FORMER Oxford United defender Darren Purse has stepped up to lead the club's Under 19s.

The 44-year-old has become the U's lead PDP coach after coaching the Under 16s last season and will work alongside another ex-player, winger Chris Hackett.

There are two more new faces in the academy, with Sam Coleman becoming head of medical following spells with clubs in the UK and the Indian Premier League.

Tiarnan Abrahams, a graduate from United's part-time programme, also joins the medical team.

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Purse has experience with some of next season's Under 19s in the younger age group and is excited to help continue their development.

He told the club's official website: “I’ve loved working with the younger age groups in the academy and the chance to come in full time and have that buzz of working at the training ground every day was something I really wanted to do.

“The club has such a great tradition of bringing young players through into the first team and for me it is a natural progression to be working with the 19s.

"I have worked with them at some stage already and hopefully can help push them on again over the next couple of years.”

Purse made 72 appearances for United in the late 1990s, before his career included spells with Birmingham City and West Bromwich Albion in the Premier League after the turn of the century.

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His experience on the pitch commands plenty of respect from the players he coaches, according to academy manager Dan Harris.

He added: “Darren had a fantastic playing career after making his name at the U’s but has also shown his commitment and dedication to his coaching having worked with our Under 16s on a part-time basis over the last three seasons.

“Darren has been outstanding with the younger age groups and, like Chris Hackett, is someone all of our players look up to.

"Again, it’s a natural progression, working with the scholars and players he has worked with in recent seasons.

“We have some very exciting players coming through at all ages and know that in Chris and Darren there are coaches with over 1,000 senior appearances between them but, more importantly real high-character individuals who will be fantastic mentors for our young players.”