OXFORD United hard man Andy Whing says the U’s will relish the tough opening fixtures to next season.

And that is because they proved 12 months ago that they are capable of beating the fancied teams.

After a home Capital One Cup tie against Bournemouth on Tuesday, August 14, United travel to Bristol Rovers for their npower League Two opener four days later.

They are then at home to Southend, who made last season’s play-offs, and Plymouth, whose money troubles are behind them, before a tough September schedule, which sees them on the road in four of their six matches.

However, United’s opening fixtures last season were just as tough, and Chris Wilder’s men picked up seven points from their first four games, which included matches against Shrewsbury and Swindon – both of whom won automatic promotion.

Whing says that with the majority of the same squad still involved, they are confident of a repeat performance.

“It’s a tough start, but that’s the way it looked last season and we did well,” he said.

“We beat Shrewsbury and Swindon early on and they ended up as the top two. We know it’s important to hit the ground running and start well.”

Whing says that although he and the rest of squad have enjoyed some time off, they know that they still have to keep in shape with the start of pre-season just around the corner.

He added: “We have worked hard over the summer.

“We were still coming in for two weeks after the season ended, doing some fitness and gym work, and were given a programme to stick to over the summer.

“I think times have changed for footballers.

“In the old days they would be off for longer and then know they were in for a hard slog when they came back, especially if they were carrying a bit of timber.

“But nowadays you know you have to keep working through the summer and it is to your own benefit to come back fit and ready to go.”

l SCOTT Rendell, on loan at United last season, and Jon Shaw, a potential transfer target, have both signed for Blue Square Conference side Luton.