IT is the quietest time of the year for football reporters, especially when your club is not fortunate enough to be involved in the play-offs.

Even the transfer rumour mill is yet to fully get going, although it will probably not be long with the window opening next Friday.

It is a good job, then, that so many Oxford United youngsters have been away on international duty to help us through these slow news days.

READ MORE: Oisin Smyth called up by Northern Ireland Under 21s

In recent weeks, Ben Davis has won silver for Thailand at the Southeast Asian Games, James Golding has made his first Republic of Ireland Under 19s debut and Oisin Smyth has trained with Northern Ireland’s senior squad.

The latter turned 22 last month – although he is still playing for the Under 21s - and you would imagine he was selected based on the expectation that he will one day make the step up.

All three players will benefit from their experiences, especially as they approach an important time of year.

Pre-season and the early weeks of the new campaign opens the door for youngsters looking to push their way into the first team.

Oxford United’s brightest prospects will train with the senior squad this summer and get the chance to catch the eye in the friendlies that await us next month.

If they impress, the prize could be minutes in the early rounds of the Carabao Cup and Papa John’s Trophy group games.

It cannot stop there, though. You just need to look at last season, when Leon Chambers-Parillon started United’s first three cup matches but did not feature again for the club.

READ MORE: Leon Chambers-Parillon among four players released

The talented midfielder was released at the end of the campaign, with the U’s opting against triggering an extra year in his contract.

Ultimately, the Trophy is poor preparation for Sky Bet League One, so a good performance against Brentford B does not warrant a starting place the following Saturday.

But it is a two-way street and players need to be trusted.

United’s youngsters have been good enough to earn international recognition this summer, so the talent is there.

They must be given the opportunity to show what they can do, even though it would be unrealistic to expect them to play regularly in League One.

It is up to them to make their mark in pre-season and hopefully they will be rewarded.