Though he played on defence for Great Britain in the 1948 Winter Olympics, Johnny Oxley started out as a centreman, being the first home-grown player to score 100 goals in the English National League during the sport’s Golden Era.
He hit the century mark in 1951-52 with Brighton Tigers, who played a few miles along the Sussex coast from Hastings, the town of his birth. But over half of his goals came in his early seasons at Wembley with the Lions and Monarchs.
He was an obvious choice for the Olympic team, but it was a bit of a surprise when the high scoring Englishman spent some games on the blueline, though this may have been due to injury. Whatever the reason, it didn’t slow his scoring rate down. He was runner-up among GB’s scorers, potting seven times in eight games.
Joining Brighton after the Olympics, he helped them to lift Autumn Cups in 1950 and 1956, and ended his playing career on a high note in 1957-58 when they captured the league title.
Having decided he liked defending, with the Tigers he became a stay-at-home rearguard of the old school. Now when he hit the back of the net it was a major event, to be greeted by loud cheers from team-mates and fans. His forte was his ability to read the game, a talent he put to good use as the Bengals’ first native born coach in 1955-56.
John and his family – his father was an architect – moved from Hastings to Wembley before World War Two and it wasn’t long before the youngster found the ice rink and the junior Cubs. He took to the game and after a season with the Colts he was recruited, aged 17, by the National League’s Monarchs, scoring five goals in 1939-40 and earning the first of his four England caps.
After the war, he spent two seasons with the Lions before coming down to Brighton and joining Mike O’Brien as the team’s only home-bred players. Eventually Oxley set a Tigers’ record for the most games played with 510. During his 20-year career he played 752 games, scoring 340 points (119 goals) and spending 565 minutes in the penalty box.
A sociable and amiable man, after retiring from the sport, he took over a couple of local pubs where he welcomed players and fans for many years.
John Arthur Oxley was born on 29 December 1922 in Hastings, East Sussex and died on 1 June 1976 in Brighton. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2008.