The Eaglets

THE EAGLETS-Bedford Town Reserves 1908-82

This page records the basic details about the club's reserve team from 1908 to 1982.

Below are a few notes on the various competitions they entered and then the league tables I have been able to find.

Results for the London, United Counties and Metropolitan League seasons, 1946/7 to 1970/1, can be seen by clicking Reserve results 1946-71.

The Bedford and District League (1908/9 to 1927/8)

The Bedford Town club that was refounded in the summer of 1908 entered its first team in the Northants League and its second team in the Bedford and District League, a competition founded in 1904 and still in existence today, although its name was changed to the Bedfordshire County Football League in 2009. The reserves competed in Division One of the League but this was an era of small leagues without enough members for a match every week, and so in 1910/11 and 1911/12 they also entered the Biggleswade League. In this period, it's sometimes difficult to say definitively whether we are always looking at a second team or a mixture of first and second teams; especially in the Biggleswade League, first team players might be included if there was no Northants League fixture that week.

I have not reproduced any league tables for these seasons because in some cases no final table appeared in the local press and in others the published tables clearly contain errors because they don't balance. It does however seem clear that the Eaglets finished bottom of the Bedford and District League in 1909/10, with 14 defeats from 14 matches! Things improved the following year when they won the Biggleswade League in 1910/11, winning six of their eight matches. There appears to have been no official reserve team in competitive football in the last two seasons before the Great War (1912/13 and 1913/14).

After the War however the Eaglets rejoined the Bedford and District League, finishing runners-up in 1919/20 to the Beds and Herts Regimental Depot team, and again in 1920/21 to Woburn and Woburn Sands United. Middle or lower half finishes occupied the next few seasons but in 1926/7, when the League was divided into western and eastern sections, they finished top of the western section with 15 wins from 20 matches, finishing three points ahead of runners-up Wootton Blue Cross. In a play-off with Bedford Queen's Park Rangers, winners of the eastern section, at the Eyrie for the overall title they drew 2-2, and the trophy was shared.

A less happy episode occurred in 1923/4 when the Eaglets appeared to have won the Bedford Hospital Cup (in those days there was a football as well as a cricket competition for this charity) by beating Lynton Works 2-0, only to be deprived of the cup for breaking a rule against including professionals. They reached the final again in 1926/7 but lost to the same opponents 1-3.

In 1927/8 they did not compete but returned for a final season in the Bedford and District League in 1928/9, ending their association with a mid-table finish again.

Once again the reserve team was scrapped in 1929/30 and 1930/1, and Bedford QPR played their home matches at the Eyrie, on the understanding that the Eagles could have first call on their players when injury crises occurred.

The Bedfordshire County League (1925/6 to 1928/9)

Overlapping with the last few seasons in the Bedford and District League, the club also competed in the Bedfordshire County League (no relation to the present day league of that name). Again this raises the issue of exactly what is meant by a reserve team, because the club first competed in the BCL in 1923/4. For that and the following season these appear to have been regarded as first team fixtures, albeit with a sometimes slightly weakened team, and the results and tables can be seen under Results and Teams, 1908-39 on this site. From 1925/6 to 1928/9, however, the first team was involved in the Northants Alliance and then the East Midlands League, with the BCL being regarded as a step below and more like a reserve competition. Tables for these seasons appear below. The Eaglets' best finish was second in 1926/7.

