Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Oxford Travel – Saturday

Oxford United v Hereford United
Football League 2
Saturday 26th February 2011 KO 3.00pm
The Kassam Stadium
Grenoble Road
Phone 01865 337500
Ticket Office 01865 337533

Headington United were formed in 1893 and for about half a century played as an amateur club in local leagues. In 1949 they became a professional club and joined the Southern League winning their first SL championship in 1954 and establishing themselves as a top non-league outfit. The appointment of former Birmingham City manager, Arthur Turner, in 1959 was followed in 1960 by a name change to Oxford United and in 1962 they were elected to the Football League to replace the defunct Accrington Stanley. Several year in Division 4 was followed by promotion to Division 3 which they won in 1968 and then spent the next eight seasons in the, now, Championship before succumbing to financial problems with relegation back to Division 3. In 1982 they were taken over by controversial millionaire, Robert Maxwell.

The combination of Maxwell's cash and the management of Jim Smith saw the club climb to the top flight of English football and also win the League (Milk) Cup beating QPR 3-0 at Weobley Stadium. The death of Maxwell in 1992 saw Oxford follow the direction of the Mirror Group pension fund as they suffered relegations and lacked the cash to bring the aging Manor Ground up to the standards required by the Taylor Report. A succession of Chairmen and managers couldn't halt the slide and Oxford eventually fell out of The League in 2006 despite being acquired by Firoz Kassam in 1999. Kassam masterminded the move to the new the new stadium on the southeast outskirts on the City, which, although three sided, is not actually triangular.

Whilst optimism at The Kassam was high, it came as little surprise to the NLL population that they failed to "p*** this tinpot league" despite the return of Jim Smith and a fully stocked drinks cabinet. In fact, it was not until the second season of current boss, Chris Wilder, following a brief flirtation with Darren Patterson that they clawed their way back into footballing civilisation in May 2010 by defeating York City 3-1 in the Conference Play-Off Final.

The "U’s" currently sit in eighth place in League 2 with leading scorer and former Kiddy Harrier James Constable on thirteen goals for the season.

The Kassam has a capacity of about 12,500 (all-seated) with Bulls' fans being accommodated in part of the North Stand. Admission, on the day, is £18.50 for adults and £10.50 for concessions. However, DISCOUNTED ADVANCE TICKETS are available through HUFC offices until noon on Friday at £16 for adults, £12.50 for students and £9.50 for over 65’s and U16’s. U7’s are admitted free if accompanied by an adult.

HUISA – Departs Radford's at 12.00 noon with a fare of £14. Seats can be booked through the Club office (08442 761939)

BY CAR – Travel to Gloucester then follow signs for Cirencester (A417) to the Air Balloon roundabout where you take the first exit onto the A436. Follow the A436 and then join the A40 (sign Oxford). Continue on the A40 passing signs for Burford and Witney to reach the Wolvercote roundabout on the outskirts of Oxford. Take the first exit (sign Ring Road, Evesham, The Midlands) then at the next roundabout (near Peartree Service Area) again take the first exit on to the A34 (sign Newbury). After about five miles, you will come the Hinksey Hill interchange. Branch left and then at the roundabout, take the first exit on to the A4074 (sign Ring Road, London). From here, follow the brown football signs for The Kassam in Grenoble Road. Postcode is OX4 4XP. Distance is about 86 miles and you should allow 2 hours (Oxfords Saturday traffic is a bit special). There are around 2000 spaces around The Kassam but you are still advised to arrive in good time as they do fill up quickly on match days.

BY TRAIN – Oxford station is about 4 miles from the ground but is well served by local busses. From the station (stop R2), take a number 5 bus to the centre (Queen Street – stop F4) and then, suitably refreshed, take another number 5 to Knights Road in Blackbird Leys, which is a five-minute walk from the stadium. Bus journey time is 25 minutes from the station to the centre and 20 minutes from the centre to Knights Road. Buses run every 5 minutes.

ALEHOUSES – The stadium concourses include bars, which probably sell Carlsberg (spit) as well as the usual football fare. The Priory is at the back of the car park at the "open" end of the ground. It is usually well populated by Oxford fans and although it does get very busy, visiting fans are not unwelcome. As far as I can tell, they don’t serve a real ale. The Blackbird can be found on the nearby estate although reviews suggest it has little to attract visitors. The centre of Oxford offers plenty of choice although most are fairly pricey particularly the ones with decent beer and facilities.
The Anchor – Hayfield Road. OX2 6TT. Good food and Wadsworths
Far From The Madding Crowd – Friars Entry, OX1 2BY. Usually a decent range including local micros. Oxford CAMRA POTY 2009
The Turf Tavern – Bath Place, OX13SU. THE real ale Pub in Oxford. Food expensive but beer superb.
Kings Arms – Holywell Street, OX1 3SP. Youngs and visiting Burton Bridge
The Crown Inn – Cornmarket Street, OX1 3HB. Seven pumps, deffo worth a visit.
The Four Candles (yes, I do know the gag) – George Street, OX1 2BE. Wetherspoons
The Hobgoblin – St Aldates, OX1 1BU. The clue is in the name.

Nearest chip shops appear to be Littlemore Fish Bar on Cowley Road (OX4 4LG) or Ozone Plaice in the Leisure Park on Grenoble Road (OX4 4XP).