Away Day Guide – Oxford United
FST Chair and Oxfordshire resident Tom Greatrex presents a mini away day guide to Oxford United for tonight’s pre-season friendly (Tuesday 23rd July, kick-off 7:45)
Tickets are priced at £12 for adults, £7 for over-65s, 18-21 year olds, and under-18s, £5 for under-13s and £2 for under-7s.
These will be available on the night, cash only.
While an awayday guide for a midweek pre-season friendly might seem a little excessive, with the exception of a Checkatrade Trophy tie last season, tonight is the first time Fulham have played at Oxford United’s not-that-new-anymore ground. It’s also the period in the summer when almost any football fix will do, new signings to possibly cast an eye over, a warm light evening, not too far away – and an ideal opportunity to begin to get used to playing at a three sided ground. What’s not to like?…
As with Coventry, Oxford are a team we have missed as their relatively modern ascendancies corresponded with our leanest years, and by the time we were on the rise again they were falling through the leagues – and we somehow contrived to pass each other on the way up and down. Currently in what is now League One, Oxford have been through two changes of ownership in the last few years and the excitement of returning to the third tier after dropping out of the league has dissipated somewhat after a couple of mediocre seasons and the departure of some good players – including Calum O’Dowda who rumours suggest we may be seeing more of in the next few weeks.
KASSAM STADIUM AND TRAVEL
The first thing to say about what is officially called the Kassam Stadium – named after the former owner of the Club who retains ownership of the ground, where the rent and service charge are at the root of a long-running saga – is it is hard to get to by public transport. It is nowhere near either Oxford (from Paddington) or Oxford Parkway (Marylebone) stations, so allow plenty of time to get there by taxi from the station if you are not driving. There are bus services on matchdays, but they are not the most reliable and probably less so for a friendly fixture.
It is a three sided ground – with the car park that also serves the bowling alley and cinema instead of a stand behind one goal. The ground had a troubled and much delayed build, and although there were foundations laid for all four stands, only three were initially built. It is also pretty unremarkable with three very similar stands (although the main South stand is two tier) of breeze block concrete and blue cladding. The view is good, but the atmosphere often lacking. Despite being relatively modern, the ground is also a bit tatty and not particularly loved by home fans.
There is plenty of car parking space on both sides of the ground and although it is unlikely to be too busy tonight, it can take a long time to get away from after the final whistle.
FOOD AND DRINK
In the cinema and bowling complex behind the ground, there is a bar and also Frankie and Benny’s and a Chinese/Thai style fast food restaurant. They are much as you’d expect. There are no pubs very close by, and the catering offer in the ground is as uninspiring as most are.
If you are travelling by car, then a good option is to park in Sandford-on-Thames (street parking), which is about a 20 minute walk from the ground, passing under the by-pass and through the Oxford Science Park. There are a couple of good pubs there – The Catherine Wheel is slightly closer to the ground than the riverside King’s Arms – but both are friendly places with decent space and a good choice of beer.
Another option, if you are coming to the ground from the Reading direction is to take a short detour at the Shillingford roundabout to the Six Bells in Warborough, which is a traditional pub on the village green (although it doesn’t open until 6pm) for a pre-match pint – and about 15 minutes drive to the ground.
The centre of Oxford is as full of places to eat and drink as you’d expect from a city that is an international tourist destination. The Bear Inn is the oldest pub in the city, and The Eagle and Child (known by many as bird and baby) frequented by CS Lewis and Tolkien are definitely aimed at the tourist but both have an impressive range of real and local ales. With sunny weather likely, the Trout Inn is close to the city centre but on the river and by the Port Meadow open space. If you are in the less central but lively Jericho area, then The Old Bookbinder is a good option.
If you are heading for the city centre, it is worth being aware that while it looks like they breed bikes and there are plenty of cyclists around even outside of University term time, the traffic can be pretty awful. This is particularly true on the roads around the outside of the city and so getting to the ground by taxi can take a while – even if most of the traffic is trying to get around and away from the city rather than to a somewhat soulless football ground on the edge of the city to see Fulham play there.
Enjoy the game.