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© Chris Byrne 2010

A Brief History of Oxford City

Since World War 2, 1882 has been the date given in the Club's programmes for its formation, though programmes from the early 1900s state that the Club was "...established in 1885 and reorganised in 1893". In fact, the earliest match for which records have been found took place in March 1884. An Oxford City side whose matches were occasionally reported on in the local press in 1882 only appears to have played Rugby - this may be the source for the apparently incorrect earlier claimed date for formation.
These early sides appear to have been a 'representative club, made up with players from other teams from within the city, including Oxford Cygnets, Oxford United College Servants and Oxford Wanderers. Friendly matches were played against other local sides, but gradually more prestigious clubs were added to the fixture list.
For a number of reasons the representative model had proved unworkable by 1896, and the club was restructured and relaunched in its present form at the beginning of the 1897 season.
Winning the Oxfordshire County Cup (now the Senior Cup) in 1900 was the first real success, as well as appearing at the 1st Round stage of both major FA competitions in 1901/02. The FA Cup achievement (last 32, equivalent to today’s 4th Round), in which City took 2nd Division Lincoln City to a replay, ranks among the best ever by the club.
This was the start of a golden era, with Amateur Cup Final appearances in 1903, 1906 and 1913, the first and last ending in defeat after replays. 1906 was the pinnacle of success, with City beating Bishop Auckland 3-0 in a snowstorm. In the following season City again reached the 1st Round of the FA Cup, losing 3-0 at home to 1st Division side Bury.
City were invited to join the Isthmian League in 1907, finishing runners-up in 1934/35 and again in 1945/46, and made a further FA Cup 1st Round appearance in 1933/34, losing 5-1 at home to Gillingham, then in League Division 3 (South). In most respects, though, the inter-war years were rather unremarkable.
During World War Two City built up a strong team competing in the Great Western Combination under the captaincy of Percy James, and for a few years after the war produced some excellent results. Several of this side joined the ranks of the professionals and, through the '50s, City's fortunes went into decline with them finishing near the bottom of the League on several occasions and even being warned that their performances would need to improve if they were to remain members of the League.
In the 1960s the Club's fortunes turned the corner and they enjoyed a sustained run of FA Cup success, reaching the 1st Round five years running, and making it to the 2nd Round in 1969/70. During this period they forced replays against Bristol Rovers and Bournemouth. The Quarter-Final stage of the Amateur Cup was also reached in 1950/51 and 1967/68, City losing out to Pegasus and Chesham United respectively, and the Oxfordshire Senior Cup was won several times during this era.
During the 1970s and 1980s however, success eluded the club, despite the glamour of Bobby Moore and Harry Redknapp as the managerial team in 1980-81. There was relegation into Division 1 of the Isthmian League twice, and in 1988 came the undignified and undeserved eviction from the White House Ground, City’s home since 1900, on a legal technicality.
Dedicated officials and supporters kept the Club’s name alive, and from 1989 a team was rebuilt, moving steadily up the Pyramid from park football to the South Midlands League.
In 1993 City deservedly achieved both promotion back into the Isthmian League and the acquisition of the new Court Place Farm stadium, a superb joint effort by committee, supporters, sponsors and the landlords, Oxford City Council. City’s first match on the new pitch was a 3-1 win over neighbours Oxford United in front of 1,800 spectators.
The 1994/95 season was doubly successful, with the club making history by reaching the final of the FA Vase at Wembley Stadium. They lost 2-1, but were consoled by promotion into Division 1 of the Isthmian League. The 1995/96 season saw a gripping finale as they pipped Heybridge Swifts to the Championship, and so City had regained a place in the top flight of the League after 16 years.
This success lasted just two years before relegation to Division 1 in 1998. There they stayed until the Pyramid restructuring in 2004 took them into the Southern League Division 1. Finding adjustment difficult, City were relegated into the Spartan South Midlands League, but showed great determination in bouncing back at the first attempt. Further progress was made in 2008 as they achieved promotion via the play-offs into the Premier Division of the Southern League, following victory over local adversaries Didcot Town in the Semi-Final (on penalties) and Uxbridge in the Final (1-0).
During this time City again reached the 1st Round of the FA Cup, in 1999/2000, against old Isthmian League rivals Wycombe Wanderers, now risen to League 2. After two sensational draws, the second abandoned just before the newly established penalty shoot-out after an electrical fire, City narrowly lost the unique third encounter at Oxford United’s Manor Ground, before more than 4,000 fans. In 2009/10 another exciting cup run eventually saw them lose in the dying seconds of the match by the odd goal in five at League 2 Burton Albion.
The First Round was attained again in 2011/12 but City lost to Isthmian League Redbridge in Oxford after a draw in East London. However, the season did see manager Mike Ford take the Club to its highest level in the Pyramid as they disposed of Cambridge City and AFC Totton in the play-offs to claim a place at Step Two. City were placed in Conference North providing plenty of novel opponents...and some long journeys.
Nowadays the Club provides a high standard of competitive football for all age groups, with senior men’s teams in the Conference South and the Uhlsport Hellenic League (Oxford City Nomads, formerly Quarry Nomads). A Veterans’ team was added in 2007, together with a Casuals team for players with learning difficulties. Numerous junior and youth sides, from ‘City Tots’ to under-18s, as well as Ladies' and Girls' teams, all enjoying their football with a measure of success, earned Oxford City FC the prestigious FA Charter Standard Community Club status in 2006. In 2007 this was followed by the award of Community Club Regional Winner for the South East.

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