Oxford boss Karl Robinson: Charlton Athletic are best side in League One

BY RICHARD CAWLEY
richard@slpmedia.co.uk

Karl Robinson reckons that Charlton Athletic are the best side in League One – and that Lee Bowyer will still firmly believe they can land automatic promotion.

The Oxford United manager comes up against his former club at the Kassam Stadium today.

The Addicks are three points behind second-placed Barnsley but are top of the form guide for the past 10 matches.

Robinson was in the stands for Charlton’s recent win at Wycombe Wanderers. He said: “On their day, they are the best team in the league. That’s in relation to the way they move the ball, they have the best striker, the way they all play for the club and Bow – there seems to be a real solidarity about them.

“I went to the Wycombe game and it’s probably the best away performance I’ve seen in all the ones I’ve been to.

“Lyle Taylor has been a revelation. I always knew how good Igor [Vetokele] was – we just didn’t have the opportunity to have him last year.

“What Bow’s done unbelievably well is the recruitment in the summer, on top of what he already had – people forget the loss of Jake Forster-Caskey was massive.

“To go and get Josh Cullen and how quickly they reacted [to Forster-Caskey’s injury], with the likes of [adding Krystian] Bielik as well, they brought in some really good players.

“Between Bow, Steve Gallen [head of recruitment] and Jacko [Johnnie Jackson] it is an unbelievable job they have done.”

Oxford United Manager Karl Robinson

Robinson wanted to sign Taylor in January 2018. Bowyer maintained that interest after replacing the Scouser in the Valley hotseat. The former AFC Wimbledon man is on 21 goals after his double last weekend against Luton.

“He is the best all-round striker at this level,” said Robinson. “I remember we played AFC away – me and Bow were on the touchline and he pinned one of our centre-halves, brought the ball down on the outside of his foot, dropped his shoulder and went inside. I turned to Bow and said: ‘How good is that?’

“We spoke to his agent last January about bringing him in, but we didn’t have any fees available at the time.

“Bow’s worked hard on him over the summer and I know he was a massive pull in him coming to the football club.”

Charlton are 7/2 for automatic promotion with second-placed Barnsley 1/2. Sunderland (4/5) and Portsmouth (11/10) also enjoy better odds.

But Robinson doesn’t think that his former assistant manager in SE7 will have written off their top-two hopes as readily as the bookies.

“I’ll tell you now that Bow will see the top two as a realistic target,” said Robinson.

“The big one for them is that Sunderland still have to play Portsmouth.

“It seems to me that the team is falling into place at Charlton. I’ve watched the Luton game and you see that big crowd and the intensity from the players. The fans were together. It seemed one big wall of red.

“I’m really happy for everyone. And the fans, they seem to be getting a bit of onus back in what they believe in. Even though the top of the tree hasn’t changed – there is something to hold on to.

“We want to win. People will say we have nothing to play for – but we’re professionals. I want to make sure we build a team for next year.

“We’ve still got a plan. But after the game finishes, 100 per cent we’ll be having a few beers. They know that my allegiances, and prayers, for that [automatic promotion] place will be with them.”

Vetokele is expected to recover from a tight hamstring to start. Forster-Caskey and Lewis Page both returned from injury in an U23 game this week but need more match action before being considered for selection.

Forster-Caskey suffered cruciate knee ligament damage just before the opening game of the season at Sunderland.

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