DES Buckingham’s return to the city of his birth was put to one side when Oxford United made the decision to appoint him as head coach.

The 38-year-old was named as Liam Manning’s replacement last week, drawing to a close a nine-day search for a new boss.

Initial conversations, although broadly informal, took place with applicants in the days following Manning’s exit to Sky Bet Championship side Bristol City, with more formalised interviews occurring last week.

U’s chairman Grant Ferguson returned to the UK from Malaysia, where he is based, to help lead the interview process alongside chief executive Tim Williams, head of recruitment Ed Waldron, and football advisor Derek Fazackerley.

READ ALSO: Des Buckingham on difficult decision to leave Mumbai and City Football Group

Ferguson told the Oxford Mail: “The recruitment process was essentially the process we ran only nine or 10 months ago, so it ran like clockwork.

“We didn’t cut any corners, we did the same process we did before and we were fortune to have a list of very good candidates again.

“It was never a slam dunk decision and I think it should never be a slam dunk decision, and we put everyone through their paces.

“Evidently when we’d done that, Des was the outstanding candidate for where we are as a football club.

“Quite honestly, we had to put the homecoming thing to one side, and we consciously did that so that we made a decision based on the merits of the person.

“When we look at the culture we’re developing in the club, the values we’re developing in the club, and when we set them alongside what we heard from Des when we spoke to him, and the personality fit, it was the obvious decision at the end of the process.”

Ferguson revealed that the club spoke to ‘four or five very strong candidates’ and it was after the final interview that those leading the head coach appointment knew they had found the right man in Buckingham.

Asked by this newspaper when he knew they would opt for the former Mumbai City head coach, Ferguson said: “He was always a strong candidate. I didn’t have any preconceived ideas. I knew of Des’ history with the club and was familiar with it.

“I genuinely looked at four or five very strong candidates, and didn’t have any hard or fast view until we finished the last interview.

“Once we’d done that, I think we all looked around the table and said ‘we know who the guy is’.”

Buckingham has been taking training at United this week ahead of his first game in charge, when the side make the trip to Cheltenham Town on Saturday.

The U’s are second in Sky Bet League One, a point behind leaders Portsmouth and ahead of third-placed Bolton Wanderers on goal difference.