JOHN Mousinho is ready to make a playing contribution again after fearing the worst the last time he stepped off a football pitch.

Oxford United’s captain signed a new two-year contract yesterday, committing him to the club until summer 2023.

Mousinho is already 35 and played just nine matches last season due to a longstanding knee issue, which required surgery in January.

The centre back’s final appearance of the campaign came against Northampton Town on December 15, when he was substituted at half-time after receiving treatment for the injury earlier in the game.

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Mousinho was already managing a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and admitted the worry he might not play again crossed his mind.

He said: “The major doubting point was when I re-injured the knee against Northampton.

“I came off at half-time and I knew I needed surgery.

“The scan came back and thankfully I hadn’t done any extra damage.

“I’d already torn my ACL, but I’d been playing with that for three months.

“I know it sounds a bit flippant, but I ‘just’ had a torn ACL and that was a real positive.

“The surgery was fairly straightforward.

“At that point I wasn’t entirely sure how I’d come back, it’s very difficult to know how your body’s going to react.

“I was playing it week-by-week and when it came to March or April and I was back out on the grass, it became more apparent that physically I felt fine and I was well capable.

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“I’m still keeping an eye on that and I wouldn’t have come into this contract without having a good idea that I’d be able to come back and play at a high level.

“That’s important to me, I don’t just want to slog it out for the sake of it – I want to compete at the top end of League One.”

Mousinho’s rehab has seen him spend plenty of time at United’s training ground already this summer, even before the rest of the squad returned for pre-season last week.

It was a rare new experience for the veteran, who has made more than 500 appearances in his 16-year playing career – including 132 for the U’s.

A respected figure, he became chair of the Professional Footballers’ Association in April and continues to gain experience as part of Karl Robinson’s coaching staff.

Mousinho was in charge of set-pieces last season, which led to 20 United goals, and he confirmed he will do the same in the coming campaign.

“It’s quite fluid and adaptable and I can be that link between the players and the staff,” he said.

“At the very minimum I’ll keep doing that and build on the success we had with set-pieces last season.”