After almost 500 career appearances few things intimidate Michael Duberry, but next Thursday the Oxford United defender will face one of the most nerve-racking experiences of his career.

The U’s fans’ favourite is due for an operation to fix a prolapsed disc in his neck, after less invasive treatment this summer failed.

Duberry woke up shortly after the end of the season with pins and needles down his left arm - the symptom of a neck injury which is a legacy of almost 20 years as a professional.

It was hoped anti-inflammatory injections would cure the problem, but they had litte impact.

The 36-year-old is extremely wary of having surgery, but for him the risks involved are outweighed by the fact without it the arm would only get worse.

“For life in general I need it done, that in itself sways me towards the operation and sooner rather than later,” he said.

“But it’s just the thought of the other stuff, anyone having an operation knows there are risks and where they’re going in there’s also dangers.

“I’ll be 37 in October and I’d like to walk away (from football) with all my faculties in place.

“So there are pros and cons as to why, but the fact of the matter is I need it for my arm.

“I could walk around for the rest of my life and have a strong right arm and a deteriorating weak arm with pins and needles in my hands all the time.

“But it’s been going on too long, so maybe I’m swaying towards it, but I’m not 100 per cent certain.”

The former Chelsea and Leeds centre back cut a forlorn figure on United’s pre-season tour to the United States.

Duberry is proud of the way he has looked after himself to keep playing into his mid-30s, but as it stands he is only able to do limited gym work.

He said: “At the moment I can’t do a press-up, it’s not a nice feeling because you get used to doing certain things with your body and now you can’t.”

After the operation Duberry faces around 10 weeks of rehabilitation before he can begin light training.

Even if everything goes perfectly he is unlikely to return before Christmas.

For someone who openly admits to hating rehab training, plus the chance of a relapse, there is the possibility that with less than 12 months left on his United contract, he hangs up his boots altogether.

Duberry is reluctant to look too far ahead, but admitted retirement had crossed his mind this summer before it became clear an operation was needed to maintain his quality of life.

He said: “Talking openly, the shout of retirement was on the cards rather than someone opening up my neck and that’s how serious it was for me.

“I thought ‘you know what, I’d rather retire than have someone go in and cut my neck and risk being paralysed’.

“That thought process has kind of changed a bit, but the fears are still there.”