JOHN Mousinho will be happy to take some stick as he eyes a playing return against one of his former sides.

Oxford United’s club captain could be part of the squad for tonight’s Carabao Cup first round fixture at Burton Albion (7.45pm), who he skippered to back-to-back promotions from Sky Bet League Two to the Sky Bet Championship.

It could be Mousinho’s first competitive game for the U’s since December 15, having undergone knee surgery in January.

The 35-year-old joined United in 2017 after three years at Burton and expects certain comments tonight.

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He said: “I’ve been back quite a few times and it was always a bit strange.

“Now it’s a lot more familiar going as an opposition player, rather than as an ex-Burton Albion player.

“You always get a bit of stick, because there are people that recognise you and you have a chat.

“All the lads getting off the bus like to remind you that you’re no longer a Burton player and that you’ve got to let it go.

“I was already getting the stick on Saturday.

“It’s probably because I’ve referenced the success we had there quite a lot.

“It’s always useful to do that, because it gives you an example of how you need to do things if you want to get promoted out of this league.”

Mousinho’s recovery from surgery allowed him to focus more on his coaching duties at United, while he was elected chair of the Professional Footballers’ Association in May.

The skipper was ever-present on the touchline in the second half of 2020/21, but admits there is no substitute for playing.

He said: “You take a different satisfaction from being on the coaching side and the fruits of your labour coming together.

“I don’t think you can replicate the buzz of playing, winning or scoring – it’s a cliché, but it’s true.

“It’s very difficult in the heat of battle to find anything else that comes close to that feeling.”

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Despite his vast experience, Mousinho is well-aware he performs a different role as a player.

He added: “Last season it was in a different capacity than I was used to, playing alongside the young lads in the cup games and trying to help them out.

“I think that does make a difference.

“If you have a senior pro who plays alongside a young lad you get more out of his game, especially on the non-physical side.”

Mousinho’s game has evolved since he made his debut in October 2005, playing for Brentford in an LDV Vans Trophy draw against – as it happens – United.

Now in his 17th season as a professional, the veteran can look back with pride.

He added: “When I started out at Brentford my sole ambition was to play one first-team game.

“I played against Dagenham in pre-season and thought I could always say I’ve done that.

“At the start I certainly wouldn’t have expected to still be going at this age and I’ve had a career I can look back on very fondly.”