HISTORY OF BEDFORD TOWN FC
Bedford Town, nickname “The Eagles” was founded in 1908 and in the early years they played in the United Counties League and its predecessors, the Northampton League and Northampton Alliance.
The original playing colours were black and amber with a change to blue and white at the start of the 1950-51 season.
In 1945, The Eagles moved to the Southern League but achieved little during the first seasons. The club received a much needed boost when in February 1951 Ronnie Rooke was signed as Player/Manager. This signing captured the imagination of the public for “Rookie” was a well known footballer, having played for Arsenal, Fulham, Crystal Palace and England. For the first match under his control, there was an attendance of 4,790 and his first appearance for the club playing in the reserves when he scored a hat-trick 3,000 turned up.
However, it was not until season 1955-56 that the Eagles started on the first of their great CUP runs which would see them achieve national fame as “Giant Killers” with a number of fine wins over league opposition including Watford 3-2, Norwich 2-4, Newcastle 1-2, Exeter 1-2, Brighton 2-1 and Oxford 1-0. But possibly their greatest achievement was to draw 2-2 with Arsenal at Highbury watched by a crowd of over 55,000 in season 1955-56. The Eagles nearly caused a major shock in the replay leading 1-0 until 4 minutes from time before going down 1-2 after extra time, having had 2 goals disallowed for offside. During the 60’s, changes of manager were made in a succession of two year spells with Reg Smith taking over from Rooke followed by Basil Hayward in 1963, Ron Burgess 1965, Ron Heckman 1967, Alan Wright 1969, Reg Smith again in 1971, Brian Garvey, Jim Walker, Barry Fry 1977 and finally Trevor Gould. The last game for the Club was against Nuneaton Borough away on the 4th May 1982, with the Eagles going down 1-0. And so after 74 years the end came in 1982 when the owners of the football ground in Queens Park exercised their right to terminate the lease and when plans to build a new stadium near Barkers Lane, Bedford, failed, the Club was wound up.
Seven years later .......
On the 5th May 1989, a group of Eagles supporters met to start a campaign to re-form Bedford Town FC, which was so successful that they obtained Council permission to play their home games on a public pitch in Queens Park, ironically very close to the old ground in Ford End Road. With Tony Sullivan as team manager, they were elected to the South Midlands League and finished fourth Terry King was tempted out of retirement to team up with Tony Sullivan for the 1992-93 season and a number of early wins put them on the way to a runaway championship.
The New Eyrie
This meant that the Club had to find their own ground in order to be promoted. The Council finally decided a site at Meadow Lane, Cardington, a former council tree nursery, would be the most appropriate and with financial support from the council and much hard work from supporters and committee members, the New Eyrie was ready for the opening night game against Peterborough United watched by a crowd of over 3,000. So the Eagles went into the SML Premier Division, won their first game and remained top of the league all season.
Another race against time saw the ground upgraded and a rollercoaster campaign saw Bedford claim the 3rd promotion spot in the final week of the season. The Eagles started season 1995-96 with high hopes of a 4th successive promotion. But the team who gained promotion from Division Three never really settled to life at a higher level, and with Terry King undergoing lengthy hospital treatment a string of bad results meant that relegation was a distinct possibility. The Committee acted quickly to bring in Mick Foster from Beazer Homes Buckingham Town who brought several players with him which resulted in the Club finishing in a respectable 8th place.
Season 1996-7 was one of inconsistency, which cost the Eagles any chance of promotion. However, the Town finished in 7th place - the highest position since the Club was reformed, plus good runs in the Guardian Insurance Cup and the Associate Members Cup.
The season 1997-98 saw an exciting finale when a late run by the Eagles saw them just fail to pip Wealdstone to the 3rd promotion spot and have to settle for 4th position. The Town also won 2 cup competitions, the Beds. Premier Cup and the Vandanel Cup. This was the Eagles first senior cup trophy since the old club won the Southern League Cup way back in season 1980-81.
With just a few days to go before the start of the season, the Club parted company with the Manager and Tony Luff and Jason Reed were appointed joint managers, both being local lads with long associations with the Eagles. Tony Luff played in goal for the original club, re-joining in 1992-3 and when his career ended, he became goalkeeper coach. Jason Reed signed from Harlow Town in March 1992, our first season back in football. Scored well over 200 goals making him the highest goal scorer in the history of Bedford Town.
A great 2-3 FA Cup win away to Wisbech Town was the prelude to the start of a 14 match unbeaten run, with 13 wins and a draw which saw the Eagles go top of the table on the 20th October, a position maintained for the rest of the season until finally clinching the championship with a 2-0 win at home against Hungerford on 24th April in front of a crowd of 645.
