1961/2 in photos

The squad photograph for 1961/2, taken at the pre-season trial in August. Ronnie Rooke, who was manager at the time but sacked the following month, has been cut off from the left hand end of the second row, because this version appeared in the programme for the friendly v West Ham on 18 October, marking the official switch-on of the new floodlights, a few weeks after his departure!

Back row: Bill Goundry, Hugh Stinson, David Coney, Malcolm Russell*, Martin McCulley, Tony Hawksworth, John Walsh*, Joe Hooley, Keith Underwood, Alan Thompson

Middle row: Joe Campbell (assistant trainer), John Mills, Alan Grant*, Jim House, George Senior, Charles Gallie and Harry Collins (all directors), Dr Jim Boyde (Medical Officer), Bill Manning (director), Gerry King, Reg Game (trainer), Vernon Avis, Reg Cornelius (secretary), Dougie Gardiner (assistant manager)

Front row: Alex Stenhouse, Arthur Hukin, Brian Wright, Gordon Bruce (director), Ted Ashdown (chairman), Bill Morrison, Dennis Heath, “Joe” Short

Sitting on ground: J W Smith*, Ronnie Southgate.

*These were triallists or reserves who never made a first team appearance.

Below, a fragment from the photo as originally published in August, showing the airbrushed Rooke!

Having failed to score in the first two league matches of 1961/2, Bedford spent the first 45 minutes of the third match, against Hereford at The Eyrie on 26 August, looking unlikely to change this record, but soon after half time Brian Wright, recently signed from Lincoln, scored with this spectacular jackknifed header from a free kick taken by another of the newcomers, Bill Goundry. Two more goals followed to complete a comfortable 3-0 win in the sunshine for a 3,001 crowd. Wright is seen here beating Hereford’s Peter Isaac, with Brian Whitby to his right.

“Hukin rises to the occasion-which is more than the team as whole did”, was the Bedford Record’s caption to this scene from the second qualifying round FA Cup tie against Hitchin Town at their Top Field ground on 23 September 1961. Here Arthur Hukin soars for a high ball against a home defender, but he was unable to get on the scoresheet. Despite that, goals from Stenhouse and Short should have given the Eagles a comfortable passage into the next round with 15 minutes left, only for Hitchin, then amateurs in the Athenian League, to score three times to send a 4,862 crowd home happy. Their winner was scored by Roger Figg, who was to join Bedford in the late 60s. Defeat in this style by a neighbouring side from a perceived lower level of football, coupled with poor league results, was not acceptable to supporters or the directors and a few weeks later Ronnie Rooke’s second spell in charge came to an end.

Vernon Avis, during a brief experimental spell at centre forward when most of the regular strikers were injured, tussles with two Oxford United defenders at The Eyrie on 28 September 1961. He scored the only goal in a surprising win against the eventual champions, immediately after the embarrassing FA Cup defeat at Hitchin the previous Saturday which was soon to lead to the sacking of manager Ronnie Rooke. This was the first competitive match under the newly installed lights although they were officially switched on at the friendly against West Ham the following month, having cost £12,000. It would also be Oxford’s last league visit to Bedford, since they were elected to the Football League in place of Accrington Stanley at the end of the season, although they were to return in the last of the old club’s memorable FA Cup ties in 1966/7.

Photograph by kind permission of the Bexley Times

Vernon Avis in his more conventional full-back role in action during Bedford’s first visit to Bexleyheath and Welling (later Bexley United) on 7 October 1961, the first game after Rooke’s departure. In the background are Keith Vickers (left) and John Mills. In the middle of a dismal run, this game ended in a 1-2 defeat, and the following week Bexleyheath won by the same score at The Eyrie.