BEDFORDSHIRE COUNTY LEAGUE DIVISION ONE

1925-1926

1. Waterlows Athletic 20 15 3 2 88 27 33

2. Leagrave & District 20 16 1 3 75 25 33

3. Letchworth Town 20 13 3 4 84 40 29

4. R.A.F. Henlow 20 13 1 6 61 43 27

5. Luton Vauxhall Motors 20 11 2 7 52 41 24

6. Bedford Town Reserves 20 9 3 8 61 51 21

7. Luton Amateurs 20 7 3 10 55 52 17

8. Hitchin Blue Cross 20 6 1 13 50 73 13

9. Welwyn Garden City 20 4 3 13 42 76 11

10. Baldock Town 20 3 3 14 28 73 9

11. Arlesey Town 20 1 1 18 16 111 3

1926-1927

1. Leagrave & District 20 14 3 3 74 27 31

2. Bedford Town Reserves 20 14 2 4 71 42 30

3. Letchworth Town 20 12 1 7 61 34 25

4. Hitchin Blue Cross 20 10 3 7 76 64 23

5. Baldock Town 19 9 4 6 61 39 22

6. R.A.F. Henlow 19 10 1 8 56 48 21

7. Waterlows Athletic Res 20 8 2 10 54 50 18

8. Stevenage Town 20 7 2 11 39 62 16

9. Welwyn Garden City 19 6 0 13 38 76 12

10. Luton Amateurs 20 6 0 14 37 76 12

11. Luton Vauxhall Motors 19 2 2 15 26 75 6

1927-1928

1. Baldock Town 24 18 3 3 84 34 39

2. St. Neots & District 23 13 6 4 64 33 32

3. Bedford Town Reserves 21 13 2 6 71 45 28

4. Luton Amateurs & Ramblers 24 12 3 9 61 56 27

5. Biggleswade & District Res 23 11 4 8 63 46 26

6. Waterlows Athletic Reserves 24 11 4 9 47 44 26

7. Letchworth Town 23 11 2 10 61 51 24

8. R.A.F. Henlow 23 11 2 10 75 63 24

9. Kempston Rovers 20 9 4 7 55 47 22

10. Bletchley Sports 23 7 3 13 40 62 17

11. Stevenage Town 24 7 3 14 42 75 17

12. Hitchin Blue Cross 24 4 2 18 35 72 10

13. Arlesey Town 22 3 0 19 31 101 6

1928-1929

1. Luton Amateur & Ramblers 22 16 4 2 77 27 36

2. R.A.F. Henlow 21 12 6 3 76 26 30

3. Kempston Rovers 21 13 2 6 68 38 28

4. St. Neots & District 22 12 3 7 47 36 27

5. Waterlows Athletic Reserves 21 9 6 6 61 43 24

6. Bedford Town Reserves 21 9 2 10 52 44 20

7. Biggleswade & District Res 22 9 2 11 46 62 20

8. Baldock Town 20 9 1 10 47 46 19

9. Hitchin Town Reserves 22 6 3 13 45 78 15

10. Bletchley Sports 21 4 5 12 31 77 13

11. Letchworth Town 21 3 6 12 44 74 12

12. Stevenage Town 22 4 4 14 31 74 12

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The South Midlands League (1931/2 to 1937/8)

As the club's fortunes improved in the early 1930s the Eaglets were reborn in the South Midlands League, which was largely the Bedfordshire County League under a new name, adopted in 1929. Thus there were several familiar and local opponents, as well as some from adjoining counties- including the interestingly named Shredded Wheat FC from Welwyn. Fortunes here peaked with the League Championship being won in 1934/5 as the reserves shared in the achievements of the club's most successful period in its history to date. After that, however, as the first team declined so did the Eaglets: the last two seasons in the SML saw two second from bottom places, with a horrible 259 goals being conceded. It was a struggle in that period even to find a competitive first team, let alone a reserve side, and it was no surprise when the Eaglets were again scrapped in the summer of 1938-this time, as it turned out, for the next eight years.

Tables appear below but it appears that not all clubs completed all their fixtures.

