1954/5 in photos

Chairman Cyril Folkes (extreme right) meets the new signings before the public trial match at the start of 1954/5. Left to right are Ron Anderson, Hugh Evans, Doug Farquhar, Edgar Duffett, David Marchant, Mel Bines (partly hidden), Ray Haddington, Peter Fisher, Harry Kirton, Harry Lunn and manager Fred Stansfield.

Marchant and Kirton departed without making first team appearances, and only Farquhar survived Stansfield’s departure the following spring to play in Tim Kelly’s team.

In the opening home fixture of 1954/5 Bedford lost 1-3 to Hastings, whose goalkeeper, Jack Ball, here saves a cross watched by Bedford’s Edgar Duffett (left) and Johnny Holland in the background, with Hastings defender Cyril Toulouse in the centre. Duffett had started his career with Bedford as an amateur just after the war before playing for Norwich and Carlisle (under Bill Shankly). His return lasted only one season but he became a very well known figure on the local scene as player-manager at St Neots and then manager at Biggleswade and Shefford. A crowd of 5,500 saw this evening match but a dismal season saw crowds dip below the 3,000 mark by Christmas.

The Eagles had to wait until their sixth league match to collect a win, against Gravesend at The Eyrie on 16 September 1954. The crowd had declined from 5,500 for the opening home match against Hastings to 3,600. Here Bedford’s amateur left winger Bobby Blacklock (right) challenges Gravesend keeper Peter Heathcote. Blacklock was in the RAF at Henlow, and had appeared in the reserves the previous season, but after a few outings he was allowed to join Hitchin Town.

After a terrible start to the season, with only three points from their first seven league matches, Bedford suddenly went mad in this home League Cup tie against Weymouth on 27 September 1954 and scored nine without reply, their biggest competitive win since the war. Here, Vivian Woodward is smashing home their seventh goal. I remember being told that Woodward was a son or grandson of the famous pre-1914 amateur forward of the same name, who played for Tottenham and won both full and amateur caps, but this appears to have been completely untrue since that Woodward never married and his biography reveals no children! In fact, the man pictured here, a signing from the first Rooke era who had given the club four good seasons, was born in South Wales and was now nearing the end of a respectable career which had featured over 200 League appearances with Fulham, Millwall, Brentford and Aldershot plus a wartime cap for Wales. This big win was followed by three straight league successes, but proved a false dawn.

One of the successes following the Weymouth goal-feast came the following week, on 2 October 1954, with a 3-2 home win against Hereford. The Weymouth result had increased the gate from 3,700 to 4,400 and here they have just seen Woodward (out of picture) score the second goal, one of two he bagged in the match. Hereford keeper John Lewis is about to berate his colleagues as Frank Faulkner (left) and Ted Duggan start to celebrate.

Exempt from the FA Cup until the fourth qualifying round, Bedford went through comfortably on 6 November 1954 with a 5-2 home win against March Town United of the Eastern Counties League. Here the March centre-half Price heads clear under challenge from Ted Duggan and the more distant Edgar Duffett. There’s also a fragmentary glimpse of the rarely photographed old stand (see The Eyrie in photographs).

Another scene from the March cup tie shows Vivian Woodward, hair neatly parted, about to challenge March player-manager Oscar Hold, with Ted Duggan, who scored a hat-trick, following up. 5,577 saw this match, despite the minor opposition, but Bedford’s season went steadily downhill afterwards and this figure would not be exceeded later. Hold had his revenge four years later, when as manager of Wisbech he watched his team win 4-3 at The Eyrie at the same stage of the competition.

Bedford were knocked out of the FA Cup 0-2 by Dorchester Town, of the Western League, at their Weymouth Avenue ground in a poor display on 20 November 1954 in front of a 3,500 crowd. Here Bedford keeper Ben Kinchin, who was on loan from Gillingham while doing his national service at RAF Henlow, saves from home striker Spink, who scored their second goal in the 88th minute. Kinchin, who made a permanent move to the club the following summer, was making his first team debut in this match and is watched here by Paddy Kelly, another recent acquisition who had come from Dundalk in Ireland. Kinchin was at fault for Dorchester’s first goal and Kelly’s brother, Jimmy, was another debutant in this match. The probably unsettled side produced such a poor performance that the Bedford Record reporter thought that “no gloomier afternoon has been experienced for some time” and quoted one “caustic supporter” as saying that the corner flags shows more movement than the visiting forwards. To be fair, Dorchester did win the Western League that season and in the next round went out to York City, the eventual surprise semi-finalists. Exactly a year earlier and a few miles south, the Eagles had been knocked out by the same score at the same stage by Dorchester’s neighbours, Weymouth.

