NO-ONE gets closer to the action than photographers, but for the most part they are seen and not heard.

Often exposed to the elements, they watch games through their viewfinders with the patience of a saint, waiting for the crucial split-second.

“The celebrations are the most important, because you’re looking for that moment,” David Fleming says.

“It’s what football’s about, that release of energy, relief and joy.

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“People always say they want a picture of the goal, but usually they don’t have the same impact as the celebration.”

Having grown up within sight of the gates to the Manor Ground, Fleming was hooked on taking pictures from the moment he was given a camera aged 13.

But it was only when taking a photography course in sixth form that he thought it could be a career.

He said: “I was on the way to school and saw The Sun were launching the first colour sports supplement.

“On the billboard was a photo of Chelsea’s Kerry Dixon volleying a ball in mid-air.

“It looked great and I remember thinking ‘I want to take pictures like that’.”

Fortuitous timing saw him join the Oxford Journal as a junior in 1981, when the then-17-year-old got his first taste of covering an Oxford United game.

It came just in time for the glory days under Jim Smith, before going on to join the Oxford Mail in 1990.

Now as a freelancer, he has covered the U’s through thick and thin.

He said: “I don’t think I’d do it if I wasn’t a fan.

“I’m lucky to get paid a bit of money to do it, but you can’t beat it.

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“I started going as a kid with my mates, who I still see in the crowd at games now.

“I always feel I’m taking pictures for the people who can’t be there, so I try to get the shots I think they would want.”

In his time photographing the U’s, Michael Appleton is one of the most successful managers.

But he was also one of the most challenging.

“Talk about self control,” Fleming said.

“I remember his first pre-season game and I wanted to get a load of stock shots.

“He didn’t move once. I thought ‘my God’ and he was like that most of the time, it was rare he celebrated or showed any expression.

“So having Karl Robinson now is a gift, because he’s always doing something.”


Oxford Mail:

  • October 11, 2007 – Oxford United v Torquay United: We will never forget the great Jim Smith, I chose this picture because it sums him up as a passionate footballing man.

You didn’t need to watch the match itself, all you needed to do was keep your eyes on him and you could see how the game was unfurling on the pitch. 

At this moment Torquay, who had been 3-0 down, equalise in the last minute.

Oxford Mail:

  • Pre-season, 2009: I was asked by the club to take some pictures of the manager and players which could be used for the media and pre-season family day.

It was a good opportunity to take some more unusual photos and to work closely with Chris Wilder and the players (from left): Billy Turley, Mark Creighton, James Constable, Adam Murray.

It helped earn a little bit of trust from the manager.

Oxford Mail:

  • May 16, 2010 – Oxford United v York City: This wasn’t the hardest picture to capture, but to me it represented in one image, the years of hard work by chairman, Kelvin Thomas, manager Chris Wilder, the players and everybody associated with the club at the time to get back into the Football League. 

It was such a magnificent day and to top it off, this picture made the Mail’s back page.

I seriously could have retired from taking pictures of Oxford United after 30 years I was so happy with that.

Oxford Mail:

  • May 7, 2016 – Oxford United v Wycombe Wanderers: Alex MacDonald and Danny Hylton rush out to celebrate the third goal, scored by Callum O’Dowda.

This was moments from the final whistle and these moments are the ones as a photographer you always want to catch. 

I always felt sorry for Callum, as I don’t think any photographer got a picture of his goal because we were all by the benches.

Oxford Mail:

  • May 7, 2016 – Oxford United v Wycombe Wanderers: I don’t have to say much about this one, the image sums it up.

It was another great day for Oxford United, whose fans celebrate promotion to League One by holding captain Jake Wright aloft.

Oxford Mail:

  • January 28, 2017 – Oxford United v Newcastle United: I had to include FA Cup drama and the atmosphere at the Kassam Stadium the day Oxford beat Rafa Benitez’s Newcastle was out of this world. 

The shouts, chants and screams from delirious Oxford fans is something I will never forget. 

Kane Hemmings set them on the way to a brilliant 3-0 win.