Green barmy: Plymouth Argyle links as Oxford milked appearance in Wembley final
OXFORD United's history in the Football League may be shorter than Plymouth Argyle's, but they can claim two things the Pilgrims have yet to achieve – top flight football and a major cup success at Wembley.
With this season's League Cup final eight days away, it is appropriate to recall links with a club that first entered the Football League in 1962 and went on to win its cup competition in 1985.
During the early 1980s, controversial media baron Robert Maxwell saved United from closure, but then hatched a plan that would have spelt the end of the club.
A year after assuming the chairmanship, Maxwell declared his wish in 1983 to merge United with Reading FC to form a new club called the Thames Valley Royals.
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The plan met fierce resistance from supporters of both clubs.
On the pitch, Oxford enjoyed two successive promotions under manager Jim Smith to reach the top flight.
But Smith soon departed for Queens Park Rangers, paving the way for chief scout and former Reading manager Maurice Evans to lead United to the final of the Milk Cup, as the competition was then known.
Joining at the second round stage, wins against Northampton Town, Newcastle United, Norwich City and Portsmouth took United to the semi-finals.
An aggregate victory over Aston Villa set Oxford up to face none other than Queens Park Rangers.
That day under the Twin Towers, there were two players involved in the occasion who, during their careers, would turn out for Argyle.
The first was a non-playing substitute with his home-town club Oxford – Andy Thomas.
The midfielder had been top scorer during the Division Three season of 1981-82 with 18 goals, but he suffered the agony of a broken leg in 1984.
On his return, he spent loan spells with Fulham and Derby County, making just a solitary appearance for the latter.
Just months after the final, he moved to Newcastle United and made his debut alongside a man much in the news recently – Paul Gascoigne.
After a spell at Bradford City he returned to Argyle under manager Ken Brown and would delight the Home Park faithful with his range of skills.
Coincidentally, he made his Argyle debut on the opening day of the 1989-90 campaign in a 2-0 home win over Oxford.
Thomas had scored 22 times in 58 games in all competitions when he was forced to call it a day in the full-time game because of a persistent back injury.
Leaving Plymouth in 1991, he returned to Oxford, but this time to take over as player-manager of Oxford City. Despite his injury, he managed 196 appearances for City, scoring 58 goals.
Despite his role as a non-playing substitute at Wembley, he did collect a winners' medal.
Trevor Hebberd set United on their way, with a future World Cup player with the Republic of Ireland, Ray Houghton, adding a second.
The third and decisive goal was scored by Jeremy Charles, but only after intervention from a former Argyle player.
An initial shot by star striker John Aldridge was saved by Paul Barron, only for Charles to react quickly on the follow-up to put the game beyond Rangers' reach.
When Barron arrived at Home Park in 1976, he was 23 and working as a qualified PE instructor having played non-League football with Welling United, Wycombe Wanderers, and the club from whom he signed for the Pilgrims, Slough Town.
Barron's debut saw him concede the only goal of the game against Exeter City in the first leg of the opening round of the League Cup.
His league debut came in Paul Mariner's final appearance for the club as four goals were shared with Cardiff City in Division Two.
After 55 appearances in 18 months, a fee of £70,000 took him to Arsenal as cover for Pat Jennings.
He only made eight senior appearances for the Gunners, before moving on to Crystal Palace with Clive Allen in a deal that saw Kenny Sansom travel in the opposite direction.
Short spells with West Bromwich Albion, Stoke City and Chelsea followed before he linked up with Rangers.
Returning to Welling, 15 years after he left the club, Barron later developed a career as a goalkeeping coach.
This has taken him back to Loftus Road and clubs including Aston Villa, Middlesbrough, Newcastle United and Nottingham Forest.