On Sunday, Oxford and Swindon will meet for the first time in many years in a match that Oxford fans have been eagerly anticipating since Swindon were relegated at the end of last season. After such a long time without playing them, for some this will be the first time they have ever been to a match against our biggest rivals, while others will have plenty of memories from this fixture. For those who are less familiar with the rivalry, this is your chance to read up on the history of the rivalry, while for those who've been there and done it, why not re-live the memories?
January 31st 1951 – Headington's first ever meeting with Swindon.
Swindon made their first visit to the Manor when United (then in the Southern League) had floodlights temporarily installed at the Manor to play a series of high profile exhibition matches. The club secured its first ever victory over Football League opposition four days before this match, beating Gillingham in a floodlit friendly. For floodlit matches a special kit was worn, consisting of white shirts and blue shorts, instead of the traditional gold and black. The match against Swindon was watched by 7000 spectators and finished in a 0-0 draw.
The two clubs frequently met in friendlies before Oxford's election to the Football League. Swindon visited the Manor again in January 1955, running out 2-1 winners, and Headington made their first ever trip to Swindon a month later, losing 1-0. Another home defeat followed when Swindon visited in 1959, again by two goals to one, and the final of these matches occurred a year later, when Swindon returned for another floodlit friendly, the Football League side winning 1-0. In these pre-rivalry days players frequently moved directly between the two clubs, something which continued even in the years after Oxford were elected to the Football League.
August 21st 1965 – First competitive match between Oxford and Swindon.
The two clubs met competitively for the first time on the opening day of the 1965-66 season – Oxford's first in Division Three – at the County Ground. The match, watched by 20,409, finished a goalless draw. The return match at the Manor was watched by 16,074 – at the time the largest crowd to have watched a match at the ground – who were unfortunate to see Oxford beaten by three goals to nil. The following season's meetings followed a similar pattern, drawing 0-0 at the Manor, but with Swindon winning 3-0 at the County Ground. In 67-68 Oxford drew 0-0 with Swindon at home and 1-1 away. At this stage matches between the two clubs would occasionally produce bumper crowds, but little in the way of meaningful rivalry or controversy.
September 24th 1969 – Oxford knock holders Swindon out of the League Cup.
Oxford won promotion from the Third Division at the end of the 67-68 season, disrupting regular meetings between the two clubs for a year. Swindon joined Oxford in the Second Division in 1969, but their most notable achievement that season was winning the League Cup. 1969-70's league meetings produced two 0-0 draws, but the two clubs were also drawn together in the League Cup. Swindon, the holders, visited the Manor Ground and were knocked out as United won the match 1-0, thanks to a goal by Davey Sloan. The game was watched by 18,193, Oxford's biggest crowd of the season.
February 24th 1973 – Oxford's first and, so far, only win at the County Ground
With both sides in Division Two matches between Oxford and Swindon had become a regular occurrence. Unfortunately, poor displays from Oxford at the County Ground had also become a regular occurrence, and we were beaten 3-0 there in 1971 and 4-0 in 1972. However, in 1973 a strong Oxford visited a Swindon side that was in turmoil and, much to the delight of the travelling Oxford fans, handed them a 3-1 beating, the first time we had ever won in Swindon. A cool Oxford performance saw us go into the break with a 1-0 lead, courtesy of Dave Roberts, with the lead being doubled 10 minutes after the restart by Nigel Cassidy. Despite mostly dominating and seeming calm and in control, in typical Oxford fashion we allowed Swindon a lifeline shortly after as they pulled one back and then began pressing for an equaliser. The result wasn't safe until the fifth minute of injury time, when Hugh Curran broke free to seal the win. The result ensured that we did the double over Swindon, having beaten them 1-0 at the Manor, Nigel Cassidy netting in that game as well.
May 4th 1982 – The infamous smoke bomb incident
The derby fixture was a regular occurrence throughout the 1970s as the two clubs seemed to find themselves in the same division almost every season, and matches between Oxford and Swindon developed an extra needle. Hooliganism was rife at the time, and for many supporters events off the pitch were as important as those on it. The rivalry between the two sets of fans intensified, due to a number of factors such as the regularity of meetings, geographical proximity and industrial rivalry. However, during the 1981-82 season it was events on the field that caused the most controversy. A promotion-chasing Oxford side had thrashed Swindon 5-0 at the Manor in April and a wounded Swindon were looking for revenge in the return fixture a month later, but Oxford arrived in Swindon on a 12 game unbeaten streak, while Swindon were fighting relegation. Swindon emerged victorious in controversial fashion, winning 3-2 thanks to a dubious goal. Oxford keeper Roy Burton was left unsighted by a smoke bomb thrown onto the pitch from the Swindon crowd, with Swindon scoring through the smoke. Unbelievably, referee Eric Read allowed the goal to stand and as a result was showered in coins by the visiting Oxford fans, who then proceeded to tear up the crush barriers from the terracing, making that evening's national news in the process.