The Town enjoyed an excellent FA Vase run getting to the 5th Round when they were drawn at home to the holders Tiverton Town. The Eagles lost 1-2 in front of a crowd of 1,566 and Tiverton went on to retain the Cup.
The Eagles had a great start to their first ever season in Division 1, an unbeaten run of 9 league and up games saw the Town move into second place. However, the next 11 games produced only 1 win and by mid-November the Eagles were in 13th spot. It was at this stage that the club parted company with the Managers. The club acted swiftly and Roger Ashby (who has enjoyed tremendous success at the highest level of non-league football, both as player and manager) was appointed. Under Roger they started with a winning run with promotion a possibility. In late February it was decided to raise funds to carry out work for an A grade. Thanks to the Committee's hard work and that of the Club's loyal band of supporters the money was raised and work completed. Unfortunately, only 1 win in 8 games meant the Eagles finished their first season in 8th spot. In the FA Trophy the Eagles celebrated their first appearance since 1981-2 by winning through to the 4th round. In the 3rd round the Eagles were drawn at home to Newport County with a 0-0 scoreline, in the reply secured 1-0 victory and the award was a plumb tie against Conference side Yeovil. The Eagles lost 0-4 a scoreline which was rather flattering to the visitors. The attendance of 2,010 was the highest attendance for a competitive game since the club was re-formed.
Roger Ashby strengthened his squad this campaign with some experienced players that have performed at a higher level. These include Paul Wilson, Paul Turner and Steve Heard.
The added strength proved to be successful with the Eagles finishing runners-up in Ryman Division One, gaining promotion to the Premier Division, losing only four league games all campaign.
The Club also became a Private Limited Company at the beginning of the season and David Howell took over the club as Chairman.
Runs in the FA competitions were short-lived, going out of the Trophy at the first time of asking with a 2-1 defeat at home to Newport County. The club reached the 2nd qualifying round of the FA Cup and were beaten in a penalty shoot-out after a replay with Ryman Premier side Enfield.
The League campaign got off to a disastrous start, losing the first seven matches before taking three points on the 8th attempt at Hendon with a 2-1 victory. The league campaign would always be difficult after that, and it wasn’t until mid February that the club finally pulled away from the bottom two when the team put together a tremendous nine game unbeaten run.
The FA Cup campaign was a memorable one, reaching the 1st Round proper after victories over, Leyton, Hednesford and Harlow Town. In front of the Match of the Day cameras the Eagles drew 0-0 at home to 2nd Division Peterborough United and took the “Posh” to a deserved replay at London Road in front of over 5,500 people. The Eagles eventually went down 2-1 and were unfortunate not to have won the game.
The FA Trophy however was a disappointment. Victory over Worthing in the 1st Round was followed by defeat by Eastbourne Borough after a replay.
After the departure Roger Ashby, former Northampton Town boss Kevin Wilson was appointed as manager of Bedford Town on 2nd October. Kevin played at the highest level and was capped by Northern Ireland 42 times. Dave Randall who took temporary charge was appointed as Kevin’s assistant with Ady Hall taking over as Reserve manager. Cup form was disappointing with a 3rd Qualifying round exit at Wisbech in the FA Cup and a FA Trophy 1st round replay defeat at the hands of Marlow. However since the arrival of Kevin Wilson, league form improved dramatically and the club finished in its highest league position of 9th since reformation. In October 2003 Manager Kevin Wilson and his Assistant Lee Howey resigned from the club to join Aylesbury United. Reserve and PASE Coach Dave Randall took charge in October 2003 but agreed to stand down in January 2004 after a poor run of league results. He was immediately replaced by Nick Platnnauer, with Kim Davis coming in as 1st team coach. Dave Randall took the role of assistant manager .
After the disappointing defeat in the final play off game against St Albans City the Eagles find themselves back in the Southern League. Nick has had to virtually build a new squad for the new season. The season started shakily and by mid October the club were second from bottom of the League. However an up turn in form saw the Eagles win 12 home league games on the trot and reach 2nd place. Unfortunately injuries took their toll and eventually slipped to 5th by the end of the season. Bedford reached the semi final of the play off losing on penalties to Chippenham Town. The Eagles also lost 3-2 over two legs to Kings Lynn in the League Cup final, but silverware did come to the club in the form of the Bedfordshire Senior Cup, beating Barton Rovers in the final 2-1.
The club moved into its new facilities at the beginning of this season with a new function room and football facilities up to National Conference standard. The club were consistent throughout the season remaining in the top 5 from September until the end of the season. Finishing 5th meant away trips in the play offs. A hard fought 1-0 win at Bath city saw the Eagles facing Chippenham in the play offs for the 2nd year running. The Eagles had their day however with a magnificent 3-2 win, the winning goal coming from a wonder strike by Tom Bonner two minutes from time. The Eagles now face a new challenge in Nationwide South, the highest standard the club have played in since re-formation in 1990.
