KARL Robinson admits Oxford United will need a bigger transfer budget just to stay with their rivals next season.

The U’s head coach revealed he has been given more to spend for 2021/22, having fallen short at the Sky Bet League One play-offs in the last two campaigns.

United, who have already paid a fee for midfielder Marcus McGuane this summer, were the ‘ninth or tenth’ highest spenders in the division last season, according to Robinson.

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But with League One looking as competitive as ever, the U’s boss knows they may have to push the boat out just to stay in promotion contention.

He told BBC Oxford: “We’re going to spend more money next season.

“We have a transfer pot available which is brilliant, but we’re probably going to be in the same position in the (spending) league.

“We’re having to spend to stay anywhere near.

“There are teams in our league offering £10,000 a week for defenders and you’re thinking ‘this is ludicrous where this league is going’.

“We can’t get anywhere near this.”

Last season, United paid undisclosed fees for Joel Cooper, Sean Clare and Luke McNally, with the rest of their signings free transfers or loans.

They were working within the controversial salary cap, set at £2.5million for League One clubs, but the measure was scrapped in February.

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Although the U’s will not have to work within those guidelines next season, there are plenty of big-hitters who they will count as direct rivals.

Sunderland, Charlton Athletic and Ipswich Town are among those expected to challenge for promotion again, with the latter under new ownership.

Sheffield Wednesday, for all their tradition, are weighed down by financial troubles, but Bolton Wanderers could be a force after they went up from Sky Bet League Two.

Portsmouth are thought to be financially hamstrung by their high-earners, with Ryan Williams – heavily linked with a return to United – only offered reduced terms to stay at Fratton Park.