Dorchester defender Cox in a tussle with Ted Duggan (right). Duggan, had been signed by Ronnie Rooke from Worcester after a league career with Luton and QPR, and his goalscoring, mainly from centre-forward, was one of the few bright spots of a dismal season in 1954/5, during which he was joined for a while by his younger brother, Percy. Ted was the brother-in-law of Luton’s famous ten-goal record holder of pre-war years, Joe Payne, and returned to Kenilworth Road as player-coach to the junior sides in 1956.

After their FA Cup exit at Dorchester the Eagles achieved only three wins and two draws from their next 15 league matches, a run which culminated in Fred Stansfield’s departure. This is one of the draws, a goalless affair against Headington at The Eyrie on 18 December 1954. Ted Duggan (left) and Vivian Woodward challenge visiting keeper Jack Ansell, watched by his centre-half Bob Craig, who was to join Bedford the following summer along with his colleagues Johnny Crichton, Ronnie Steel and Harry Yates in a move which transformed the playing fortunes for the next few years. This was to be Woodward’s final appearance-he moved to Biggleswade in the new year in a swap for Ted Duggan’s brother, Percy, and marked his exit by missing a penalty.

A rare succesful day at the Eyrie on 5 February 1955 brought a 3-1 win against Llanelly. Here a Llanelly defender heads away with Percy Duggan and Johnny Holland on the right. But the return fixture in Wales a week later brought a 1-6 defeat, and further defeats at Hereford and Worcester (see below) meant that time was almost up for manager Fred Stansfield, sacked a month after this match.

Photograph courtesy and copyright of the Worcester News.

Things went from bad to worse after the turn of the year, and this is a scene from the 1-6 thumping at Edgar Street, Hereford, on 19 February 1955. Perhaps the icy conditions can charitably be said to account for the statuesque defending on show here, where only Les Horne (far right) of the Bedford players seems to doing much about counteracting Hereford’s Doug Blair. Looking on are Frank Morrad (3), who had some excuse at the age of 35, and Ken Fisher and Maurice Walby (left).

Photograph courtesy and copyright of the Worcester News.

Another trip to the West Midlands a week after the Hereford defeat produced a less unpleasant scoreline but no more points as the Eagles went down 0-2 to Worcester at St George’s Lane. The snow piled around the touchlines indicates another wintry day as Bedford right-back Maurice Walby hoofs the ball away, watched by (left to right) Ben Kinchin, Doug Farquhar and Mel Bines , with Les Horne sliding in rather late to tackle Worcester’s McCaffery. Walby, who never turned professional, made only a handful of senior appearances for the club but had a long career in top amateur football, winning two England caps and eventually managing St Albans City, one of his former clubs.

At the end of a season of struggle the arrival of Tim Kelly as manager sparked a revival which lifted the team from second bottom to 18th place and a final tally of 35 points, 15 of which came in the last 11 matches. This spell included a creditable 1-1 draw in the Beds Professional Cup Final on 23 April 1955 against Luton Town, the club Kelly had just left, and who were about to clinch promotion to the old First Division for the first time. Here their young reserve goalkeeper, Alan Collier, who would join Bedford 10 years later, saves from Billy Waugh (centre)-an ex-Luton player-with Alan Thompson, who would also join Bedford three years later, to Waugh’s left. Also in view for Bedford are Percy Duggan (left background) and Frank Faulkner (far right) and the other defender is Billy Dallas.

This was the eleven that drew with Luton in the Beds Professional Cup on 23 April 1955.

Back: Charlie Bicknell (trainer), Len Garwood, Paddy Kelly, Charlie Bumstead, Frank Morrad, Dougie Farquhar.

Front: Frank Faulkner, Percy Duggan, Ted Duggan, Ken Fisher, Billy Waugh, Johnny Holland.

Only Farquhar, Faulkner, Garwood, Waugh and Ted Duggan survived to start the following season. Bicknell, who had been player-coach from 1948 to early 1951, became Tim Kelly’s assistant manager for a time later in his tenure as manager.