Midweek fixture: 119 Milk Cup Final (related) facts*

  1. The basics: on April 20th 1986 Oxford United beat QPR 3-0 at Wembley to win the Milk Cup. The club’s greatest ever triumph.
  2. A terrace ticket for the game was £5; in today’s money that would be £14.39. Seated tickets were £16 (£46.06). In 2019, tickets for the final were between £40-£150.
  3. The programme was an A4 sized brochure style publication and cost £1 (£2.88 in today’s money). The 2019 League Cup final programme cost £10.
  4. The team wore what is now considered to be its traditional colours – yellow with navy blue. In fact, it was the first year we’d worn navy blue shorts and socks, before that we’d word a lighter royal blue and before that gold and black. We played in a darker blue between 1900-1950, but the shade used in 1986 was fundamentally a new one.
  5. To much hilarity, we were sponsored by US company Wang computers. It’s very unlikely the club ever received any money from the deal as it was struck by Robert Maxwell as a way of getting a discount for a computer installation for his newspaper business.
  6. The final shirts had a slightly different ‘Wang’ logo to the regular league shirts. The word usually had a frame around it, but for the final it was removed. This is likely to be because there were rules about the dimensions of sponsor logos for TV matches – removing the frame allowed the words to be bigger.
  7. Alan Judge wore a special goalkeeping shirt with a diagonal shadow stripe. Swanky.
  8. Throughout the rounds Oxford wore the same combination of shirts, shorts and socks, apart from the semi-final when we switched to yellow socks even though Aston Villa were wearing light blue.
  9. The team stayed at the Bellhouse Hotel in Beaconsfield before the game.
  10. Radio Oxford commentator Nick Harris was on duty for the final, before the game he walked around the pitch perimeter with a giant backpack containing a transmitter which allowed him to broadcast ‘on the go’. He’s still commentating, albeit from a more sedentary position, 33 years later.
  11. The match summariser was current Head of Academy Coach Les Taylor.
  12. One of the ball boys at Wembley was one Joey Beauchamp, who went on to become one of the club’s greatest ever players; playing 375 games for the club. Beauchamp can be seen behind the goal celebrating Jeremy Charles’ third goal.
  13. Beauchamp got caught up in the post-match celebrations when he didn’t realise that all the other ballboys had been ushered off the pitch leaving him alone with the players.
  14. The official cup final record was My Oh My by Prism and Oxford United. It was released on legendary ska and reggae label Trojan Records.
  15. Most of the culprits associated with the record appear to have disappeared. Lead singer Trina Jones is now senior manager of publishing relations at iHeart Radio. At least, I think so.
  16. The club’s official suits were provided by Van Heusen via Shepherd & Woodward on Oxford High Street. An advert featured the reassuring strapline ‘Worn by Oxford United When They’re Not Playing Football’.
  17. The suits, light grey with red striped tie and a red pocket hankerchief – similar to Liverpool’s infamous FA Cup suits in 1996 – were of such poor quality, they were falling apart as the players wore them before the game.
  18. The club produced an official preview, which revealed the players’ nicknames. Some were more convincing than others – Hebberd was known as ‘Nijinsky’ and Briggs as ‘Rambo’, but one might question whether anyone called Ken Fish ‘Come on, Come on’, Maurice Evans ‘Do-be-do’ or Alan Judge ‘The Flying Pig’. Calling nearly man, Mark Jones ‘The Nearly Man’ is just mean.
  19. Before the main event, there was a celebrity game between Jimmy Tarbuck’s Rangers and David Frost’s Dons. The Dons team included Tommy Cannon, Jimmy Hill, Michael Le Vell (Coronation Street), Alan Parry, Dennis Waterman and Adam Woodyatt (Eastenders).
  20. Tarbuck’s Rangers had Bobby Ball, Bobby Moore (eh?), Patrick Mower, Paul Usher (Brookside), Martin Shaw and Sean Wilson (Coronation Street).
  21. I’m fairly certain Tarbuck’s Rangers won.
  22. The national anthem and ‘further selections’ were played by the 1985 World Showband champions, the Bristol Unicorns Youth Band, the most successful British marching band ever.
