The Eighties

In detail

An extraordinary decade

Having needed to sell to survive it was Ian Greaves who started to turn the club’s fortunes around, guiding them towards the top of the Third Division and building the side around the twin centre half pairing of Malcolm Shotton- an inspiring captain- and Gary Briggs. The arrival of Robert Maxwell as Chairman gave the club new impetus and resources and when Jim Smith arrived in 1982 the pieces were all in place for United’s greatest ever era.

Bizarrely Smith needed time to get it right but once players like Steve Biggins, Mick Vinter, George Lawrence and Trevor Hebberd were joined by local lads like Kevin Brock and Andy Thomas United were unstoppable. The Third Division Championship was achieved at the end of the 1983/84 season and this was quickly followed by the Second Division title a year later with Billy Hamilton and John Aldridge leading the line and Dave Langan and Bobby McDonald becoming cult heroes. Winning the third and second tiers in succession had never been achieved before and has never been done since.

Smith resigned before his team could kick off in the top division, replaced by former Reading boss Maurice Evans but the drama continued. Who can forget wins over Arsenal and Everton and the last minute winner at Luton that all kept United up, with the crowning glory the 1986 Milk Cup win at Wembley.


A cup side to be feared

"The Manor ground is crackling with atmosphere once again for this latest chapter in Oxford's incredible rise to fame" - Alan Parry, 1984
Successive promotions to the first division

The Rise and Rise of Oxford United

United's rise to the top was one of the success stories of the 1980s. Successive promotions in 1984 and 1985 under Jim Smith's management were punctuated with cup shocks, with wins over Manchester United and Arsenal coming in both title-winning seasons.

Still in the first division

United win 3-2 at Luton Town in the penultimate game of the season

United win 3-2 at Luton Town in the penultimate game of the season to ensure that First Division football will be seen at the Manor for a third consecutive season, and on 7th May United’s last game as a First Division side is a 5-3 defeat at Nottingham Forest.


Milk Cup Final

"We weren’t expected to win, so we just went out there to enjoy it. We had a decent side, we just relaxed and played our football." - Trevor Hebberd, 1986