We catch up with Ox­ford United’s Divi­sion Two champs from 1984-85

The Football League Paper - - NEWS - By Neil Fissler

ROBERT MAXWELL is not re­mem­bered fondly for most things, but for a short time he was the toast of Ox­ford United.

The club had been elected to the Foot­ball League in 1962 and en­joyed some mod­er­ate suc­cess, with two pro­mo­tions in their first six sea­sons.

But they were on the verge of bank­ruptcy and just two weeks away from clo­sure when, in Jan­uary 1982, Maxwell stepped in and saved the club.

Then, in April 1983, with a pro­mo­tion bid fal­ter­ing, Maxwell an­nounced a plan to merge with bit­ter ri­vals Read­ing to form Thames Val­ley Roy­als.

They some­how came through all of that and, in a golden era, romped to the Divi­sion Three ti­tle in 1984, fin­ish­ing eight points clear of Wim­ble­don.

Then, 12 months later – af­ter 23 years in the League – they won pro­mo­tion to the First Divi­sion for the first time, fin­ish­ing two points ahead of Birm­ing­ham City.

“Look­ing at the his­tory of Robert Maxwell, I apol­o­gise to ev­ery pen­sioner I see now, but if it wasn’t for him we wouldn’t have got to where we were,” said winger Peter Rhoades-Brown, who still works for the club.

“It’s the same as it is now. If it wasn’t for the money back­ing a club, you can’t buy play­ers, but we went from Divi­sion Three to Two and then the Milk Cup Fi­nal in three years.

“Maxwell was a multi-mil­lion­aire globe-trot­ter and some­times he would come and sit in the dress­ing room. I re­mem­ber walk­ing in some­where at half-time when we were 2-0 down.

“We ex­pected Jim Smith to paint the walls with our blood. He was about to let rip and Maxwell came in and sat down. Jim then just took it down a cou­ple of pegs.

“I think, af­ter that, Mal­colm Shot­ton in­vited him to sit in on ev­ery half-time team talk!”

A huge amount of credit for pro­mo­tion was due to the divi­sion’s lead­ing scorer, John Aldridge, with 30 goals, the vast ma­jor­ity cre­ated by Rhoad­esBrown and Kevin Brock.

“When we got pro­mo­tion from Divi­sion Three, we made some de­cent sign­ings late in the sea­son, when, I think, John and Les Phillips came in,” said Rhoades-Brown.

“Then, af­ter we went up, we all got to­gether af­ter about ten games and re­alised there was noth­ing to scare us – and we did re­ally well.

“John said in his au­to­bi­og­ra­phy that he wouldn’t have had the goals if it wasn’t for crosses from the likes of Kevin and my­self. It’s true he wouldn’t have had as many.

“I didn’t score many my­self, but I was paid to cre­ate them for John and Billy Hamilton, as well as Dean Saun­ders.

“It was so easy for me. I was told to beat the full-back and just pick some­one out near or far post. They al­ways latched on to it be­cause they were nat­u­ral goalscor­ers.

“John was just amaz­ing. I al­ways knew where he was go­ing to be and that made it so much eas­ier. He wasn’t the best of run­ners but he got into some great po­si­tions.” 5. Ken Fish: South African in­terna- tional who re­tired af­ter spend­ing 20 years on the Ox­ford coach­ing staff. He lived in Stoke-on-Trent at the time of his death in April 2005, aged 91. 6. Gary Bar­nett: Mid­fielder who won the League of Wales Man­ager of the Year award in three con­sec­u­tive sea­sons with Barry Town. Now a per­sonal trainer from his base in the Cotswolds. 7. David Lan­gan: Re­pub­lic of Ire­land right-back, who also won the Milk Cup with Ox­ford. He was em­ployed in the se­cu­rity in­dus­try and then be­came a porter at Peter­bor­ough Town Hall. 8. Ge­orge Lawrence: Mid­fielder who helped Mill­wall win a Sec­ond Divi­sion ti­tle. He has worked as a play­ers’ agent, a prop­erty de­vel­oper, per­sonal trainer and now a bus driver in West Lon­don. 9. Steve Hard­wick: Goal­keeper who helped Ox­ford win suc­ces­sive pro­mo­tions. He has been a grounds­man for Hoy­landswaine Cricket Club and worked as a tech­ni­cal sales rep­re­sen­ta­tive. 10. Billy Hamilton: For­ward who was one of the he­roes of North­ern Ire­land’s 1982 World Cup cam­paign. He set up his own tro­phy busi­ness in Ban­gor, North­ern Ire­land, while also work­ing as a media pun­dit. 11. Trevor Heb­berd: A mid­fielder who won one pro­mo­tion with Southamp­ton and two at Ox­ford. He is now liv­ing in Le­ices­ter­shire and has worked as a ware­house­man for a steel stock­holder. 12. Mark Jones: Winger who helped Ox­ford win two pro­mo­tions be­fore achiev­ing an­other at Swin- don. He is now di­rec­tor of Ox­ford­shire-based Premier Soc­cer Cen­tres, which he started in 2003. 13. John Trewick: Mid­fielder who won suc­ces­sive pro­mo­tions with New­cas­tle and Ox­ford, as well as West Brom ear­lier in his ca­reer. He has man­aged Here­ford and coached at a num­ber of other clubs. 14. John Aldridge: Re­pub­lic of Ire­land striker. Won a League ti­tle with Liver­pool, man­aged Tran­mere, owned a bar and works in the media on Mersey­side. 15. Kevin Brock: Mid­fielder who won Eng­land Un­der-21 hon­ours. He has man­aged Ox­ford City, Ban­bury United and Ard­ley United. He works for kitchen fit­ters Inside Out in his na­tive Bices­ter. 16. Jim Smith: The Bald Ea­gle en­joyed a long ca­reer in man­age­ment and coach­ing and re­tired af­ter leav­ing the Ox­ford United board in 2009. 17. Mal­colm Shot­ton: Cen­tral de­fender and Ox­ford cap­tain who lifted the Milk Cup. He later man­aged the club and coached at Leeds be­fore work­ing as a sales­man for Mercedes in Hud­der­s­field. 18. Bobby McDon­ald: Left-back who played for Manch­ester City in the 1981 FA Cup Fi­nal. Started his own acad­e­mies af­ter coach­ing in Scot­land and now works on a free­lance ba­sis through­out the UK. 19. Peter Rhoades-Brown: Leftwinger who won back-to-back pro­mo­tions with Ox­ford, stay­ing on to work in the com­mer­cial of­fice. He then ran the com­mu­nity pro­gramme and is now busi­ness de­vel­op­ment man­ager.

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