  23. As fun as this was, the real game kicked off at 2.30pm and was broadcast live on ITV, it represented the first ever full-length live broadcast of an Oxford United game.
  24. The host was lifelong Oxford fan Jim Rosenthal. Famously, Rosenthal wore an oversized rosette and one of the club’s horned caps to show his allegiance, which got him into trouble with his producers. Pundits were Jimmy Greaves, Ian St. John and Mick Channon. Brian Moore was in the commentary box with Greaves as co-commentator.
  25. Although the game was warm and sunny, earlier it had been grey and wet; you can see the pitch cutting up during the game.
  26. The London Marathon was run in the morning, Grete Weizz won the women’s race in 2 hours 24 minutes, and the men’s race by Toshihiko Seko in 2.10.
  27. Oxford fan Paul Scaysbrook completed the marathon in an Oxford shirt and horned cap. Bob Wilson interviewed him on TV. Scaysbrook only finished an hour before kick-off, but still made the game just before half-time.
  28. In goal was Alan Judge, whose Oxford career lasted 19 years, although there was a twelve year gap without a game. In 2004, as goalkeeping coach, he played against Southend United due to an injury crisis. He’s also the only player in the team to have played at The Manor and the Kassam Stadium – in 2003 he played against Cheltenham Town, again due to an injury crisis.
  29. Before becoming a professional footballer, skipper Malcolm Shotton worked in a women’s underwear factory as a hosiery knitter. The captain of our second visit to Wembley in 2010, James Constable, also worked in a women’s underwear factory before turning pro.
  30. Stay with me on this; the sister of our third Wembley captain Johnny Mullins is glamour model – Geena Mullins – who presumably spends quite a lot of her time being photographed in women’s underwear. The sister of our fourth Wembley captain – John Lundstram – is Jodie Lundstram, a beautician who was on Desperate Scousewives; a reality TV show. There’s a link there somewhere.
  31. The final proved cathartic for number 10 Trevor Hebberd, who scored the first goal and was man of the match. In 1979 he played in every round of Southampton’s run to the League Cup final, but didn’t even make the bench for the 3-2 defeat to Nottingham Forest at Wembley.
  32. Hebberd was 25/1 to score the first goal, bagging one Oxford fan £2,500 – over £7,000 in today’s money when it hit the back of the net.
  33. Hebberd was Jim Smith’s favourite signing while at Oxford.
  34. Hebberd and Malcolm Shotton were the only players to play in every round.
  35. Glaswegian, Ray Houghton, scorer of our second goal, may never have had an international career if it wasn’t for the Milk Cup run. After our 2-2 semi-final first leg draw against Aston Villa, John Aldridge introduced Houghton to Republic of Ireland manager Jack Charlton. Charlton didn’t know about Houghton’s Irish heritage, and promptly signed him up for Republic.
  36. Ray Houghton was famously the only player in the squad who hadn’t been signed by QPR manager Jim Smith. Neil Slatter was the only other player signed that summer.
  37. Houghton spent some of the previous summer training with QPR with an expectation he would sign for them. He didn’t.
  38. He won the League Cup again, with Aston Villa, in 1994. John Aldridge was manager of Tranmere when they were runners-up in 2000.
  39. Scorer of our third goal, Jeremy Charles was sporting a particularly bushy beard. This was the result of his decision not to shave until we were out of the competition.
  40. Charles had signed for Oxford 10 months earlier from Queens Park Rangers.
  41. His career was ended by an injury sustained in Oxford’s next League Cup game against Gillingham the following season. He only scored one more goal for the club, against Nottingham Forest.
  42. Along with Charles’ beard, we were pretty moustachioed-up with Malcolm Shotton, Gary Briggs and John Trewick all sporting a hairy slug. Up front, John Aldridge, who usually sported a ‘tache, shaved his off.