Just before Reg Smith took charge after the league match against Kettering at The Eyrie on 11 November 1961, the directors appear to have acted on their own initiative by signing Kevin Baron from Cambridge City, and he made his debut in this match, equalizing Kettering’s opening goal and helping the struggling team to a morale-boosting 5-2 victory- against the form book, since the Poppies had just knocked Swindon out of the FA Cup. Here he is foiled as he tries to burst between Kettering defenders Armour (left) and Lawson. The much traveled Baron had won a FA Cup finalists’ medal with Liverpool as long ago as 1950 and at 35, had little left in the tank; Smith was to give him only six more appearances before releasing him. As the deserted River End terraces indicate, only 2,827 turned up, including some from Kettering, to see a fixture that had attracted over 10,000 ten years earlier.

Barely 1500 supporters bothered to see this home match against Worcester on 16 December 1961, possibly preferring Christmas shopping, but they missed a rare 3-1 win in the middle of a dismal run either side of the turn of the year. Here David Coney, one of the youngsters who had started to establish themselves in the side under Reg Smith, shields goalkeeper Tony Hawksworth (left) from the attentions of a Worcester forward.

Another scene from the Worcester match shows Bedford centre-half John Mills (left) about to slide in against Worcester’s right winger Cottrill, who has just beaten David Coney (behind him). The outcome was a penalty which Cottrill hit helpfully over the bar. Mills was a solid defender who had been signed in the summer of 1960 from Rhyl, and his dependability allowed the ageing Bob Craig to retire gracefully the following year. Mills later filled the same role for Wisbech, Stevenage and Cambridge City.

After a brief revival when Reg Smith took over as manager in November 1961, results slumped again in the early weeks of 1962, with six successive league defeats. But starting on 27 January, the team won seven of their next eight matches to remove serious threats of relegation. In the middle of the run was this single goal defeat of Guildford at The Eyrie on 10 March. Here David Sturrock, scorer of the only goal, heads just over, with Guildford keeper Eric Gill (far left) way out of position and defenders Bissett (2), Long (6) and Ellis (3) looking on, and Ronnie Southgate in the distance. Sturrock, one of Smith’s first signings from the soon to be bankrupted Accrington Stanley, had made his first team debut at Oxford on 20 January, the last defeat before this good run began, and his pace and eye for a chance had a lot to do with the revival.

Photograph by kind permission of the Lynn News.

The good run continued with a convincing 4-0 win at King’s Lynn on 17 March 1962, featuring two goals from Arthur Hukin and others from David Sturrock and Brian Wright. Here Tony Hawksworth gathers to foil Lynn’s Mick Wright, who is being policed by the dapper figure of Bedford’s centre-half, George Sim, a classy Scottish defender who was doing his national service in the RAF at Henlow and had been assisting Biggleswade when Reg Smith signed him as cover for John Mills. He soon got a first team chance when Mills was injured and figured in most of the matches that took the team back up the table. However, his signing sparked a row between Bedford and Biggleswade, who accused Smith of an improper approach to an amateur player, apparently unaware that Sim was a professional on the books of East Fife. Smith had correctly asked East Fife for permission to sign Sim on loan, an arrangement that was common in the days of national service when players were posted far from home, and friendly relations were soon restored after Sim returned to East Fife that summer.

Bobby Tebbutt gets in a shot for Bedford in his debut against Chelmsford at The Eyrie on 7 April 1962, to no avail as the result was a one-goal defeat. He had been acquired by Reg Smith from Northampton earlier in the week, and had fought his way back from a serious injury; at one stage he had been reckoned unlikely to play again, having hit the headlines very early in his career with one of the goals in the Cobblers’ 3-1 defeat of Arsenal in the FA Cup in 1957/8. His Bedford career failed to blossom but he went on to do useful work as a player-coach at Stamford and with Kettering’s junior teams. About to save his shot is Chelmsford’s Alan Collier, who was to join Bedford three years later. With relegation fears now past, the season ended quietly, although attendances crept back up to the 3,000 mark by Easter. Note the invalid carriages parked in front of the stand-the wide gangway behind the touchline was much appreciated by their owners, who could drive straight on to the ground and watch the match from their vehicles.