SEASONED Conference campaigner Jon Challinor has revealed he is “so excited” about the prospect of making his Football League debut at the age of 31.

Challinor has played for ten different teams in the highest echelon of non-League football, racking up almost 400 appearances since starting out as an apprentice with Rushden & Diamonds.

In the past, he has had to look on in envy as former clubs Aldershot and Exeter have gone on to gain promotion without him but, after playing an integral part in York City’s Blue Square Bet Premier play-off final winning campaign, the Northampton-born utility man is relishing the challenge of League Two football and has aspirations to play even higher.

He said: “It’s my first pre-season, let alone season, as a Football League player and I’m so excited. It’s been a long time coming so I’m going to embrace it and enjoy every minute.

“I think almost every team I have played for has gone on to reach the League so to finally achieve it is a dream come true but it doesn’t end there. We want to emulate the likes of Stevenage, Exeter and Crawley and go up another level.

“It was the worst thing to happen to the club when it got relegated out of the League all those years ago so, first of all, we want to stay up but, with the style of football we play, I see no reason why we cannot push on.”

Challinor had previously been a member of two Conference play-off final losing teams at Exeter and Cambridge so, when City boss Gary Mills offered him the opportunity to sign a new one-year contract this month, he put pen to paper with no hesitation.

“After what we achieved last season, you want to continue being a part of that,” Challinor said. “The club has given me the opportunity to finally play in the League and I was delighted to sign for another year.

“There was some interest from other clubs but the chance to play in the League has always been my number one goal so there was no point in discussing anything with anybody else. I just sat tight and waited for the offer to come in, which it did.”

Challinor also admitted that he has been impressed with the quality of Mills’ new recruits over the close season.

He became familiar with left-winger Michael Coulson’s talents during two league victories over Grimsby Town, where the latter plied his trade last term and, while Challinor joked about winning their individual contests, is well aware that his new team-mate is a “tricky customer”.

On the club’s summer signings, he said: “Everything seems to be going in the right direction. We have added a lot of attacking flair and we had a good defensive base last season so they can help us push on.

“Oli Johnson comes from Oxford with a pedigree for scoring goals and we have signed two of the best players in the Conference in John McReady and Michael Coulson. Some people said I had Michael Coulson in my pocket when we played Grimsby last season but I remember him.

“He flitted from wing to wing and I remember him running at me a few times. He’s a tricky customer, who I’m glad to have in our team.”

Converted succesfully into a full back by Mills, having operated mainly as a midfielder during his career, Challinor added that he will be just as comfortable in either position during 2012/13.

“The gaffer put me right back and I thought I did an okay job,” he said.

“It’s another string to my bow and, if he chooses to play me there, I’m happy to do so but I can play in midfield as well and, hopefully, that will benefit the squad.”

• Oxford United have signed Brighton midfielder Jake Forster-Caskey on loan until January, while former Burton striker Greg Pearson has moved to Grimsby.