We do like our one-hit wonders; the teams we’ve encountered by pure chance and the luck of the cup draw – like Witney Town. In normal times, we’d have no rhyme or reason to ever meet these types of teams. That’s because, when you’re worlds apart in the pyramid, things have to go either badly wrong for us or very well for them to close that gap. Of course, it can also work the other way. It’s not like we’re taking on Liverpool any time soon, right.
But what was the craic with the Blanketmen? Why would we have never heard of them before? And what then became of them? Oh so many questions. It’s lucky we have the answers…
Who are Witney Town Football Club?
It’s not too easy to piece together the history of the Blanketmen because t’internet isn’t awash with resources. But the one reliable source we can find says that Witney Football Club came to life in 1885; later reforming as Witney Town in 1922. We’re not sure what “reforming” means in that context, however. Anyway, it’s from the mid-1950s that we can get a better picture of their story – popping up in the Hellenic League, according to the Football Club History Database.
Hello Hellenic. We should’ve used that somehow.
Between their maiden season in 1953-4 and 1973, the Blanketmen won seven league titles and finished second on three other occasions. It was a run of success that gave them confidence to join Southern League Division One North in 1973. And just five years later, they won promotion to the Premier Division. It’s also worth noting that they were competing in the same division as Stevenage Athletic for a three of those five seasons.
Why do we know the Blanketmen?
But why do we know ’em? Well, we’re getting there folks. We can tell you now, however, that it wasn’t because they continued moving upwards. In fact, the 1987-8 season saw them go down from the Premier Division into the Southern Division. They never returned – although they did come close in 1994, when Sudbury Town’s superior goal difference was the only reason they’d miss out on second place (and the promotion that came with it).
By this point, Boro’ had risen into the GM Vauxhall Conference; two divisions standing between us and them. But cup draws can throw up all manner of interesting and intriguing ties. And this is exactly what happened in 1998. A year after our exploits had taken us through to Round Four against Newcastle United, our cup run started in the Third Qualifying Round away to the Blanketmen. For them, it was their reward for beating Northwood, Long Buckby, and Wroxham.
What is our record against them?
Impeccable. And we mean that in so far as we’ve played them once and beaten them once. We were made to work, obviously. But goals from Jeran Meah and Michael Love proved enough as we edged out the Blanketmen by two goals to one. We marched on yet again. But only as far as Round Two this time; Lincoln City making it very clear that we had no further to go.
Witney Town: Boro’s Record
Our head-to-head: P 1 — W 1 — D 0 — L 0 — F 2 — A 1— Pts 0 — WR 100%
Our last tango: Witney Town 1-2 Stevenage Borough, 18 October 1998
What happened to them?
The story of the Blanketmen in their original form lasts just another couple of seasons. In 2001, the chairman folded the club and brought the curtain down on 116 years of history. It won’t be too surprising to learn that cash was the concern. But there were some at the time who felt the decision was a premature one. All the fans could do, however, was form a new club to keep the footballing flag flying in the west Oxfordshire town.
Witney United got the keys to Town’s former stadium and a place in the Hellenic League. Sadly, the new club couldn’t do what the old one did during the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s. Their second campaign did bring with it promotion from Division One West into the Premier Division. But the Blanketmen just couldn’t crack the code. Not even 105 goals in the 2003-4 season could secure promotion out of the Hellenic League; falling five points short of Hungerford Town.
As the noughties gave way to the tens(?), the Blanketmen went from the top end of the table to the bottom. Not even reviving the Town name in 2011 could help either. They’d last just one full season as Witney Town before resigning during the 2012-3 campaign. For the second time in 12 years, the town was left without a senior football team thanks to a lack of money. And, as far as we know, no efforts have since been made to revive the Blanketmen.
• WANT TO KNOW MORE? – Witney Town club profile