Oxford United are still in shock that Mitchell Cole has been forced to retire from football at the age of 25.

News broke earlier this week that the winger’s heart condition was deteriorating.

And doctors broke the news to the former West Ham man that he should stop playing competitive football.

Cole has made just five appearances since joining the U’s from Stevenage in the summer.

Neither Cole nor manager Chris Wilder would comment, preferring instead to rely on a statement issued by the club.

But the feeling around Oxford United is one of sheer shock.

“The club had high hopes for Mitchell and he was an exciting summer signing,” said the statement.

“His early performances showed great promise in both training and matches, but from November onwards, he could never seem to get to full fitness.

“While both the club and player are seriously disappointed at this diagnosis, we are also relieved that his deterioration was identified prior to anything more serious happening.

“The club and Mitchell have been working closely with the PFA throughout this process and will come to an agreement in regard to the remainder of the contract in line with the FA guidelines in these matters.

“The club wishes Mitchell the best for the future and will support him fully through this transition.”

Meanwhile, Jack Midson gets the chance to impress boss Chris Wilder when he leads the Oxford United attack in Wednesday’s totesport.com Football Combination East Division clash with Ipswich at Didcot Town (7pm).

Midson is set to partner Alfie Potter and Aaron Woodley in attack as the U’s second string aim to stake claims for first-team places.

Simon Eastwood, Steve Kinniburgh, Jimmy Sangare, Laurence Gaughan, Josh Payne and Simon Heslop are also included in a strong-looking United team.