  43. QPR had no moustaches in their team, they preferred mullets.
  44. Our main goalscoring threat was John Aldridge, who scored 34% of our goals that season. He had a quiet game, drawing a save from Paul Barron which led to Jeremy Charles’ third. Aldridge also missed a penalty at Wembley in the 1988 FA Cup final, and although he scored in the Charity Shield that year, he finally broke his cup final Wembley duck for Liverpool in the 1989 FA Cup final.
  45. At twenty-eight, the oldest player in the team was Dave Langan, one day older than Malcolm Shotton. Kevin Brock was the youngest player at twenty-three.
  46. The longest serving player in the team was Gary Briggs who made his debut in 1978.
  47. Neil Slatter, Peter Rhodes-Brown and Billy Hamilton all missed out because of injury.
  48. The Hamilton decision was left until the very last minute, he chose not to play to try and preserve his chances of playing for Northern Ireland in the 1986 World Cup.
  49. During his time out injured, Hamilton devised the board game ‘Billy Hamilton’s Football Academy’.
  50. The starting line-up contained two changes from the game immediately before – an away defeat to West Ham. Jeremy Charles came in for Hamilton and Kevin Brock played in place of cup-tied Steve Perryman.
  51. The QPR side included Republic of Ireland international John Byrne. Byrne spent a memorable time at Oxford in 1993 partnering Paul Moody.
  52. QPR striker, Gary Bannister spent 10 games on loan at Oxford in 1992.
  53. The QPR squad also had Peter Hucker who played in goal for Oxford between 1987 and 1989. It also had Gary Waddock, who had a disastrous and brief managerial spell at the club in 2014.
  54. Going into the game, we’d not won in seven games. QPR hadn’t lost in eight.
  55. Scruff-bag full-back, Dave Langan wa well known for his socks falling down showing off his shin pads, for the final Maurice Evans gave him strict instructions not to let his socks fall down during the game.
  56. The first player to touch the ball in the final was John Aldridge, the last player was Alan Judge.
  57. The ball was a Mitre Delta with red chevrons.
  58. The Mitre Delta was used in the first leg of the semi-final, for the second leg at The Manor was played with an Adidas Tango, which was used for most of that season.
  59. At the time the 3-0 win represented the biggest Wembley win in League Cup Final history. That was equaled in 1996 by Aston Villa, and only bettered in 2006 when Manchester United beat Wigan 4-0.
  60. We inherited the cup from Norwich City, who had beaten Sunderland in 1985. Our successors were Arsenal, who beat Liverpool 2-1 the following year.
  61. The final was our first clean sheet in the tournament after beating Northampton Town in the second round.
  62. It was generally believed that Oxford’s path to the final had been fairly easy, which is true. However, it did include knocking out the cup holders, Norwich City in the 4th round, along the way.
  63. It was the first win over QPR in nearly 13 years and the first League Cup meeting for 19 years. We lost 1-5.
  64. We met them again in 1995, losing narrowly 2-3 over two legs. The Milk Cup Final was, therefore, our only League Cup win over QPR.
  65. The official crowd was 90,396, the lowest Wembley crowd for a League Cup Final before Wembley was made all-seater.
  66. It was still by far the biggest crowd Oxford have ever played in front of – the next biggest being 74,434 against Coventry City in the Checkatrade Trophy in 2017.
  67. There were 16,396 more people watching the game than in all our preceding Milk Cup games we’d played in that season put together.
  68. Manager Maurice Evans famously sent physio Ken Fish up to collect his medal. Mr Fish was a 50s throwback sergeant major type with a clipped English accent. In fact he was South African, joining the club in 1964. He stayed for over 20 years years and died in 2005, aged 91.
  69. Maurice Evans nearly wasn’t the Oxford manager at all. He was sacked by Reading in 1984 and found the experience so depressing he nearly gave up the game completely. Jim Smith persuaded him to come to come out of exile. Even when Smith left, Evans was his very reluctant successor. All the time he was manager, he didn’t have a contract because he didn’t believe in them.
  70. The trophy was awarded by Sir Stephen Roberts, chairman of the Milk Marketing Board.
  71. The 1986 final was the last to be sponsored by the Milk Marketing Board, changing its name to Littlewoods Cup. Following our second win at Wembley – the Blue Square Premier changed its name and after our third trip to Wembley for the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy changed its name to the Checkatrade Trophy.
