Turbulent Histories

Spartan South Midlands Football League, Premier Division – Hillingdon Borough FC v Dunstable Town FC
Tuesday, 2nd April 2013, 7.45pm
Middlesex Stadium
Distance 18 miles, Attendance 30 (tops)
For a decade we sat together – my Granddad, me, my dad and my uncle – near the back of The Main Stand, Row W, 39-42. On the end of the aisle (W38) was Roy. His surname escapes me however, he worked in the ticket office and always arrived just after kick-off. For one wonderful decade, this was my footballing world.
Whilst four family members still hold Watford season tickets, only two of the original gang of four remain. My uncle (yes, the Upper Rous season ticket holder who let his daughter get married when Watford were playing AT HOME) knows his football; he’s even played a bit. Unlike me, my uncle also inhabits the mystical world of Middlesex; the land of my forefathers. When needed, that land can provide much needed footballing help.
SSMPD Hillingdon Borough v Dunstable Town (6)b
Like Ronnie Wood, the Mk1 Hillingdon Borough FC started out in Yiewsley. Situated six miles south-ish of their current home, Yiewsley FC played on Falling Lane, debuted in The FA Cup in 1939 and, won the Corinthian League in ’57. Twelve months later they turned semi-professional, Wor Jackie was signed and, in ’64 – to mirror local government – they changed their name to Hillingdon Borough FC.
Under the new name, and manager Jim Langley (who seems to have been fairly big with West London teams) fortunes took an upward turn; promotion in ‘66, Southern League runners up behind Cambridge United in ‘69, beating Luton the following year to reach The FA Cup 3rd Round Proper, and made the final of the 1971 FA Trophy.
As with all objets du football what goes up must come down and, by 1987 the name Hillingdon Borough FC was no more. In the preceding years Jeff Astle (who also played for Dunstable Town) turned out for them and Barry Fry (ditto Dunstable Town) took the reins. Sadly, with total extinction on the h0rizon, the ground was sold in ’85 and a merger with Burnham FC created Burnham and Hillingdon FC but, within two years Hillingdon had been dumped from the club name leaving the Burnham FC we know today.
SSMPD Hillingdon Borough v Dunstable Town (2)Fast forward four years – with a new home found back within the borough – Hillingdon Borough FC was reformed (without the appropriate Mk2 moniker). Four directors of the former “Mk1” club teamed up with peers at Chiltonian League Bromley Park Rangers, purchased the Middlesex Stadium – once Ruislip Town FC’s ground – and set about stabilising the new club in the London Spartan League. They soon achieved a couple of league runners-up spots then, just weeks before appearing in the 1997 London Senior Cup final, Boro won the Spartan League Cup. A decade later with the trials of the late 80s now way behind them, the club had – like Ronnie Wood’s band – got its second wind (finishing with the League and FA Vase Runners Up double).
Fry-Astle connection aside tonight’s visitors, Dunstable Town have also survived a turbulent history. Between 1883 and 1976 The Blues had sporadic success in Bedfordshire county cups but, with spiralling debts under the guidance of Keith Cheeseman, and his Costa del Sol laundry business, the club folded before David Soul crooned on about his silver lady. Further details should probably be left to those (legally) qualified however, in the debris Dunstable FC was formed to complete the fixtures. More County Cups followed with a second bout of financial shenanigans hot on their heels. The inevitable demise of the Mk2 Dunstable in 1994 could not be prevented.
After a three year hiatus, the acquisition of Creasey Park was negotiated and Darren Croft, Steve Kaye and Paul Reeves set about building the Mk3 club. Someday I’ll expand on all this but, it’s safe to say for Dunstable – with two league titles, ten more county cups and, an incredible current campaign – it might just be third time lucky.
Going into tonight’s game Hillingdon look safe from relegation, The Blues however – having not lost all season and looking for their fourteenth straight win – are flying away with the league. Its unlikely Aylesbury United – in second place – will close the fifteen point gap.
As expected – whilst discussing the histories of tonight’s teams – my uncle came over all Max Bygraves and told me some stories. There they were – John, John, and Tony – playing youth football around Ruislip in a good team. Following trials with the big clubs, many of the team went out to work, some made a go of it in the game, and some didn’t. Whatever their outcomes my uncle still got to play a cup final on Craven Cottage. “It was a dump” he ended the tale, amusingly still bitter that the game had been moved from Highbury.

