JOE Skarz is treating his own position at Oxford United as vulnerable and intends to use the run-in as a trial to impress head coach Michael Appleton – whether he plays or not.
The U’s are out of the race for the play-offs in Sky Bet League One, but the left back believes there is still a lot at stake in the final four games.
Their Good Friday fixture is at high-flying Bradford City, before hosting struggling Port Vale on Monday.
Appleton has made it clear the final few games will be used to experiment with selection as he looks ahead to next season.
Skarz’s contract still has 12 months to run, but after starting only ten of 25 games in 2017, he is taking nothing for granted.
He said: “I’ve got four games to try to put positive thoughts in the manager’s head, whatever team he selects.
“I will always be working hard and supporting the lads whether I’m in the team or not.
“That’s just me and I think it’s vitally important.
“I always think I’m vulnerable and put pressure on myself to perform.
“I’ve said before I’ve not played as many games as I’ve wanted, so you do think (the place in the squad is vulnerable).
“Anyone can be bubbly around the place when they’re in the team and things are going well, but I think you find out players’ true characters when they’re out of the team and it’s not going so well.”
He added: “I think it’s stood me in good stead.
“If I don’t play on a Saturday I’ll be in the gym in the evening, no matter how late I get home – there’s a 24-hour gym near me, that’s why I go there.
“I think if I don’t do anything I’ve let myself down. To be honest, most of the lads here are like that.”
United have beaten Bradford at the Kassam Stadium in League One and the Checkatrade Trophy this season.
But there was only a goal in it on both occasions and Skarz rates the Bantams highly.
He said: “Twice they’ve come here and looked a really solid team who like to pass the ball about and on another day the results could have been different.
“There will be a really good atmosphere like it always is at Bradford, so it’s one we’re looking forward to.”
Ryan Ledson (shoulder), Rob Hall (hamstring) and Toni Martinez (knee) are injury doubts, while Bradford are without winger Alex Gillead (hamstring).
Bradford City: Doyle, McMahon, McArdle, Knight-Percival, Meredith, Cullen, Vincelot, Law, Marshall, Wyke, Hiwula, Jones, Clarke, Devine, Dieng, Toner, Darby, Sattelmaier.
Oxford Utd: from Eastwood, Carroll, Nelson, Raglan, Skarz, Maguire, Lundstram, Ruffels, Rothwell, McAleny, Johnson, Hemmings, Martinez, Ledson, Dunkley, Edwards, Ribeiro, Long, Stevens.