  72. The win would have seen Oxford United qualifying for the UEFA Cup, but due to English teams being banned from Europe after the Heysel Stadium disaster, it ever happened.
  73. Heysel may also have contributed to Jim Smith’s departure from the club. He and Robert Maxwell started negotiating a new contract on the night of the disaster, they broke off their discussions as the news came through, only to resume them a month later. By this point, QPR were ready to pounce.
  74. Jim Smith fell out with Robert Maxwell because he wanted £50,000 a year and Maxwell wanted to pay only £45,000. Smith wanted the equivalent of 4.3 times the then national average wage. Today the average Premier League manager earns over 50 times the national wage.
  75. Jim Smith took over from Frank Sibley at QPR. When he left, he was replaced by Trevor Francis.
  76. Despite his early set back, no subsequent QPR manager that has been in post any length of time has a higher win ratio and only two – Ian Holloway and Gerry Francis, have lasted longer.
  77. It wasn’t the first League Cup success for Assistant Manager Ray Graydon. He scored the winner for Aston Villa against Norwich City in the 1975 final. His penalty was saved, but he converted the rebound.
  78. The following Saturday, we lost 2-3 away at Ipswich. Steve Perryman came back in place of Kevin Brock in an otherwise unchanged team.
  79. The 1986 Milk Cup was the only major domestic trophy not won by Liverpool that season.
  80. Missing out on the UEFA Cup, the club didn’t even qualify for the Screensports Super Cup, a domestic replacement for European football following the ban. It was abandoned after one season.
  81. The Milk Cup wasn’t the only domestic national competition won by Oxford that season. We were also the Daily Express 5-a-side champions beating Arsenal in the final.
  82. The winning squad was Houghton, Shotton, Aldridge, Hebberd and Trewick. In goal was Oxford City keeper Paul Whittington.
  83. It wasn’t our only tilt at getting to Wembley that season. We made it to the semi-final of the Full Members’ Cup, but lost 2-5 over two legs to Chelsea.
  84. Oxford fans were in the East Stand of the stadium, the tunnel end.
  85. In the pre-match interviews Maurice Evans claims there’s an Oxford banner saying ‘Aldridge strikes more often than Maxwell’s printers’. This was a reference to the brutal modernisation of the newspaper industry which was going on at the time.
  86. QPR fans had a puntastic banner which said “We made Chelsea Neil, we made Liverpool Byrne and we’re sending Oxford down the Bannister”.
  87. 16-year-old Mark Gardener was draped in a homemade flag of the Saint George’s cross. It had a Union Jack in one corner and an ox in another; he painted “Oxford United” in ‘graffiti writing’ down the middle. Two years later he founded the band Ride as lead singer and went on to have several indie hits including Leave Them All Behind and Twisterella.
  88. Things were pretty grim in the QPR end with members of the National Front fighting the poilce and black fans in the stands.
  89. Our reign came to an end with a 0-1 defeat to West Ham the following season. Seven players who were in the final played in that game.
  90. Because sentient women didn’t exist in the 1980s the tabloids featured a bevvy of glamorous beauties alongside the match reports the next day. The Star went with the ‘lovely’ Andrea Kovic wearing her swimming costume back to front. She wants to go in a hot air balloon and keep ‘all her legs in one basket’. The more respectful and enlightened Mirror had Corrine Russel – a Benny Hill favourite – in a string bikini showing off bingo numbers.
  91. On the same page there’s a story about Jimmy Saville boasting about his sexual conquests while marathon running. Ew.
  92. Otherwise, the news was mostly about the Queen’s upcoming birthday.
  93. The Guardian described our performance as having ‘attacking movements of verve and accuracy not often seen in Wembley finals’. Crikey.
  94. The Times said QPR were ‘Woefully poor in defence, laborious in midfield and negligible in attack … their challenge was surely one of the most feeble ever to have been staged in the national stadium’. Oh.
  95. Later it emerged that many QPR players had been fed a triple dose of Mogadon tablets the night before to help them sleep. A contributory factor to their unusually gormless performance?
