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Oxford City - 140 Years of History: Promotion, Eviction and Bobby Moore.

140 years on from the earliest documented game played by Oxford City, a 4-2 defeat at Thame Grammar School on the 15th of March 1884, the club has been through a lot of challenges and changes to make it what it is today. 

Although there is a grey area about when the club originated, with some sources stating that the club formed in 1882, and others saying 1883, City is the oldest football club in Oxford. Indeed, the club has adopted 1882 as its official year of origination, despite the first game being played two years later.

League 1 neighbours Oxford United originated in 1893, originally known as Headington Football Club, and the side wasn’t branded ‘Oxford United’ until 1960. 

In the club’s early days, matches were infrequent, but a restructuring at the club in 1896 forever changed this. 

City earned their first piece of silverware in 1900, in a competition now known as the “Oxfordshire Senior Cup”. Since then, City have had a long run of success in this competition, having won a total of 36 titles. 

They also found success in the Amateur Cup in 1906, with a 3-0 win against Bishop’s Auckland. Two goals from Harold Tabernacle and one more from Herbet Hodges secured the victory in a snowstorm. 

This is not the only time that City have reached the final of this competition, having also progressed all the way in 1903 and 1913, but they were defeated on both these occasions.

The year following their Amateur Cup success, City joined the Isthmian League, a competition that they would remain in for 80 years, but never win. Despite this, they did achieve runners-up twice in the 1934/35 and 1945/46 seasons. 

City have been the subject of some big headlines over the years, and the new managerial team of 1979/80 was most certainly one of these. Bobby Moore, the only England Captain to have lifted the World Cup thus far, was partnered with Harry Redknapp to move the club forward. The reality was far different, however, with the new management unable to save City from relegation. 

Another huge headline for the club came about in 1988 when they were evicted from The White House Ground, which had been their home since the 1900s, with the land being sold for housing. 

As a result of this, they had to resign from the Isthmian League, but the effects of this did not last long, with the club reentering senior football in 1990. Finding success in the South Midland League Division 1, they were promoted back to the Isthmian League by 1993. 

This was paired with the opening of Court Place Farm, City’s new ground which remains their home to this day. 

The first game played here was a fixture against Oxford United, which brought in a crowd of 1,800 spectators. The record for the highest attendance at the ground stands at 3,100 people on the 14th of May 2023 for City’s fixture against St. Albans City. 

This is only a fraction of the record for The White House Ground, with a huge 9,756 people attending the fixture against Leystone on the 15th of February 1946. 

John Woodley is a name that has to be mentioned when it comes to records within the club. A total of 917 appearances for the club makes him the highest-played player in the club’s history by a large margin. Tony Bricknell, who sits in second, made a total of 542 appearances, whilst Eric Matcalfe reached 535 appearances. 

Not only was Woodley the holder of the most club appearances, but he was also the highest goal scorer, again by a large margin, with a total of 414 goals for the Hoops. 

Back on the timeline, the 1994/95 season saw City play inside Wembley Stadium for the first time. A two-legged semi-final against Belper Town initially looked as though the Hoops were to bow out of the FA Vase. After losing 1-0 on the road, they had to turn it around at home, and a 3-1 win at Court Place Farm booked City a place at the national stadium for the first time. 

Although Arlesey Town defeated City 2-1 on the day, this is still an important part of the club’s history as this remains their only game played inside Wembley Stadium.

In 2012, City were promoted to the Conference North for the first time, where they would remain for three years before being moved into the South division. 8 years in this division saw a number of mid-table finishes, followed by the struggles of the pandemic which was felt worldwide.

In the 2020/21 season, City were a high contender for the top spot, but with the league voided after 17 games, the opportunity vanished, and the following season the Hoops finished 5th. 

Now, Oxford City are making history again, with the 2023/24 season being their first campaign in the Vanarama National League, and, although the newly promoted side are struggling this season, how far the club has come in the last 140 years is a testament to how far it can go in the future. 

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