OWEN James is planning to spend his summer in the gym so he can hit the ground running when Oxford United return for pre-season.

The 17-year-old forward was handed his first-team debut as a late substitute on the final day of the season, as the U’s lost 2-1 at Blackburn Rovers.

It gave him a taste of the standards which are required to survive in the senior game – and he is planning on gaining as much ground as possible over the next few weeks.

James, from Finmere, near Buckingham, said: “It’s so much faster, with a higher intensity.

“They’re all so strong and you’ve got to be alert all the time. I just want to do it again.

“It’s been amazing to be around the team. They’ve really helped me.

“I’ll have a few days off and I’ll be in the gym working hard and out on the pitch running to keep my fitness up.

“I’m going to work hard to come back bigger and stronger so I can go again.

“I’ve got to show to the club that I can improve.”

Fellow youth team graduate Albie Hopkins, 18, was also named on the substitutes’ bench at Ewood Park.

Boss Karl Robinson has a reputation for developing young talent and will give them opportunities, if they are up to the task.

And the U’s manager stressed the ball is in their court.

He said: “Their job is to keep working hard and improving.

“We’ve got to make sure that they go away over the summer and then come back stronger and more effective players.”

Assistant head coach Derek Fazackerley felt there were few better occasions for the pair to join the squad for the first time than last weekend.

More than 27,000 fans were at Ewood Park to celebrate Blackburn’s promotion.

Fazackerley said: “For those two boys to have an opportunity to play in an atmosphere like that was tremendous for them.

“There aren’t too many grounds you come to at this level that you will gain that sort of experience.

“It’s something they should embrace and look forward to next season.”