JACK Stevens has signed a new contract, but is set to spend the rest of the season at Port Vale.
The Oxford United goalkeeper, who had two years left on his existing deal, has agreed fresh terms that keep him at the club until 2025.
It comes as Stevens joins Sky Bet League One newcomers Vale on loan for the 2022/23 campaign, although the U’s have the option to recall him in January.
The 25-year-old was handed United’s No 1 shirt in the summer but has not featured in the opening three games of the season.
Simon Eastwood started the first two League One matches, while new signing Ed McGinty made his debut in the Carabao Cup tie against Swansea City on Tuesday.
Stevens endured a difficult 2021/22, missing three months with Glandular fever, and head coach Karl Robinson wants the academy product to get regular minutes.
He said: “Jack has been an exceptional character.
“He was our No 1, then the glandular fever came along and it threw everyone here. I think everyone saw how difficult it was for us to take.
“In pre-season, him and Easty went toe-to-toe and Easty was magnificent in games and training. We went with Easty and he’s been brilliant so far this season.
“We’ve brought in Ed, who has an unbelievable future – I know he made the mistake (against Swansea), but we’re happy about that in a weird way because it’s only going to make him stronger.
“When you’re keeping Jack and Ed on the bench then none of them are moving forward.
“We’ll watch Jack every week and it’ll be about him pushing Easty and Ed from afar when it gets around to January.
“This is about making sure all of our goalkeepers are pushing each other.”
United host Port Vale on November 12, with the return fixture on April 10.
Stevens is the second player the U’s have loaned to Darrell Clarke’s side this year after Joel Cooper made the same switch in January.
The stopper’s breakthrough campaign came in 2020/21 after replacing Eastwood as United’s No 1 in December.
Stevens played 40 games and was named the club’s young player of the year, with his performances attracting interest from Premier League teams.
He signed a new three-year contract running until summer 2024 and started last season as first-choice goalkeeper, only to catch Glandular fever in October.
Stevens returned in January and played most of United’s matches up to the end of the campaign.
Port Vale were promoted last season after beating Mansfield Town in the Sky Bet League Two play-off final.