SEAMUS Conneely has revealed how Accrington Stanley boss John Coleman has challenged his team to join the 2018 League Two promotion pack in the Championship next season.

When the Reds leapt out of Football League's bottom tier as champions over two years ago, they were joined by runners up Luton Town, third placed Wycombe Wanderers and Coventry City via the play-offs.

Luton went on to lift the title to secure back-to-back promotion the following term, while last season's play-off winners Wycombe joined champions Coventry in making the step up to the second tier within two years of promotion from the basement division.

And while Conneely concedes it will be a "big ask" for a club the size of Accrington to follow in their footsteps, that's the target set out by the Stanley boss.

But after so long without football, the Stanley captain feels it will take longer than usual for the division to take shape as players and teams adjust.

"The manager spoke to us at the beginning of pre-season and he mentioned that the year we went up we won League Two in 2018 and the other three teams that went up were Coventry, Wycombe and Luton, and they've all gone up to the Championship since then. So he says why can't we do that now?," Conneely explained.

"It's a big ask for Accrington. We're punching above our weight to be in League One. But I don't think anybody knows what the standard of League One is going to be this year until we get two or three months into the season.

"I think it's then that teams will have a realistic idea of what they should be able to achieve this season, so let's see how we do.

"But it's good to be back. It was a long time off - the longest time I've ever had off since I started playing football.

"I've never had lengthy injuries.

"Five months without playing a game or even having a training session was surreal.

"We were sent home in mid-March and we didn't know when we'd be back. I never thought it would be this long but that's how it's worked out so we're raring to go."

Stanley kick off the new campaign in the Carabao Cup, with a trip to Burton Albion, where they return 15 days later for their first League One away game. Both games will be behind closed doors, along with the visit of Peterborough United for the League One opener, while the home game with Oxford United on September 26 will be a test event with 770 supporters, before the club can open its turnstiles for a reduced capacity of 1,535.

And Conneely admits the Reds face a tricky start to the new season.

"When the fixtures came out I looked at the first three games and I thought they were tough," he said.

"Peterborough just missed out on the play-offs and Oxford were in the play-offs, and Burton we're going to play twice in the space of two weeks. I had a look at Boxing Day, the Christmas fixtures and then the final three games are three big teams as well, but you've got to play everyone twice.

"Of all the seasons nobody really knows what to make of any team at the moment because of what's gone on in the last five or six months.

"It will probably take two months, three months or maybe even until Christmas time until people get an idea of who teams are and which teams are going to be in contention at the top and battling at the bottom of the table."