Saturday will see two historic firsts for the FA Cup. It will be the first time the final has been held in June and it will also be the first to be played between the Manchester clubs with United taking on rivals City. The Bodleian Libraries have recently acquired an important piece of FA Cup history: the first minute book of the Oxford University Football Association Club.
The Club was formed in 1871 and the minute book records both its early meetings and Club fixtures and results. It begins with the Club’s inaugural meeting on 9 November 1871 where it was agreed that matches would played according to ‘Association Rules’ with membership limited to ’40 resident members of the University’. The first recorded match in the minute book is a 3-0 victory over Radley on 10 February 1872.
The Club entered the second staging of the FA Cup in the 1872-1873 season. Oxford progressed to the final where they lost 2-0 to the Cup holders Wanderers on 29 March 1873. The minute book report on the final notes that ‘neither team played their full strength, but Oxford was particularly weakened by the absence of [Charles] Nepean and [Frederick] Patton.’
In the 1873-1874 season, Oxford again reached the final but this time emerged with the trophy (although it wasn’t actually presented until later in the year at the annual dinner) after a 2-0 victory over Royal Engineers. The final was held at The Oval on 14 March 1874. Nepean, the first choice goalkeeper, and Patton were both in the Oxford team this time. Patton scored the second of Oxford’s goals in the twentieth minute of the match. Oxford’s Cup winning captain, Cuthbert Ottaway, also holds the distinction of captaining England in the first official international fixture against Scotland on 30 November 1872.
Oxford were runners-up again in 1877 and in 1880. 1880 was the last time that the Club competed in the FA Cup. On 6 June 1880 it ‘was decided by a large majority that the University XI sh[oul]d not enter.’
The catalogue of the minute books of the Oxford University Association Football Club, 1871-1883 and 1946-1982, and of the Oxford University Centaurs Association Football Club, 1919-1941 and 1946-1960 is available online in Bodleian Archives & Manuscripts. The Club’s first minute book has been digitised and is accessible online via Digital Bodleian.