WHEN Joe Deeney talks about planning to enjoy every minute of Oxford City’s trip to Notts County this weekend, it is not a hollow sporting cliché.

The non-league club’s run to the Emirates FA Cup second round has made plenty of headlines, but the story of their assistant manager’s return to the touchline is more remarkable.

In 2015, he was diagnosed with stage four Burkitt’s Lymphona, an aggressive form of blood cancer.

It shook Deeney’s world to the core.

The 33-year-old said: “I was in a very bad place. Initially my doctors didn’t foresee me making it. I was very sick.

“Thinking back to the time, there was not just the fear that I wouldn’t be involved in football again, but that I had the ultimate fight on my hands.

“I was a mixed martial arts fighter as well at the time, so I suppose I was quite tough, but it made me realise how vulnerable life can be.”

Deeney never felt sorry for himself, however. He was up for the battle, just as he has always done on a football field.

He said: “Having gone through it, I know there are a lot of people that don’t embrace it.

“But I never felt ‘why me’. I just wanted to fight it.

“It put a lot of things into perspective.”

Fortunately, Deeney made a full recovery and he remains hugely grateful to Luton Town, where he joined as a schoolboy and was working in the club’s academy when the illness struck.

Their support proved invaluable, but when old friend and Oxford City manager Mark Jones came calling 12 months ago to offer a job, it was time to end a 24-year stay with the Hatters.

The pair have since guided the Vanarama National League South side into the FA Cup second round – their shock win at Colchester United earlier this month equalling the club’s best run, set in the 1969/70 season.

While another Sky Bet League Two side awaits this weekend, the odds are stacked against lightning striking twice against a Notts County outfit flying high in the division.

Whatever happens, City’s should take inspiration from their assistant manager.

Deeney said: “You just want to make the most of every opportunity you get in life.

“Sitting down with my family and my girlfriend after my illness, you realise that you shouldn’t take opportunities for granted, you should embrace them and never have any regrets.”

He added: “In terms of coaching and management, this is the biggest game of my career by far.

“I think the key is to go there, embrace the occasion and enjoy every minute.”