FOR many Oxford fans, the reality of the achievements of last season were going to take a long time to truly sink in, writes Matthew O’Donoghue of the Oxford United Supporters’ Panel.

Wembley was one of the most surreal football experiences many of us will ever have been through.

A comfortable victory on the biggest stage to return us to the Championship, which felt like the completion of a tumultuous 25-year cycle. The delirium of the parade was also like a dream.

The release of the fixtures is the final confirmation of what happened. Oxford United are now equals with some of the biggest names in English football and deservedly so.

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There are many different ways of looking at the fixture list. Being simplistic, Oxford will play every team home and away in a random order that has been assigned by a computer.

Most fans will be looking at the opening game, the last game of the season and games around the Christmas and Easter periods, alongside any birthdays or family events.

In the past, people would also look for the bigger games, against Swindon or Reading for example, but this year, every game feels like a big game.

The names that we have become accustomed to over eight years in League One have been replaced by a host of teams that we haven’t played for many years. Two-thirds of the teams Oxford will play this year have been in the Premier League since they fell out of the Football League in 2006.

Whilst all the games feel big and exciting, it is worth pointing out the fixtures around some key dates.

Oxford will open their campaign at home to Norwich City on Saturday, August 10. This will be an opportunity for Oxford fans to turn out in force and put on an atmosphere that will aid Des Buckingham and his team in what will be a tough test.

The festive period is fairly kind on the travelling front with home games against Cardiff on Boxing Day and Plymouth on December 29, before a trip to Millwall on New Year’s Day.

The games over Easter include welcoming Leeds United on Good Friday and a visit to Cardiff on Easter Monday.

The final home game of the season at the end of April will see a more familiar name in Sunderland visiting OX4, whilst the final game of the season is away at Swansea City on May 3.

Oxford United head to Swansea City on the final day of the seasonOxford United head to Swansea City on the final day of the season (Image: Steven Paston/ PA Wire)

Whilst most fans will be familiar with the names that Oxford will be playing next year, it is a journey into the relatively unknown.

However, Oxford will also be a relative unknown for many of the teams in the league too. I am certain that our tremendous management and background staff have already been analysing different teams and styles we will come up against.

As fans, I think we should all be prepared to enjoy the ride and shock a few people along the way. Life in the Championship has just become very real.