Oxford City Football Club was formed in 1884, serving as a 'representative club' comprised of players from multiple teams within the city including, but not limited to Oxford Cygnets, Oxford United College Servants, and Oxford Wanderers. The club initially played friendlies against other local sides, but gradually expanded to take on more prestigious sides from further afield.
For a number of reasons, the representative model proved unworkable and, in 1896, the club was restructured and relaunched in its present form at the beginning of the 1897 season.
Winning the Oxfordshire County Cup (now the Senior Cup) in 1900 was the first real success, as well as appearing at the 1st Round stage of both major FA competitions in 1901/02. The FA Cup run took them to the final 32, equivalent to today’s 4th Round, and saw the club take 2nd Division Lincoln City to a replay – an achievement which, to this day ranks among the club’s greatest moments.
This was the start of a golden era, with Amateur Cup Final appearances in 1903, 1906 and 1913 - the first and last ending in defeat after replays. 1906 was the pinnacle of success, with City beating Bishop Auckland 3-0 in a snowstorm. In the following season, City again reached the First Round of the FA Cup, losing 3-0 at home to 1st Division side Bury.
City were invited to join the Isthmian League in 1907, finishing runners-up in 1934/35 and again in 1945/46, and made a further FA Cup First Round appearance in 1933/34, losing 5-1 at home to Gillingham, then in League Division 3 (South). In most respects, though, the inter-war years were rather unremarkable.
During World War Two, the Hoops built up a strong team competing in the Great Western Combination under the captaincy of Percy James, and for a few years after the war produced some excellent results. Several of this side joined the ranks of the professionals and, through the '50s, City's fortunes went into decline with them finishing near the bottom of the League on several occasions and even being warned that their performances would need to improve if they were to remain members of the League.
In the 1960s the Club's fortunes turned the corner and they enjoyed a sustained run of FA Cup success: reaching the 1st Round five years running, making it to the 2nd Round in 1969/70, and forcing replays against Bristol Rovers and Bournemouth along the way. The Quarter-Final stage of the Amateur Cup was also reached in 1950/51 and 1967/68, City losing out to Pegasus and Chesham United respectively, and the Oxfordshire Senior Cup was won several times during this era.
During the 1970s and 1980s, however, success eluded the club, despite the glamour of Bobby Moore and Harry Redknapp as the managerial team in 1980-81. There was relegation into Division 1 of the Isthmian League twice, and in 1988 came the undignified and undeserved eviction from the White House Ground, City’s home since 1900, on a legal technicality.
Dedicated officials and supporters kept the Club’s name alive and - from 1989 - a team was rebuilt, moving steadily up the Pyramid from park football to the South Midlands League.
In 1993 the Hoops deservedly achieved both promotion back into the Isthmian League and the acquisition of the new Court Place Farm stadium, a superb joint effort by committee, supporters, sponsors, and landlords Oxford City Council. City’s first match on the new pitch was a 3-1 win over neighbours Oxford United in front of 1,800 spectators.
The 1994/95 season was doubly successful, with the club making history by reaching the final of the FA Vase at Wembley Stadium. They lost 2-1, but were consoled by promotion into Division 1 of the Isthmian League. The 1995/96 season saw a gripping finale as they pipped Heybridge Swifts to the Championship, and so City had regained a place in the top flight of the League after 16 years.
This success lasted just two years before relegation to Division 1 in 1998. There they stayed until the Pyramid restructuring in 2004 took them into the Southern League Division 1. Finding adjustment difficult, City were relegated into the Spartan South Midlands League, but showed great determination in bouncing back at the first attempt. Further progress was made in 2008 as they achieved promotion via the play-offs into the Premier Division of the Southern League, following victory over local adversaries Didcot Town in the Semi-Final (on penalties) and Uxbridge in the Final (1-0).
During this time City again reached the 1st Round of the FA Cup, in 1999/2000, against old Isthmian League rivals Wycombe Wanderers, now risen to League 2. After two sensational draws, the second abandoned just before the newly established penalty shoot-out after an electrical fire, the Hoops narrowly lost the unique third encounter at Oxford United’s Manor Ground, before more than 4,000 fans. In 2009/10 another exciting cup run eventually saw them lose in the dying seconds of the match by the odd goal in five at League 2 Burton Albion.
The First Round was reached again in 2011/12, but City lost to Isthmian League Redbridge in Oxford after a draw in East London. However, the season did see manager Mike Ford take the Club to its highest level in the Pyramid as they disposed of Cambridge City and AFC Totton in the play-offs to claim a place at Step Two. City were placed in Conference North providing plenty of novel opponents...and some long journeys.
The Hoops adjusted well to life at Step 2, finishing 10th in their first season. Despite this success, the long journeys took their toll on the squad and a summer of departures followed. The 2013/14 season proved to be a rollercoaster for the fans with long winless streaks in the league being contrasted by a number of good results in cup competitions, plus an invaluable run of three wins and a draw in one extremely busy week. The club eventually avoided relegation by the finest of margins, finishing 20th but being spared from the drop by Vauxhall Motors' resignation from the league.
City's final season in the Conference North was also their best as a late season surge came just too late to break into the playoffs, missing out by a point despite an unbeaten April. The reward was a transfer to the South where the Hoops once again finished their debut season in a safe, mid-table position.
Whilst recent history suggested that the next season should have been a relegation battle, this was not the case as a seemingly unremarkable league campaign resulted in a 14th place finish. The real story, however, was far more complex as the tragic passing of long-serving managing director Colin Taylor during pre-season threw the club into emotional and financial turmoil. Whilst manager Justin Merritt was initially able to hold things together on the pitch, the experienced businessman stepped out of the dugout midway through the season to focus on ensuring the club's financial future behind the scenes, allowing current manager Mark Jones to take the helm.
Jones’ first full season in charge, 2017-18, saw City finish 16th in the National League South, however he was able to guide his side to history in the FA Cup. Victory in the First Round Proper against Colchester United, the first time the club had ever beaten Football League opposition competitively, earned a Second-Round place for only the second time since 1969/70. It ended in heartbreak however with a last-gasp equaliser at Notts County denied City a first ever appearance in the Third-Round draw. The campaign ended with the Oxfordshire Senior Cup returning to Marsh Lane for the first time since 2003, thanks to a 5-3 final victory against Kidlington.
Nowadays, the Club provides a high standard of competitive youth football at all age groups from U7’s to U19’s. The college programme, in association with Activate Learning and Ignite Sport, has seen great success with numerous players coming through and earning caps with the first team. The talent from the programme has seen the club break records in the FA Youth Cup, getting to the Second and Third Round in consecutive seasons in 2015-16 and 2016-17. The club also runs Ladies and Girls sides that have had great success in the Southern Region Women’s Football League. All of these helped the club to earn the prestigious FA Charter Standard Community club status in 2006. This was followed by the award of Community Club Regional Winner for the South East in 2007.