DARRYL Eales intends to try and persuade Kemar Roofe to stay at Oxford United this summer but will not stand in his way if a move is right for the star.

The U’s chairman believes up to five Sky Bet Championship clubs are ready to make a formal approach for the forward this summer.

Roofe is hot property after firing 26 goals in his first full season of regular senior football.

The haul was crucial in United’s automatic promotion from League Two, but it was Roofe’s performances in cup competitions which may have put Championship clubs on alert.

In six games against higher-league opposition last season the 23-year-old scored seven goals, including a double against Premier League side Swansea City in the FA Cup.

With United’s promotion push on the line, Eales warned anyone interested in making a bid for Roofe in the January transfer window his instincts would be to reject £1million.

It has been quiet so far this summer, but given the rumoured level of interest, holding on to him for next season looks difficult.

The U’s owner said: “I hear beyond gossip there are four or five Championship sides in for Kemar.

“I’m trying to be realistic. I would love to keep him, but it’s not my decision – that has to be Kemar’s.

“What I would never do is stand in the way of a player’s career development.

“I think Kemar loves it here, but he wants to get to the top.

“The reality is if a club comes in and it’s right for Kemar and he wants to go, I will try to persuade him to stay but he has to look after his own career.”

While Roofe’s former club West Bromwich Albion are understood to have a significant sell-on clause which would reduce the fee recouped by United, if a move went ahead the windfall would be used to boost the playing budget.

Eales is also confident United’s recruitment department would keep the side on track.

He said: “If we’re good at what we do we have a consistent and continuing challenge because some of our players will be attractive to teams in a higher league and we can’t catch up quickly enough.

“It’s no good living in a Peter Pan world.

“We will deal with the hand we’ve got and the various contingencies around it, accepting football is a game with a transient population.”