MICHAEL Appleton believes Sky Bet League One will be even tougher next season, despite bookmakers tipping his Oxford United to deliver a challenge for promotion.

Blackpool were the final club to book their place in the third tier of English football, following victory in the League Two play-off final last weekend.

The U’s finished eighth in League One – their highest position at the end of a campaign since 1998/99.

While Appleton’s young squad have an extra year’s experience at this level, the head coach reckons the sides coming into the division are tougher overall than the ones promoted and relegated from League One this season.

He said: “I think it’s stronger, definitely.

“You look at the sides who have come down and Blackburn are an obvious one, but also the likes of Wigan, who last time they were in League One had the biggest budget by a mile.

“With Rotherham as well, you’d expect the three clubs coming down to be in and around the top six.

“Then you add the ones who have come up.

“Plymouth will be very competitive and probably looking to finish similar to us in the top half.

“Pompey will be right up there with one of the top budgets I’d imagine and Doncaster are a side that has vast experience and an owner who has backed the club well.”

Blackburn and Portsmouth are the early favourites to go up, but United are rated highly and are best priced at 9/2 for promotion with one bookmaker.

But Appleton also views threats from other sides, like his own, who will be looking to take another step forward after just missing out this season.

Appleton said: “Scunthorpe had a right go last season and from talking to people this time it looks like they will do so again.

“Bradford are well backed and surely Charlton and MK Dons will be there, so I think it will be more difficult than the season just gone.

“But, we’re a year wiser at this level and the players have got a bit of belief.

“They’ve had a year now of playing at this level and it should stand us in good stead.”

One thing is certain – the Yellow Army will be clocking up more miles next season.

The total distance from the Kassam Stadium to watch all the away games in the league is 6,252, an increase of 832 on this season.

At 43 miles, Milton Keynes Dons is now the closest fixture, while the 208-mile trip to Fleetwood Town’s Highbury is again the longest journey.


  • Blackburn Rovers    9/4
  • Portsmouth    11/4
  • Wigan Athletic    3/1
  • Bradford City    7/2
  • Oxford Utd    9/2
  • Charlton, MK Dons    5/1
  • Scunthorpe Utd    11/2
  • Bristol Rov, Peterborough    6/1
  • Southend Utd    13/2