BRIAN SCIARETTA - Friday, August 5, 2011
As the League Two season gets ready to kick off this weekend, American forward John-Paul Pitman has joined Oxford United and will look to lead to the team to a strong season.
Pittman, 24, parted ways with Wycombe Wanders last season after spending two and a half seasons with the club. In his last season, he helped the team earn promotion to League One and he leaves the club with a total 77 appearances and 14 goals.
Now back in League Two with Oxford, Pittman is excited for the season to begin and he wants to make a solid impact right from the start.
"I haven't come to Oxford to be a bench-warmer," Pittman told YA from England. "I had enough of that at Wycombe. My main aim is to establish the wide attacking areas as my own. To the point where fans and even my team mates just 'expect' me to be starting there."
"It's going to take a great deal of consistency in my performances to ensure that; because competition for places is high here. But I believe in myself. The main factors of my game are goals and assists, and they are what I'll ultimately be judged on."
Last season, Pittman suffered a knee injury early in the season and did not see much time in the starting lineup for Wycombe. He started six games and came off the bench 13 times. In the 19 games, he ended up scoring four goals.
Even though Pittman suffered the injury, he is skeptical that it played much anyway.
"Obviously injuries always stifle a player's career certainly in the short term," Pittman discussed. "It might sound strange but from my perspective, even if I had not suffered the knee injury at the start of the season, I probably wouldn't have featured much that season anyway! My reckoning is that if your face doesn't fit for whatever reason then you're always going to struggle to get game time."
Pittman left Wycombe with bitter feelings after being relegated to the bench. To the Oklahoma City native, his reduced role on the team could not have been justified when looking at his performance on the field.
"As well as being leading scorer, I was one of the better performers during pre-season," Pittman explained. "However, I was left on the bench for the season opener. So if teams were picked on merit then I'd be starting. But the club's new strikers played instead which makes me think it's more down to politics - I came off the bench and scored anyway. I don't think the injury can be held solely responsible for my lack of game time. My time was just up at Wycombe all together."
Pittman has seen his career take him up and down within the lower levels of English Soccer. He has played in Conference as well as League One and League Two.
Even though he is now on League Two team, he has for more enjoyed his time in League One where he last played in the 2009/10 with a Wycombe team that was relegated that year. The difference for his is the vast difference in quality of play.
"I must say I enjoyed and preferred League One even in a struggling Wycombe side," Pittman admitted. "Which I think speaks volumes about the quality the league possesses. League Two is a pacy league and the play is at a high intensity. I think however that it can often become frantic simply due to the fact that the players overall are probably lacking in the technique and guile needed to play higher."
Over the years, Pittman feels strongly that he has become a smarter player. For him it has been a combination of playing the English game at many different levels but also studying the game from a coaching perspective.
Last year Pittman obtained a B coaching license and has worked hard teaching other players when his away from his club. While training to become a coach after his career, his coaching training has helped advance his own game as well.
"I felt a massive leap in game understanding in May last year which I attribute to my two week intensive course while gaining my UEFA B coaching badge," Pittman affirmed. "I spent scrupulous hours going over every aspect of the game with players. It made me see things differently. Playing games is the way to get better, but that has been limited for me. I had to become a student of the game."
As for the season ahead, Pittman is excited to lead Oxford in their push for promotion to League One.
An added bonus for Pittman will be the opportunity to face Crawly Town who were promoted out of Conference to League Two last season. From 2007 to 2009, Pittman was a star player for Crawley Town before being sold to Wycombe.
On November 19, Oxford will travel to Crawley and Pittman is excited to face his old team again.
"I'm looking forward to wowing the Crawley fans with a display that shows I'm progressing as a young man and as a footballer," Pittman concluded. "I hope they show me their appreciation for my time there. But if they don't - ah well."