Michael Appleton says Simon Gillett is not a transfer target despite the midfielder being spotted watching Oxford United this week.

The 28-year-old was among the crowd as the U’s won 1-0 at Oxford City on Tuesday night.

It sparked speculation Gillett, who is a free agent after being released by Nottingham Forest in May, was close to joining.

Appleton tried to sign him for Portsmouth, but as it stands the former Southampton trainee is not on his radar.

Instead, the U’s head coach felt there was a more logical explanation for Gillett’s presence at Court Place Farm.

He said: “As far as I’m aware he’s an Oxford boy, so I don’t think that was too much of a surprise.

“Simon’s obviously a very good player, I know he’s out of contract, but he’s spent most of his career playing in the Championship.

“At the end of the day I’d never turn down the opportunity to speak to a good player.

“If he hasn’t got a club in two or three weeks’ time maybe that’s a conversation to be had, but at the minute I think he’s just an Oxford boy who wanted to watch a game of football.”

Appleton knows several additions to the squad are needed before the season kicks off three weeks today.

So far only Michael Collins has arrived, but several other deals are getting closer.

The U’s head coach was appointed a fortnight ago as part of a shake-up which saw Darryl Eales invest in the club and become the new chairman.

It has led to a deluge of calls from agents, but Appleton insists while there is some money to spend, it does not mean they will pay over the odds.

He said: “The key is there’s been a takeover and a change in personnel, so if you’re an agent or a player the first thing they think is ‘they must have money’.

“This is different, we are here for the long-term and this is an opportunity to take a football club with a fantastic tradition and great values and, hopefully over a period of time, be very successful.

“But if you do try and spend money too quickly I think it’s self-explanatory what happens – at some point it explodes.

“We have to make sure we’re getting the message out that we want to be successful.

“If players want to join that, then great, but they’re going to have to do that under a structure and a budget we have to adhere to.”