Oxford City
Court Place Farm

Ground No. 202
Visited - Saturday 28th November 2009
Result - Oxford City 2-2 Merthyr Tydfil
Competition - Southern League Premier Division
Attendance - 243

If you were to ask any pre-WWII football supporter who the team to support in Oxford was, then almost certainly the answer would have been Oxford City. Founded in 1882, they dominated the local scene, with their famous old White House Ground regularly seeing five figure crowds fill it out for big matches (see this wonderful youtube clip). The club won the FA Amateur Cup in 1906, and right up until the 1950’s things were rosy for the Isthmian League side, with good finishes in the league and plenty of minor cup competitions won over the years, yet perhaps unbeknownst to many at the time, the balance of football in Oxfordshire was about to change.

Across the city, Headington United had spent most of their life in local leagues, enjoying a rivalry with Cowley FC which had been intense enough to lead to crowd violence during games in the 1920s, but they had bigger plans, and after being elected to the Southern League in 1949 they turned professional the same year, and even became the first club in Britain to install floodlights in 1950. It was this kind of foresight (and no doubt, not to mention money as well!) that helped them become the premier side in the city, changing their name to Oxford United in 1960, two years before being elected to the Football League. After this, City started to drop away, and despite the bold plans in 1979 of offering Bobby Moore the managers role with Harry Redknapp as his assistant, their decline was terminal, eventually coming to a head in 1988 when they were evicted from their own ground, the owners seeing the city centre site as far too valuable to have a football side taking up space there. It led to them resigning from the league as a result, but the determination was there amongst the supporters not to let this famous old club die, and in 1993, with help from the council, they opened Court Place Farm Stadium with a local derby against United, City running out 3-1 victors in front of a crowd of 1800.

Looking back at pictures of their former home (see here), whilst before my time, then it’s still one I really regret not visiting. Apparently with its city centre location and floodlights visible from the railway into Oxford, then it wasn’t unusual to have fans of League clubs turn up expecting to see their side play there before having to make a mad dash back across the city to the Manor Ground once realising their mistake! Nowadays though there’s little chance of that happening, the club playing right on the edge of town, adjacent to the A40, and ironically, now closer to Headington than United, who have since moved to the southern edge of the city.

Playing in the Southern League Premier, I’ve got a friend who often goes to watch them since he moved down there from Wolverhampton, and with Wolves having moved their game against Birmingham to the Sunday, then it was the perfect opportunity to finally accept his invitation to visit the ground and tick it off from the list. The journey to Oxford was relatively uneventful, and after a wander around the city with another exiled Wulfrunian living in Oxford, then we met up and made our way down to the ground.

Whilst many may answer Man United, others perhaps Liverpool or Arsenal, the answer to ‘who is the biggest club in the country’ is in fact Oxford City. They have over 30 teams representing them at various levels and have won a number of awards for their efforts to make football accessible to all. The ground itself is part of a large complex of pitches and there were a number of games going on as we parked up and made our way in.

Doing some research for this page, then a number of sites out there list the grounds capacity as 9000+, but this is rather optimistic to say the least, with the correct figure being around 2000. The Main Stand sits centred on the near side with 250 seats and the club have a rather unique scheme with local charity Helen & Douglas House, who provide care for children who have life shortening illnesses. As with a number of clubs, fans who wanted to sit previously had to pay a little extra on entering the stand, but now they’re invited to make a donation to the charity instead. Opposite and at the far end are two covered terraces, whilst the clubhouse and facilities are at the near end, with a small overhang on the clubhouse roof providing further cover. Maybe unusually, the colour scheme at the ground is green, in contrast to the clubs colours of blue and white hoops, which only seem represented in the near corner where a small hut acts as a clubshop.

After a quick couple of pints in the clubhouse, the game eventually got underway with Merthyr Tydfil as the visitors. The game coincidentally was the reverse fixture of one I’d seen seven months previously when visiting Penydarren Park, and from the off, both sides looked far more up for it than that end-of-season match. The visitors could have taken the lead in just the first minute, Tariq Khalil seeing his low shot turned away by Oxford ‘keeper Will Puddy, and the Welsh side had more chances, but in a frantic start to the game it was the hosts who took the lead in the sixth minute, courtesy of Liam Malone who picked up on a short back pass and poked home through the goalkeepers legs. It was an even match after that, Merthyr just about getting the edge, and five minutes before half-time they grabbed a deserved equaliser thanks to Scott Armitage who fired home at the far post after the City defence had failed to clear a ball across the box.

The second half was a little dull, and it took nearly half an hour for the next notable bit of action, when the hosts hit the woodwork from a free-kick, but they regained the lead in the 74th minute thanks to their captain, Andy Gunn who made it 2-1. This invigorated the visitors who had had the most of the game up to this point and determined not to leave empty handed, it took them only four minutes to pull level again, thanks to a penalty for handball, Armitage firing home to grab his second of the game. There were more chances for both sides after that, but as with the match in Wales, then this one was to finish by the same scoreline of 2 a piece.

After leaving, then I met up with another friend for some food and drink in a nearby pub before coming home later on in the evening, glad to have come. I hadn’t been overly looking forward to visiting the ground beforehand, the pictures not really making it look that exciting, but it always seems the way that the grounds you aren’t expecting to like, you do, and once there then you can tell that it does have a character of its own. Facilities are good and with a large sized clubhouse, then it’s a good ground to visit.

Welcome to Oxford City

Outside the Ground

The Club Shop

The Clubhouse End

The Main Stand

The Far End

The Far Side

Outside the Clubhouse

Ready for Kick Off

The Clubhouse End

The Far Side

The Far End
The Far Side

The Main Stand
The Clubhouse End

Court Place Farm Panoramic 1


1 comment:

  1. It looks like a nice place specially the grass they have been taking a great care of it. I have some friends on priceperhead community that they are really into field studies and design.