Karl Robinson hopes Oxford can make Wednesday’s Carabao Cup quarter-final against Manchester City a fitting tribute to the club’s “greatest ever manager”.
Jim Smith, who died on December 10 aged 79, guided the U’s to the top flight for the first time in their history by winning successive promotions in 1984 and 1985.
He will feature on the front of the match programme for the cup tie, with a minute’s applause scheduled ahead of kick-off.
Current Oxford boss Robinson is brimming with admiration for a man he believes “put this football club on the map” and is eager for the visit of Pep Guardiola’s Premier League champions to be a suitably memorable occasion.
“The one thing about this game on Wednesday, it gives us an opportunity to pay our respects to Jim and what he achieved,” Robinson told the PA news agency.
“He put this football club on the map really, with tremendous humility and respect and love and passion for this game that we all love.
“And I think that’s something we are trying to put back in
“No manager will ever be him; he will stand alone as the greatest manager this club’s ever had, probably forever because of what he achieved.
“We’re all mere mortals and we’re all trying to aspire to just five or 10 per cent of what he achieved.”
After winning the old Third and Second Division titles, Smith left the Manor Ground in 1985 to take charge of QPR and went on to have spells at Newcastle, Portsmouth and Derby before returning to Oxford at the end of his career.
United’s success continued following his initial departure and they won the League Cup – then known as the Milk Cup – by beating Smith’s Rangers side 3-0 in the 1986 final at Wembley.
Former MK Dons and Charlton manager Robinson, who was appointed by the U’s in March 2018, regularly hears tales of Smith’s distinguished first tenure.
“Stories of what he did when has was here, trust me, still reverberate around this building,” said the 39-year-old.
“He didn’t change – people say – from the man that stood in front of the camera, to the man that stood on the touchline, to the man that would have a drink with you.
“He just seemed to be that type of person that everybody liked and everybody gravitated towards and players wanted to play for.
“And everywhere he went he was successful and left some sort of happy legacy on that football club.
“It will be a wonderful evening, and we just hope we can show our respects in the right way.”
In-form Oxford sit eighth in Sky Bet League One following an 18-match unbeaten streak in all competitions which was ended by Saturday’s 1-0 loss at MK Dons.
That impressive run of form included a 4-0 thrashing of West Ham in round three.
Robinson, whose preparations are severely hampered by a series of injuries, added: “The players seem happy and excited for the challenge in front of them.
“Also we know how hard it’s going to be and we’ve got to make sure that we try and approach it in a positive manner.”
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