SOUTH MIDLANDS LEAGUE DIVISION ONE

1931-1932

1. Vauxhall Motors 26 19 1 6 71 43 39

2. St. Neots & District 25 14 6 5 84 51 34

3. Shredded Wheat (Welwyn) 26 14 5 7 89 53 33

4. Rushden Town Reserves 26 15 3 8 78 48 33

5. Kempston Rovers 26 13 3 10 74 62 29

6. Waterlows (Dunstable) Res 26 13 3 10 66 79 29

7. Cambridge Town Reserves 26 14 0 12 86 68 28

8. Luton Davis Athletic 25 11 3 11 63 70 25

9. Bletchley Town 26 9 6 11 69 83 24

10. Baldock Town 25 10 3 12 62 73 23

11. Bedford Town Reserves 26 9 2 15 63 75 20

12. Wellingborough Town Res 24 7 1 16 60 93 15

13. R.A.F. Henlow 26 6 1 19 65 91 13

14. Luton Amateurs Reserves 25 4 5 16 38 79 13

1932-1933

1. St. Neots & District 26 17 5 4 106 39 39

2. Rushden Town Reserves 26 18 3 5 89 40 39

3. Vauxhall Motors 26 18 3 5 78 38 39

4. Kempston Rovers 26 17 2 7 72 45 36

5. Bedford Town Reserves 26 13 5 8 81 49 31

6. Baldock Town 26 13 5 8 81 58 31

7. Shredded Wheat (Welwyn) 26 13 2 11 66 56 28

8. Pye Radio 26 12 2 12 87 75 26

9. Waterlows (Dunstable) Res 26 11 3 12 70 77 25

10. Cambridge Town Res 26 10 4 12 64 69 24

11. Bletchley Town 26 6 4 16 53 102 16

12. Knebworth 26 5 2 19 43 121 12

13. Luton Davis Athletic 26 4 2 20 39 79 10

14. R.A.F. Henlow 26 3 2 21 34 115 8

1933-1934

1. Vauxhall Motors 28 23 3 2 103 29 49

2. Rushden Town Reserves 28 18 3 7 95 43 39

3. Cambridge Town Reserves 28 17 4 7 91 47 38

4. Bedford Town Reserves 28 16 6 6 83 58 38

5. St. Neots & District 27 15 7 5 86 37 37

6. Kempston Rovers 27 15 4 8 84 45 34

7. Baldock Town 27 11 5 11 66 62 27

8. Wolverton Town 28 12 2 14 69 94 26

9. Shredded Wheat (Welwyn) 28 10 5 13 68 79 25

10. Waterlows (Dunstable) 28 11 2 15 60 72 24

11. Hitchin Town Reserves 27 10 3 14 60 69 23

12. Pye Radio 28 9 4 15 60 82 22

13. Luton Davis Athletic 28 7 4 17 42 72 18

14. Knebworth 28 2 5 21 37 102 9

15. Bletchley Town 28 3 1 24 30 143 7

1934-1935

1. Bedford Town Reserves 26 18 4 4 86 44 40

2. Waterlows (Dunstable) 26 18 3 5 73 44 39

3. St. Neots & District 26 17 3 6 74 39 37

4. Vauxhall Motors 26 16 3 7 87 35 35

5. Rushden Town Reserves 26 13 5 8 69 39 31

6. Kempston Rovers 26 12 2 12 52 53 26

7. Hitchin Town Reserves 26 9 7 10 68 56 25

8. Wolverton Town 26 10 5 11 72 76 25

9. Baldock Town 26 10 2 14 64 78 22

10. Cambridge Town Reserves 26 7 6 13 46 63 20

11. Dunstable Athletic 26 6 8 12 45 65 20

12. Shredded Wheat (Welwyn) 26 7 4 15 49 77 18

13. Luton Davis Athletic 26 4 7 15 36 84 15

14. Pye Radio 26 3 5 18 36 104 11

1935-1936

1. Kettering Town Reserves 30 24 2 4 123 50 50

2. Vauxhall Motors 30 21 3 6 111 50 45

3. St. Neots & District 30 20 5 5 98 51 45

4. Stewartby Works 30 16 5 9 84 63 37

5. Waterlows (Dunstable) Res 30 15 5 10 107 72 35

6. Rushden Town Reserves 29 16 3 10 94 71 35

7. Wolverton Town 30 16 2 12 82 63 34

8. Hitchin Town Reserves 30 12 9 9 64 73 33

9. Bedford Town Reserves 30 14 4 12 78 75 32

10. Cambridge Town Res 30 12 3 15 73 81 27

11. Eynesbury Rovers 30 11 4 15 71 64 26

12. Kempston Rovers 30 9 4 17 65 81 22

13. Shredded Wheat (Welwyn 30 9 0 21 55 101 18

14. Dunstable Athletic 30 5 6 19 46 98 16

15. Baldock Town 30 6 1 23 45 130 13

16. Luton Davis Athletic 29 3 4 22 32 105 10

1936-1937

1. Vauxhall Motors 26 22 1 3 106 31 45

2. Kettering Town Reserves 25 18 4 3 111 39 40

3. Hitchin Town Reserves 26 14 6 6 77 52 34

4. Kempston Rovers 24 15 1 8 86 51 31

5. Eynesbury Rovers 25 13 3 9 75 49 29

6. Stewartby Works 26 13 3 10 72 65 29

7. London Brick (Bletchley) 26 12 2 12 70 59 26

8. Rushden Town Reserves 25 11 4 10 77 88 26

9. Cambridge Town Reserves 25 9 7 9 76 65 25

10. Wolverton Town 25 10 3 12 59 65 23

11. Waterlows (Dunstable) Res 26 10 2 14 53 66 22

12. Baldock Town 25 7 2 16 49 83 16

13. Bedford Town Reserves 26 3 4 19 48 142 10

14. Dunstable Athletic 26 0 0 26 31 135 0

1937-1938

1. Vauxhall Motors 26 21 3 2 128 30 45

2. Rushden Town Reserves 26 17 4 5 76 45 38

3. Kempston Rovers 26 15 5 6 87 54 35

4. Kettering Town Reserves 26 14 5 7 82 50 33

5. Cambridge Town Reserves 26 12 7 7 92 51 31

6. Hitchin Town Reserves 26 11 4 11 60 69 26

7. Stewartby Works 26 10 4 12 53 66 24

8. Baldock Town 26 9 6 11 55 84 24

9. London Brick (Bletchley) 26 10 3 13 53 69 23

10. Arlesey Town 26 8 6 12 46 52 22

11. Waterlows (Dunstable) Res 26 9 3 14 73 90 21

12. Eynesbury Rovers 26 6 7 13 43 62 19

13. Bedford Town Reserves 26 5 2 19 32 117 12

14. Wolverton Town 26 2 7 17 58 99 11

The United Counties League (1945/6)

When the club was relaunched in the summer of 1945. there was no competitive reserve football to start with, and Bedford Corinthians, a well-established amateur club which had been kept going during the war, was officially adopted as the club's nursery, playing at The Eyrie whenever it was available. But in late November it was announced that a reserve team would be set up to compete in the United Counties League after Christmas, and a few friendlies were arranged to prepare for this. Pre-war first team captain Bert Rogers was put in charge, with help from his former team mate "Paddy" Watson-who was still turning out as a player. The UCL had restarted in September and played a short league programme which ended in February and was won by Bedford Avenue, eliminators of Bedford's first team from the FA Cup (see Into the Southern League (1945-50) . A "subsidiary competition" was organised for the rest of the season, in two sections, with the Eaglets grouped alongside Rushden, Wellingborough and the Corby works team, Stewarts and Lloyds, each team playing the others three times. I've been unable to find a final table for this or the other section (which Bedford Avenue declined to join, playing friendlies instead). However, the Eaglets lost six of their nine fixtures, so it seems safe to say that they didn't win the title.

The London League (1946/7 to 1950/1)

In the summer of 1946 the club entered the London League, a venerable competition dating back to 1896. The Eaglets played in the Premier Division-there was a First Division in 1946/7 and a Second as well from 1947/8. A few other Southern League reserve teams were also involved but most of the opponents were the first teams of amateur clubs and there were no local derbies. The club reached the final of the League Cup in 1948/9 but lost to Crittall Athletic, the Braintree-based works team; they were 2-1 up with ten minutes left, but by now were down to eight fit players and after conceding an equaliser lost 2-5 in extra time. In 1950/1 they reached the final again but lost to Gravesend Reserves. Ronnie Rooke made his club debut, a few days after his appointment as player-manager, in the London League before an untypical 3,200 crowd in February 1951 against Woolwich Polytechnic. He decided on a move to the United Counties League soon after his arrival, perhaps because the London League's rules limited clubs to five professionals per match, but spectators probably appreciated the greater number of local derbies to be expected. The Eaglets had not exactly set the League alight, with a best finish of fifth in 1948/9, although their record was much better than the first team's in the same period.


