Thursday, September 30, 2010


Headington into the twilight zone

If 1898 was a successful year for Headington, as they won their first silverware just five years after formation, then the 1898-99 season was both successful and controversial.

It started with a friendly away to the Oxford City A team on 1 October that Headington won 5-1 thanks to a hat-trick from Ashmore. The following week the club celebrated its move to a new ground, on the Headington Manor field down Sandy Lane (as Osler Road was called at that time); this lay on almost exactly the same site that the Manor Ground would later occupy, although the exact boundaries are unclear. The opening game was a friendly against Clarendon Press, the holders of the County Shield, and Headington made light work of them:
It's a shame that games these days aren't followed by social evenings and a sing-song around the piano (current legislation thankfully precludes the option of a smoking concert, whatever one of those might have been). The above report was published in the Oxford Chronicle, while according to Jackson's Oxford Journal the evening concluded with a rendition of "Auld Lang Syne", as indeed was entirely appropriate.

The season started, as it was to end, with claims concerning ineligible players. In the second round of the County Shield, Headington beat St Barnabas 1-0 but the Saints complained that P Gough had already played for St Catherine's College in the Inter-Collegiate Cup, which was a Senior competition and it was therefore against the rules for him to play in a Junior competition. However, the claim was dismissed, as was St Barnabas's subsequent appeal to the English Football Council, because they provided no evidence to support it. In the City Junior League, Cowley also complained about Headington fielding Gough and, with both sides submitting contradictory evidence to the OFA, the game was ordered to be replayed.

Headington started their City Junior League season in fine form and they also progressed in the County Shield, where they went on to meet Bicester in the second round. After a draw in Bicester the sides replayed in Headington, but the first game had to be abandoned because of heavy snowfall:

In the replay, in mid-February, Headington beat Bicester 1-0:

Progress thus far was reported in the March edition of the St Andrews Church Parish Magazine. This contains the interesting note that, because of the poor weather, some games were played on the Manor House Close, owned by the Manor House occupier Colonel James Hoole, who was the last Lord of the Manor until his death in 1917. This is probably the same location as the Paddock, where Headington played between 1922 and 1925.

In the semi-finals, Headington met Henley II at Sandy Lane, beating them 2-0:

This game was followed by the rearranged match with Cowley, and what a fun time was had by all. One report called the match "a very unpleasant affair", as Cowley started with ten men and after going a goal down to a penalty called upon an ineligible player (Arthur), much to our boys' disgruntlement. The game saw lots of fouls and even the spectators got involved, causing the referee to intervene. Headington apparently just gave up and Cowley ran out 3-1 winners. After a protest, however, the game was awarded to Headington, who thereby kept their 100 per cent record intact, although this was ended in the next game, when they drew with Victoria:

This led Headington neatly into their second successive City Junior Cup final, played at the City ground in Whitehouse Road, where for the second season running their opponents were St. Mary Magdalene. As in the previous season, the first game was a draw (this time 0-0), but this time the replay was a much more one-sided affair, Headington running out 3-0 winners, with goals from H Fletcher, H Knowles, and a Couling own goal.

Here is the winners' medal that was awarded to Frank Taylor:

This triumph was followed, on 18 March 1899, by Headington's first appearance in the Oxfordshire Junior Shield final, where they met Chipping Norton Swifts, again at the Whitehouse ground. A large crowd saw the sides draw 0-0 and although "The teams were willing to go on for another half hour ... the arrangements beforehand were a replay in case of a draw."

The replay took place in Witney, where "A large number of persons journeyed ... both by road and rail" and the occasion witnessed the first known football special train for a game featuring our lads, the train being "full to inconvenience". The report from the Jackson's Oxford Journal says that "Chipping Norton had a good following, though nothing like the extent of that of the Headingtonians", although apparently the Witneyites present were cheering for Chippy. Unfortunately, Headington were disappointing, and Chipping Norton won 2-1, although that wasn't the end of the drama:

There are hints of the problem in the season round-up in the Oxford Chronicle in April, which reveals that Webb and Juffs of Chipping Norton might not have been eligible to play in the game:

This is further expounded upon in the June 1899 Parish Magazine, which explains that the two men were from Gloucestershire, which was strictly against the rules of the competition. Chipping Norton admitted their guilt, but the OFA merely declared the tournament incomplete rather than granting the Shield to Headington, although they did permit Headington to mint their own medals.

