JAMES Constable admits his playing career could be over – but he still hopes to return to football one day.

The Oxford United legend will not be back at Banbury United in 2021/22, having been a player and assistant coach to former teammate Andy Whing last season.

Constable recently started a job at an Oxfordshire-based water, sewage and treatment specialists and, with a young family, the former striker felt he could not dedicate enough time to The Puritans.

It means the 36-year-old’s last game was the Emirates FA Cup first round defeat to Canvey Island in November, with Banbury not playing again due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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United’s second-highest scorer of all-time is studying for a UEFA B Licence which could open the door to a coaching role in the future, but he is realistic about his prospects on the pitch.

He said: “Leaving Banbury was one of the hardest decisions I’ve had to make.

“I was passionate about building something with Whingy, but when you start working full-time it’s hard to balance that.

“Football’s all I’ve ever known, but I was losing a lot of family time and you can’t get that back.

“Having not played since November and taking a step back was probably a realisation that I’m at an age where this is it in terms of playing.

“It’s about getting your head around that – not just leaving Banbury, but finishing playing completely.”

Constable played for ten clubs over the course of more than 15 years and endeared himself to supporters during six seasons at United.

The forward struck 106 goals – one fewer than record scorer Graham Atkinson – in 280 games and helped the U’s win promotion back to the Football League in 2010.

Although he is happy in his new career, Constable is keen to work in football again – especially if United came calling.

He said: “If years down the line something comes up at Oxford I’d have a huge decision to make.

“I’d love to be involved in football in some capacity in the future, but at the present time I’ve got to pay the bills.

“The ultimate dream is to stay in football, so I’d love to be back at the club and be around the ground on matchdays.”

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He left for Eastleigh in 2014 and went on to play for Poole Town and Hungerford Town, before linking up with Whing again at Banbury.

A campaign scuppered by Covid meant Constable only made nine appearances, but it has also been a useful transition period.

He said: “It has broken me in slowly, because I’ve got used to seeing family at the weekends.

“We’ve had months and months of being locked down, but as soon as I finish work on a Friday I’m looking forward to doing stuff with the kids.

“In football, you’re not able to book holiday – my boss has to keep reminding me I can take days off.

“It’s been a bit of a blessing in getting used to not playing.

“It would be difficult to combine the two, but I’ll look back with fond memories.”