Exclusive: Ruben Rodrigues hoping for historic Championship promotion with Oxford

Can Rodrigues advance to the Championship with Oxford?

Shane MacDermott

Last Updated: 2024-04-10

Louis Hobbs

4 minutes read

Football player Ruben Rodrigues after signing with Oxford United football club

Ruben Rodrigues can scarcely believe he could be playing in the Championship within two years of being in the National League.

The Portuguese playmaker helped Notts County to their famous Wembley triumph as they returned to the Football League via the play-offs last season. 

And he could be back at the home of English football in just over a months time with play-off chasing Oxford United.

On the cusp of Championship promotion 

Oxford’s destiny is in their own hands with just four games remaining as they hold a slender two-point lead over Lincoln City in the top-six race.

“When you go somewhere you hope for the best,” the 27-year-old told SportsBoom.

“To get to the Championship would be a dream come true when you look back to when I made the move to England. 

“Playing National League for three seasons and then stepping up, I was a bit nervous. There were times I wondered if I was good enough, you start to question yourself. 

“Last season was the highlight of my career. I have beautiful memories of Wembley and getting promoted to the Football League. 

“I just remember how nice it was, not just for us, but for the fans. The joy and the happiness they had.

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It’s not something you experience all the time. For me to maybe to experience it again is amazing.

“It’s even bigger this time. Getting promoted from the National League to League Two is massive, of course, because not many teams get promoted. But going from League One to the Championship is something every team dreams of really.”

A road to Championship full of heartbreaks

Des Buckingham’s U’s are chasing history as the first Oxford side to reach the second tier this century.

And Rodrigues is desperate to experience euphoria once again under the iconic Wembley arch.

It has been a storied yet, so far, unsuccessful journey to the Championship for Oxford and their fans in recent times.

A string of near misses in recent years; a play-off final defeat to neighbours Wycombe Wanderers in 2020, semi-final defeat to Blackpool the following season, and finishing eighth in 2022 after collapsing in April are etched in the memory. 

Cam Brannagan, James Henry, Sam Long, and Elliott Moore remain from that heartbreaking final defeat four years ago.

And Rodrigues, who would be a part of the first Oxford side to reach the second tier this century, added: “We know how big the end of the season is, everything’s focused on getting promoted.

“The way it is for the fans, the people who have been here supporting the club for so many years, to see their joy and their team doing so well is amazing. They’ve dreamed of seeing their team in the Championship for many, many years. 

Image Credits: Mike Allen

Image Credits: Mike Allen

“We would go down in the history books and be remembered if we achieve it. The Oxford fans would remember you and for the teams in years to come you become an example to them. 

“It would be a big, big achievement. Some of the young lads, I don’t think they really understand how big it is or how nice a promotion is. I’m trying to tell them that good days are coming and it’s something they need to experience once in their lifetime and I hope they do.

“There are nerves, of course. I think they are good nerves. 

“There are a lot of players who have played in the play-offs before, especially for Oxford. Cam Brannagan, James Henry and Sam Long have all played for the club at Wembley. 

“They know how big it is and with all the experience they have will be invaluable. 

“They are really motivated. They got so close once and don’t want to be so close again.”

Home advantage to give an edge on the final stretch

Oxford’s home form, losing just three games at the Kassam since September, could prove the difference with three of their final four games in front of their faithful fans.

But they are against three of the top nine in Peterborough, Lincoln, and Stevenage.

And Rodrigues said: “It’s in our hands, we just have to win our games. We have the advantage that we are playing a lot at home, that helps a lot. 

“They are going to be tough games, Lincoln are on a run and right behind us, Stevenage have done very well this season with the style they play. 

“Our home form’s going to be vital. It’s three big games as well against teams that are either fighting for play-offs or promotion as well. 

“It’s not an easy run-in, but you expect that. To be honest, no game is easy. It’s going to be tough, but we are prepared for it.”

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Shane MacDermott
Shane MacDermott Sports Writer

Shane is a respected journalist who has covered a range of sports for a number of years.