Five times world champion distance runner Dave Bedford has many claims to fame.
What’s less well known is that the 10,000m runner also served time at Milton Keynes City football club – leading their pre-season training.
Former player John Horsley recalls: “We used to run miles. I’ve never been so fit. We used to have to go up to Brickhill Woods, carry logs and then run back.”
The surprising story is just one of a host of recollections in a wonderful collection of memories of football in Milton Keynes. Players, Passion and Pitches, is the second Living Archive title to feature as the charity’s Book of the Month – on sale during April at a generous 50per cent off the cover price of £5.
So for a couple of quid there’s a chance to enjoy some of the weird and wonderful stories from our local clubs. Among the former, Steve Flinn’s account of bad behaviour in the least likely quarters – the Milton Keynes Police team.
“We played at Wolverton Park in the mud and two of our guys got into an argument in the centre circle and started fighting each other. We were saying ‘play on, play round them, they always do it!’ So the game went on while these two blokes were slugging it away in the middle of the pitch.”
Nor was that game’s referee the only one to turn a blind eye, as Ferdy Old recalled: “Quite often the referee would run alongside you and he’d notice you’d been kicked, and say ‘Now look, when you get him back don’t make it look too obvious’.”
Then there was the enterprising youth teams of Aspley Guise and Woburn Sands who played their first local derby after WW2 on a pitch marked out with lines of sawdust donated by the local blacksmith. And the challenge of mucky pitches used for the other six days of the week as cow pastures – though Horwood’s overhead pylons made for perhaps the most memorable matches. “If you kicked the ball too high the game was over. All you heard was a sizzling noise and a pile of dust under,” reported Tommy Flanagan.
Highs, lows, muddy kits and screamingly unjust refereeing decisions: the stories will ring bells with anyone who has played, or shivered on the touchline supporting loved ones, play.
Living Archive’s Mel Jeavons said: “The stories and the pictures show exactly why football is such an important part of our community – “the glue” bringing people together as one of our contributors says.
“In their own way these people were part of making our local history, just as Milton Keynes itself made national history when Wolverton became the first place in the world to have a covered football stand.”