo appearances from the bench, also struggling with hamstring and groin injuries which have kept him sidelined. He has made the scoresheet once during this time though, scoring in Crawley's 3-1 victory over Dagenham and Redbridge and more recently put in a game-changing performance from the bench when Crawley came from behind to beat Rotherham 2-1, with Pittman supplying the assist for the winner. With chances being so limited at Crawley, it would perhaps be somewhat surprising to see Pittman's stay at the club extended, but a club with the backing of Crawley can afford to pay as many players as they want. Pittman himself is said to be happy to stay in West Sussex, so a longer stay would seem to be dependent on Crawley's decision.
Young Aaron Woodley continues his development and has so far spent this season on loan at local Southern Premier league club Banbury United. Woodley, considered to be a good prospect for the future, is not a player that the management are looking to move on, with this loan move serving as valuable experience for the young striker rather than an opportunity to offload a wage. And Woodley appears to have so far made the most of the opportunity, becoming a regular in the Puritans side and forming a potent strike partnership with Will Green. Woodley has scored a total of seven goals in 22 appearances for the Southern League club and appears to have made a decent impression. However, despite his good form this season, it seems clear that he is not yet ready to make the step up to the Football League and may benefit from having his loan extended at Banbury until the end of the season.
Another young Oxford face also plying his trade at Banbury this season is Cole Hinchliffe. Hinchliffe, a second year scholar, is not technically on loan, but on work experience at Banbury. Aged 18, he has not yet made any first team appearances at Oxford (other than in a couple of preseason friendlies) so this represents a good opportunity for the young centre back to experience senior football alongside his duties with the youth team. He has made three Southern League appearances against Evesham United, Cambridge City and Stourbridge, though Banbury have conceded a total of ten goals from those matches, which may not have been the best experience for such a young player.