PREPARATION is everything in professional football, but it is hard to imagine anyone with more foresight than John Mousinho.

The Oxford United skipper is set to reach 400 starts tomorrow in a career which also featured a brief loan spell at visitors Gillingham.

At 32, he is at an age where most players begin to look towards what they might do when they have to hang up their boots.

While the prospect of giving up something which has dictated the routine since they were teenagers can be an anxious time for many professionals, Mousinho is a man with a plan.

In fact, his post-retirement began to be mapped out more than a decade ago.

“I remember when I was a young lad at Brentford being told by some of the senior players to make sure I did my coaching badges early, because you don’t want to be doing them when you’re 31 or 32,” he said.

“It’s probably the best advice I ever got, to get them out of the way.

“I think if I was trying to get qualified now it would be a different task.

“It would be a bit daunting because they are so time-consuming.”

Mousinho listened and when he was 20 began a path which he hopes will one day take him into management.

He completed the UEFA A Licence five years ago, which means he is qualified to take a No 1 job at any club below the Premier League.

The former Burton and Preston man is in no rush to curtail his playing days, which began with an LDV Vans defeat to the U’s on penalties while at Brentford in 2005.

But anyone who has spent time with the Londoner will not be surprised about his chosen direction.

More articulate than most players, it is no coincidence he is usually the one picked to handle post-match media duties after difficult results.

He said: “It’s always appealed to me from the moment I turned professional.

“It’s something I definitely want to go into and I’ve developed a passion for it as I’ve gone through the game and seen how managers do it.

“I’ve seen what’s successful and what’s not so successful.

“I’m still a player so I’m keeping focused on that, but at the same time I realise I’m coming towards the end of my career.

“It’s a really attractive option for me and I think that’s what I’d like to do long term.”

U’s boss Karl Robinson recently described Mousinho as being like a manager for him on the pitch.

And there is unlikely to be anyone in the squad with a better understanding of what is required.

“It fascinates me,” Mousinho said.

“It’s an incredibly tough job and I think anyone can appreciate how difficult it is and how many things managers have to deal with.

“It’s a slightly tricky balance between having an eye on the transition and making sure everything is ticked off when you’re playing.

“I’m just making sure first and foremost I’m a player, but at the same time learning about the other side and asking coaches can really help with the playing side as well.

“It can be difficult to get a message on to the pitch, you don’t appreciate it as a player until you try to do it as a coach.”