by John Lyons
HE SCORED two goals in an FA Cup win over Premier League opponents, his team are in the thick of the League Two promotion race and now he’s going to Wembley – it’s not been a bad season for Kemar Roofe!
After a loan spell with Oxford United last term, Roofe joined the U’s permanently from Premier League side West Bromwich Albion last summer. Some might have questioned the decision of a 22-year-old to drop three rungs on the football ladder. Not so many now, though.
With 18 goals to his name ahead of the weekend, the Walsall-born attacking midfielder has been one of the stand-out performers in League Two this season. The FA Cup double in the 3-2 victory against Swansea – “a great feeling, amazing” – earned him national headlines, but it was his next twin strike that has proved even more crucial.
Michael Appleton’s men went to League One Millwall in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy southern area final first leg and Roofe netted both in an impressive 2-0 win. It meant last Tuesday’s 1-0 home defeat in the second leg proved immaterial – the U’s had reached Wembley.
“We lost on Tuesday, but it still felt like a win,” he told The FLP. “It was massive to get those two goals in the first leg, though I didn’t know how important they were until after the second game.”
Now, Roofe can look forward to playing at the home of English football in a cup final and fulfill an ambition shared with every young kid who laces up a pair of football boots.
“Everyone at the club is buzzing,” he said. “Not many players get the chance to play at Wembley and we might not get the opportunity again. It’s just a happy vibe at the moment. Everyone is enjoying the moment.”
With the final against Barnsley not until April, Oxford can now turn their attentions back to winning promotion to League One. The U’s currently occupy the third automatic promotion place, giving chase to Northampton and Plymouth.
“It is difficult, mentally, to keep switching from the league to different cup games, but now we can focus on the league and try to get the points we need,” he said. “Our main goal is promotion.”
If Oxford can go on to make the step up, then the modest Roofe believes boss Appleton will deserve plenty of credit.
“He’s been linked with higher division teams, which is understandable,” said Roofe, now 23. “He’s changed Oxford around. One of his big strengths is managing players and allowing them to play with freedom and confidence.
“He’s a top coach. He knows how to put on a proper session and develop players. He’s given me the platform to show people what I can do.”
It is not only the former Portsmouth, Blackpool and Blackburn boss Appleton, 40, who is being touted for a move up the divisions.
Not surprisingly, Roofe’s exploits have created interest, with suggestions that Premier League Newcastle United were keen to snap him up. But the U’s top scorer takes it all in his stride.
“People will talk and start rumours, but, whether it’s true or not, it doesn’t affect me,” he said. “I’m an Oxford player and I’m focused on the next game and working hard.
“I was always 100 per cent focused in the transfer window and scored half a dozen goals in that time, which shows it didn’t affect me.”
As for targets this season, Roofe prefers to focus on the team rather than his own ambitions.
“I haven’t set individual targets,” he added.
“Team targets, like promotion, are more important.”
Winning at Wembley would be pretty sweet, too.