Bedford Town F.C.
|Full name||Bedford Town Football Club|
|Founded||1908 (reformed 1989)|
|Ground||The New Eyrie, Cardington|
|Capacity||4,000 (300 seated)|
|League||Southern League Premier Division|
|2012–13||Southern League Premier Division, 10th|
Bedford Town F.C. is an English football club based in the Borough of Bedford. The club are currently members of the Southern League Premier Division and play at The New Eyrie in Cardington, a parish on the outskirts of Bedford.
The club is affiliated to the Bedfordshire County Football Association.
Bedford Town were founded in 1908 by Peter Inglefeild Staker and in the early years they played in the Northampton League and Northampton Alliance, which later became the United Counties League. The original 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 they 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 reserves when he scored a hat-trick 3,000 turned up.
However, it was not until the 1955–56 season that the Eagles started on the first of their notable cup runs which would see them achieve national fame as "Giant Killers". These included a number of wins over league opposition including Watford 3–2, Norwich City 2–4, Newcastle United 1–2, Exeter City 1–2, Brighton & Hove Albion 2–1. and Oxford United 1–0. Possibly their greatest achievement was to draw 2–2 with Arsenal at Highbury watched by a crowd of over 55,000 in 1955–56 season. 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 two goals disallowed for offside.
During the 1960s and 70's the managers of the club lasted for about two years each: Reg Smith took over from Ronnie Rook followed by Basil Hayward in 1963, Ron Burgess 1965, Ron Heckman 1967, Alan Wright 1969, and Reg Smith again in 1971. Brian Garvey, Jim Walker and Barry Fry all managed the club in 1977, and the last manager was Trevor Gould.
After 74 years the end of Bedford Town F.C. came when the owners of the football ground terminated the lease. The last game was away to Nuneaton Borough on 4 May 1982 with the Eagles losing 1–0. Plans for a new ground in the Bedford area failed and the club was wound up in 1982.
On 5 May 1989 a group of Eagles supporters met to start a campaign to re-form Bedford Town FC. The re-formed club obtained Council permission to play home games on a public pitch in Queens Park, very near to the team's old ground in Ford End Road.
Sponsored by Allen Sturges Travel with Allen Sturges as Club President and Tony Sullivan as team manager, the club was elected to the South Midlands League and finished fourth. Terry King came out of retirement to team up with Tony Sullivan for the 1992–93 season and a good start saw them top the league, never to be caught on the way to the championship.
Climbing the pyramid
Another race against time saw the ground upgraded and Bedford claim 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 settled to life at the 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 Buckingham Town who brought several players with him to help secure a finishing in 8th place for the club.
The 1996–97 Season was one of inconsistency, which cost the Eagles any chance of promotion. However the club finished in 7th place, the highest position since the club was reformed with good runs in Guardian Insurance Cup and the Associate Members Cup.
The 1997–98 Season saw an exciting finale when a late run by the Eagles saw them just fail to beat Wealdstone to the third promotion spot and have to settle for fourth position. During this season the team won The Beds Premier Cup, defeating Barton Rovers and the Vandanel Cup, by defeating Epsom & Ewell 2–0 in the final. This was the Eagles' first senior cup trophy since the old club won the Southern League Cup way back in season 1980–81.
The following season was a success for Bedford Town as they won the Isthmian League Division Two. Two years later, they finished runner-up in Division One, reaching the Premier Division. After three seasons in the Isthmian Premier, Bedford had to win two playoff games to reach the new Conference South league, but they lost to St Albans City in the playoff final and were transferred to the Southern League Premier Division in the first stage of the non-league re-organization. After two successive 5th place finishes, the Eagles won 3–2 in the promotion playoff final against Chippenham Town at Hardenhuish Park in 2005–06, earning a spot in the Conference South.
Bedford were relegated from the Conference South on 7 April 2007 after a 2–0 defeat to Newport County and returned to the Southern League Premier Division. The club then slipped to a second successive relegation on 19 April 2008 after a 2–1 loss to Corby Town and were set play in the Southern League Division One Midlands for the 2008–09 season. However, due to the demise of Nuneaton Borough, Bedford remained in the Southern League Premier Division, and managed to consolidate their position in the division. Disappointing results in the 2009–10 season led to the departure of manager Lee Howarth in March 2010. The club announced newly appointed manager Adrian Williams inside a week. For the 2013-14 season, in the Calor League Premier, the chairman Dave Howell announced severe cost-cutting measures, leading to a mass departure of management and players. They are currently managed by Danny Nicholls who is assisted by Alan Biley.
Bedford Town's traditional rivals are Kettering Town However, since the reformation of the club, they have rarely competed in the same division as the Northamptonshire club. More recent local rivals include Hitchin Town and St Albans City. In the 1990s and early 21st Century, Bedford Town built up a rivalry with Essex based Canvey Island. This was due to the competition between the two clubs as they climbed the Isthmian League together. This rivalry died away, however, when Canvey Island dropped from the Conference National below Bedford Town in the football pyramid.
Bedford Town currently play at the New Eyrie, located on Meadow Lane in Cardington, a parish on the southern edge of Bedford. Previously the club had been based at two rented sites in Queen Park. By the 1992–93 season, to qualify for promotion to higher divisions in the English football league system, the club had to find a ground of its own. With help from the Bedford Borough Council, the club located a site of a former tree nursery in Cardington. Converting the site into a football ground was aided with financial support from the council, as well as support from fans and club committee members. The opening game against Peterborough United was watched by a crowd of over 3,000. Facilities at the ground were subsequently upgraded a couple of years later.
The ground is located next to McMullen Park, the home ground of local rivals Bedford F.C.
Staff and squad
- Davey Hoyle (Chairman)
- Dave Swallow (Club Secretary)
- Danny Nicholls (Manager)
- Alan Biley (Assistant Manager)
- Alice Grindrod ( (1st Team Physio)
- Bianca Hewer (sports rehabilitation)
Note: Flags indicate national team as has been defined under FIFA eligibility rules. Players may hold more than one non-FIFA nationality.
- Southern League
- Isthmian League
- Division Two champions 1998–99
- South Midlands League
- Premier Division champions 1993–94
- Division One champions 1992–93
- Best FA Cup performance: Fourth round, 1963–64, 1964–65
- Best FA Trophy performance: Semi Final, 1974–75
- Best FA Vase performance: Fifth round, 1998–99.
- Club website
- Bedford Town at the Football Club History Database
- Supporters Unofficial Site
- https://sites.google.com/site/bedfordoldeagles/ [unofficial site on history of the old BTFC up to 1982]