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© Chris Byrne 2010

1930-1932: Steady Progress On And Off The Field

At the start of the season Charlie Starling stepped down as captain, as he found difficulty in travelling from West Bromwich for matches, and was replaced by Clive Richardson, and there was growing concern over the opinion in some quarters of the Isthmian League that the White House was “ of the worst grounds in the league”. And while there was considerable desire among the committee to make improvements, they were mindful of the ongoing discussions between the Club and Brasenose College about the terms of the lease.
The season began well enough with a draw against regular visitors West Bromwich Albion, but the league season again began poorly, and it would be the middle of November before the first Isthmian victory was registered, however, steady progress was made through the early qualifying rounds of the FA Cup. Park Royal, a club that had taken over the ground at Park Royal Stadium when QPR had moved on from there to Loftus Road after WW1 and who were still something of a ‘nursery’ for the Rangers, visited the White House in the Second Qualifier and City, as was so often the case, put their mediocre league form behind them and won a stirring contest 3-1 in front of an enthusiastic crowd of well over 4000. They failed to reproduce the form two weeks later, though, and Hampstead Town, again, ended their cup run.
After a fairly easy passage against Bicester Town, Maidenhead United proved far too strong in the next round of the Amateur Cup running in five goals before Clive Richardson netted a late consolation.
Monty Garland-Wells, Oxford Blue and England Amateur international, became a regular fixture in goal from the start of December and took over the captaincy from Richardson. There were also great hopes preceding the arrival in Oxford of Frank Birtchnell, who had top-scored for Ipswich Town the previous season with 32 goals, but after three games, and no goals, he appears to have headed back to East Anglia.
In mid-February Mr JH Mansell, who had been Honorary Secretary for close on 30 years, finally stepped down having overseen much of the Club’s Golden Age.
Results did improve markedly in the second half of the season, and, in fact, the team was unbeaten between the middle of February and the end of April, ending the season in seventh position, their best placing for ten years.
The Reserves had played well throughout the season, having got off to a flying start in the league with a 7-2 win against Ilford Reserves, and ended the season fifth and with 85 goals in their 26 matches, the second best tally in a table that continued to be dominated by Dulwich Hamlet who made it a hat-trick of successes, and would go on to take the title in the next two seasons as well. The high point of their season was undoubtedly the 8-3 win over Headington United in the Senior Cup Final before a large Easter Monday crowd at the White House, with ‘Nipper’ Jones grabbing four goals – one of only two players ever to score four in the County Final.

East Stand 1931

The East Stand, opened at the start of the 1931-32 season, pictured in later years (late 1960s??)

With leasing matters having become clearer the Club set about some much needed improvements in the close-season and removed the two landmark walnut trees from the ground and set about building a new East Stand and changing rooms. There was much talk of fund raising, and, in this light, the first ‘official’ Supporters Club was set up and made their headquarters in the White House pub next to the ground.
The new stand was duly opened on the first day of the 31-32 season by Mr Frank Gray, the Club’s President, when Casuals were the visitors for the first Isthmian match, and the side put on an excellent performance for the 3000 crowd, edging out their visitors by the odd goal in seven.
The unusually young side – its average age of just 22 was remarked upon in the local press – pulled off three wins in its first five games to set the scene for much the best league season since before the Great War. Unfortunately, the good league form didn’t carry over to the national cup competitions as they fell at the first hurdle to Maidenhead in the FA Cup and to Windsor & Eton in the Amateur Cup.
There were seven back to back wins through November and into December, with 6-4 and 5-2 league triumphs over St Albans City on successive Saturdays being the high point.
Support remained strong, and there was a particularly good turnout in January to watch England play Wales – a Railway International. Two railwaymen from Oxford played in the England side – AW Cooper and AV Bloomfield – and Mr Buckingham, the Stationmaster at Oxford’s GWR station, presented trophies at the end of the game.
On February 6th, on the back of the 4-0 defeat of Leytonstone, Oxford City moved into the unaccustomed position of top of the Isthmian League. They followed that up with a good win over Nunhead, and so the following weekend, with local interest running high, the GWR arranged a special excursion for the match against Casuals in London – price 3/6 (18p) – and the Oxford Bus Company also arranged ‘specials’. Unfortunately City were soundly beaten (1-5) and then crashed at home to Clapton in their next match, pushing them down to second, but they rallied strongly and went into the season’s final two matches still with a good chance of the championship. If they could win the two games – against Wimbledon(A) and Dulwich Hamlet(H) – the title would be theirs, but the loss of both games, 48 hours apart at the start of May, meant they ended in a still very respectable fifth place, four points behind champions Wimbledon.
There had been a brief Easter visit to Dieppe for a tournament involving a number of clubs, both European and British. They lost to Midland Bank, but had victories over local sides Fecamp and Dieppe. The final of the tournament was in ill-tempered one between Midland Bank and Luxembourg (reported as “...a team of the professional type”), and the Bank disposed of their national opponents to “...loud booing and whistling” when they were presented with the cup.
The 1st XI’s season finished in mid-May with a one-off match for the Oxford Hospital Cup against Yorkshire Amateurs – won 2-1 by the visitors.
The Reserves had a less impressive season, dropping to eighth in the table and losing in the Senior Cup at the semi-final stage to RAF Heyford, the eventual winners.
Individually City and ex-City players were being noted on the larger stage. Alf Haynes was now a regular in Arsenal’s first team; Fred Bakewell gained his county cricket cap for Northants and played a test-match for England; and Vince Matthews, having advertised himself as up for transfer (for £1500) in a Sheffield paper, had moved to Ireland and was captain of Shamrock Rovers.

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