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Gillingham manager Steve Evans is looking forward to a strong League 1 next season

‘We’ll have to be stronger just to stand still,’ says Gills boss Steve Evans as next season in League 1 starts to take shape.

Some big-hitters such as Sunderland, Ipswich Town, Portsmouth and Peterborough United remain, along with Oxford United after their play-off final defeat.

Gillingham manager Steve Evans is looking forward to the challenge ahead Picture: Ady Kerry
Gillingham manager Steve Evans is looking forward to the challenge ahead Picture: Ady Kerry

Fleetwood Town also missed out in the play-offs while the likes of Barnsley, Hull, Charlton and Huddersfield are fighting to avoid relegation from the Championship. The bottom three will be known next week.

Evans said: “It’s the strongest it has been in a long, long time. There aren’t just one or two big clubs.

“The big true giant is Sunderland but you are still looking at some others who are a hell of a size. It is great and we look forward to building a team to compete with them, that’s for sure.

“I don’t get fear from it, I am looking forward to the challenge. I can remember when I got promoted at Rotherham from League 2 to League 1 and you suddenly look at the fixtures and it’s like wow and then we got to the Championship, like Gareth (Ainsworth, the Wycombe boss) will do, and you think where is my first point coming from!?

“But those are just names and you start playing. Football has never been won by names, it is won on the grass.

“League 1 is shaping up to be a fantastic competition and the way the season is going to be, it will be Saturday, Tuesday, Saturday, Tuesday and there will be thrills, spills and excitement and there will hopefully be supporters back and I am really looking forward to it.

“We have to be stronger just to stand still next season and we have to be even stronger if we want to break into that top six but we will be stronger and we have to make sure that when we put a player’s signature on a contract that he is going to play a meaningful part, that’s for sure.”

Wycombe won the play-off final at Wembley after beating Oxford United. Evans congratulated the winning manager Ainsworth the morning after.

“I am delighted for him and his players and we obviously send them our congratulations,” he said.

“When I was at Leeds United I played them in a friendly so they could pay their wages but they have different owners now, a bit of support. He certainly isn’t in the top eight or 10 budgets though is he?

"He is a great guy, I get on really well with him and his parents and they are immensely proud of their son. I am sure they were sat infront of their TV in tears.

“They were huge underdogs on the night and of course it leaves a very strong, big budget-spending team in League 1 in Oxford. It makes our task even tougher.”

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