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© Chris Byrne 2010


Towards the end of the 1909/10 season, and through the summer, rumours continued to circulate that City might still join the breakaway AFA. The ‘Split’ that occurred in 1907 between the FA and the ‘strict’ amateurs of the AFA had obviously affected Oxford City, and several players, particularly those linked to the University, had joined the newly formed Oxford club. With City then accepting the Isthmian’s invitation things seemed to have settled, but, with the Southern Amateur League attracting some strong clubs, including the Civil Service, Casuals and Crouch End Vampires, and the Oxford club now entering their ‘B’ division, there was renewed pressure to attract Oxford City.
The new club was quite progressive and took over the Botley Road ground that City might well have taken on themselves but for the ‘Cygnets incident’ and quickly built a stand capable of holding around 200 people. Though they did attract some ‘big names’ – notably Gilbert Vassall the England international – neither they nor the AFA made a great deal of impact on the local football scene. In fact when the AFA held the semi-final of the AFA Cup, an attractive looking fixture between Casuals and Civil Service, at the Iffley Road ground in March 1911, only just over 100 turned up to watch.
City gave the AFA’s offer due consideration, but stayed put in the Isthmian League, while the Oxford club played three seasons in the SAL and then folded as the FA and AFA reached a peace settlement and many of the players rejoined the City.
The Isthmian season was an improvement on the previous with as many games won as lost, and a rise to fourth in the table, though they were beaten twice by Clapton, the eventual champions.
The national tournaments brought no success, with an FA Cup loss, after a replay, to West Country professionals Torquay Town – forerunners of present-day United – and a 4-1 defeat at Barking at the first hurdle in the Amateur Cup.
The big attraction of the Christmas Holiday period was the first home encounter with a foreign side, Xerxes, from Rotterdam. As often seemed to be the case in those days the White House ground was flooded at the end of December and so the encounter took place at the University’s Iffley Road ground, where an excellent crowd turned out to see City win 2-0.
The season did finish strongly as they won four and were unbeaten in their last six Isthmian games and did manage, after extra time, to squeeze past Maidenhead Town, 2-1, in the final of the Oxford Hospital Cup.

Torquay Town

City players continued to attract wider attention, and Walter Bailey played for Nottingham Forest and Spurs as well as having an international trial during the season. And Fred Chapman, Frank Draper, William Scothern and Edward Wright were all invited to take part in the English Wanderers Easter tour to Prague and Budapest.

Luton Clarence 1911

The 1911/12 season started quite promisingly with three home games bringing a win over the consistently strong Clapton, a draw with London Caledonians and a defeat by Ilford, before their first ‘out’ match: a first Isthmian visit to Tunbridge Wells. Just getting there proved a nightmare for the City players who caught a train to Paddington; crossed London by bus; and then caught another train from Canon Street to Southborough on the northern outskirts of Tunbridge Wells. They then had to walk the two miles to the ground and finally arrived at 3.30, having ‘mislaid’ Bill Seymour en-route: unsurprisingly they lost 0-2!
They had a disastrous visit to Somerset in the FA Cup where they played Wiltshire (?) League side Frome Town and stumbled to a 1-4 defeat. The Robins went on to have an excellent run in the competition that year before eventually losing out in the Final Qualifying Round after an exhausting trek north to play Southport.
The Amateur Cup campaign saw the now expected exemption until the 1st Round Proper, and were drawn away to Sneinton, a Nottinghamshire team, who agreed to come south in return for the customary financial guarantees.
2,000 fans saw City go 1-0 up after seven minutes, and then make sure of the result on 75 minutes, courtesy of Frank Draper. A trip to Windsor was their reward, for a 2nd Round tie against the 2nd Battalion of the Grenadier Guards. The Guards had at least three Battalion teams who entered the Cup on various occasions. An excursion train took 200 City fans, who made up a sizeable proportion of the estimated 1,000 crowd. In at left back for City was the former Bishop Auckland and Stockton player Fred Ansell, and at inside right, Arthur Berry. Like Hunt, Berry had already earned a place in the amateur ‘Hall of Fame’, having appeared for a number of League clubs (Liverpool, Everton, Fulham and Wrexham) as well as representing his country at every level. City then had every advantage, and would need to show their talents to good effect.

Within a couple of minutes City went 1-0 up, with a goal scored by Berry. Purver added a second and Draper used his speed to nip in for a third goal just before half time, to put City in the driving seat. Purver scored again to make it 4-0 in the second half, and complete the rout of the Guardsmen.
Again the 3rd Round draw was unkind to Oxford City: an away tie against Barking, not a popular prospect. A crowd of about 4,000, double the attendance in the previous year, witnessed a virtual re-run, certainly with regard to the result. The first half provided fast and exciting action, but just before the interval Barking scored directly from a free kick, and after half time they made it 2-0, so City were yet again denied a Quarter-Final appearance. Their only consolation was that they had broken a sequence of three consecutive 2nd Round exits.
Isthmian results were not good, and, by the end of the season, City found themselves in their worst league position in their five-season membership: tenth out of eleven. The season’s final weekend did bring some cheer, however, as the 1st XI won the Oxford Hospital Cup at Slough while the Reserves were winning the Oxfordshire Senior Cup at the White House.

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