To see complete results for these seasons click on Reserve results 1946-71

LONDON LEAGUE PREMIER DIVISION (1946/7 to 1950/1)

1946-1947 P W D L F A Pts

1. Chelmsford City Reserves 26 19 5 2 93 36 43

2. Tilbury 26 17 4 5 62 32 38

3. Eton Manor 26 16 4 6 76 37 36

4 Crittall Athletic 26 14 5 7 70 50 33

5. Guildford City Reserves 26 12 7 7 59 47 31

6. Ekco 26 10 8 8 74 57 28

7. Leavesden Hospital 26 12 4 10 80 63 28

8. Woodford Town 26 8 7 11 45 55 23

9. Woolwich Polytechnic 26 6 7 13 51 77 19

10. Epsom 26 8 3 15 50 77 19

11. Bedford Town Reserves 26 6 6 14 47 62 18

12. Dartford Reserves 26 6 5 15 43 66 17

13. Royal Naval Depot (Chatham) 26 5 7 14 45 77 17

14. London Telecommunications 26 6 2 18 41 100 14

1947-1948

1. Chelmsford City Reserves 28 21 2 5 126 37 44

2. Tilbury 28 17 6 5 76 33 40

3. Crittall Athletic 28 18 4 6 78 42 40

4. Guildford City Reserves 28 16 1 11 81 51 33

5. Eton Manor 28 12 8 8 58 52 32

6. Leavesden Hospital 28 13 6 9 74 63 32

7. Ekco 28 12 3 13 58 70 27

8. Woolwich Polytechnic 28 10 7 11 55 67 27

9. Dartford Reserves 28 11 4 13 43 57 26

10. Edmonton Borough 28 10 4 14 62 65 24

11. Woodford Town 28 11 2 15 59 82 24

12. Bedford Town Reserves 28 10 4 14 50 76 24

13. Epsom 28 7 5 16 45 80 19

14. Royal Naval Depot (Chatham) 28 6 5 17 50 98 17

15. London Telecommunications 28 4 3 21 31 73 11

1948-1949

1. Guildford City Reserves 26 19 2 5 61 24 40

2. Eton Manor 26 16 2 8 66 31 34

3. Epsom 26 16 1 9 72 52 33

4. Tilbury 26 15 2 9 60 32 32

5. Bedford Town Reserves 26 13 3 10 60 48 29

6. Woolwich Polytechnic 26 14 1 11 61 56 29

7. Dartford Reserves 26 12 3 11 54 48 27

8. Woodford Town 26 12 3 11 68 65 27

9. Chingford Town Reserves 26 10 6 10 40 44 26

10. Edmonton Borough 26 12 2 12 51 60 26

11. Crittall Athletic 26 9 7 10 49 47 25

12. Leavesden Hospital 26 10 3 13 62 66 23

13. Royal Naval Depot (Chatham) 26 3 3 20 31 96 9

14. Ekco 26 1 2 23 20 86 4

1949-1950

1. Cheshunt 30 23 3 4 115 39 49

2. Tilbury 30 21 5 4 62 29 47

3. Dartford Reserves 30 21 3 6 69 36 45

4. Crittall Athletic 30 15 5 10 69 57 35

5. Tonbridge Reserves 30 12 7 11 42 41 31

6. Rainham Town 30 12 6 12 50 46 30

7. Bedford Town Reserves 30 11 7 12 56 60 29

8. Woodford Town 30 14 1 15 63 70 29

9. Guildford City Reserves 30 11 5 14 57 56 27

10. Gravesend & Northfleet Res 30 10 5 15 58 61 25

11. Hastings United Reserves 30 9 7 14 47 71 25

12. Eton Manor 30 9 5 16 47 62 23

13. Edmonton Borough 30 9 4 17 49 68 22

14. Woolwich Polytechnic 30 8 6 16 44 63 22

15. Leavesden Hospital 30 9 3 18 48 86 21

16. Royal Naval Depot (Chatham) 30 7 6 17 41 72 20

1950-1951

Premier Division

1. Dartford Reserves 28 21 4 3 75 26 46

2. Woodford Town 28 22 1 5 106 41 45

3. Cheshunt 28 14 10 4 83 40 38

4. Gravesend & Northfleet Res 28 16 2 10 56 35 34

5. Ruislip Manor 28 11 8 9 56 61 30

6. Eton Manor 28 12 5 11 56 46 29

7. Bedford Town Reserves 28 11 7 10 51 59 29

8. Guildford City Reserves 28 11 6 11 56 45 28

9. West Thurrock 28 12 3 13 48 51 27

10. Tonbridge Reserves 28 11 4 13 46 47 26

11. Rainham Town 28 9 3 16 38 48 21

12. Leavesden Hospital 28 7 6 15 48 66 20

13. Crittall Athletic 28 6 7 15 49 87 19

14. Woolwich Polytechnic 28 9 1 18 38 89 19

15. Royal Naval Depot (Chatham)28 3 3 22 38 103 9

The United Counties League again (1951/2 to 1954/5)

The UCL was familiar territory for the club because the first team had been members from the club's formation in 1908 (under the UCL's old name, the Northants League) until it was suspended in 1940, and had won the league three times in the 1930s, as well as a brief stay in 1945/6. Many of the pre-war members were still involved. Travelling expenses would have been greatly reduced because of the many local derbies, and with no restrictions on professionals the club was able to ensure most of the players got a game every week. This was attractive to supporters and gates averaged almost 2,500 in 1951/2. At first Ronnie Rooke's policy of signing experienced ex-Football League players meant that the Eaglets were too strong for many UCL clubs. There were 26 professionals on the books at the start of the 1951/2 season, so many that the "A" team often included several of them (see Third elevens-Colts, "A" and Youth teams). Fourth place in the UCL for their first season was thus regarded as something of a disappointment, but the Eaglets were comfortable winners of the League and Cup double in 1952/3, attracting 4,900 to the League Cup final against Spalding at the Eyrie. Over Christmas that season, when the first team unusually had no fixtures, there were four UCL matches over Christmas Day and Boxing Day; most of the first team played home and away against Rushden, who didn't complain because although they lost both matches this doubtless boosted attendances, while the "real" reserves played a 1-1 draw away to Symingtons (a Market Harborough works team) and beat St Neots at home in the League Cup! After that season, however, the Eaglets' fortunes declined in line with those of the first team.

