1951/2 in photos

This is what would now be called a Press Day-in early August 1951, Ronnie Rooke (far left) and chairman William Hobkirk (third from right) show some of the new signings round the ground. Left to right-John McInnes, Dougie Gardiner, Joe Campbell, Larry Gage, George Adams and Joe Simner. Were they being sponsored by a macintosh supplier?

This was the team that drew 1-1 with Hastings at The Eyrie on 23 August 1951 in the first home match of 1951/2. The attendance record was beaten for the second time in a few months, with 8,136 turning up.

Back row: Cyril Trailor, Billy Butler, Larry Gage, Ken Fisher, Louis Delaney.

Front: Horace Wallbanks, Vivian Woodward, Ronnie Rooke (player-manager), Joe Campbell, Dougie Gardiner, Johnny Holland.

Rooke had only been in charge since the previous February but Wallbanks is the only player shown here who was not one of his signings. By the end of September, he had been demoted to the reserves as well. Two of these players later made big contributions to the coaching staff- Gardiner became Tim Kelly’s right hand man in 1955, and Campbell returned to the staff in 1959 when Rooke started his second spell as manager, and stayed until his sadly premature death in 1967.

There was trouble at this match, watched by 7,330 against Worcester at The Eyrie on 1 September 1951, as the headline from the Bedford Record relates. Worcester had been two goals up at half-time but just after the hour Ronnie Rooke had reduced the deficit, and here he is seen finishing off the move, as centre half Jones and the young goalkeeper, Ron Baynham-later a fixture between Luton’s posts for a decade-fail to clear. With ten minutes left Rooke equalized from the penalty spot, but in the dying seconds Worcester were given a penalty for an unknown infringement when the Bedford players thought there should have been a free kick the other way for handball. Goalkeeper Larry Gage protested to the point of being sent off, a very rare occurrence in those days, and Louis Delaney failed to save what proved to be the winning kick. The cutting below records what happened next.

The team that went down 0-2 to Swindon at the County Ground in the first round proper of the FA Cup on 24 November 1951.

Back: William T Hobkirk (chairman), Joe Millbank, Louis Delaney, Larry Gage, Bob Allen, Dougie Gardiner, Cyril Trailor.

Front: Johnny Holland, Vivian Woodward, Ronnie Rooke (player-manager), Joe Simner, John McInnes.

This was Bedford’s first encounter with League opposition and though not disgraced, they were never serious contenders to win as the full-timers’ superior fitness told in muddy conditions. The crowd of 15,899, the biggest to date for any match involving the club, helped to swell the coffers, and it included 32 busloads from Bedford.

An early scare in the Eagles’ goalmouth at Swindon, as Dougie Gardiner (right) tries to assist keeper Larry Gage against marauding home forwards.

Bedford’s left winger John McInnes, a talented player whose career was cut short by illness, is foiled by Swindon’s Northern Ireland international keeper Norman Uprichard.

(Left) Ronnie Rooke threatens the Swindon goal. (Right) Bedford captain Joe Millbank meets his opposite number, Joffre Gulliver (named, presumably, after the French Great War general, since he was born in 1915), and London referee H S Bearman-whose brother, the Rev Leslie Bearman, a Bedford vicar who was also a senior referee, triggered crowd trouble soon after the war by abandoning a match at The Eyrie in a snowstorm (see Commentary season by season, 1945-50).

This was the nearest that Bedford came to scoring at Swindon, in the early stages, when Joe Simner (left), playing against his old club, beat Uprichard only to be ruled offside. Simner was a much-travelled player who fell out with Rooke after the manager preferred to select himself at centre-forward. In November 1952 he asked to be released after being sent off in a reserve match, and soon afterwards moved to Dover. Later that season he was reported to be “considering moving to Bogota”, presumably to follow in the footsteps of Charlie Mitten and Neil Franklin, two well-known players of the period who briefly played in Colombia and were banned by the FA for their pains as Colombia was not affiliated to FIFA. Perhaps wisely, Simner settled for a move to Kidderminster Harriers….

The scene before the start of the home match against Cheltenham on 9 February 1952. The players and officials observe a minute’s silence in memory of King George VI, who had died the previous week; Bedford line up at the back in the quartered shirts, with (from right) Joe Campbell, Larry Gage, Ronnie Rooke and Ken Fisher visible. Local clergy had earlier presided at a short act of worship on the pitch, including the signing of Abide with me, and after the silence the national anthem was sung. Bedford went on to produce one of their best performances of the season with a 4-1 win, breaking a run of three defeats, before a crowd of 4,409. The houses in view are those in Nelson Street, visible because as yet there is no development at the Ford End Road end-dressing rooms would be built there the summer after this picture was taken and the terracing was covered in 1954.

Seven thousand supporters turned up for the customary end-of-season County Cup tie against Luton on 21 April 1952, but went home disappointed after Luton won 1-0 thanks to an 85th minute goal by Bernard Moore-who was to join Bedford four years later. In this view Moore (right) has been outjumped by Ken Fisher, with Frank Boulton (left) and Dougie Gardiner in waiting.

This picture was billed as the eleven that achieved some consolation a few days after the Luton defeat by winning the Hunts Premier Cup-the club’s first trophy since the war- with a 4-1 defeat of Cambridge United.

Back: Charlie Bicknell (trainer), Dougie Gardiner, Billy Butler, Joe Millbank, Larry Gage, Ken Fisher, Bob Allen, Joe Simner.

Front: Johnny Holland, Freddie Hall, Ronnie Rooke (player-manager), Joe Campbell, Johnny Summers, W T Hobkirk (chairman)

However, according to the match report which accompanied the picture, Hall didn’t play whereas Simner did-and scored one of the goals! It’s possible that substitutes were allowed and that Hall replaced Simner late in the game, explaining why Simner is already changed out of his kit.

If he did get on to the field, this would be the last appearance for Hall, who became a fixture at Eynesbury Rovers, and it certainly was for Allen, who was forced to retire by illness.