Early years: A 49-year-old clergyman and a doctor play

The club was formed at a meeting on October 27, 1893 at the Britannia Inn in Headington, which was then a village. Doctor Hitchings was the main driving force behind the formation of the club, which was initially called simply Headington Football Club (United being added within a few months).

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Headington United in 1936, winners of the Senior Cup

Hitchings played for the club a number of times along with the local vicar, the 49-year-old Reverend Scott-Tucker. The earliest games were played at the Quarry Recreation Ground in Margaret Road, but the first of many moves over the following 31 years occurred for 1894-95, when the club entered the City Junior League.

The club was far, far weaker than Oxford City, the club which would dominate Oxfordshire football until the late 1940s. Rapid progress in terms of football in Oxfordshire resulted in the club's elevation to the league which contained the county's leading sides apart from City.

In 1902, the club lost the Oxon Senior Cup Final. The following season, crowd trouble forced the club to play all of its matches after February away from Headington. United won some Junior trophies before joining the Oxon Senior League in 1921. They made their final move to the site of the Manor Ground in 1925.

United played their first Amateur Cup game in 1922 and lost 6-0 to City in that competition in 1925. In the 1930s United became one of the four best sides in the county and won the Oxon Charity Cup in 1931. They played their first FA Cup match in 1931 and beat Banbury Spencer in 1936 to win the Senior Cup. Gaining strength throughout the 1930s, Headington 'walked' the Senior League in 1939.

United were the only civilian team to play in the Senior League throughout the Second World War and moved up to the Spartan League in 1947. Soon afterwards, with Banbury the only semi-professional outfit in the county, Vic Couling urged the committee to get Headington into a semi-professional league.

Around this time, United gained their first ever victories over Oxford City. City were against turning professional and their neighbours from 'up the hill' seized the initiative and turned professional in 1949. Enormous and largely voluntary effort was made by supporters to lay terraces at very short notice for the following season.

Southern League days: Towards Football League status

Harry Thompson was appointed manager and the club made massive strides, winning the Southern League Cup and League double in 1953 and retaining the cup the following season.

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Making strides: Harry Thompson

FA Cup controversy, concerning United's fielding of future England World Cup keeper Colin McDonald against Wycombe, resulted in United's expulsion in 1951. Two seasons later, Headington received great publicity through their elimination of Millwall and Stockport in midweek afternoon FA Cup replays at the Manor.

United reached the fourth round where a then record Manor crowd of 16,670 saw the previous season's losing Finalists Bolton triumph by four goals to two. Thompson was replaced by Arthur Turner during 1958-59 and the incoming manager decided to stay with Headington when Ron Coppock, Couling and the other directors decided (almost unbelievably) to match the offer made to Turner by First Division Leeds.

Oxford was one of the largest places in England or Wales to be without a League football team and in a time when clubs had to depend on being elected into the Football League, Turner felt that a change of name to Oxford United was absolutely essential.

Turner appointed more full-time professionals and signed many youngsters from top flight clubs such as Villa and Wolves. Among these were Ron and Graham Atkinson, both of who were to play a major role in the club's massive advances of the 1960s.

United changed their name in 1960 and were Southern League champions in their first two seasons as Oxford United. Following the folding of Accrington Stanley in mid season, United were the obvious choice to gain election to the League in 1962.

Saunders to Greaves: Two promotions, tragedy, embarrassment and revival

United soon made an impact, becoming the first Fourth Division club to reach the FA Cup fourth round (1963-64) and winning promotion in 1965.

Their first match in the (old) Third Division was a goalless draw against their keenest rivals Swindon before a crowd of 20,409 at the County Ground. United won the (old) Third Division championship in 1967-68 and were saved from immediate relegation after Turner had been replaced by Ron Saunders. Saunders moved to Norwich at the end of the season and was replaced by Gerry Summers.

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About-turn: Ian Greaves

United knocked League Cup holders Swindon out of the competition in 1969-70 thanks to a David Sloan goal at the Manor. Crowds were averaging around 11,000 at this time and the arrival of Hugh Curran saw Oxford end in eighth place in 1972-73. Another top-half finish came in 1974-75 when the highlight was a league victory over Manchester United.

The following season, Oxford's young side saw the club's first relegation in well over 50 years. United had lasted eight seasons in the (old) Second Division and Summers had been replaced by Mick Brown. Peter Houseman, his wife and two of their best friends were killed in a local car crash in March 1977. This tragedy followed the much less important blow of yet another FA Cup defeat to non-leaguers.

United had lost to Bedford and Chelmsford in 1966-67 and 1967-68, ever since when they had been exempt from the first and second rounds. Returning to the early rounds, United lost to Kettering and, with defeats in their next two FA Cup meetings with non-leaguers Nuneaton (1977) and Barking (1979), have a likely-to-be unequalled record of losing to non-league opposition on five successive occasions. In 1978, they lost to Colchester in the first round and did not win an FA Cup match between January 1973 and November 1980.

Bill Asprey took over from Brown in the summer of 1979. United struggled under him and with the club floundering at the start of 1980-81, a record low Manor League crowd of 2,526 attended the win over Chester.

With United looking certainties for relegation, Asprey was dismissed at Christmas 1980. An amazing about-turn occurred under new manager Ian Greaves. It started in Greaves' first match, the Boxing Day clash with a Charlton side which had dropped just one point in their last 14 matches. United won one nil and lost only three of their last 21 league games to end with ten clubs below them.

