1959/60 in photos

The 1959/60 squad before the start of the season in August. It’s one of those photographs where, just to make it clear who really matters at the club, the directors have hogged all the best seats, either side of the Championship shield won at Hereford the previous May.

Back: Ron Smith, Alan Thompson, Ron Clark, Eddie Smith, Roy Greenwood, Billy Goss, Denis Howe, George Fenn, Gordon Hepple, Brian Edwards, Jim Stanbrook, Roy Docherty*.

Middle: Tommy Ruff (trainer), Maurice Robinson, Ron Newman, Terry Murray, Colin Brittan, Bob Craig, Tony Hawksworth, Tony Jones, Len Duquemin, Andy Easton, Jimmy Clugston, Micky Bull, Ken Morgan*, Les Slatter, Joe Campbell (assistant trainer).

Front: Ronnie Rooke (manager) Reg Cornelius (secretary), and directors T.C.Eckstein, Len Noble, Ted Ashdown (chairman), Harry Cosford (vice-chairman), Cyril Symes, H.L.Miles, F.C.Reynolds and S.H.Thomas.

* Did not appear in the first team.

Ronnie Rooke’s second spell as manager got off to a successful start with a 3-1 defeat of Nuneaton, one of the teams who had joined the north-western section the previous year from the Birmingham League, at The Eyrie. Here Len Duquemin is about to be foiled by their goalkeeper, Mike Gibson, making his debut aged 19, who went on to play over 400 Football League matches, mainly for Bristol City. Jimmy Clugston hovers in the distance. 5,635 turned up on a hot day to see the club receive the Championship flag, which can just be seen on the pole to the left of the Ford End Road covered enclosure. Unfortunately no other league attendance later in the season came anywhere close to that figure and by its end there were serious financial problems. Twenty two years later, in May 1982, Nuneaton were the club’s final opponents before they went into liquidation.

Signs that all was far from well in Rooke’s second spell as manager appeared in this match against Boston United at The Eyrie on 12 September 1959, when the Eagles crashed 1-5, their heaviest home defeat since the Stansfield era. Here Eddie Smith, a carroty-haired and much travelled inside forward signed by Rooke on trial in August, challenges Boston keeper Len Williams without success. Smith failed to convince and moved on shortly afterwards, although Rooke was impressed by Arthur Hukin, Boston’s lanky striker, and signed him several months later.

Another unimpressive home defeat followed on 24 October 1959, when Kettering, who were eventually relegated, won 1-0 before just over 5,000. Here Micky Bull heads goalwards but Kettering keeper Russell Crossley saved it, watched by his player-manager Jackie Froggatt, the former Portsmouth, Leicester and England defender.

(left) Len Duquemin in typical pose, challenging Hayes keeper Joe Lewis in the 5-3 FA Cup win against the amateur side in the fourth qualifying round on 31 October 1959 before 5,777 spectators, but Bedford were dismissed 0-4 in the next round by Gillingham. Andy Easton looks on, in one of his last games for the club- which he completed despite a broken toe, scoring the opening goal.

(Right) Tony Hawksworth, who was now fully established as first choice goalkeeper, cuts out a cross in the Hayes match. Dennis Howe is the partly obscured Bedford player. Hawksworth had been a “Busby Babe” and won two FA Youth Cup winner’s medals at Old Trafford, but Ray Wood and later Harry Gregg blocked his path to the first team. He was perhaps a little on the short side but was a brave and reliable keeper who served the club well for nearly seven seasons before ending his career playing for Terry Murray at Rushden Town. His weekday job was with the Gas Board and I remember being excited when he once called to read our meter!

Gillingham’s Bill Albury, who was to join Bedford for a time in 1967/8, heads past Tony Hawksworth to give the visitors a 17th minute lead in the first round FA Cup tie at The Eyrie on 14 November 1959. Alan Thompson is in the background. 6,728 people saw Bedford lose 0-4 in the end, but the last three goals all came in the final 25 minutes and many thought that Bedford were wrongly denied a goal at 0-1 when Micky Bull’s shot hit the underside of the bar and bounced down. “It was a foot or 18 inches over the line”, visiting captain Harry Hughes is supposed to have told Len Duquemin afterwards, but the referee thought otherwise.

Len Duquemin had gone seven games with only one goal to show for his efforts at the end of this match, and here he hovers as Gillingham keeper John Simpson takes a high ball under challenge. Having hit 31 goals in 30 games in 1958/9, Duquemin scored “only” 43 in 54 in 1959/60, but the real problem was with his colleagues-of the regular forwards only Jimmy Clugston managed over 20 goals, and lack of firepower was to be the theme of Rooke’s second spell in charge. With fewer “soft” opponents in the new Premier division, the defence didn’t help either; having conceded only 1.28 goals a game in 1958/9, they now shipped more than two a match.

Len Duquemin had recovered his scoring touch by the time of this match against King’s Lynn on Boxing Day, 1959, and here he hits the first goal of a hat-trick in a comfortable 5-2 win. Arthur Hukin, who had marked his home debut ideally by opening the scoring two minutes earlier, is on the far left as Duquemin beats the grounded Lynn keeper Thomas.

