The long-awaited move to The Kassam Stadium in the summer of 2001 saw Oxford United finally taking residence in a home befitting the club’s ambitions. Today the club boasts a modern stadium but the beginnings for Oxford United were in much humbler surroundings.
Oxford United started in October 1893 as an amateur club, called Headington, the brainchild of a Dr Hitchings and his friend, the local vicar. The team was known locally as “the boys from up the hill”. Headington, who added “United” to their title just three months after their formation, first played on a basic field void of any facilities, at the rear of their first headquarters, the Britannia Inn.
The club left this highly unsatisfactory venue after just one year. The 1893/94 season saw Headington United play at Headington Quarry and they started their 1894/95 campaign on Wootten’s Field, yet another patch of unfenced land, just off Sandy Lane. In 1898 the club moved to a new field on the other side of Sandy Lane.
This venue was referred to as the Manor Ground. United lost their lease on the Manor Ground after incensed supporters encroached onto the field, not entirely happy with some dubious decisions by the referee in a match versus Victoria. The cub were ordered not to play a match within three miles of their home ground. This rejection ignited a move back to their first ground behind the Britannia Inn, where they stayed until 1909.
A return to the Manor Ground was made in 1910. By the early 1920s Headington United could command good support with frequent four figures attendances and since the Manor still offered nothing for fans or spectators alike, the club again changed headquarters and found an enclosed patch of land by the name of The Paddocks just a few hundred yards down the road. In 1925 the club finally completed their circular tour by moving back to the Manor Ground and stayed there until 2001, in the meantime changing their name to Oxford United in 1960.
Regardless of their grounds and name, the club started out in a striking striped outfit of gold an Oxford blue, to be replaced by gold shirts with blue sleeves by the turn of the 1930s. By 1960 Oxford blue was replaced by black but the gold stayed, probably in an attempt to emulate the success of Wolverhampton Wanderers. Over the years the black/navy-blue variation has continued, but the gold is an ever-present.
Is there an ox in the badge of Oxford United? Yes, there is an ox in the badge of Oxford United. The “U’s” as they are nicknamed, first adopted the shield of the city’s arms, barely concealing the ‘H’ for Headington, referring to the club’s original title of Headington United. The device on the shield, an ox fording a river, already appeared on a fourteenth-century seal. It not only expresses the name, but also hints at its origin. An alternative to the theory that Oxford grew up about a ford for oxen is that the syllable “ox” is a variant of the Celtic word for water. Desmond Morris, author of the epic “The Soccer Tribe” as well as “The Naked Ape”, designed today’s all too familiar crest.
In 1977 Morris was elected to the Board of Directors of Oxford United. In July of the following year he was invited by the board to re-design the club’s official bull’s head emblem. He produced several alternative designs and allowed his colleagues to make a final choice. Morris had based his image on the Minoan bull and had deliberately simplified the bovine motif to enable the fans to copy the design easily. Morris’s bull’s head has been reproduced on numerous items of merchandising. On 20 April 1986 it appeared over Wembley Stadium on the club’s flag, during the Milk Cup final, when Oxford United won against Queen’s Park Rangers. The move to The Kassam Stadium coincided with a slight modernization of the crest with the inclusion of the club’s name and water, so our familiar ox is fording the river again.