Retro Red Devils 21 – 1972 Bletchley Town to 2007 MK Dons & 2012 League One!

Home | News
2nd May 2024

What a treat! A bonus edition of RRD, thanks to Crawley playing into the second week of May – and not down to postponed matches due to the state of the Town Meadow pitch!

With no previous play-off campaigns to look back on, I thought I would firstly revisit season 1972/73 when we would first visit the Milton Keynes area for a match. Although for several seasons we had played teams such as Dunstable in the Southern League and Luton in the Metropolitan League, that was as close as it got (20 miles or so) until this season in the Southern League Division One South that we would come across Bletchley Town (now one of the constituent parts of Milton Keynes City and close to Stadium MK).

1972-73 New Look Squad & New Look Shirts

We had started the build-up to that season with high hopes of a promotion push, despite losing ace goal-scorer Phil Basey to promotion rivals Maidstone United (for £750!). Optimism was heightened when we managed a 2-1 win over a Brighton and Hove Albion side on 2nd August 1972, with our goals scored by ex Albion player Eric Whitington. Interestingly, the opposition included future Red Devils Steve Breach and Tony Towner in their side, the latter scoring their goal.

Victory over BHA August 2nd 1972

The programme for the Brighton game advertised season tickets at £7.00/£4.50 for a seat (reserved!) and £5.00/£2.50 for the terrace. The editorial also mentioned how much work was still needed around the ground, with very limited funds available to overhaul the floodlights (£30 for each tower) and instal the three second-hand turnstiles which had been purchased by the supporters’ club.

We followed up the Brighton victory with a 2-0 win (Dave Haining and Whitington our scorers) over another league club, Reading, who at the time were in Division Four (now EFL League Two) and had been managed since earlier that year by Charlie Hurley, formerly a legendary centre-half for Sunderland (their fans’ ‘player of the century’!). Surprisingly for a rugged, no-nonsense centre-half, Hurley seemed to take exception to our team’s tackling, although I don’t remember anything out of the ordinary, just a competitive game that we deserved to win.

Reading PSF New Signing Steve Cosham and A Feisty Affair? pt1

Reading PSF New Signing Steve Cosham and A Feisty Affair? pt2


The match reports, however, saw Hurley announcing that he would “never play another non-league team again” whereas the Crawley coach, Tony Elkins-Green, commented, “All this ballyhoo and there wasn’t one player booked.” Mind, the ref was Alf Bridges, a Crawley resident who would later go on to achieve so much in building up Oakwood FC. I did also see a snippet in the Daily Mirror where our manager, Stan Markham, suggested, “They will face a lot tougher opposition than us in Division Four”, although the article went on to say that Reading’s Canadian defender, Bobby Lennarduzzi, was in hospital when he should have been flying home for his first international appearance – oops!

In his time at Reading, Charlie Hurley – who sadly passed away this month at the age of 87 – managed his team to great FA Cup fourth round battles with Arsenal as well as with his old club Sunderland, losing that match in a replay at Roker Park. He would also achieve more fame (or notoriety?) when he resigned his role at half time during a match in 1977.

Our promising pre-season did not translate into immediate success in the Southern League, and when we came up against Bletchley in late August we had lost our first two league games and been thrashed 6-1 by Metropolitan Police in the Southern League Cup first round first leg, a performance I have previously reported on, and one which caused a significant amount of bad feeling between some fans and manager Stan Markham, even resulting in heated press comments and letters to the editor. However, as can be seen in the reports from the 4-0 thrashing we suffered at Bletchley, Markham would appear to share some of the anger felt by the fans.

Bletchley August 26th 1972 Line-Ups – Lost 4-0 & Manager Markham’s Anger pt1

Bletchley August 26th 1972 Line-Ups – Lost 4-0 & Manager Markham’s Anger pt2

Although I remember the game as pretty awful, it’s worth remembering that Bletchley were top of the table and boasting a new player/manager in Brian Gibbs, who the previous season had been Colchester captain in the Football League. I am not sure I was that philosophical at the time, though, as it had been a slow trip up and a wasted journey.

By the time we played them in the return at Town Meadow on 7th October, we had settled our new team down a bit and in fact had only lost one league game since the away drubbing by Bletchley at their Manor Fields ground.

The game at Town Meadow was one we dominated. We took the lead through Whitington from a Vic Bragg corner (see picture) but a deflected shot gave Bletchley an equaliser and they would finish the stronger, with keeper John Maggs ensuring we got a well-earned point from the game.

Bletchley at Town Meadow Oct 7th – Whitington Scores

As that 1972-73 season progressed, Bletchley would fall away, ending the season in ninth place in a division won by a big-spending Maidstone United side containing, as mentioned earlier, our leading scorer from previous seasons Phil Basey. (We would finish 14th). To compound the misery for the diminishing band of Red Devils fans, our leading scorer (and my hero!) Eric Whitington would leave in January 1973 for Premier Division strugglers Folkestone for a fee of £1,350, although he would still end the season as our leading scorer.

Whitington would also endear himself to Folkestone fans by scoring both goals to beat Premier Division Champions Kettering Town (managed by “Big Ron” Atkinson) in the final match of the season thus escape relegation. To give some idea of the quality available in the Southern League at the time, aside from characters like Ron Atkinson in the Premier Division, ex Spurs stars Cliff Jones and Terry Dyson joined Wealdstone in our division. In fact, for a short time, Wealdstone also had England legend Johnny Haynes playing for them – and they only finished eighth, one place above Bletchley Town!

As our rapid decline into financial problems began in the 1973-74 season, Bletchley would be moved to the Division One North and change their name to Milton Keynes City and we would not meet a team from the city again until 14th July 2007, a pre-season friendly with MK Dons at Broadfield Stadium. This would be a clash between our new manager Steve Evans and the new appointee at MK Dons, Paul Ince.

2007-08 MK Dons Pre Season Friendly

The game – a fairly cagey affair in very hot conditions – would end in a 0-0 draw, with some of our nine new signings making a first appearance in an encouraging display against a side who would end that season as League Two champions and also winners of the Football League Trophy at Wembley. As for the Red Devils, we would suffer a six-point deduction, marginally less than the ten-point deduction the previous season, but under Steve Evans would still maintain our Conference status, finishing in 15th place. We would also finally move on from our ownership turmoil as John Duly spearheaded the deal to buy the club back from the Majeed family and set us on the road to a momentous few years. Some things didn’t change, though, as Dannie Bulman won Player of the Season for the second consecutive season.

We wouldn’t meet MK Dons in a competitive fixture until our first season in EFL League One, on Tuesday 23rd October 2012, at Broadfield, when against a side containing ex Red Devil Charlie MacDonald (from our SL winning 2003-04 side) we gained an impressive 2-0 win, with two goals from Billy Clarke in front of 2,853 fans.

Let’s hope after the next few weeks we can have another go at League One, but whatever happens, congratulations to Scott and the team for a great season.

Mick Fox –


Mick Fox

Mick Fox

Mick has been a lifelong fan since being taken to games as a young boy by his Dad (an ex Crawley keeper) in the 1950s and today is a season ticket holder in the East Stand. Over that time Mick have been involved in the Supporters Club, Social Clubs (including the Broken Flag Club) and also sat on the Football Club board. He has seen many regimes and fans come and go but never been able to shake the bug. Big fan of "proper" football - definitely not the Premier League!