To see complete results for these seasons click on Reserve results 1946-71


Action photographs from the London League are rare. This is a moment from the 2-2 draw against the Braintree-based Crittalls Athletic at the Eyrie on 22 February 1950, in which Sid Smith (8) and Larry Turner are airborne with Crittalls' Haggerty (5), watched by the Eaglets' Don Filby (9)

A scene from the Eaglets' UCL fixture against Peterborough Reserves on 6 September 1952, when a crowd of just over 4,000 saw a 4-1 win. Ronnie Rooke, playing in the reserves even though the first team had a fixture on the same day, watches as Jimmy Gray (right) tackles a Posh forward. Gray was making his first appearance of the season, having just finished his other job playing cricket for Hampshire.

Jimmy Ayton (arrowed) scores the fifth of the Eaglets' six goals against Desborough Town at The Eyrie on 6 December 1952. Joe Campbell (left) and Brian Perkins look on. In this match the Eaglets' keeper, Frank Boulton, arrived 12 minutes late because of delays on his train journey from his home in Swindon, and found that the match had started without him, but already the ten-man Eaglets side, with full back Billy Butler as a temporary keeper, were three goals up.

The Eaglets pose with the UCL Knock Out Cup after beating Spalding 6-1 in the final at The Eyrie on 18 April 1953-the first part of a League and Cup double. For more details go to.1952/3 in photos.

UNITED COUNTIES LEAGUE (1951/2 to 1954/5)

1951-1952

1. Corby Town 38 28 3 7 126 60 59

2. Spalding United 38 25 4 9 103 46 54

3. Holbeach United 38 24 6 8 108 63 54

4. Bedford Town Reserves 38 23 3 12 104 56 49

5. Rushden Town 38 20 5 13 95 86 45

6. Symingtons 38 16 11 11 91 84 43

7. Bourne Town 38 19 4 15 92 85 42

8. Stamford 38 17 6 15 80 81 40

9. Desborough Town 38 17 5 16 80 73 39

10. Kettering Town Reserves 38 17 4 17 89 83 38

11. Eynesbury Rovers 38 15 5 18 78 87 35

12. Peterborough United Res 38 13 7 18 63 72 33

13. Northampton Town “A” 38 14 5 19 59 90 33

14. Biggleswade Town 38 12 7 19 62 81 31

15. March Town United 38 11 9 18 65 97 31

16. Boston United Reserves 38 12 6 20 82 91 30

17. Coventry City “A” 38 12 6 20 53 66 30

18. St Neots & District 38 11 7 20 67 89 29

19. Wellingborough Town 38 13 3 22 61 102 29

20. Grantham Reserves 38 6 4 28 53 119 16

1952-1953

1. Bedford Town Reserves 38 28 7 3 124 49 63

2. Spalding United 38 23 12 3 115 55 58

3. Kettering Town Reserves 38 27 2 9 113 62 56

4. Rushden Town 38 22 5 11 99 61 49

5. Symingtons 38 21 7 10 102 67 49

6. Holbeach United 38 20 7 11 84 58 47

7. Stamford 38 22 1 15 96 80 45

8. Corby Town Reserves 38 17 8 13 85 81 42

9. Desborough Town 38 18 4 16 102 71 40

10. Wisbech Town Reserves 38 17 4 17 97 86 38

11. St Neots & District 38 14 6 18 82 100 34

12. Boston United Reserves 38 13 7 18 79 87 33

13. Bourne Town 38 13 6 19 71 80 32

14. British Timken (Duston) 38 13 6 19 70 92 32

15. March Town United 38 11 8 19 71 103 30

16. Peterborough United Res 38 11 7 20 68 88 29

17. Biggleswade Town 38 11 3 24 60 94 25

18. Wellingborough Town 38 8 8 22 67 98 24

19. Northampton Town “A” 38 9 4 25 62 134 22

20. Grantham Reserves 38 5 2 31 53 154 12

1953-1954

1. March Town United 38 26 6 6 108 35 58

2. Holbeach United 38 25 5 8 100 39 55

3. Spalding United 38 21 8 9 92 55 50

4. British Timken (Duston) 38 20 8 10 72 46 48

5. Peterborough United Res 38 20 8 10 85 63 48

6. Symingtons 38 19 9 10 96 78 47

7. Kettering Town Reserves 38 16 10 12 106 83 42

8. Corby Town Reserves 38 15 10 13 65 59 40

9. Rushden Town 38 17 5 16 75 78 39

10. Wisbech Town Reserves 38 16 6 16 61 84 38

11. Coventry City “A” 38 14 8 16 72 67 36

12. Stamford 38 14 8 16 84 89 36

13. St Neots & District 38 14 7 17 74 94 35

14. Bedford Town Reserves 38 13 5 20 72 63 31

15. Desborough Town 38 11 9 18 65 86 31

16. Boston United Reserves 38 13 4 21 82 105 30

17. Biggleswade Town 38 11 7 20 56 83 29

18. Northampton Town “A” 38 8 10 20 51 80 26

19. Wellingborough Town 38 10 4 24 48 109 24

20. Bourne Town 38 6 5 27 59 127 17

1954-1955

1. Spalding United 27 21 2 4 78 28 44

2. British Timken 27 16 3 8 82 40 35

3. Holbeach United 28 13 8 7 69 43 34

4. Rushden Town 28 15 1 12 61 67 31

5. Kettering Town Reserves 28 13 3 12 73 67 29

6. Biggleswade Town 28 14 1 13 64 68 29

7. Stamford 28 13 3 12 74 83 29

8. Wellingborough Town 28 11 6 11 62 64 28

9. King’s Lynn Reserves 28 10 7 11 70 67 27

10. Wisbech Town Reserves 28 11 5 12 66 81 27

11. St Neots & District 28 10 5 13 56 64 25

12. Corby Town Reserves 28 9 6 13 50 66 24

13. Bedford Town Reserves 28 9 4 15 55 53 22

14. Bourne Town 28 8 6 14 54 69 22

15. Desborough Town 28 4 4 20 38 92 12

(The outstanding fixture between Spalding and Timken appears not to have been played)

