SAM Long is looking to a bright future with Oxford United after signing a new two-year contract.

The defender is the squad’s longest-serving player, having joined the youth set-up aged eight.

It is more than seven years since he made his professional debut and the latest deal, replacing the one which expires at the end of the month, will take him to the verge of a testimonial.

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But it has been tough at times, especially with injuries, which have restricted Long to 81 games for United.

Two-thirds of those have come since the start of last season, though, giving the 25-year-old from Bicester a source of optimism.

He said: “Of course I’d like to play more than I have this year and I think I’ve improved a lot over the last two seasons under the gaffer.

“Hopefully next year I can kick on again and play more minutes.

“I just love being around the place, it’s my hometown as well and I enjoy living here.

“It’s a perfect fit.”

Boss Karl Robinson has handed Long more game time than his predecessors combined.

He said: “You know what you are getting with Sam.

“The fans can see it – he is one of the most whole-hearted and committed players around and a natural leader but he is also always willing to listen and learn.

“He is a winner and we love having him here, so it’s great news all round.”

Long played the majority of Monday’s friendly against Reading as United gear up for their play-off semi-final with Portsmouth next week.

The right back was also due to feature in their second game yesterday, but no details from the friendly game against Championship opposition have been released.

On the Reading game, Long said: “It’s not easy, especially when you’re up against a group of lads that are probably a little bit ahead of you in terms of fitness and being in a bit longer.

“I think we coped really well and moved the ball well.

“We were sloppy at times, but I think that’s to be expected.

“The main thing is we all got good minutes under our belts and we came out unscathed."