There are now just two weeks to go until the Boys of 96 are reunited.
It is 20 years since Denis Smith’s side sealed promotion to the second tier of English football, embarking on a superb run in the second half of the 1995/6 season that culminated in a truly memorable win over Peterborough at the Manor on the last day of the season.
The whole squad will be back together again on Friday 9th December for a curry and a beer at a special reunion evening, with tickets still available to join them.
One of the stars of the side was centre-half Phil Gilchrist whose partnership with Matt Elliott at the back was among the greatest in the club’s history.
We caught up with ‘Gilly’ this week and asked him whether those days at the Manor were the happiest of his career?
“They probably were, because what we achieved there and the promotion in 1996 set me up for everything else that followed in my career.
“It was a unique set up, a small ground with lots of quirky little stands but we had something very special there and the team bonded and were very close. The wives, girlfriends and kids used to get on well and everyone around the club was part of the success. It was certainly among the happiest times in my career. My two kids were born in Oxford so it is a special place for me and I am really looking forward to going back there.”
It will be a chance for the defence of Phil Whitehead, Steve Wood, Les Robinson, Mike Ford, Gilly and Matty Elliott to relive old times. How easy was it to form that partnership with Matt?
“The first time we met we got on really well and we ended up living close to each other” Gilly said. “We are still friends now; I see him at Leicester games when I go there and we are good friends. You could probably see that on the pitch, but between all of us really.
“Not just the players either. Ken Ridley, who was the kitman for years, Mick Moore the Groundsman: we all socialised together back then. I’m not sure it could happen these days; there was no social media back then so if we went out for a drink nobody was tweeting pictures of it! That all helped us stick together, especially in the second half of the season when we got on a fantastic run and felt we were going to win every game we played.”
Phil, who came back for a second spell later in his career, can’t wait to come back and be part of what should be a very special evening.
“It culminated against Peterborough which was an unbelievable day” he told us. “I ran into Denis Smith the other day, sadly at a funeral, and was hard to imagine 20 years since that promotion. We both spoke about the reunion and I can’t wait to come back, see the lads again and hopefully as many fans as possible as well.”
Were you there in 96? Roll back the years and join us for a great night with the Boys of 96.
The reunion takes place at the Oxford Academy in Littlemore on Friday 9th December, starting at 7.30pm for a two course curry, with a cash bar available.
Phil Gilchrist and Denis Smith join Malcolm Crosby, Matt Elliott, Paul Moody, Matt Murphy, Joey Beauchamp, Phil Whitehead, Mike Ford, Martin Gray, Stuart Massey, Les Robinson, Chris Allen, Steve Wood, and Mark Druce, with more stars expected to confirm in the coming days.
Ticket prices are: adults £30, U18s £20 including a two-course buffet. There will be a full cash bar available on the night.