Oxford & Banbury supporters club reaches half-century

Wednesday 05 June 2024 14:00

When Mick Thorne assumed the reins of Manchester United's Oxford & Banbury supporters’ club in 1976, he could scarcely have imagined that both he and the branch would still be in situ almost half a century later.

But last month, Mick and 20 diehard Reds were invited pitchside, ahead of our Premier League game with Arsenal, to mark Oxford & Banbury’s 50th anniversary.
Incredibly, one of the party, Mick's younger brother Brian, has not missed a United home game since 1972!
“From ’76, when I took over, we’ve taken at least one coach to every home game and my younger brother has been on every one,” marvels Mick. “He hasn’t missed a home match since Derby County in September 1972!”
The branch pose for a photo before departing for the 1991 Cup Winners' Cup final in Rotterdam.
The branch was formed during the 1974/75 season, when three unofficial groups – Oxford, Banbury and Bicester – all clubbed together, with Mick handed the role of secretary. 
“In the late ’80s and early ’90s, we were running three coaches to every weekend game,” he remembers. “Two 49-seaters and one 33-seater. At the peak we had, crikey, about 500 members. 
“At the moment, we have 307 normal members, 58 season ticket holders and two exec holders. Though, obviously, they don’t all use the coach. We run our own European away trips, too.”
The supporters’ club has had a wide influence. It led to the creation of a successful Sunday league football team, whose players twice reached the final of the inter-branch five-a-side competitions that [former supporters’ club chairman] Dave Smith used to organise at The Cliff. And during Covid, the branch also raised almost £3,000 (a total that was doubled by Manchester United Foundation) for a local charity.
At the Arsenal match, there was some deserved recognition for Mick, Brian and all the loyal members who have given so many hours to keep the supporters’ club thriving.

The elder Thorne brother maintains that every trip to M16 remains a pleasure, regardless of the occasion.
“We always celebrate every time we come to Old Trafford,” he tells us. “Normally in the Railway Club on Chester Road!”