AFTER the high of promotion has come the stark reality of preparing for life in the second tier.

Oxford United have released four first team players, three of whom played important roles for the club this season.

Billy Bodin, Marcus Browne and James Henry will leave United not just with a play-off winners’ medal round their neck, but a place in U’s folklore.

After all, they were part of the squad which got United back into the second tier of English football for the first time in 25 years.

Read the retained list in full here

Henry departs after a glorious seven-year spell with the U’s, a stint which oozed class and quality.

A total of 58 goals in 260 appearances ensures he leaves United with just 10 other players in front of him in the all-time U’s goalscoring charts.

Moments that stick out include the winner at Doncaster Rovers in April 2018, helping in the Sky Bet League One survival battle, and the hat-trick in the 3-1 win at home to Lincoln City in August 2021.

Witney Gazette: James Henry will leave Oxford United after seven years with the clubJames Henry will leave Oxford United after seven years with the club (Image: Mike Allen)

Bodin and Browne have also been fantastic servants to United, and provided more than their fair share of special moments.

Bodin’s return of 25 goals in 107 games is eye-catching for a player who was most often used out wide, or in a central attacking role.

And of course, his final goal in U’s colours was as majestic as his best displays for the club.

The 5-0 win at home to Peterborough United last month will live long in the memory of those who witnessed a truly remarkable display.

It was capped off with stoppage time approaching, when Bodin took Greg Leigh’s quick free kick down with his chest, and with his second touch rolled inside Ronnie Edwards, before then dinking an exquisite lob over Jed Steer in the Posh goal.

Browne had two electric loan stints, before finally becoming a permanent player on January deadline day in 2022.

His power and pace on the wing have got fans out of their seats on numerous occasions.

But football is brutal, and United must look forward as they prepare to take on the Championship.

Bodin, Browne and Henry have all experienced injury or fitness concerns of varying lengths this season, and Championship football will require as full a squad possible for every single game.

Their exits also free up important space on the wage bill, but they leave as club legends.

The fourth player to be released is Steve Seddon, but seeing as though he has spent the last season and a half out on loan, it comes as no surprise to see him depart.

Witney Gazette:

The U’s are in talks with out of contract trio Josh Murphy, Joe Bennett and Josh McEachran.

Murphy will no doubt be the one that United fans sweat over most, yet Bennett has been a revelation since arriving as a free agent in November. McEachran’s composure, experience and leadership will be important in the Championship.

It makes sense to trigger the one-year options in Marcus McGuane and 19-year-old Josh Johnson’s deals, as it does to keep Kyle Edwards around while he rehabilitates from a hamstring injury.