Oxford United lost one of its most loyal supporters yesterday when Andy James passed away after fighting bravely against Cancer.
Andy, known to one and all as Womble, was a friend to everyone at the club- players, staff and supporters and Club Secretary Mick Brown led the tributes:
“Andy was a great friend and a huge help not just to me but to everyone at the club. His love for Oxford United was unbelievable and I first got to know him in the 70’s when he was on the committee in the Supporters club and worked with Gary Whiting. He represented the fans on the Safety Advisory Group and was a steward on the London Road Club coaches, but his involvement was far more than that. He was a qualified referee and he would help us with friendlies and so on- I remember him going to watch a game at Carterton and when the ref was ill we persuaded Andy to run the line: he was typically honest even if I suspect he was cheering the U’s on under his breath!
“He fought cancer off once but it came back and he knew his time was limited. He came to me this summer and said he wouldn’t be getting a season ticket but could we try and make sure his seat was always available for as long as he could make it to games. Friends rallied round and we made sure he got to as many games as possible and I know he was moved by the reception the fans gave him as Guest of Honour this season. He was, quite simply, a one-off and we are all going to miss him so much.”
Chris Williams, the club’s Communication Manager writes:
“A friend for 30 years or more, Womble was so distinctive with his white hat and pin badges and he would never ever have a bad word said about the club. Maybe we shouldn’t all have told him to ‘Shut Up Womble’ quite so much!
“As a referee he was always up for a laugh, although he would book me every single time he reffed me in the Oxon Sunday League: I think they started the ‘Sunday League Referee’ chant just for him!
“He came up to Rangers in the summer and was our special guest and the players were amazing with him: they could see he was struggling but he was so determined to carry on as though nothing was wrong. Last time I saw him he came into the Training Ground for a look round and he was all bruised where he had fallen over; not from illness but because he had refused to stop drinking Newcastle Brown despite medical advice!
“That was Womble though: his own man and a fighter right to the end. On that visit he gave me a book with beautiful hand written scores and line-ups from the Headington days. It was a treasured possession that he thought deserved to be in the club archives and when he handed it over we both knew he was saying goodbye. We are going to miss him so much.”
Jonny Edmunds, Kit Manager, told us
“He was amazing. I remember the time he broke down on the way to an away game and it ruined his record of about 1,000 games in a row. It was my dad’s car that broke down and Womble was devastated!
“He was a steward at the Manor and always shooing us out when we were ballboys, but with a smile on his face because we all knew that the moment the game started he would be out there watching! I think my biggest memory was that when things went quiet it was usually his voice at the back of the stand shouting ‘Come on you Lellows’; not bad for a guy who couldn’t say Y! A true friend to me and my family and one of the fans you knew would be there home or away.”
Under 18s Coach Chris Hackett has known him for just as long:
“For as long as I remember” he told us. “He would ref us in the Academy games in the morning then be there on the terrace at the Manor in the afternoon. He loved the club and our thoughts are with his friends and family”
Oxford United would like to ask all supporters to help us honour Andy’s loyalty. A minute’s applause is usually reserved for ex players but we would like to make an exception in this case and we ask everyone to join us in a minute’s applause for Oxford’s Number 1 Fan just before kick off at our next home game against Rochdale.