Oxford United vs Swansea City: Hands off Kemar Roofe, warns Oxford manager Michael Appleton

'I say it to all the players, and I say it from personal experience, the grass is not always greener,' Appleton said

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The Independent Football

Michael Appleton could not be happier: into the fourth round of the FA Cup and issuing hands-off notices to those eyeing his young, English rapier, Kemar Roofe.

As a coach making his way, Appleton enjoyed the second great scalp of his career; he was in charge of Championship side Blackburn Rovers when they beat Arsenal at the Emirates in 2013, the Gunners’ last defeat in the FA Cup. Today he handed out another lesson in humility – as well as football – to lofty Premier League opponents, who could not quite rouse themselves for the old pot.

Roofe, a 23-year-old signing from West Bromwich Albion in the summer, stole the show with two superbly taken goals and has given his manager a headache he perhaps had not anticipated in this transfer window. That is 15 goals in all competitions thus far from Roofe, a player who was never given so much as a run-out at The Hawthorns.

“He’s an Oxford United player and he’s happy to be one. He’s enjoying his football and improving day by day,” Appleton said of Roofe, a player he worked with in the junior ranks as a young coach at Albion. “I say it to all the players, and I say it from personal experience, the grass is not always greener.

“I keep telling Kemar and others they have bags of potential. Sometimes that does not come out until two, three years down the line. If you are at a club where you are winning and enjoying your football, there is no need to jump from A to C.

“The thing I like about him is he is comfortable in a number of positions, you can play him as the main striker or off the striker. He is a young English kid getting games. They come up against quality players and they can produce. We are confident we can keep him but that might be different come the end of the season, depending on what we do.”

As Appleton observed, Roofe is just happy to be on the pitch, doing his stuff. “I just never got the chance at West Brom,” he said. “I believe I should have had that chance. I did all I could. Jamie Vardy started lower and he got the scoring record in the Premier League. It can be done given time – and a chance. Everybody has the ambition to play in the Premier League and I’m no different.”

Another attribute that appeals is his modesty. “It’s not every day you play against a Premier League side, so you just want to do your best. It’s not just me, it’s the whole team. Everyone on that pitch put in a shift. We had no nerves as we were the underdogs.

“This is a chance in the Cup where we can show what we can do. Every game I play, I do my best, keep my head down and work for the team. I believe I showed that today.”

Quite rightly, Appleton was keen to spread the love across his whole team. “I thought the performance was magnificent. To beat a Premier League team on your own patch is one thing, but the way we did it, the way we passed the ball and the chances we created at times was great. 

“We knew we would have an opportunity if we did what we do well. We had to dig deep when it was 3-2 but we showed a lot of composure in defence.”

There were no excuses from the Swansea manager, Alan Curtis, who was given the job until the summer only last week. “It’s hugely disappointing,” he said. “All credit to Oxford, they were more energetic than us and passed the ball better. We made changes but we still had lots of experience, but Oxford thoroughly deserved to beat us.”