JOHN Mousinho is savouring every Oxford United appearance as he weighs up when to have the knee operation that could end his playing career.

At some point, the U’s club captain will go under the knife to fix the problem that kept him out for six weeks earlier this season.

Surgery is not urgent, meaning the 34-year-old can continue playing while learning the ropes on the touchline as part of Karl Robinson’s backroom staff.

The centre back replaced the injured Rob Atkinson early in the second half of Saturday’s draw at Blackpool and could be involved for tonight’s visit of Northampton Town.

Read also: Rob Atkinson doubtful for Oxford United's clash with Northampton Town

Mousinho will ensure he is ready if called upon, as the old football adage of playing every game like it is your last becomes truer than ever.

“It’s a reality from the age of 18 or 19, but it really hits home as you get older,” he said.

“I think it would have felt that way anyway, even if I hadn’t had the knee problem.

“I’m feeling a lot more involved on the other side of the game.

“I’ve always got one eye on preparing myself for the next stage of my career.

“It’s a tricky balance making sure it’s not to the detriment of your playing career, but I think I’ve been able to do that.”

Mousinho injured his right knee during the Carabao Cup second-round tie against Watford in September.

He returned as a late substitute in the 3-1 win over Rochdale on November 3, before completing 90 minutes against Walsall in the Papa John’s Trophy one week later.

The defender has continued to strengthen the knee in the gym since returning and is feeling the benefits.

He said: “Every time I go through a training session or a game I gain more confidence.

“Now I can honestly say I’m not thinking about it in games.

“It’s taken six weeks for me to get there and I’m just going to be building on it with the rehab.”

Karl Robinson: Oxford United put their bodies on the line at Blackpool

The veteran signed a new one-year deal in the summer, with an option of an extra season, but his outlook is realistic.

An operation would sideline Mousinho for nine months and while he still feels he can contribute he is in no rush.

He said: “That’s just going to be determined in terms of my career – how much I’m needed here, the state of the season and whatever I want to do long-term.

“I’ll be keeping an eye on things physically and making sure I’m not adversely affecting the side.

“As long as that holds up and there’s not too much pain it’s absolutely fine.

“I still feel like I’ve got value in terms of experience, whether it’s actually playing or being around the lads day to day.

“If the surgeon had said I need to get the surgery I would have done it, but he said I could easily carry on without it.

“The manager has faith in me to know my own body and know whenever I do step on the pitch I’m going to be fit and firing.”