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© Chris Byrne 2010


The previous season had been the worst season since 1907-08: morale was low and there had been a significant decrease in income. However, the target for the money for the new stand had nearly been reached and it was also hoped to improve the terracing during the season. City were still looking for a full-time coach although they were very grateful to Alf Jefferies for all his help.
Although the Reserves got off to a flying start with a 2-1 win at Romford, the 1st XI lost their first three matches before a 2-1 victory over Wimbledon produced the first points of the season and then had to wait until the end of November for their second league victory: a “...scrappy and uninspiring” 3-2 defeat of Woking.
The national cup competitions came and went quickly with a 2-0 loss at Banbury Spencer in front of a good crowd of 4000+ in the FA Cup; and a 5-2 reverse at Hitchin Town in the Amateur Cup where 17 year-old Syd Sheppard made his debut in goal.
Ronald Meades, from Cardiff City, was appointed as a professional coach in mid-October but results were still very disappointing and the team was bottom of the Section by early-March having won only four matches, and Meades had his contract cancelled at the end of the month with the team being put in the hands of the captain. This new regime’s first test was a visit to Walthamstow Avenue, arguably the league’s most consistently strong team since it restarted after the War. Events appeared to contrive against the City. Tony Bricknell was on Army duty; Ray Butler and Harry Poole arrived 15 minutes after the start of the match; and Brian Steventon made his debut in goal, as both Mead and Champ were injured, and promptly suffered three broken ribs early on. City lost 8-1.
No more league matches were won; sixteen goals were conceded in the last three matches and the curtain fell on this worst-of-all league seasons with a 6-1 loss to Corinthian-Casuals at the White House on May 1st. City and Wimbledon were re-elected at the League’s Annual Meeting, but it was certainly not a foregone conclusion and it was made clear that this was the last chance!
And it was at this worrying point in their history that the committee offered Percy James a three-year contract to coach the 1st XI: a move that would prove to be a turning-point in the affairs of the club.
The Reserves had an inconsistent season but had some memorable games in the league, including a 5-1 win over a normally strong Ilford side, and a game at Dulwich Hamlet’s Champion Hill, that would be remembered for the unusual reason that fog descended at half-time and so the linesmen used whistles rather than flags!


Both teams performed well in local competitions. The 1st XI beat Bicester 4-1 in the Benevolent Cup Final held over from the previous season, though the local press reported that “... the football rarely rose above the mediocre”, and then, at the end of the season, retained the cup with a 6-2 defeat of Woodstock Town. They also captured the Senior Cup on Easter Monday with another victory over Woodstock in front of a big holiday crowd at The Manor. They had entered at the Preliminary Round stage and scored 22 goals in their five games while only conceding five, and the 2-1 victory over Bicester Garrison in the Smith Memorial Cup at the end of April made it three trophies in an otherwise desperate season . The Reserves reached the finals of two competitions, the Oxfordshire Charities Cup and the Reading Senior Cup, but fell at the final hurdle in both.
The new stand was finally ready in November and the floodlights, on the North Stand and behind the Abingdon Road goal, were officially switched on in mid-January for a trial match. It was said that they were not suitable for ‘proper’ matches, but before the end of the season the Reserves had played friendlies, and the Colts Minor league matches under the lights. In fact in one floodlit Colts match James scored all ten goals against Lucy’s Sports in a 10-0 league victory.
Two tours were undertaken. The first was to the North-West at Easter when two Liverpool Combination teams, Earle and Formby, were played. The second was over the Whitsun weekend when a party made up of City players and one or two guests (including a young Ray Mabbutt) played two matches in Germany. The match against Sportclub EV Kleve was won 2-1, while the match against Geldern, played on a cinder pitch, was drawn 1-1.
Elsewhere in the county the Hellenic League played its first competitive season and the committee of the Oxfordshire F.A. were “... very concerned at the exodus of clubs from the Oxfordshire Senior League into the new league”; and Headington United played Gravesend & Northfleet in the first Southern League match under lights.
At a very well attended Footballers’ Dinner the eminent chemist Dr H.W. Thompson, secretary of Pegasus, and later to be Chairman of the Football Association, was the speaker for the evening, and he mused on how the game might be 25 years on (i.e. by 1978), making the following suggestions:
“... are we likely to see Wycombe Wanderers drawn against Bishop Auckland having beaten Arsenal in the cup because so many amateurs had gone over to the professionals that there is no longer any difference.
The income from all gates was pooled and redistributed so that all clubs had a fair share; and new stadia were financed out of football pools’ money.
Clubs flew to some matches.
The ball and boots were made of a water-repellent material and there was a photo-electric beam along the touchline which automatically caused a whistle to blow when the ball went out of play.
The referee sat in front of a screen on which he could see all the players all the time and he could press a button when a player was offside: and the players never argued.”
Would he be disappointed or excited at how the game progressed in the subsequent years (he died in 1983)?

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