Sam Ricketts started no more than 10 games at the Kassam Stadium, but his name is so significant it’s practically a noun. Ricketts was the Nicky Butt of his generation, the nearly man in comparison to contemporaries Paul Powell, Chris Hackett, Jamie Brooks, Dean Whitehead and the daddy of them all, Joey Beauchamp.
Eventually he was jettisoned to few complaints. Ian Atkins had an experienced side that Ricketts rattled around the fringes of. He found a home at the financially reckless Telford, moved to Swansea and then to Hull. He became a Welsh international (but, who hasn’t?). At Hull he was part of the squad promoted to the Premier League and despite their implosion, he found himself at Bolton, a Premier League regular.
To ‘Ricketts’ at Oxford is to leave the club an apparent failure only to succeed elsewhere. The Kassam’s history is flooded with similar stories, but Ricketts is the biggest Ricketts of the lot.
The first right-back at the Kassam Stadium was Sam Stockley, who arrived with a reputation for being the division’s best right-back. In a re-modelled back-four he stuttered along with the rest of the defence.
Ian Atkins replaced Stockley with Scott McNiven. McNiven, like all Atkins’ defensive signings was as solid as a rock. But despite being involved in the win against Swindon and the subsequent trip to Arsenal, can I remember a definitive McNiven moment? Not one. He had a big backside, but that's all I remember.
Graham Rix replaced McNiven with Dave Mackay who occupied the right-back slot for a solid year before Lee Mansell was brought in to steer the team into the Conference. Mansell did at least look like he was trying, although it was rarely with any effect. He moved on to Torquay and conspired get relegated again.
The Conference-era opened with Eddie Anaclet being drafted into the right-back slot. Not a typical Jim Smith signing; Anaclet was young and inexperienced. He was a consistent performer in his first season, winning the Oxblogger Player of the Season. When we failed to get promoted, confidence drained form the club and Anaclet’s with it. Injury didn’t help, but he was never the same.
Darren Patterson’s paternal instincts saw James Clarke graduate from his all-conquering youth team. Despite charitable support from the fans he was limited in ability and short of temper. Chris Wilder arrived, and he too was gone.
Wilder’s man has always been Damien Batt who would have been a shoe-in for the right back slot in the All-Star XI. But, for his phoenix-like qualities, Sam Ricketts is the man who gets the nod.