PEP Clotet will keep his distance today when Oxford United begin their pre-season schedule in front of a bumper crowd at Court Place Farm.

With the Spaniard only a week into the role as U’s manager, he is taking a step back for the friendly against Oxford City in order to learn as much as possible about the players.

Assistant head coaches Derek Fazackerley and Chris Allen are taking charge, in what is the official opening of a ground revamped with a new 3G surface as part of a fresh partnership with the U’s.

Clotet believes a hands-off approach to begin with is the best approach, before getting more involved during next week’s training camp in Portugal.

He said: “My idea for the first game is to let the staff prepare for it and run it.

“I will take a point of seeing the players in action.

“I will be more on the outside because it is going to present a fantastic situation to see everyone.

“Obviously it is very early, but I want to see how the players are.”

It will be the first chance for supporters to see new signings Jon Obika, Fiacre Kelleher and Scott Shearer.

But the game comes too soon for centre back Aaron Martin, who is in the final stages of his recovery from a serious Achilles injury.

Midfielder Josh Ashby (knee) and goalkeeper Manny Agboola (finger) will also miss out, while Sam Long is a doubt, but the rest of the squad are likely to play some part.

Winger Rob Hall knows what to expect from the first game of pre-season.

He said: “The lungs burn a lot quicker than you think.

“The first 45 minutes are the longest 45 you think you’ll ever play.

“There are times where you might ask the ref ‘how long has gone?’ and when he says ‘ten minutes’ you are shocked.”

He added: “I’ve heard City have a good set-up with the new pitch and we’ll be the first ones to play on it.

“We’re there to win the game first of all and get our fitness levels up.”

l WITH a large crowd expected at Court Place Farm, supporters are encouraged to arrive early to ease congestion.