YOUNG players need to view the uncertainty over next season as an “unbelievable opportunity” to make an impact, according to the head of Oxford United’s academy.

At this stage it is unclear exactly how the coronavirus pandemic will affect football, but it could be months before crowds are allowed back into grounds.

That will have a big impact financially on clubs, with the general assumption being the industry as a whole will have to tighten their belts.

In that context, the door is likely to open for young players who may normally have had to be patient on the fringes of the first team.

Dan Harris, who oversees the U’s youth set-up, said: “Nobody saw this coming but we also have to recognise this isn’t a situation where we look at it as time lost.

“I would argue there’s never been a better time to be a young player than right now.

Also read: Meet Oxford United's nine new scholars

“We don’t know what the game’s going to be like and teams will have to be aware of that.

“Players at the start of their career are more cost effective and are going to have opportunities – if they are ready to play. It always comes back to are you good enough?”

He added: “Our job is to be a few steps ahead.

“The teams that position themselves most effectively for next season are the ones doing that planning now.”

United have announced their nine new scholars for the 2020/21 campaign, six of whom are from Oxfordshire.

Progress has been made in recent seasons, with eight past or present youth team players featuring for the first XI this season.

It included Shandon Baptiste, who was the model graduate by bursting on to the scene and being sold to Brentford in January for a seven-figure sum after 43 appearances.

And Harris is challenging those who have had their first taste of senior action, such as Kyran Lofthouse, Nico Jones and Slavi Spasov, to go on and seize the initiative by featuring more regularly.

He said: “At Oxford we have been building something over the last few years and we are at the point where we need to see a return on that.

“Those that excited us at 16 now need to take the next step.

“They have ticked off many milestones along the way.

“A lot have had exposure to men’s football and first team training.

“The next stage is to establish themselves and we need to have players who are consistently on the teamsheet.

“The older lads have to take that step and the young ones have to light a fire under that, that if you don’t take it I will.”