JOSH Ruffels admits he still has to pinch himself to ensure his footballing dream is really happening.

The midfielder, who turns 24 on Monday, grew up watching Oxford United play at the Manor Ground.

And yesterday he signed a new long-term deal that, if seen through, would complete eight years as a professional at the club.

Ruffels is already United’s longest-serving player, something he admits is difficult to grasp considering his age.

“Yes, that’s pretty strange,” he said. “I have certainly seen a lot of players come and go, but it’s quite an honour and I am very proud of it.”

He added: “As a home-grown player, my family all come and watch the games so it’s great to have that support.

“I was a fan when I was younger watching Oxford at the Manor and you never think it’s going to happen to you.

“It’s a nice feeling to be in this position now. I’ve worked really hard for it.

“It’s been a long journey, but I’ve always tried to grasp every opportunity.”

Ruffels agreed a new contract with United only in February, but both boss Pep Clotet and chairman Darryl Eales spoke recently about offering several players fresh terms.

And the Kidlington man is the first to sign, committing to the club on a contract that runs until the the end of the 2019/20 season, with a further one-year option available.

“Signing a deal like this means you can focus solely on your football,” he said.

“For the gaffer to come up to me so early, offer a deal and get it done is a really good feeling.

“Hopefully I can repay him with my performances.”

Ruffels admits his longevity has been the subject of much mickey-taking on the training ground – with some players already mentioning a possible testimonial match.

“A few of the lads have been giving me banter about that,” he laughed.

“I’ve got a few years before that can happen though.”

Ruffels will be hoping to retain his place in United’s starting line-up for today’s home clash with high-flying Rotherham in Sky Bet League One.

Sixth-placed Oxford have Joe Rothwell back after suspension.

Influential midfielder Darren Potter is a doubt for the visitors (heel), but Lee Frecklington is expected to return in the middle of the park after a back problem.


Oxford Utd: from Eastwood, Ribeiro, Nelson, Mousinho, Ricardinho, Henry, Ledson, Ruffels, Mowatt, Payne, Thomas, Obika, Roberts, Hall, Xemi, Carroll, Martin, Willliamson, Shearer.

Rotherham Utd: from Rodak, Cummings, Ihiekwe, Ajayi, Mattock, Williams, Vaulks, Towell, Forde, Ball, Moore, Emmanuel, Clarke-Harris, Yates, Newell, Wiles, Wood, O’Donnell, Potter, Frecklington.