United’s head coach Michael Appleton explains to DAVID PRITCHARD why he was so confident of promotion.

“OVER 46 games I genuinely believe we’ll be delighted come the end of the season.”

Michael Appleton was in buoyant mood when we sat down during the pre-season tour to Austria and looked ahead to the following nine months.

Many people in his position do all they can to avoid being pinned down to a specific target, knowing it can quickly become a millstone if results do not live up to expectations.

Not Appleton, who despite a mixed first year in charge was happy not just to go on record to say an eighth place finish would be a failure, but also lay out how promotion would be achieved – by breaking the season into five-game blocks.

His confidence was well-placed, although even the U’s boss probably did not factor in achieving promotion alongside two lengthy cup runs.

The fact the post-season interview took place at the Town Hall after an open-top bus parade says it all.

“We have been planning this for two seasons,” the head coach said.

“It took the first season to change a lot of people’s thoughts.

“The club now has a philosophy and there’s a culture people want to be a part of.

“I won titles and promotions as a player, but as a manager it feels very different.

“It is very satisfying. To manage a club and gain promotion is one thing.

“But to do that on top of the run we had in the FA Cup and reaching a Wembley final in the JPT is extra special.

“The season has summed up the whole club – the supporters, staff, players, everybody – with the performances they have put in.”

One recurring theme from the campaign was how rarely the players got carried away after games.

Despite some memorable highs, and a couple of morale-sapping lows, the message has always been the same: our focus is on the next challenge.

They took their lead from Appleton, who steadfastly remained on an even keel throughout.

Even minutes after promotion was confirmed the U’s boss had regained his composure, although he certainly felt the emotion of what had been achieved.

He said: “I do have my moments when I’m away from people where I really do enjoy it when I’m with my family and friends.

“I probably do hold it back too much at times in the public eye, but I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing.

“I still feel what everyone else feels, I might just do it in a different place.”

Appleton has often paid tribute to the role of the U’s supporters and his players in the successful campaign, but there is one other group he feels deserve a share of the limelight – the backroom staff.

“They’ve played a massive role,” he said.

“A lot of times we did bounce back quickly from a defeat and I think that was due to having good, strong staff and obviously strong players.

“We were able to get over defeats pretty quickly, put it to bed and refocus for the next game.”

Planning for next season is already well on the way, but what has happened over the past 12 months should make it easier.

Appleton said: “All of a sudden agents are ringing us rather than us ringing them.

“I think we’ve put Oxford on the map, a lot of people talk about Oxford now and when they are talking about styles ours is one that keeps coming up.”

This story is part of today's 32-page supplement in the Oxford Mail reviewing Oxford United's promotion-winning season. To order a copy, call 01865 425262