[Unfortunately the British Newspaper Library’s copy of the Bedford Record photograph is slightly damaged]

With Andy Easton moving to Kettering after the FA Cup exit, Rooke badly needed an extra forward and his response was to sign Arthur Hukin from Boston United just before Christmas for £250. Hukin was a tall, persevering striker who had married a Bedford girl and already worked in the area as a painter and decorator, so he was an obvious target, and his 108 goals in 146 appearances over the next four seasons made him one of the most successful goalscorers in the old club’s history. (The official blurb supplied by the club for inclusion in away programmes for a time in the late 60s claimed that he was the all-time record scorer with over 200 goals, but this is incorrect-David Sturrock actually scored more (124), though with a much lower strike rate in 274 matches). Many will remember Hukin's courageous battling play, making the most of a rather willowy frame against the uncompromising defenders of the period; though how many more goals he might have scored had he cured an infuriating habit of missing glorious chances can only be guessed at. In one of his earliest home games, against Cheltenham on the first Saturday of 1960, he challenges for a high ball watched by Len Duquemin and Maurice Robinson in the distance, but none of them was in luck as the Eagles went down 0-1 on a damp afternoon, before only just over 3,000 people as gates continued to dwindle.

Hukin, in the foreground, did his best to be credited with this goal, against Yeovil at The Eyrie on 30 January 1960, but Len Duquemin (far right) had beaten keeper Jones (on ground) to a through ball and his shot had enough power to cross the line unaided. This was the first Bedford goal in a 5-3 success, four of the goals coming in the first half.

Hukin’s perseverance was starting to endear him to supporters, and here he is challenging visiting keeper Palmer in the 6-3 defeat of Poole Town in very wet and windy conditions on 20 February 1960. He scored the first goal in an afternoon of defensive errors and periodic heavy downpours. Jimmy Clugston is backing up.

This tangle of arms and legs conceals Hukin who is about to put Bedford ahead against Poole, with Len Duquemin, who hit another hat-trick, obscuring his colleague. Despite his willowy frame Hukin was never one to avoid this kind of melee. He died sadly young from cancer in 1983. Duquemin’s hat-trick was his seventh in a season of eight (one of them a foursome).

A good Bedford run of five wins in six matches, taking them up to fourth place, came to an end against Chelmsford at The Eyrie on 7 March 1960 with a 0-2 defeat. Here Len Duquemin challenges visiting keeper Reg Newton without success. Although Bath were running away with the championship, both these teams were challenging for a high finish at this stage but at the season’s end they both finished on 45 points, with Chelmsford beating Bedford into sixth place on goal average.

This bizarre view shows Brian Edwards (centre) walking home Bedford’s last goal in a 6-2 thumping of Dartford at The Eyrie on Easter Saturday, 16 April 1960, with Jimmy Clugston on hand just in case, while the Dartford defenders appear to be playing in a different match. Their goalkeeper and captain for the day, Colin Morhen, who had joined them from Bedford the previous year, appears to be giving his colleagues an earful. Edwards was a very experienced midfield player who had won a league championship medal at Yeovil, but rarely had a first team chance in this, his only season, and the hat-trick he hit in this match was his only appearance on the scoresheet.

This design for the programme cover was adopted from the start of 1959/60 and continued more or less unchanged until 1963. The price went up during the season from 3d to 4d.

This team group was taken before the end-of-season friendly with Aston Villa on 6 May 1960.

Back row: Ronnie Rooke (manager), Colin Brittan, Denis Howe, Len Duquemin, Tony Hawksworth, Alan Thompson, Brian Edwards, Jimmy Clugston, Tommy Ruff (trainer).

Front: Micky Bull, Arthur Hukin, Bob Craig, Terry Murray, Jimmy Welsh, Maurice Robinson.

Welsh was a “guest” at this stage but was signed during the summer. However, this would be the last time that supporters would see Duquemin, Clugston or Bull, all of whom were released or declined terms as the wage bill was cut by about 25% in the face of falling gates, prompting the resignation of H.L.Miles, a director since 1951, who said “There are a lot of things I don’t agree with”, although he declined to be more specific….The team had finished in mid-table although a reasonable run in the New Year had taken them into fourth place at one stage.

One of the biggest attendances of the post war years, officially given as 10,000 although that is probably an estimate, saw a charity match at The Eyrie on Sunday 24 April 1960 between the Showbiz XI and a team picked by Ronnie Rooke. Here (left to right) are former England skipper Billy Wright, former Arsenal and Wales defender Wally Barnes (by then a BBC commentator), comedian Dave King, Ronnie Rooke, former Luton captain Syd Owen (who had just resigned as their manager), disc jockey Jimmy Henney and singer Ronnie Carroll. There were a number of such matches around this period, played in the teeth of quite vocal opposition from the Lord's Day Observance Society, who were reported to have sent an "observer" to this match, and several times tried to get matches banned by the Courts. It was illegal to charge for admission on a Sunday, but spectators were "invited" to make a donation for a programme in order to get in.