Finally, you'll be pleased to read, for this eventful season, there's a report in the Jackson's Oxford Journal of Headington's close-season dinner, with MP G Herbert Morrell among those present.
Apologies for the length of this post, and all the ancillary reading, but it was an eventful season in the early life of our football club.

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Wednesday, September 22, 2010


Silver flashing metal (cont.)

In yesterday's post I said that I would take us up to when Headington won their first silverware, but unfortunately I neglected to do so. Today's post will therefore take us up to that point from where we left off at the end of the 1895-96 season.

The following season was a fairly uneventful one for the club, which finished in a relatively lowly position in Division B of the City Junior League:

Note that College Servants 2nd scratched all their games for the second time in three seasons.

The report on the season's AGM didn't appear in the St Andrew's Parish Magazine until November, which allowed for an update on the first couple of months of the historic 1897-98 season. This included a report on a friendly against Cygnets A which Headington won 11-0, an appeal to supporters to attend the away game at Clarendon Press in the first round of the County Shield, and a note that goal nets were used for the first time.
The successful start was maintained, with the club eventually winning their section undefeated, to set up a final against Division A winners, St Mary Magdalene:
On their way to the title, Headington beat Oxford Institute 10-0 both home and away. The match against St Mary Magdalene, who represented the famous 1000-year-old church on Magdalen Street, was played at Grandpont on the City Club Ground, almost certainly at the White House Road ground that was home to Oxford City from roughly 1898 until their eviction by Brasenose College in 1988. The clubs drew the game 1-1, with G Fletcher scoring Headington's equaliser shortly before half-time. The full report from the Oxford Chronicle appears below (apologies for both its length and its poor readability - click on the images to enlarge them):
The replay took place at the same venue a fortnight later. In the second game our boys were able to make their dominance count as they beat the church side 1-0 with a goal from the captain, HRE Knowles, 15 minutes from the end.
In our next history update we'll look at how Headington retained the cup the following season, leading to a rule change for the City Junior League, and how that season ended in controversy for the villagers after they reached the final of Oxfordshire Shield, where they met Chipping Norton.

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Tuesday, September 21, 2010


Silver flashing metal

Apologies for the lack of blog updates recently; school holidays plus general crapness were to blame. To make up for it, possibly, here's a continuation of the early years history of Headington FC, from where we left off last time (midway through the club's first competitive season in 1894-95) until the club's first silverware in 1898, less than five years after Headington was formed.

Headington's first season in the Oxford City Junior League proved to be something of a damp squib, almost literally as that winter's poor weather led to such a backlog of fixtures that the league format was abandoned at the end of February, with the table looking like this (reproduced from the Oxford Chronicle):
The remainder of the season was determined in a cup format, with Headington drawn to play at Division B leaders Victoria, with a predictable outcome:
Victoria went on to win the competition.

At the end of the season the club held its third Annual General Meeting (the first, presumably, being the one at which the club was founded). It was reported in the Parish Magazine of St Andrews Church; the most significant item, from our distant point of view, is where it states: "the colours of the Club should be Orange and Dark Blue." The Mrs Wootten-Wootten mentioned was the then resident of Headington House, and her field was to the east of Osler Road (called Sandy Lane at the time) on land that is now covered by Stephen Road.

The following season was another one of struggle for our fledgling club, although they opened the campaign with a draw at their first ever opponents, Cowley Barracks:

This was followed by a 3-1 home defeat to St Paul's:
It wasn't until their fifth game that Headington tasted victory, beating YMCA 2-0 in Headington:
The final published table for the season saw Headington finish third in Division A:

At the club's 4th Annual Meeting that summer there was little to excite the historian, with the exception of the first published balance sheet (courtesy of the St Andrews' Parish magazine). This shows outgoings on such items as rent (£1 10 shillings), two new balls (at 10/6 each), team kit (caps and shirts: total £3 9s 3d), and printing of fixture cards (16s) which would be a wonderful item of memorabilia if any are still extant.
To be continued...

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