CHRIS Allen is thrilled at being given the chance to work with Oxford United’s first team after a 12-year apprenticeship coaching the younger age groups.

The former U’s winger stepped up to become first-team coach earlier this month, replacing Mickey Lewis.

Allen played a big role in putting on training sessions during the training camp in Austria this week and is relishing the opportunity.

He said: “I’ve been like a kid in a sweet shop from day one.

“At the youth team level I was approaching sessions to prepare players for the first team and I’ve got ambitions to go as high as I can, so it’s a good fit.

“I’m really enjoying working with professional footballers.

“It was great working with the youth team, I love making people better on and off the field.

“Hopefully, I’ll have that chance with the pros as well.

“I’ve got a load of enthusiasm for it and I just want to add some value.”

It has been a long wait for the 42-year-old, who was appointed youth team coach in 2010 when the U’s returned to the Football League.

That came after seven years working in the academy, but Allen thinks the path has been beneficial.

“It’s good because I’ve driven the buses, I’ve sorted out the kit,” he said.

“It’s just like when I was a YTS player and you do all the stuff that grounds you. It’s helped me.

“The staff have made me feel welcome.

“I know most of the players having worked with the young lads and seeing the older professionals around the camp anyway.”

Although Allen has always had aspirations to move into coaching professionals, ideally at United, the departure of Lewis and the resulting promotion took him by surprise.

He said: “It came out of the blue.

“I wanted to kick on, but I was patient.

“As things happen in football, in the space of a day it changed, I knew nothing about it.

“Mickey has done a fantastic job, I love him.

“He looked after me as a player, even to the point where as a young player I couldn’t get furniture for my place and he helped me out.

“He probably won’t remember that, but that’s the type of guy he is.”