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Wednesday 18th February 2015 ko 19.45

United Counties League Division One


NORTHAMPTON O.N. CHENECKS 4 (Underwood 47 75 Hancock 65 Ogden 88)

Att 50

Entry £4

Programme £1

Life hasn’t been easy to Buckingham Town, from their high point of Southern League membership and their 1985 FA Cup 1st round tie at home to Orient, the succeeding years have been characterised by a near constant struggle. They were relegated back into the United Counties League in 1998 knowing that the road down to Ford Meadow was too narrow for them to be promoted back.

Worse was to follow in May 2011 when the club was evicted from its home, the landowner Bucks University talking of building a medical school on the site despite its notoriety for flooding. The club looked on the brink, but the UCL showed both compassion and practicality and allowed the club to play the 2011/12 season at the Winslow Centre (my visit here). It wasn’t really suitable for a club with Town’s history or ambitions, they played their FA Vase games over the road at Winslow Town, but an opportunity arose that surprised me, but offered a real lifeline for the club.

Manor Fields was the home of Bletchley Town, and from their formation in 1955 as Bletchley WIPAC (an automotive firm specialising in LED’s for cars) they worked their way through the Hellenic and Spartan Leagues in much the same way as Buckingham Town did. They folded abruptly in 1999 after changing their name to Milton Keynes City. The club was revived in 2008 as Bletchley Town and moved into the now dilapidated Manor Fields, entered the Spartan South Midlands League, but folded again in 2012, which allowed Buckingham Town to move in.

In so many ways it isn’t ideal for them, for one thing its 13 miles from Buckingham, and the ground was in a poor state of repair. I visited the revived Bletchley Town for a pre-season game in July 2011 and I’ve enclosed the photos I took then for comparison.

The other issue is the lack of a clubhouse, the Irish Centre next door are supportive, but its a revenue stream they lack.

But the place rocked me back on my heels on arrival, Town have certainly made massive improvements to their home. Students of stadium archaeology will recognise the green seats and electronic turnstiles as being from MK Dons former home at the National Hockey Stadium, but the main stand has being almost completely rebuilt together with its smaller brother opposite, and there’s a new pitchside rail too. The next stage will be dugouts, they made two, one blew away and the other is out-of-bounds after a referee decided it was too far from the pitch!

Perhaps its at the far end where the real intrigue lies. The grass bank of yore has been extensively landscaped, and is there enough room for a clubhouse and terrace? It would be easy enough to extend the car park round the back of the smaller stand. But here is the dichotomy of Buckingham’s position.

It’s obvious that the facilities here will eventually be far superior to those at Ford Meadow. But, and its a huge but, Ford Meadow is still there, albeit overgrown and there’s been an arson attack recently. However good Manor Fields can be made, it isn’t in Buckingham and home is where the heart is; I got the distinct impression that the club would move back in the blink of an eye if the opportunity arose.

In the meantime the priority must be to try to regain at least part of the status that has been lost. 15th out of 20 at step 6 isn’t commensurate with all that history, and this game proved the point.

The Old Northamptonians (Grammar School) Chenecks certainly have one of the more interesting names around. The Chenecks is an acronym (of sorts) consisting of two letters of the school’s houses namely Chipseys, Spencer, Beckett, and St Crispins. And this season they’re doing well, they’re second behind Northampton Spencer, (another club who shouldn’t be at Step 6), and now with Chenecks’ floodlights installed they can look forward to a potential promotion.

They had far too much for Town on this occasion, who seemed especially vulnerable to crosses, three of the visitors goals coming from crosses from the right. Perhaps though I’m thinking too short-term though for them, the fact that they’re still in existence is testament to their persistence and the UCL’s help.