United started the following season in magnificent form and had great runs in both cup competitions as well as losing just seven of their first 27 League matches. Despite this, the club was in dire financial difficulties and Robert Maxwell became chairman in December 1981. Soon afterwards Greaves joined Wolves.

The past 20 years: Big hopes and false dawns

Greaves was replaced by caretaker manager Roy Barry and, after United's elimination from the FA Cup at Coventry, Jim Smith took over. United survived the ill-conceived idea of the merger with Reading as Thames Valley Royals and suffered due to the 'smoke bomb goal' at the County Ground. United's great seasons under Smith are documented elsewhere, as are his departure to Queens Park Rangers and Oxford's Wembley triumph under Maurice Evans.

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Faring well under Brian Horton

United had three seasons in the top flight during which Maxwell moved his football interest to Derby and installed his son Kevin as chairman. The younger Maxwell sacked Evans' replacement Mark Lawrenson when Lawrenson objected to the sale of star man Dean Saunders (to Derby, where he joined Trevor Hebberd).

United fared very well in 1990-91 under Brian Horton, Lawrenson's replacement, but were only spared relegation at the end of the following term thanks to some unlikely results on the last day of the season. The death of Robert Maxwell led to Kevin Maxwell leaving the club. Horton left for Manchester City and was replaced by Denis Smith. United were relegated at the end of Smith's first season and lost an FA Cup tie to a Marlow side which was managed by former United striker Peter Foley and which contained former Manor players Les Phillips, Ceri Evans and Peter Rhoades-Brown, who was then (and is still) an employee at United.

Robin Herd took over the club and United returned to the new Division One in 1996. After so many false dawns and failed planning attempts a new ground was started at Minchery Farm. The developers Taylor Woodrow moved off site after a few months and, after Herd had handed control of the club to Firoz Kassam, the FOUL group of supporters has been very active in helping Mr Kassam to complete the stadium.

Denis Smith had moved to West Bromwich and, after a brief spell when Malcolm Crosby was in charge, former Manor legend Malcolm Shotton returned as manager. He caused an immediate improvement in the team's results but United were relegated at the end of the following season. With the team struggling against consecutive demotions, Shotton left and was replaced by Mickey Lewis. He in turn handed over to a returning Denis Smith and United very narrowly avoided relegation.

Smith lasted until September 2000, when he resigned "in the best interests of the club". After a brief spell with Mike Ford as caretaker boss, chairman Firoz Kassam appointed David Kemp as manager in November, after consultations with former Wimbledon boss Joe Kinnear, who stayed on as director of football. As United's season went from bad to worse, Kinnear left in February 2001 to become manager of Luton Town.

The end of the 2000-2001 season ended with Oxford United being relegated into the third division. This was the final season to be played at the Manor Ground as the club now moved to the Kassam Stadium, where work had been stalled for 2 years with legal problems.

Mark Wright - Oxford United
Mark Wright did not last long

By May 2001 ex-England defender Mark Wright had been put in charge of the first team. But he did not last very long and by December had been replaced by Ian Atkins. The season was a poor one and resulted in Oxford finishing in 21st place.

In the summer of 2002-03 Atkins rebuilt the Oxford squad and released 17 players. Thus season fared much better than the last one and Oxford set a new record for number of away wins in one season. They also had success in the Cup when they defeated Charlton. They also had ties against Arsenal, Villa and a match against local rivals Swindon, which they won. But unfortunately in the league they lost out on a play-off place by one point on the final day of the season.

In 2003, Atkins did much the same and strengthened the squad for the upcoming season and it seemed to pay off in the first half of the season with United losing only one league game before the end of the year. But their fortunes changed dramatically in the second half of the season and it resulted in United slipping from top of the table to outside the play-offs. This change in fortune brought about a change in manager, Graham Rix took over in March 2004, a former Arsenal and England winger. But he could not stop the poor run of form and Oxford finished ninth.

The 2004-05 season started off well for Rix and United but results began to slip and by November Rix was replaced by Ramon Diaz, an Argentine who had played in World Cups for his country and brought with him to Oxford a new glamourous look, along with his first team coach, doctor, physical trainer and two translators. But they fared no better then Rix in improving results and left before the final game of the 04-05 season.

Experienced Brian Talbot took over but like many manager before he could not stop United's poor run. It became clear that something else had to give and after pressure from fans, owner Kassam left the club. He sold it to Nick Merry, who was a former player and was popular on his arrival. He bought in old favourite Jim Smith who was greatly welcomed. Statistics show why as he was Oxford United's most successful manager in their history. Unfortunately their arrival to Oxford United took place on transfer deadline day so they were unable to make any new signings but had to make do with the former players. United were relegated from the Football League in May when they suffered a 3-2 defeat to Leyton Orient.

The 2006-7 season in the conference started well for Oxford, they looked in good stead for a return to the football league as they were unbeaten until November. But once again Oxford's form slipped at the turn of the year and the consistent Dagenham and Redbridge took the only automatic promotion spot back to the football league. Oxford finished in second place and faced Exeter in the play-offs.

United look set for a spot at Wembley after a 1-0 victory in the away leg and a 2-0 aggregate lead after Yemi Odubade scored in the home leg. But Exeter started a massive comeback and pulled level and took the tie to penalties, where Oxford were defeated in heartbreaking circumstances.

History compiled by Andy Howland


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