Sunday 16 July 2023

Real Bedford - McMullen Park

 Real Bedford FC
McMullen Park
MK44 3SB

Ground Number: 568
Tuesday 15th February 2016
Bedford 1-2 Hoddesdon Town
Spartan South Midlands Premier


The club can establish its roots back to 1957 when Bedford United FC was established. They played at a variety of basic venues around the Bedford area competing in the United Counties League second tier in the 1970s, the Bedfordshire County League in the 1980s and the South Midlands, later Spartan South Midlands League in the 1990s. They had a couple of 3rd place finishes in 1996 and 2000 and this earned them promotion to the Premier Division. 2002 was the official formation date, this was when they merged with the Sunday League side Unione Sportiva Valerio which was formed in 1985 and was named after its founder Nicola Valerio. They were known as Bedford United & Valerio from 2002 until 2006, Bedford United Valerio for the 2006/07 season and Bedford from 2007 until 2022. When Bitcoin entrepreneur Peter McCormack took over, he changed the name to Real Bedford and stated lofty ambitions of reaching the Premier League.

The first few years of the merged club were not a success and they were relegated from the Spartan South Midlands Premier in 2005. A year later, they moved to their present home, McMullen Park. They've spent the vast majority of their time in Division 1. The exception was the 2015/16 season when they finished bottom of the Premier Division. The season before, they had earned promotion with a 3rd place finish behind  Welwyn Garden City and FC Broxbourne Borough. The financial input of the new ownership saw them win the SSML D1 title last season, a change of kit colour and a striking new badge were also added. There was talk of a move to share grounds with Bedford Blues rugby club but the plans never came to fruition.

The club have won just one FA Cup tie out of twelve, this was in 2003 when they beat Harefield United 1-0 before losing 2-0 to St Neots Town in the Preliminary Round. The FA Vase 2nd Round has also been reached twice. In terms of local trophies, the Bedfordshire Senior Trophy was lifted in 2013 & 2023.  The club is based in Bedford and they share the town with the more famous Bedford Town who play in the Southern League Division One Central, a level above. There are also five rugby teams in the town of various statures and codes. The most well-established of these is Bedford Blues who play in Union's second tier with a 5,000-capacity ground in the De Parys area of the town. Bedford itself has a population of just under 107,000 (or the borough of Bedford has a population of just under 158,000) with a large Italian settlement, according to a 2001 census, as high as 30% of the population had at least part Italian heritage. It was the filming location of several episodes of the sitcom 'Some Mothers Do Ave Em' during the 1970s. Famous people from the town include boxer Joe Bugner, Ski Jumper Eddie 'The Eagle' Edwards and footballers Kelvin Davis, Calum Davenport, Barry Fry and Andy Johnson. Outside of sport, the town was also home to TV presenter Carol Vorderman and comedian Al Murray who went to the famous school in the town.


With Bedford being the only team I needed to visit in the Spartan South Midlands Premier, following their promotion last year, I was keen to get it done. The ideal opportunity appeared to be in pre-season when they were due to host next-door neighbours Bedford Town in a Tuesday evening friendly. However, the hosts pulled out the day before due to being unable to raise a side, so perhaps it was no surprise to see them struggling down the wrong end of the table. There’d also been a couple of times when they had a rare midweek game that I could attend, but it had fallen victim to the weather. With March being marginally drier and warmer I was hoping to finally get it done on what would be a busy week for me, with four games, most of which would involve long journeys. On the day of the game, it was my usual day off work. I walked down town for exercise though the object was a bit defeated when I munched myself through a whole bag of Cadbury's mini creme eggs. I spent the afternoon doing more work on my blog as well as watching Youtube videos. I had a dinner of Chicken Tikka Masala and rice before leaving home at 5.30. It took me 40 minutes to get to Aylesbury to meet Anwar because of heavy traffic. He was there waiting for me though and around an hour later we were there. After paying £6 for entry including the programme we sat in the clubhouse to keep warm. With me planning on ticking a Wetherspoons tomorrow I wasn't drinking but Anwar had some chips for the reasonable price of £1.

About 10 minutes before kick-off we went outside. The match started with visitors Hoddesdon well on top as the league table would suggest. They didn't make the breakthrough until 33 minutes in though. A Bedford defender blatantly handballed on the line and was lucky to only get a yellow card. A penalty was awarded and Ed Taylor converted low to the left to put the league leaders ahead. They continued to dominate with the hosts restricted to scraps on the break. Hoddesdon extended their lead around 5 minutes into the second half with a good low cross resulting in a close-range finish by Brett O'Connor. Bedford had their spells and it was through more wide play that they reduced the arrears. A great cross was put in and it was a header at the far post to make it 2-1. That was how it stayed with both sides having half chances and it wouldn't have been unjust to see the hosts grab an equaliser. The game finished quite late and we didn't leave until 9.50. It was a fairly simple journey home but he got stuck behind a dawdler on the Wing to Aylesbury road, with the driver behind seeming content to sit it out. Despite the driver going at half the speed limit at times, it would have been unsafe to overtake. So a few minutes were added onto my journey with me dropping Anwar off at 10.45 and getting home myself 20 minutes later. I had work at 4am in the morning, plus a late night in Accrington the following day - even so, I didn't get to sleep until around half past midnight.

