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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