CHRIS Hackett has been promoted to become joint coach of Oxford United’s youth team.

It marks a return to the under 18 set-up almost two decades since he was in the side learning the ropes as an apprentice.

The former Oxfordshire sprint champion, who went on to make almost 150 appearances for United, finished playing in 2016.

He quickly rejoined the club in a part-time capacity to work with United’s under 15 squad while doing his coaching badges.

And now Hackett fills the vacancy created in September, when Andy Whing left to join Kidderminster Harriers.

The 34-year-old is thrilled to start working alongside Leon Blackmore Such with the aim of bringing through the next generation of talent into the first team.

“I couldn’t be happier,” he said.

“I’ve enjoyed working with the under 15s and it was hard to tell them this week I was stepping up to the youth team, but it is such an exciting opportunity.

“I can’t wait to work with Leon and everyone connected with the under 18s.

“I have seen the scholars this year and they are a great group, so if I can pass on some of my experience and ideas and help them become even better players then that would be fantastic.”

Les Taylor, United’s academy manager, has paid close attention to Hackett’s progress and had no doubt he was the best person for the job.

He said: “We have been looking for someone ever since the departure of Andy Whing and we held a thorough series of interviews and there were some outstanding candidates.

“Chris was the outstanding one and we are pleased he will be joining us full-time.

“He has such a passion for this club and is an outstanding young coach and with him and Leon as a management team we know that the scholars are in extremely good hands.”

Hackett said: “I want to thank the club for having such faith in me – Darryl (Eales, chairman), Les and the coaches behind the scene.

“Now I can’t wait to get started.”

The appointment comes at a big moment in the season for the under 18 squad, who are in action tomorrow night.

They host Dagenham & Redbridge at Court Place Farm in a rearranged FA Youth Cup tie (7).

The winners of the third round clash will visit Ipswich Town in the next round.