1950/1 in photos

Photograph by kind permission of Bedford Community Arts

This little group was probably photographed at the start of the 1949/50 season, because it shows two players who joined that summer, but contributed significantly in 1950/1- Frank O’Hagan (fourth from left) and Freddie Hall (fifth). Extreme left is Pat Comerford, who had been around as an amateur since 1947 but signed professional forms that summer, Second from left is the coach, Charlie Bicknell, and far right is trainer Bob Thompson. The young man at the front is unidentified but might be the son of one of the others.

Although none of these players had long playing careers at The Eyrie, all of them settled in the area and became very long-serving figures with local minor clubs. Comerford had a short spell in League football with Shrewsbury before playing into the 1960s for Eynesbury, Potton, Biggleswade and Bletchley. Hall’s Bedford career got off to an unlucky start since he broke a leg on his home debut, but later he became manager and eventually chairman at Eynesbury Rovers, and is still commemorated in their Player of the Year award. O’Hagan, who played for Rushden and Kempston among other clubs, was in charge of Bedford’s youth teams in the last years of the old club’s existence and was assistant manager to Trevor Gould in its final season, 1981/2.

In the background is the Long Shelter as it looked before the roof fascia boards were adorned with advertisements.

This team group was taken at the start of the 1950/1 season.

Back row: Charlie Bicknell (club coach), Vic Hayes, Tom Potter, Albert Capstick, Joe Millbank, Fred Allen, Pat Comerford, Bob Thompson (trainer).

Front row: Horace Wallbanks, Jimmy Cumming, Freddie Hall, George Chapman, Alan Moorhouse.

The first match of the season produced an unexpected 4-2 home win against Headington in the League Cup, watched by 5,200 on 19 August. Here Alan Moorhouse (11) bursts through to net the second goal, with Freddie Hall backing up on the left.

Photographs above and below by kind permission of the Surrey Advertiser

Defensive walls are nothing new, and above Bedford’s defence attempts to block a free kick by Guildford City’s Eddie Passmore in the goalless draw at Josephs Road in the FA Cup fourth qualifying round on 11 November 1950. Albert Capstick is number 4 and Freddie Hall at the far left hand side.

Bedford went down 1-2 in the replay on 16 November, when Guildford’s late winner was allowed by the referee although a linesman had flagged it offside-provoking crowd trouble at the end. Here Joe Millbank (left) and Vic Hayes fight it out in the air with Eddie Passmore, watched by Passmore’s team mate John Baynham.

This interesting picture shows the real beginning of Ronnie Rooke’s first spell at the club. Before the league match against Kettering at The Eyrie on 27 January 1951, the players were introduced, in front of the old main stand, to Rooke by the chairman, W T Hobkirk (far right). The day marked the formal launch of the new limited company, and toasts were drunk to its success by an array of guests. Officially, Rooke, who had been out of work since being sacked by Crystal Palace the previous October, was just one of those guests, but the very public nature of this scene makes it clear that he was being courted by the directors-even though Charlie Bicknell was still in charge. The Bedford Record coyly said that afterwards “Rooke discussed a possible appointment with the Bedford directors”, although he “has other offers under consideration”. He didn’t bring the players a change of fortune, with Kettering winning 2-1 to inflict a sixth defeat in seven matches, but he did draw out the winning ticket in the club raffle-for a bicycle worth £20. The winner immediately donated the bike to the Supporters Club! Rooke was actually appointed player-manager on 8 February.

Players seen above, left to right:

??(at back), George Chapman, Jimmy Cumming, ?? (partly hidden), Freddie Hall, Albert Capstick, Joe Millbank, Pat Comerford, Sid Coleman.

This advert encouraging supporters to subscribe for shares in the new limited company appeared in the programme for the SL match v Cheltenham on 6 January 1951. The company did not start trading until the following month. In the summer of 1953 chairman William Hobkirk attacked his fellow-directors for not taking up enough shares themselves-a quarrel which led to his resignation. (For more on the share issue see Incorporation details).

The first of Ronnie Rooke’s 96 senior competitive goals for the Eagles, on 3 March 1951 during his first team debut, against Tonbridge. It came after half an hour, “and was a gem”, according to the local paper’s report: “he shot from 25 yards or thereabouts and the ball flashed into the net with goalkeeper [Ted] Hankey helpless. It was only half a chance”. It wasn’t enough for two points, since Tonbridge equalized in the second half, but it must have encouraged the 4,790 who saw it. Rooke had one of the most powerful shots in the game at the time, and stories abounded of him breaking goal nets. I only saw him play once, during his second spell when he was nearly 50 years old and officially retired but would occasionally appear for the reserves. That day they won 3-0, two of the goals coming from Rooke piledrivers delivered from the edge of the penalty area with minimal backlift; he walked through the match and did little else.

The climax of Ronnie Rooke’s honeymoon period in charge came at The Eyrie on 10 May 1951 when his new team beat the very strong Merthyr Tydfil side, newly crowned league champions, 2-0 before a new home record crowd of 7,349, which was quite an achievement for an end-of-season evening match with nothing but pride at stake. Here Rooke challenges Merthyr goalkeeper Davies, with Vivian Woodward, making his debut, in the background. Below, over the same weekend Rooke made a celebrity appearance at a local fete, but was he upstaged by Ramon’s Canine Wonders?

This is the line-up for the County Cup final against Luton at The Eyrie on 7 May 1951, when a strong visiting line-up won 5-0 to puncture the euphoria that had developed since Ronnie Rooke’s arrival a little, although the crowd of over 6,700 would have pleased the directors.

Back row: Bob Thompson (trainer), Freddie Hall, Billy Butler, Frank Boulton, Joe Millbank, Louis Delaney, Cyril Folkes (secretary).

Front row: Frank Faulkner, Horace Wallbanks, Ronnie Rooke (player-manager), Frank Penn, Johnny Holland, Pat Comerford.

Boulton, Butler, Delaney, Penn, Holland and of course Rooke himself had all arrived since the end of January, and between them the newcomers had lifted the club from a seemingly doomed position in the league to 17th place with a run of 14 unbeaten games from Rooke’s debut on 3 March.