Dennis Maskell, who has died aged 92, will be remembered by many as footballer ‘Danny’ Maskell.

With his adopted first name, he was part of the team, which brought fame in the 1950s to Headington United, forerunner of the present-day Oxford United.

He was the left winger in the team that completed the double in the 1952-3 season, winning the Southern League title and the Southern League Cup.

READ MORE: Teams honour former Headington United winger 

The following year, he was one of the stars in the United team which fought its way through to the fourth round of the FA Cup to face mighty Bolton Wanderers.

In the 1952-3 season, he and his team-mates, under manager Harry Thompson, suffered just three defeats in the final 30 games to pip Merthyr Tydfil on goal difference for the Southern League title.

They also beat Weymouth 4-3 on aggregate to lift the Southern League Cup that year.

But the biggest triumph came the following year when they earned national headlines with a great FA Cup run.

United faced an away tie with Third Division Millwall in the second round. They earned a 3-3 draw before a crowd of 20,000 with goals from Bobby Peart, Ronnie Steel and Danny.

Ken Smith scored the only goal in the replay at Headington’s Manor Road ground, from Danny Maskell’s ‘beautifully-placed’ free kick.

The team had waited 60 years to beat a Football League side in a competitive game – and it took them just four weeks to claim their second scalp.

Stockport County, also from the Third Division, were the victims, Peart scoring the only goal in a replay at Headington.

That set up a fourth round tie with First Division Bolton Wanderers. With 16,670 spectators squeezed into the tiny Manor Ground at Headington, there was hardly space to breathe. Headington lost 4-2, but won widespread praise for their performance.

The Oxford Mail was full of admiration for the battling home side and also praised fans who “with their rattles, bells and hooters, produced a real cup-tie atmosphere”.

Oxford Mail: Headington United team that played Bolton Wanderers – back row, left to right, F Ramshaw, E Hudson, J Ansell, T Croker, B Craig, J Crichton, front, R Steel, B Peart, K Smith, B Duncan, D MaskellHe later recalled: “We were paid £14 a week in winter and £12 in summer, with £2 extra for a win and £1 for a draw.”

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Born in 1931 at the height of the Depression, he grew up in Mountain Ash in the mining valleys of South Wales. Strangely, it was his school music teacher who spotted his footballing talents. After National Service which took him to Eritrea, he played for Watford before signing for Headington.

On a trip back to Wales, he met his future wife Marion.

They married in 1957 and moved to their first and only home in Gordon Close, Old Marston, Oxford.

Throughout his football career, he enjoyed the company of family and friends.

He loved music, history, photography, snooker, gardening, cycling and swimming and had a long-standing affiliation with the Royal British Legion.

After retiring from football, he worked for 40 years at the Pressed Steel car body factory at Cowley.

On his 90th birthday in 2021, Oxford United players signed a card and Watford sent him a shirt with the signatures of their current team on the front and ‘Watford 90’ on the back.

Mr Maskell died on January 20.

The funeral at Oxford Crematorium was led by the Rev Frances Grant, interfaith minister at Headington. Donations in his memory went to Thames Valley Air Ambulance.

Mr Maskell leaves his wife Marion, son Graham and daughter Jane.

By John Chipperfield 

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About the author 

Andy is the Trade and Tourism reporter for the Oxford Mail and you can sign up to his newsletters for free here. 

He joined the team more than 20 years ago and he covers community news across Oxfordshire.

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