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Harry Thompson arrived in 1949

Harry Thompson

Harry was a former Wolves and Sunderland first-teamer who became the club's first professional manager in July 1949, in time for United's first season in the Southern League.

Harry brought success to the club as it won the rare double of Southern League Championship and Cup in 1952-53.

The Southern League was the top non-league competition south of Cheshire and the U's were clearly one of the best (if not the best) non-league clubs in the country.

This was confirmed the following season when they reached the fourth round of the FA Cup and beat Stockport and Millwall in Manor replays. They also retained the Southern League Cup.

Despite United's ending in ninth place in both 1957 and 1958, the ambitious board of directors sacked the 43-year-old Thompson in November 1958.

Harry continued to live in Oxford and it was a great honour to know the absolutely charming Harry from 1988 until his death in early 2000, a few days before that of his great friend Sir Stanley Matthews.

Arthur Turner

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Successful: Arthur Turner

Arthur Turner was a very successful manager at both Birmingham and Oxford.

Potteries born, Arthur was a forceful skipper with a top flight Stoke team which included a young Stanley Matthews. He was transferred to Birmingham just prior to the war and returned to play at the age of 37 in the FA Cup semi final of 1946. Nearing 39, he became Southport's player-manager before managing Crewe.

He returned to Stoke as assistant manager before in November 1954, again moving from there to St Andrew's, this time to become manager. He led them to the (old) Second Division title in his first season and to their highest ever league position the following term when they ended just four points adrift of the country's second best club. Turner was the first manager to take an English club side into European competition.

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Turner struggled in 1968-69

City reached the semi-final of the forerunner of the UEFA cup, the Fairs Cup. He also took them to the 1956 FA Cup final.

Despite presiding over the Blues' still best ever spell, Arthur resigned at the end of 1958. He soon moved to the Manor without signing a contract (on January 1, 1959). A few months later, top flight Leeds offered him the manager's job, but staggeringly, United matched their salary and retained Turner's services.

He brought in many young players from top flight clubs. Among these were the men on whom United's rapid rise would depend. These included the Atkinsons, Tony Jones, Maurice Kyle and Cyril Beavon.

With Arthur in charge, United changed their name to Oxford United, won consecutive Southern League titles and entered the Football League all in little over three years. Within six more years, they had become the first Fourth Division side to reach the last eight of the FA Cup, won promotion to the (old) Third Division and won the championship of that section. Their rise from non-leaguers to the (old) Second Division was more rapid than Wimbledon's was to be.

Without the money to strengthen an ageing side, Turner struggled in 1968-69. Just prior to his 60th birthday, Arthur moved 'upstairs' to become General Manager. He was dismissed from this post at the age of 63.

Arthur remained active and was scouting for Sheffield Wednesday until soon before his death when in his 80s. Many memories of Arthur are of a very able and sharp disciplinarian who believed in the quality of loyalty.

Jim Smith (then and now)

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Jim Smith pictured leading out QPR against Oxford at Wembley in the Milk Cup final in 1986.

Jim Smith was a lower division player prior to 1969, when he became player-manager of Boston United, then one of the top non-league sides.

Still only 32, Jim moved to Fourth Division Colchester in October 1972. He soon retired and took the other U's to promotion the following season.

Colchester shocked the football world by reaching the League Cup quarter final without having conceded a goal. There, eventual winners Villa struggled to beat the Essex side by two goals to one.

In June 1975, Smith , still only 34, left to take over at Blackburn of the (old) Second Division. He moved up to the top flight in March 1978 when he joined Birmingham. In that short spell, he transformed Brum's fortunes by taking them from 18th place to a top half finishing position.

He sold Britain's first £1 million pound player, Trevor Francis, to Forest and Birmingham spent 1979-80 in Division Two. A believer in entertaining football, Jim played Frank Worthington, Colin Todd and Dave Langan in his side. Smith was sacked by Blues in February 1982 and soon moved to the Manor.

Under Smith, United won back-to-back championships. He signed Manor greats like Langan, Trevor Hebberd, Billy Hamilton, Bobby McDonald, Les Phillips and John Aldridge. He left in Summer 1985, just prior to Oxford's first season in the top flight and was the losing QPR manager when United beat them at Wembley the following April.

All of Oxford United's players, with the exception of Ray Houghton, had been signed by Jim.

He moved to Newcastle in 1988, staying for three years before taking over at Portsmouth. A year later, Liverpool needed a penalty shoot out in the replay of an FA Cup semi-final to dispose of Portsmouth. Despite gaining a phenomenal 88 points in 1993, Pompey missed out on automatic promotion to the top flight on goal average (Newcastle and West Ham going up).

'The bald eagle' moved to Derby in June 1995 and took them up to the top division at the end of his first season with the Rams.

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Jim and Nick Merry in 2006

For three seasons Derby showed impressive improvements in the Premiership, finishing 12th, 9th and 8th. However, in the next two seasons Derby narrowly avoided relegation, finishing 16th and 17th. Smith resigned on 7 October 2001 after refusing an offer to become Director of Football. Subsequent managers Colin Todd and John Gregory were unable to stave off relegation.

In 2002, former club Portsmouth offered Smith a position as assistant manager to Harry Redknapp. Having accepted, Smith helped Redknapp win the Division One title at the first attempt in 2002-03, and went on to become a major part of Pompey's consolidation process in the Premier League.

In November 2004, both Smith and Redknapp resigned from Portsmouth after the appointment of a Director of Football. Both considered this to threaten their authority and control in team matters.

Redknapp soon became the manager of Southampton and Smith was appointed his assistant a few weeks later on December 22, 2004, having previously turned down the role of chief scout. However, Southampton were relegated at the end of the season and Smith's contract was not renewed due to cost-cutting.

But in a shock move welcomed by all dedicated Oxford United fans, Smith returned to returned to the club as manager in March 2006 by Nick Merry who had taken over from the unpopular Firoz Kassam.

However, Smith was unable to save them from relegation to the Conference National, but has remained in charge. They narrowly missed out on a return to the Football League in the 2006-07 season, losing to Exeter City in the play-offs but once again the board kept faith in him for the start of the 07/08 season.

All that changed mid-way through the season with United languising just below mid-table on the conference. Smith moved upstairs to Director of Football to allow Darren Patterson to take the reins.

History compiled by Andy Howland


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