Des Buckingham leads English club to promotion in front of 70,000 at Wembley

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Former New Zealand U-23 men’s coach Des Buckingham is being hailed a local hero after leading his Oxford United team to promotion to the English Championship.

Oxford have beaten Bolton Wanderers 2-0 in front of a crowd of more than 70,000 at Wembley Stadium, clinching promotion through the League One play-offs.

Main photo: Des Buckingham (right) and his team collect the League One Promotion trophy at Wembley.

Buckingham (39), who was appointed Oxford’s head coach in November 2023, has been part of a stunning turnaround at Oxford United who avoided relegation to League Two by two points in 2022-23.

Between January and March, Oxford won only twice in 12 games but Buckingham led a turnaround of form, and qualified for the promotion play-offs.

In his post-match interview, Buckingham said: “The last six months have been a whirlwind. I spent nine years overseas so it’s not just been about taking a job back in the English Football League, it’s about proving that you can coach at this level, firstly to the players and to the fans and thirdly to everyone else that’s in this level of football.

“I’ll go to sleep tonight very content and very happy and when I wake up, I’ll hope it wasn’t a dream.”

Celebrating their promotion, Oxford United told fans on their website: “In one of the most extraordinary seasons in Oxford United’s history, Des Buckingham, the local boy from Cowley, has led his team to promotion in his first season in charge.

“For Des Buckingham, it’s an incredible ending to his first season in the dugout. Taking over in November, the head coach has now continued his success from New Zealand, Australia and India to bring more glory to his hometown club.”

Also at Wembley as part of Oxford’s coaching staff was former NZ Football analyst Joe Moore, who joined Buckingham’s staff in early 2024.

READ MORE: Former NZ Football analyst joins Des Buckingham at EFL club Oxford United >>>>


Game played on Sunday May 19, 2024 (NZT)

Bolton Wanderers 0
Oxford United 2 (Josh Murphy 31′, 42′)

Buckingham’s football journey

Buckingham began his coaching career at his hometown club of Oxford United when he was 18.

He was brought to New Zealand in 2014 by WaiBOP Football as a Football Development Officer but soon moved to Wellington where he began roles with the Wellington Phoenix.

Buckingham became an assistant coach at Melbourne City in 2020, after leaving New Zealand where he had combined Phoenix roles and coaching New Zealand’s national U-20 and U-23 squads.

In 2022, Buckingham was reportedly one of the candidates short-listed for the All Whites head coaching role after the departure of Danny Hay.

Buckingham ruled himself out of contention, saying he had signed a two-year contract extension with Mumbai City, part of the global City Football Group that has ownership stakes in 12 clubs, including English Premier League champions Manchester City and A-League club Melbourne City.

During his time with Mumbai City, the club won the 2023 ISL title, and in May, Buckingham was voted Coach of the Year by the Indian Players’ Football Association.

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