The Metropolitan League (1955/6 to 1970/1)

This League had been formed in 1949 and was regarded as a notch above the London League in terms of standards. Bedford moved across from the UCL because Tim Kelly was not impressed with the standard of the latter league when he became manager late in 1954/5. By then the membership comprised several Football League "A" teams -third elevens- plus Southern League reserve teams and first elevens of smaller town clubs, most of whom were amateurs. The "A" teams were attractive to spectators in the early seasons and at their strongest were often too good for the Eaglets. The League ran two cup competitions, a Challenge Cup for all clubs and a Professional Cup for the professional clubs which was played on the Saturdays when the amateur clubs were involved in the FA Amateur and County Senior Cups. The best-finishing amateur club in the League also received a special trophy.

The Eaglets' best finish in the League was in their second season, 1956/7, when they finished second, only two points behind Chelsea "A", and their worst in 1968/9, when they finished bottom.

They had more success in the Cups. They won the Challenge Cup in their first season, 1955/6, beating Headington Reserves, and were runners-up the following year to Guildford. They avenged that defeat with a 3-1 aggregate victory in the 1962/3 final, and in 1963/4 they reached the final of the Professional Cup, but lost on aggregate to Hastings Reserves; in the first leg Hastings played most of their first team and won 7-0, and in the second Bedford, who were forced to play a Metropolitan League match at Guildford on the same evening, did likewise but could only score five! Another Professional Cup final was lost to West Ham "A" in 1966/7, 2-4 on aggregate.

The Eaglets started 1956/7, their second season in the Metropolitan League, with a torrent of goals-22 in their first five matches-but their unbeaten record ended with a 2-3 defeat in this game against Headington Reserves on 15 September, watched by over 2400. Here Bedford's Don Adams (9) , who was soon to move to Headington for work reasons, seems to be winning an aerial contest watched by Colin Gill (far left) and Phil Nolan. Gill had three seasons as an Eaglets regular but spent most of his career with Kempston, Biggleswade and Potton, while Nolan, an experienced former Watford defender, had two seasons as regular reserve centre half (captaining the team in 1956/7) and played only a handful of first team matches.

The Eaglets' first match of the 1957/8 season was at home on 24 August to Chelsea "A" who had beaten them to the Metropolitan League title the previous season by just two points. The game ended 2-2, and here Chelsea's keeper Owen Medlock, later of Oxford United and Chelmsford, fields a cross watched by Bedford's centre-forward Syd Asher (far left).


Gates for home games in this League were good to start with; in 1955/6 they averaged nearly 1,700 and sometimes reached 2,000 or more, especially against the "A" teams, but inevitably dwindled as the years went on to a few hundred by the late 60s. As membership numbers dwindled an extra cup competition called the Autumn Shield was run from 1967/8, but Bedford's best performances in this were semi-finals defeats by Chelmsford in 1967/8 and Sheppey United in 1968/9 (despite its name the latter stages of this competition were played in the spring!). In 1967/8 the reserves also competed in the Bucks Border League, a midweek competition which included Bletchley Town, Wellingborough, Wealdstone, and a mixed Watford eleven, but this was adjudged to be one League too many and the club dropped out after one season (table shown below with the Metropolitan League tables).

West Ham "A" keeper Wylie catches a high ball under challenge from Eaglets' centre forward Brian Liscoe in a 2-4 defeat on 7 September 1957, watched by 2,130. Liscoe was one of several players who were picked up while doing National Service in the area. He was a fairly regular scorer for the Eaglets-including one in this game- but managed only a single first team appearance before playing for Dunstable and then Bletchley Town.

The "A" teams of First Division clubs seen at The Eyrie sometimes featured future stars-this West Ham side which won 3-2 on 28 December 1959 contained a future World Cup winner in Geoff Hurst and three more of the Hammers side that won the FA Cup four years later, Burkett, Bovington and Boyce.

Captain Ken Hawkes with the Metropolitan League Challenge Cup trophy after the Eaglets had beaten Guildford 3-1 on aggregate in the final on 4 May 1963. He is carried by Roy Banham (left) and Tommy Kay, who had arrived with Bobby Anderson from Cowdenbeath in 1962. His career was handicapped by injuries but he became a much respected coach in Scottish junior football.

Bobby Gilmour (far left) sends a looping header goalwards to give the Eaglets an early lead against Arsenal "A" at The Eyrie in the second leg of the Metropolitan League Professional Cup semi-final on 15 April 1964. He added a second later to give them a 3-0 aggregate win, although they were beaten in the final by Hastings Reserves in bizarre circumstances (see main text). Arsenal's team included Peter Storey, Tommy Baldwin and John Radford, all later first team stars. In the previous round the young George Cleary, still to make his Bedford first team debut, had scored all five goals in a 5-3 win against Chertsey Town.

George Cleary (far left) scores the only goal of the reserve match v Romford Reserves at the Eyrie on 20 March 1965. I've included it because the man he's just beaten in Romford's goal is Ted Ditchburn, the famous former Spurs and England goalkeeper who was by this time Romford's assistant manager and was probably only playing because of injuries to others. At some point in this half of the match, a ballboy threw the ball to him from behind the Raleigh Street end goal only for Ditchburn to hurl it back violently at the small boy's face. Possibly the boy had said something rude to Ditchburn but the spectators at that end-not that there were many of them-reacted with jeers and boos. The referee or a linesman, or both, must have seen what happened but did nothing. (Thanks to Mike Crisp for reminding me of this odd incident)


The Eaglets were unlucky in 1969/70 when they reached the final of the Professional Cup again. The final was held over to the following season because of fixture congestion. However, the chance of another trophy was taken away when their opponents, Stevenage Athletic, were elected to the Southern League in the summer and declined to take part. It appears that the League simply cancelled the competition rather than giving the Eaglets a walk-over.