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We’d made it to The Middlesex Stadium as the teams completed their warm ups, circumnavigated the ground and, settled pitch side in time for Boro to kick-off.  In case you’re wondering – and like us a little lost – you enter through the “The Clubhouse” (yes that is written correctly).
???????????????????????????????Whilst the home team were in no way overawed, from the off it was fairly clear which of the two was unbeaten. Both teams were attacking but The Blues (playing in red) looked a bigger threat in front of goal. Tony Fontanelle fired the first shot just wide, before a Marc Leach header struck the crossbar; albeit tamely, Harry Smart was first on target for the home side. Following a few good saves from Harry Palmer, when Dunstable did make a breakthrough it was purely by chance. The corner came over, Damen Pickering headed the ball firmly down and goalwards, it struck Tony Burnett and rolled over the line.
SSMPD Hillingdon Borough v Dunstable Town (36)bGoing in to soak up some warmth of the “The Clubhouse” there was plenty to talk about. The was a lone (unnecessary) booking after the ref had half-heartedly been told to f…off to his face yet none for some clumsy challenges, triangles in the corners and, the happiest linesman ever who chatted freely with supporters. There are five tube stations named after Ruislip yet why no football team? And why, oh why, oh why was no-one serving Bovril? Somewhere else Watford had a slender lead but, that was too nervy to focus solely on.
The second half had even more good play from the outfielders and some fantastic saves from both keepers. Palmer again blocked brilliantly however Paul Taylor’s superb double save towards the end of the game was worthy of any pitch (even the rubbish games being shown on the seven screens in the bar). Before that, Bernard Christie doubled the lead; slotting home under Palmer following an exquisite defence splitting pass. Fontanelle made it three with the strike of the night smashing in a cross at the far post, and players everywhere started complaining in frustration whereas we were just complaining about the cold.
Just before the final whistle a consolation came for Boro. They’d done enough to deserve a goal but the one they got was at best dubious. On the goal line – in a crowded box – Taylor collected the ball at the second attempt after the ball had appeared to have been kicked form his grasp (from our position on the sundeck at the other end, this is a bold claim). The ref blew for a freekick, the linesman gave a goal, and players started arguing. After a lengthy discussion the linesman – and Boro – won.
Dunstable had won playing some good football; the score line was a fair reflection on the action too and, best of all this game had kept my former Watford Junior uncle and I were kept well away from the radio. The outpouring of stress from fellow Hornets – leading to our 1-0 win at Hull – was clearly too much for some.

SSMPD Hillingdon Borough v Dunstable Town (15) SSMPD Hillingdon Borough v Dunstable Town (27) SSMPD Hillingdon Borough v Dunstable Town (25)SSMPD Hillingdon Borough v Dunstable Town (34) SSMPD Hillingdon Borough v Dunstable Town (32) SSMPD Hillingdon Borough v Dunstable Town (31)

Back to our game, Dunstable have almost certainly sealed the league title with an extraordinary record thus far. Won 31, drawn 5, lost 0. They have 98 points and a goal difference of +100 and still have six games left to play. Goal scorers and keeper aside, they also had a few impressive players in the squad. Tonight’s standouts were easily Daniel Mead and captain, Moses Olaleye.
As for Boro and the Middlesex Stadium; some work is needed about the ground but, the impressive bar and sundeck,  and fine 3G pitch will clearly bring in much needed funds to help sustain Boro’s future. I have no idea what the arrow is on their badge but, thankfully Hillingdon Borough FC (Mk2) will with see out this season and keep Premier Division football in Middlesex for another year.
SSMPD Hillingdon Borough v Dunstable Town (44)
Once in a while now, like tonight, my uncle and I still share football. Each time we do it reminds me of the importance of family and history and, looking after those that come before you. To prevent tonight’s clubs entering Mk3 and Mk4 status (respectively), I’d urge the locals to step outside and feel likewise of the clubs on their doorsteps. They are worth it.
This entry was posted in 2012-2013, Spartan South Midlands Football League and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Turbulent Histories

  1. Tony Freer says:

    Would anyone have any details at all related to a jazz band by the name of ART WOOD COMBO who made a lot of appearances here in late 1950’s. Anything at all appreciated. Thanks, Tony. Woodstock, Ontario.CANADA. antfreer@yahoo.ca

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