GARETH Ainsworth said it's vital he keeps Josh Scowen at Wycombe Wanderers for a very long time - but doesn't know when contract talks can begin.

The 20-year-old turned in a man of the match performance at Cheltenham in his first game back after serving a suspension, with team mate Jo Kuffour later hailing his influence on the team.

Kuffour and Ainsworth said it highlighted how important the midfielder is to Wanderers' fortunes, with the Blues boss saying he's keen to tie him down to a longer contract.

Scowen's deal runs out in the summer of 2015 but Ainsworth wants to keep him and several other promising youngsters at Adams Park beyond then.

He said: "As the manager I want to protect our assets - that's my job, to get the best out of them and protect the assets like the Scowens and the Ingrams.

"I've got Max [Kretzschmar] signed up and I'd love to get Anthony Stewart signed up again. All these young players, it's really important we get them on good solid contracts to protect the club. The longer contracts they have, the more they are worth. If people want them they have got to pay the right fees for them.

"They deserve it. We want to reward these kids because they have done fantastically for me."

But when asked if contract talks would start before the end of the season, the Wanderers boss admitted: "I have no idea on that - I'll leave it to the powers that be."

Striker Kuffour agreed Scowen - who won the player of the year award last season - had been sorely missed in his absence and said he was impressed with his performance in Tuesday night's draw with Cheltenham.

He said: "He does the role really well that Gaz asks him to do, sweeps up everything. He was key today.

"He's a massive influence on the team. He gets all over the pitch, he's very good at anticipating things.

"As you saw today, he's what we've been missing in the last two games."