By 1971 the Metropolitan League had become too small to be viable and was wound up. By now only West Ham "A" and the Eaglets had been members in every season since 1955/6. Fittingly, therefore, these two met in the last Professional Cup final, and Bedford beat the young Hammers 4-2 on aggregate, avenging their defeat by the same team four years earlier and making up for their disappointment the previous season. The second leg was at Upton Park, a rare event since the "A" teams usually played on their club's training ground. But the gate for the home leg of this final was only 182; in that final season the best home crowd was 434 to see the first home game, a 2-2 draw with Bletchley Town, and the average was about 275.

In fact, it's revealing to compare first and reserve team gates in 1970/1 with those for 1955/6, the club's first season in the Metropolitan League. Southern League gates over this period declined by some 66% (an average of 5,500 down to 1,855), but reserve gates plummeted by 84% (1,700 down to 275); the additional decline may reflect the fact that most supporters no longer had to work on Saturday mornings and could either travel away with the first team or, more likely, watch a match in London or Luton, rather than turn out to see the Eaglets.

To see complete results for these seasons click on Reserve results 1946-71

The Eaglet's last Metropolitan League fixture-the programme for the second leg of the Professional Cup final at Upton Park on 28 April 1971, where goals from Steve Byrne and Barry Fry gave Bedford the Cup 4-2 on aggregate. (The team that actually played was Barron, Payne, Hulett, Scurr, Lawson (Earle sub), Cooley, Williams, Massey, Byrne, Fry, Alcock-somewhat stronger than the one printed!) The League was disbanded at the end of the season. Note former World Cup referee Ken Aston, the League chairman, presenting the cup-he had refereed the first leg of the 1962/3 final when the Eaglets beat Guildford.


METROPOLITAN LEAGUE (1955/6 TO 1970/1)

Met League tables for BTFC's years in League.docx


BUCKS BORDER LEAGUE TABLE 1967/8

(two points awarded for a home win, three for an away win and one for a draw)

P W D L F A Pts

Wealdstone 8 5 1 2 12 10 13

Bletchley Town 8 5 1 2 14 9 12

Wellingborough Town 8 3 2 3 14 13 9

Bedford Town 8 3 1 4 12 12 7

Watford 8 1 1 6 9 17 3

1971 onwards-the UCL (yet again), the SL Reserve Section and the Wallspan Southern Combination

By the early 70s many clubs had scrapped their reserve teams in favour of running a basic professional squad of about 15 players, and giving "fringe" players a game in midweek floodlit leagues. Bedford did this in the early 70s but went a little further between 1971/2 and 1973/4, by running a team of youngsters in the second division of the United Counties League. This was known as "Bedford Eaglets" and played its home matches at the Eyrie, but the directors for a while insisted that the Eaglets were a separate club that just happened to share their ground. The Eaglets finished in 11th place out of 19 teams in 1971/2 but in 1972/3 they were very succesful, finishing second in the League two points behind champions Olney Town, who they also beat 2-0 on aggregate to win the Division One Knock-Out Cup. However, the UCL committee insisted that they were a reserve team and under the rules could not be promoted, since the Premier Division (unlike in the 50s) was now for first elevens only. By now the club seems to have dropped the fiction that the Eaglets were a separate club; after finishing fourth in 1973/4 the team was axed in one of the many financial crises of the latter years.

In 1972/3, however, there was also a brief venture into a mid-week League known as the Southern League Reserve Section. This was not part of the official Southern League structure but a private competition between Bletchley Town, Cambridge City, Corby, Dunstable, Kettering, Stevenage and Wellingborough as well as Bedford. Details of results are hard to find but Bedford won 11 of their 14 matches, and clinched the title with a 4-2 home win against Corby in their penultimate match. Only real fanatics were probably aware of this addition to the trophy cabinet. The League was run again in 1973/4 but seems to have been abandoned (like the Eastern Professional Floodlit Competition) when the Government banned floodlit matches during the power workers' strikes in the early part of 1974. The results for 1972/3 appear after the tables below (thanks to Martin Goatley for the information).

After that, there was no reserve team until 1978/9, when with their former stalwart David Skinn as reserve team manager under Trevor Gould, the club again joined the Bucks Border League, playing midweek matches against Amersham, Aylesbury, Banbury, Milton Keynes City and Wellingborough (results appear below). From 1979/80 this League was sponsored by Wallspan, a paint supplier, and became the Wallspan Southern Combination. The Eaglets remained in this League until February 1982 when they abruptly resigned with their fixtures uncompleted: it was the first instalment of the collapse that was to see the club go out of business that summer.

Sadly, I've been unable to find any League tables from the 1970s for the Southern League Reserve Section, the Bucks Border or Wallspan Leagues; by now press reporting of even first team matches had become unreliable, and for reserve football it was frequently non-existent. If anyone knows of their whereabouts please let me know.

