OXFORD United boss Michael Appleton says the club have opened talks with John Lundstram about a new long-term deal.

The U’s captain has been an influential figure since joining in the summer of 2015 following his release from Everton.

The 23-year-old signed a two-year deal with United, but an extra year was triggered when he made 35 appearances this season.

However, Appleton says although he is delighted his skipper – who took over the armband from Jake Wright last summer – will be at the club for a further 12 months, he is hoping to keep him for a lot longer.

“John’s been a massive part of everything,” the head coach said.

“At the start of the season Lunny wasn’t hitting the heights he had the season before, and some pointed to the captaincy.

“Whether that was an issue I’m not too sure. I think it’s easy to look for excuses, but it just took him a while to get going.

“As a captain and player he’s been exceptional.

“We have had conversations with him and his representatives because we want that to be more than just next season.

“Hopefully we can be successful with that.

“If we aren’t, then we have got him for one more season. But the reality is he has got value because he is a top player.

“We want to extend it and be as loyal to him as he has been to us.”

Lundstram started 42 games in United’s promotion-winning campaign last year and is set to take his place in United’s first XI for the 51st time this season United’s final Sky Bet League One game at home to Shrewsbury Town tommorrow.

The midfielder is delighted with the continued progress made by the club.

“I would say I have grown as a player and a captain this season,” he said.

“I have played in League One before but taking the captaincy at such a young age I was taking a lot on board.

“There was a lot of expectation from the fans, from my family and most importantly, from myself.

“I didn’t get off to the start I wanted, but I think since the gaffer left me out at Shrewsbury I have been back to my old self and think I am playing as well as I know I can.”

He added: “The option (on my contract) activated after 35 games and I just want to go again.

“I am so determined to take this team up and whatever happens I think we’ll go close next season.”