  96. Maybe, Johnny Byrne blames the fact they watched Spurs the previous day. Whereas Martin Allen thinks they had become fatigued by the endless expectation.
  97. In the celebrations afterwards, at The Bellhouse, Bobby McDonald went home wearing Peter Rhodes-Brown’s jacket which contained his keys meaning Rhodes-Brown was locked out of his house for the night.
  98. Rhodes-Brown ended up with the Milk Cup, and went home with Kevin Brock where Brock, Rhodes-Brown and the cup slept together.
  99. The following morning, the club were due to attend a civic reception and have an open bus tour of the city, panicking they’d lost the cup there was a rapid ring around the squad to see if anyone knew where it was, eventually they called Brock, who confirmed the cup was with him. 
  100. Had the game been a draw, there would have been extra time. After that, a replay would have been played at White Hart Lane on Wednesday 30 April.
  101. Alan Judge is the seventh oldest footballer in Football League history. He became a driving instructor and lives in Bicester.
  102. John Trewick played for Birmingham City before moving to non-league. After retiring he enjoyed a successful coaching career before retiring from the game completely. He now lives in Solihull.
  103. Malcolm Shotton managed Oxford in 1998, enjoying initial success before his sergeant major style rubbed everyone up the wrong way. Became a coach at Loughborough University before becoming a car salesman. Occasionally joins Radio Oxford for co-commentating duties.
  104. Gary Briggs moved up to Blackpool where he worked as a civil servant and caretaker.
  105. David Langan, who lives in Peterborough where he endured some fairly tough times, worked at Peterborough Town Hall. Published his autobiography in 2012.
  106. Les Philips works for a building company locally.
  107. Trevor Hebberd moved to Leicestershire where he worked for a steel merchant in their warehouse.
  108. Kevin Brock managed a number of local teams including Oxford City and Banbury United. He lives in Bicester.
  109. Ray Houghton enjoyed huge success with the Republic of Ireland, Liverpool and Aston Villa. Now works as a pundit.
  110. Jeremy Charles now runs Sydenham Charles Vehicle Leasing.
  111. John Aldridge moved to Liverpool winning the league and FA Cup amongst others, then had a successful spell in Spain with Real Sociedad. He managed Tranmere before becoming a media pundit in Liverpool.
  112. Andy Thomas followed a similar path to Kevin Brock managing a number of local teams. He works at Wychwood golf club in Chipping Norton.
  113. Maurice Evans died in 2000 of a heart attack aged 63. A lounge is named after him at the Kassam Stadium.
  114. Robert Maxwell died in 1991 falling off a boat after having a heart attack. Shortly after, it was discovered that Maxwell had been using millions of pounds from The Mirror pension fund to shore up his businesses which were crippled with debt. At the time Guiness were QPR’s shirt sponsor. In the directors’ box was Ernest Saunders, who was later caught up in the Guiness share manipulation trial. Top guys.
  115. The 20th April has proved pretty lucky for the club ever since, we’ve won six and lost two, including two 3-0 wins – against Brighton in 1991 and Rochdale in 2013.
  116. No Oxford player was born on 20 April 1986, in fact no player has been born on 20th April at all. Current captain John Mousinho was the first future Oxford player to be born after the Milk Cup on the 30th.
  117. In May 2001, in what was the last game at The Manor, Alan Judge organised a re-run of the game for charity. The game ended 4-4 in front of 3,500 people. Judge, John Trewick, Gary Briggs, Kevin Brock, Les Phillips, Trevor Hebberd and Jeremy Charles all played.
  118. In 2016, to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the win, a number of the players re-united again for the game against Hartlepool. Jeremy Charles, Trevor Hebberd, Andy Thomas, Alan Judge, Gary Briggs and Les Phillips all attended alongside a number of the squad players from the time.
  119. In 2020, while in the grip of a global coronavirus pandemic, Oxford United streamed the game in its entirety via YouTube on the 34th anniversary of the final.

* All facts would benefit from further verification and modification, I’ve done my best, right?

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