The Eagles fist third of the Season went reasonably well with the team consolidating in 14th position, but things changed after two defeats in the space of a week in November. After leading 2-1 at home to Bognor with nine minutes to go Bedford conceded 2 goals in a 3-2 defeat. The week after at Farnborough the Eagles went 2-0 up only to lose the game 3-2. This seemed to dent the confidence of the team and we then failed to win a league game for four months and found ourselves at the foot of the table. Manager Nick Platnauer handed in his resignation in Februay 2007. Stuart Bimson was appointed Caretaker Manager with Dave Randall as assistant. Although results did improve relegation was confirmed on the 7th of April in a 2-0 defeat at Newport County. The FA Competitions were another disappointment for the club. The Eagles were knocked out of the FA Cup 3rd Qualifying round at home to Nationwide North side Moor Green 2-0 at the Eyrie. The FA Trophy was no better, losing at the first time of asking in a 2-0 defeat at Basingstoke Town. Caretaker Manager Stuart Bimson was given the job at the end of the campaign after some impressive end of season form!
The Eagles started the season with a poor 4-0 defeat at home to Bromsgrove but results improved and by early November were up to 7th in the league. However with a run of Saturday away games over a two and a half month period affected the teams form which they never really recovered from and Bedford were relegated in the penultimate league game of the season in a 2-1 defeat against Corby Town.
The Eagles went out of the FA Cup in a 2nd Qualifying Round Replay against Boreham Wood and were knocked out of the FA Trophy in the 1st Qualifying Round at Chesham United. Due to financial problems with other clubs Bedford escaped relegation and will continue in the Premier Division for 2008/09. In the middle of our preparations for 2008/09 Manager Stuart Bimson left the club to take a position at Cambridge United has Assistant Manager. Former Club Captain and Assistant Manager Lee Howarth has now been appointed 1st Team Manager.
Former captain Lee Howarth started his first season as manager, with former reserve manager Ady Hall coming in as assistant. Their aim, to halt the slide of the last couple of seasons. This was achieved with a 15th place in the league which could have been much better if the teams away form had been up to scratch. The team only picked up 5 results on their travels with 4 wins and 1 draw.
The Eagles went out of the FA Cup in the 2nd Qualifying round after a replay with now Conference national side AFC Wimbledon. The club went out on their first attempt in the FA Tropjhy, losing at home to Corby Town.
The season proved to be another struggle for the Eagles. Conceding 88 goals in the league made life difficult to pick up regular points. After the departure of Manager Lee Howarth in March after a 6-1 defeat at Farnborough, former Reading Captain and Welsh International Ady Williams took over the reigns with the club looking at the distinct possibility of relegation. The fight came down to the last game of the season when we ran out
2-0 winners and escaped relegation by a point. The club reached the 3rd Qualifying Round of the FA Cup before going out after a replay to Southern League Midlands Champions Bury Town. The FA Trophy was another disappointment losing at Yate Town 2-1 at the first hurdle.
Pre-season promise did not materialise and with only one league win in the first twelve and early exits from FA Cup and Trophy saw manager Ady Williams resign in October. Long serving Assistant and former Reserves Manager Ady Hall was appointed as Manager on 30th October, with record appearance holder Eddie Lawley and Bedford born Josh Sozzo both appointed as Assistant Joint Player Managers.
The beginning of the 2011/12 season saw former reserve manager Steve Rigby taking over as assistant manager. The season didn’t start well and early exits from the FA Cup and FA trophy both against East Thurrock didn’t help matters. Former manager Nick Platnauer returned to the fold as assistant manager in October and Steve Rigby left for AFC kempston Rovers. The second half of the season saw an upturn in league form with the club finishing in 10th position its highest finish for six years. Manager Ady Hall resigned at the end of the season due to work commitments and former manager Nick Platnauer took on the role assisted by former Nothampton Town player Adam Sandy.
Cup success once again eluded the Eagles, losing 1-0 at Waltham Abbey in the 1st Qualifying round of the FA Cup and losing out in the 2nd Qualifying Round of the FA Trophy to Maidstone United. The League campaign was a mixed affair, but the Eagles got their act together in the New Year and an 8 game unbeaten run saw the club come within touching distance of the play offs. Defeats at crucial times meant the Eagles finished in 10th position the same as the previous season.
With Chairman David Howell reducing his financial commitment to the Club, Manager Nick Platnauer and Assistant Adam sandy resigned. The Club moved quickly and appointed Cranfield United Manager and former Eagles player Lee Bearman as Manager with a directive to find good local talent rather than searching further afield for players. Coach Steve Jackman was appointed Assistant Manager.