Simon Eastwood – Oxford United’s Number One
Oxford United goalkeeper Simon Eastwood has been a key figure for the U’s in the last three years.
The 29-year-old arrived at the Kassam Stadium for a second spell back in 2016 under the management of Michael Appleton. The shot-stopper has featured in almost every U’s game, apart from the odd injury and suspension.
Simon Eastwood – Oxford United’s Mr Consistent
Eastwood and His Journey to Oxford
Chris Wilder originally signed the goalkeeper on a free transfer following his release from Huddersfield Town. Prior to joining the U’s, he’d had loan spells with Woking and Bradford City respectively, but Eastwood failed to make an appearance for the newly-promoted League Two side.
Following his release from Oxford, Eastwood joined Halifax but made just one appearance. He then joined Portsmouth, signed by new manager Appleton, where he made 30 appearances in all competitions for the League One side. However, Appleton was relieved of his role in November and, despite the arrival of Guy Whittingham, Pompey were relegated to League Two.
Despite relegation, Gary Bowyer took Eastwood to the Championship when he signed for Blackburn Rovers. Back-up to former England goalkeeper Paul Robinson and Jake Kean, the shot-stopper made nine appearances in his first season. The following campaign, Jason Steele arrived as the new number one with Robinson fading out and Eastwood was limited to 11 games.
The following season, Eastwood failed to make an appearance for Rovers and was released following their relegation to League One.
Time at Oxford
Former manager Appleton then re-signed the former Portsmouth goalkeeper at Oxford. It followed one of the U’s best seasons in recent history, winning promotion from League Two and reaching the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy final.
Despite Oxford gaining promotion with the best defensive record in the league, Eastwood was Appleton’s first signing. Sam Slocombe was released and Benji Büchel was back-up.
Eastwood made an impressive 62 appearances in all competitions for the U’s in his first season as Oxford finished eighth and, with the fifth best defensive record in the league, they looked promising.
The following season, Appleton left to become assistant manager at Leicester City, whilst former Leeds assistant Pep Clotet took the reigns at Oxford.
Clotet was vastly different to Appleton. The former U’s man signed youthful, promising, British players, whilst Spaniard Clotet signed older, often foreign players.
Eastwood, though, was prolific in goal, making 52 appearances in all competitions. However, after a 7-0 drubbing by Wigan Athletic and a home defeat to bottom club Bury, Clotet was sacked with the club in tenth place.
Caretaker-manager Derek Fazackerley presided over the team for two months, in which time they won only twice in eight games and dropped to 15th place.
The team’s performances had dropped, but Eastwood managed to keep up his standards.
New chairman Sumrith Thanakarnjanasuth eventually appointed Karl Robinson as the club’s permanent manager in March 2018. Robinson managed to keep the U’s in the league, despite a drastic fall following Clotet’s dismissal.
Eastwood Number One
Last season was a similar story for Oxford. The U’s made a poor start to the season, losing 4-0 at Barnsley. The following week, Eastwood injured himself in the warm-up against Fleetwood Town, and fans feared the worst.
The shot-stopper was ruled out for two months. During that time, the U’s won just once in eleven games.
By the time Eastwood returned, the U’s were at the wrong end of the table. But, they went six games unbeaten, with one defeat in eleven.
Despite conceding 43 goals, Eastwood was, once again, one of the stand out players for Oxford.