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Oxford v Shrewsbury: Friends reunited as Town look to take down the U’s

Shrewsbury assistant Aaron Wilbraham has revealed how he helped Oxford United boss Karl Robinson begin life as a manager.

Aaron Wilbraham the assistant manager of Shrewsbury Town.
Aaron Wilbraham the assistant manager of Shrewsbury Town.

Wilbraham was a striker at MK Dons when Robinson was Paul Ince’s assistant at Stadium MK. Alongside with Dons legend Dean Lewington, Wilbraham put in a good word for former Oswestry Town man Robinson, who in 2010 became the youngest manager in Football League history aged 29.

Eleven years later and Shrewsbury’s assistant, working under Steve Cotterill, will share the technical area with his former boss, now 41, at the Kassam Stadium tonight as Town visit the U’s.

Cotterill’s men head to Oxfordshire looking to record back-to-back victories for the first time in any competition since the beginning of February after Saturday’s key 1-0 success over MK Dons.

Oxford, who were beaten semi-finalists in the play-offs in May, suffered a 3-1 home defeat to Plymouth and slipped to ninth. “Oxford lost a few players from last year but still play good football, they are a possession-based side, I know the manager Karl Robinson well from MK Dons,” Wilbraham said. “He gets his teams playing good stuff, they had a disappointing game on Saturday so will want to bounce back.

“He was assistant under Paul Ince when I was there and I had a little bit of a part in him getting the job really, because he was younger than me and the chairman spoke to me and Dean Lewington about his capabilities.

“He was a really good coach, Karl, under Paul Ince, he got the job off the back of that and I went to Norwich the following December.”

Wilbraham continued his playing career until aged 40, when he called time on a glorious and lengthy time as a centre-forward and was snapped up by Cotterill to become his No.2 in Shropshire – albeit, due to the manager’s Covid illness, Wilbraham swiftly became aware of the trials of management.

“I had it three times, with Lee Johnson at Bristol City and Brian Barry-Murphy at Rochdale as well,” he said of being older than the man in the dugout.

“In that position I wanted to let them know I wasn’t the type of senior pro who was going to use that to my advantage and try to undermine them in any way. I wanted to let them know I was on board, if anything I could help with younger players.

“I know sometimes it can be in a back of a manager’s mind that an older player can cause problems.

“He started at such a young age so it does feel like that (been around a while), but he’s done well.

“Paul Ince brought him from Liverpool’s academy, under-15s or something, he had that style he wanted to implement and he’s done that where he’s been.”

Oxford condemned Shrewsbury to two quick-fire defeats in less than a month at the tail-end of last season, including a chastening 4-1 reverse at the Kassam.

Options are thin on the ground for Town with Josh Vela (knee) out, Luke Leahy suspended and Aaron Pierre and George Nurse injury doubts.

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