February 5th 1989 – Back to Earth with a bump
Derby matches were an uncommon event throughout most of the mid-80s, as Oxford scaled the heights of the First Division, while Swindon found themselves plumbing new depths in the Fourth. After the smoke bomb incident Oxford wouldn't visit the County Ground for another seven years, during which time we had spent three years in the top flight and won a League Cup of our own, while Swindon had got their act in gear to once again reach the Second Division. The two clubs had already met earlier in the 1988-89 season at the Manor, recording a 1-1 draw in front of 9387 spectators. By the time of the return match the 'glory days' were well and truly over and we sunk to a depressing 3-0 defeat.
March 7th 1992 – An eight-goal thriller at the Manor
A pattern emerged in the early 90s, as Oxford repeatedly struggled to survive in the post-Maxwell years, while Swindon typically spent big and challenged for promotion to the top flight (a tactic that would later backfire on them). Derby day became a miserable experience for Oxford fans, as United repeatedly failed to get any kind of result against our rivals, frequently being beaten in humiliating fashion. However, that trend was well and truly bucked when Swindon visited in March 1992, the two clubs playing out a thrilling match with Oxford remarkably winning 5-3. Things started badly, as we fell behind to an early goal, But John Durnin evened things up on 25 minutes. The first half ended in a flurry of goals, as Magilton scored from the penalty spot, followed shortly by another Oxford goal from Beauchamp. The ball had barely hit the back of the Swindon net before Ken Veysey also found himself having to pick the ball out, to make the score 3-2 at half time. The second half was also full of goals and started as the first half had finished, with Durnin extending Oxford's lead just after the break. Another goal from Beauchamp made it 5-2 and by the time Swindon scored their third it was little more than a consolation.
October 12th 1995 – The return of Joey Beauchamp
In one of the more unusual transfer sagas, local legend Joey Beauchamp was sold to West Ham in 1994 for £1million but got cold feet after his move and angled for a return home. With Oxford unable to afford him he was forced to do the unthinkable, and signed for Swindon for £800,000. With this move, Joey was instantly converted from local hero to Satan incarnate at Oxford, and was the subject of much abuse from the Oxford fans when he came on as a substitute for Swindon against Oxford at the County Ground in August 1995. However, like a butterfly from a cocoon, he re-emerged as an Oxford hero just over a month later when he transferred back to Oxford for just £75,000. Beauchamp's status as Oxford hero and Swindon hate figure was confirmed later that same season, as he helped Oxford to a 3-0 home victory against Swindon, scoring our third right in front of the travelling fans. When the two sides next met the following season, the Swindon players chose to get their revenge on him in a rather more physical manner, as the referee bizarrely allowed them to kick lumps out of him.
December 8th 2002 – Swindon's first visit to the Kassam
Our final year at the Manor was a miserable one, as we finished bottom of the table and were relegated to the fourth tier for the first time in over 30 years. The final derby match to be hosted at the old ground was a disappointing 2-0 defeat, as Swindon recorded a double over us in that awful season. Swindon's first – and, until this season, only – visit to the Kassam Stadium came shortly after the move, when the two sides were drawn against each other in the second round of the FA Cup. Swindon arrived as favourites to win the tie, but were unable to make their superior league position count in any way, as Ian Atkins' side imposed their scrappy football on the match. In truth, it was a nervy affair, not fit for the live BBC coverage it was receiving, and the deciding goal – looping off the head of Jefferson Louis and sneaking into the corner of the net – was typical of the rest of the match. How the match was won was irrelevant to Oxford fans; that goal and the end of the match were celebrated ecstatically, as we recorded a cup upset against our higher-placed rivals, which was made even sweeter soon after the final whistle when Oxford earned a prestigious third round tie away at Arsenal.
Though the two clubs haven't played each other since then, other events have kept the rivalry in the minds of supporters. In 2004, the rivalry was inflamed by the defection of Tommy Mooney from Swindon to Oxford. Our relegation to the Conference in 2006 sparked celebrations on the streets of Swindon, despite their own relegation to League Two (meaning that the clubs narrowly missed each other), and Oxford fans enjoyed their revenge, celebrating Swindon's failure in their recent playoff final and last season's relegation. With the two clubs finding themselves in the same division for the first time in years, the rivalry is now at its most intense for years, with the recent act of petty vandalism (with Swindon fans burning the intital 'SFTC' into the Kassam Stadium pitch) acting as a precursor to events to come this Sunday, now that we have finally caught up with our fiercest rivals.