My second visit came as a result of there not being much on, Sunday is generally a pretty pathetic day for football, so I don't miss a huge amount by having to work. It is generally a mightily unpleasant day, the huge crowd mixed with a small number of degenerate people make it a hellish day in retail. This Sunday threw up a tiny selection of games, but one stood out, Real Bedford v Wycombe Wanderers in a women's friendly. The Real Bedford Women's team appeared to go back to 2009 as an offshoot of the original Bedford Club. They played in the Eastern Region Premier Division at step 5 of the Women's pyramid. Wycombe Wanderers Women, based at Burnham's 1978 stadium played in the Southern Region, also at step 5. I was looking forward to my revisit. having not been for over seven years.

It had been a boozy old weekend as I'd been off work so I was having a sober Sunday. I woke up at 8 and had a bath and breakfast before going for an hours walk. I came back home for around 40 minutes, doing some work on this blog and catching up with Corrie. I left at 12.05 and after a good journey, was with Anwar in Aylesbury by 12.30. I popped into Budgens for my usual hot dogs, drinks and snacks. It was a slow journey to Bedford thanks to dawdlers, road closures and low speed limits. We were there at 1.40, paying £2 to get in. They were showing old Real Bedford matches in the bar, with them beating London Tigers 3-0 at Amersham. Overall, the place had been smartened up.
Wycombe started the better side. They came close to scoring early on when a Bedford defender headed against the inside of her own post. Real Bedford took the lead on 15 minutes, a great free kick from a fair distance out. There was a five-minute stoppage for a couple of injuries with one of Wycombe girls having to come off. Real Bedford had started to dominate by now but Wycombe had some chances on the break, forcing a couple of great saves out of the home keeper. Bedford made wholesale changes at half time with the second half kicking off at 3.14 after a 20 minute half time. The players were out and waiting for ages for the officials to emerge. A well-worked move saw Bedford extend their lead on 47 minutes, a low shot from ten yards making it 2-0. Things went from bad to worse for Wycombe when the keeper had to go off injured, and an outfield player replaced her in goal. It hadn't been a great afternoon injury-wise as #14 went off injured. An attack down the left and a close-range finish made it 3-0 on 65 minutes with Wycombe's chances minimal in the second period. The Chairgirls did have a chance on 73 minutes, getting on behind the defence, a good clearance denying them. The stand-in goalkeeper's miskick presented the Bedford player with an easy chance on 76 minutes and it was 4-0. An attack down the right led to it being 5-0 on 80 minutes. On 83 minutes, it was 6-0, a similar move and a low shot past the onrushing keeper. Right on time, a well-taken penalty made it 7-0 to the hosts.
Though the first half had been fairly evening, Real Bedford ran away with things in the second with a completely new team.  I knew that Wycombe had struggled last season but I was surprised when I checked and found out that Real Bedford had finished bottom of their league. There were around 65 in attendance and it had been a fairly decent standard of game and entertaining. Despite the result, I enjoyed my revisit and it was good to get some updated pictures. We left at 4:10 and had a decent journey home with me dropping Anwar off at 5 and getting home half an hour later. My evening would be spent researching Torpoint FC ahead of my visit tomorrow, I was glad to see a confirmation of the game on Twitter and also glad to see that the rain had blighted the weekend, was largely going to disappear with everyone back at work.
THE GROUND - 2007/2016

McMULLEN PARK is a ground I first visited on Sunday 14th October 2007 on the way to a Peterborough United v Wycombe Wanderers game. Situated next door to Southern League side Bedford Town, it was a smart and tidy venue with just one area of cover - one stand split between seats and standing. On my second visit, a second basic covered area had appeared, with half of it being used to store lawnmowers and the like, and the other half is available for spectators. The bar was quite basic drinks-wise, but the food looked good value and good quality with Anwar enjoying his chips. The programme was a good effort, especially when you consider it was included with the £6 admission. 


There hadn't been a huge amount of change since my last visit, although the whole place had been given a facelift thanks to the new club branding. The main stand had more bench seating added and had a lick of paint. The same had happened with the smaller stand too, no longer used for storage, it now had bench seating in. It was a shame that the fascia still looked shabby and it could do with tidying up. It appeared to be a former bus stop for the airport bus judging by the sign on the side. Everything else was pretty much the same, the bar had enjoyed a revamp but the food choice was not as wide as last time. Overall, it was worth the revisit though and the club looks to have an interesting future.

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