UNITED COUNTIES LEAGUE DIVISION TWO

1971-72

1 Long Buckby 36 30 4 2 109 34 64

2 Higham Town 36 28 2 6 118 45 58

3 Wellingborough Town Reserves 36 23 6 7 73 31 52

4 Stewarts and Lloyds (Corby) 36 20 7 9 70 43 47

5 Rothwell Town Reserves 36 17 8 11 69 46 42

6 Raunds Town 36 18 5 13 88 56 41

7 Sharnbrook 36 17 6 13 96 80 40

8 Rushden Town Reserves 36 15 9 12 77 51 39

9 Olney Town 36 14 1111 62 56 39

10 Kettering Park Wanderers 36 12 8 16 49 58 32

11 Bedford Eaglets 36 13 5 18 71 84 31

12 British Timken Athletic 36 12 5 19 52 75 29

13 Desborough Town Reserves 36 12 5 19 53 89 29

14 Irthlingborough Diamonds Res 36 11 6 19 48 67 28

15 Biggleswade Town Reserves 36 9 10 17 43 61 28

16 Corby Gainsborough 36 9 9 18 70 95 27

17 British Timken Duston 36 10 3 23 48 81 23

18 St Neots Town Reserves 36 7 8 21 47 90 22

19 Wolverton Town Reserves 36 5 3 28 42 143 13


1972-73

(Now Division One, as the Division above became the Premier Division)

1 Olney Town 36 24 6 6 70 35 54

2 Bedford Eaglets 36 22 8 6 85 41 52

3 Higham Town 36 22 6 8 80 47 50

4 British Timken Athletic 36 19 8 9 75 41 46

5 Irthlingborough Diamonds Res 36 1810 8 59 33 46

6 Stewarts and Lloyds (Corby) 36 18 9 9 71 42 45

7 V S Rugby 36 17 9 10 62 46 43

8 Corby Gainsborough 36 16 8 12 64 47 40

9 Rushden Town Reserves 36 14 1111 78 46 39

10 Raunds Town Reserves 36 17 3 16 68 60 37

11 Kettering Park Wanderers 36 13 8 15 54 59 34

12 Biggleswade Town Reserves 36 12 8 16 57 66 32

13 Desborough Town Reserves 36 13 5 18 67 83 31

14 Rothwell Town Reserves 36 11 9 16 59 74 31

15 Sharnbrook 36 11 6 19 60 81 28

16 Eynesbury Rovers 36 10 7 19 41 69 27

17 St Neots Town Reserves 36 6 9 21 44 81 21

18 British Timken Duston 36 5 9 22 33 104 19

19 Wolverton Town Reserves 36 2 5 29 33 105 9


1973-74

1 Stewarts and Lloyds (Corby) 38 31 3 4 107 26 65

2 British Timken Athletic 38 26 6 6 98 41 58

3 Corby Gainsborough 38 21 8 9 6 6 33 50

4 Bedford Eaglets 38 22 4 12 86 54 48

5 Rushden Town Reserves 38 20 8 10 78 53 48

6 Desborough Town Reserves 38 19 10 9 71 54 48

7 ON Chenecks 38 18 8 12 81 58 44

8 Burton Park Wanderers* 38 16 1111 68 55 43

9 Olney Town 38 17 7 14 68 56 41

10 VS Rugby 38 16 9 13 65 56 41

11 Sharnbrook 38 15 7 16 76 76 37

12 Raunds Town 38 14 9 15 61 65 37

13 Irthlingboro' Diamonds Res 38 1310 15 62 61 36

14 Higham Town 38 14 8 16 63 71 36

15 Belsize 38 11 1116 65 47 33

16 Eynesbury Rovers 38 12 7 19 50 82 31

17 Biggleswade Town Res 38 8 7 23 49 100 23

18 Rothwell Town Reserves 38 5 5 28 37 90 15

19 St Neots Town Reserves 38 5 4 29 38 112 14

20 British Timken Duston 38 3 6 29 31 130 12

*formerly Kettering Park Wanderers


SOUTHERN LEAGUE RESERVE SECTION 1972/3

Bedford's results and scorers

(** indicates scorers unknown)

25 Sep 72 Cambridge City H 4-0 Cleary 3, Parratt (attendance 200)

4 Oct 72 Kettering Town A 4-3 Parratt 2, Sorbie, Wright

20 Nov 72 Bletchley Town H 3-1 **

5 Dec 72 Cambridge City A 3-4 Campbell 2, Shreeves

11 Dec 72 Dunstable Town H 3-2 Sorbie 2, **

8 Jan 73 Dunstable Town A 2-4 Campbell 2

16 Jan 73 Bletchley Town A 2-1 Silous 2

23 Jan 73 Wellingborough Town A 2-1 OG, Silous

31 Jan 73 Wellingborough Town H2-0 Cleary, **

7 Mar 73 Stevenage Athletic H 3-1 Silous (pen), Rodney 2

2 Apr 73 Stevenage Athletic A 4-3 **

9 Apr 73 Kettering Town H 3-1 Reed, McGall, Lowry

25 Apr 73 Corby Town H 4-2 Skinn, Wallace, Adams, Folds

30 Apr 73 Corby Town H 2-3 **


BUCKS BORDER LEAGUE 1978/9

Bedford's results and scorers

23 Oct 78 Wellingborough Town H 2-1 Driver, Goodeve (attendance 285)

30 Oct 78 Amersham Town H 1-0 Brown (168)

7 Nov 78 Aylesbury United A 1-0 Roberts (368)

11 Dec 78 Milton Keynes City H 3-1 Russell, Dadhria, Simons (121)

8 Jan 79 Banbury United H 1-5 Martin (107)

6 Feb 79 Amersham Town A 2-4 Roberts 2 (1 pen) (103)

4 Apr 79 Aylesbury United H 1-3 Platnauer (100)

12 Ap 79 Wellingborough Town A 4-6 Robinson 3, Ravey (100)

11 May 79 Milton Keynes City A Result unknown-possibly not played

The away match v Banbury United was not played because of fixture congestion