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Fees, Finance and Fortune
‘You can only play with what you can afford’

The trouble with Bletchley was they were ambitious but they didn’t have the means. At the end of the day you can only play with what you can afford. Brian Gibbs
A lucky winner at Manor Fields (April, 1969)
A lucky winner at Manor Fields (April, 1969)
There was never anybody big enough even when people came to Bletchley Town. Lots of players had come from outside the town… they just wanted the money. They didn’t want the involvement in the club. People would rather have a drink than play football and I’m talking about good players. Good players weren’t interested in playing football in Milton Keynes. Lots of players were mercenaries in those days and probably still are. When I was young, no one played for the money. One or two were very good players… they played for expenses. All of us, we just played for the love and it cost us money to play. Gerald (Bert) White

If I went to watch anybody play football I always watched what I considered the better team at the time, the highest standard of football. I went down to MK Borough. I was on the committee there, used to go with them down in the Hellenic League. Then they moved to Manor Fields after Bletchley Town closed and became MK City. But they never took off, they couldn’t attract any crowds, they couldn’t attract sponsorship, so they couldn’t afford to pay players because by that time money had raised its head… players that, to be honest, weren’t that good… were wanting £100 a week. It was nonsense. John Wisson put a few thousand quid into Milton Keynes City and lost it all because it folded… they weren’t generating the crowds to continue. I remember the Borough writing to Coca Cola about sponsorship and they sent him a couple of 24 packs of coke… Barry Staniland

There was such fierce rivalry when we were all individual towns, particularly between Bletchley and Wolverton. Bletchley, which had become Milton Keynes, tried hard to build on their Southern League status but they over-committed themselves, got into trouble financially and eventually went out of business. It’s really sad when you think that, as Milton Keynes grew, we hadn’t got a half-decent football team… there must have been so many useful players locally. Then the Development Corporation got this idea that they’d build a football stadium but they wanted to attract an established Football League side to come and use it. So there was no great backing for any local sides and none of the sides locally were able to find a fanatical benefactor. If we’d had a Pete Winkelman around in those days something different might have happened. Barry Lines
The Committee of Bletchley Town FC (1966) with Robert Maxwell
The Committee of Bletchley Town FC (1966) with Robert Maxwell
A pity they didn’t take them over instead of Wimbledon coming. It would have been better if they could have helped Wolverton because they’d been going for 100 years. They started paying the players. It was too expensive and the rent kept going up, and they had a job with the committee eventually. Years ago, players used to stop for years with the same club… Potterspury and Deanshanger and Yardley and Bradwell… used to get to know all the players. They were there for years. When they started paying them another club would offer them an extra couple of quid and they’d leave. Jack Little

Northampton offered me £8 a week as soon as I come out the Army… £2 win bonus and a £1 draw bonus. I give it a lot of thought. I couldn’t get there because I’d got to travel by train and trained every day… so I was going back to play for Wolverton Town. My dad came home one night and said, “Bletchley Town want you to play for them.” So that’s how I come to be at Bletchley. Bob Page

If we could have paid they wouldn’t have travelled but if we could have given them a pound more than they were getting or even the same they would have stayed but you could never hope to match their money. Tommy Flanagan (Wolverton Town)

When I played for the London Brick, my wife's cousin married a soldier who’d been stationed in Bletchley during the war, a Welshman named Dai Owens. Obviously, marrying a Bletchley girl, at the end of the war he was going to live in Bletchley. Dai was a left-half and Queens Park Rangers wanted him to sign on - he must have played Army football where they’d seen him - but he wouldn’t. So I got Dai to come and play with me for the London Brick. Halfway through that season, Dai said to me, “I think I'm going to leave.” I said, “Leave, why? Where are you going?” He said, “Wolverton Town have been after me.” I said, “Well, Dai, if you play for Wolverton Town, every game is an away game.” “Ah,” he said. “Yes, but at the end of the game, there’s £2 in your boots.” £2 in those days was about half-a-week’s wage - that's why Wolverton got the good players. We used to call them ‘shamters’. So they always had a good team and whenever we played them we always had a good crowd… well over a thousand down at Manor Fields. Eric Kilsby
Charlie Caines invests in MKFC and Athletic (March, 1982)
Charlie Caines invests in MKFC and Athletic (March, 1982)
I’d been tapped up by Wolverton Town to be their manager and I went and managed them. I took the best players with me, and we got paid at Wolverton Town! John Horsley

I know there was some money losses. As a footballer, it’s nothing to do with you what goes on at committee level. Wolverton Town ran out of money, and if you weren’t going to get paid you weren’t going to play. We all went to Newport Pagnell Town. Generally speaking it was £15 a week at Newport plus a bonus, depending on where you played. Again, that club ran into money problems… Newport. In our first year there, the UCL Prem got more expensive… travelling and the facilities, and the lights, and they had to build a stand with seats… they started to lose other people using the club - the North Bucks Saturday side started not to come in and went down the local pub. The revenue began to slow and they couldn’t sustain it. The club refused to pay players if they were going to get relegated into Division One, and actually had stopped the money in the last two or three months of the season when they realised they were getting relegated. And everyone just went. John Horsley

People used to think that we paid the players because we had a chap working with us, Ernie Thompson, who kept all those records of who played. Ernie was getting on… he was 80-odd when we finished. Ernie used to take all the lads’ valuables… didn’t want to leave them in the dressing room. He had this big bag and had brown envelopes like wage packets. He’d put all their valuables, put their name on it. Of course, at the end of the game people had seen him handing these envelopes out and genuinely thought we paid the players. It was nonsense. Barry Staniland (Greenleys)

Amateur football - it was spelt out to you: in no way did you receive any payment. To be contracted and to receive payments… then you lost your amateur status. It was drummed into us that amateur status was worth having and the professional status was ‘Don’t go down that road!’ There was a fierce ‘What You Can Do’ and ‘What You Can’t Do.’ But, then, you’d get village teams close to a cup final and they’d say, “Can you come and play for us tonight?” If you did then you struggled to get your shoe on afterwards! Ferdy Old

‘You’d chip in a few bob’

Wolverton certainly looked after their players, even down to us youngsters. I can remember missing the train… I was playing for the Reserve side. I thought, “Oh no. I’ll be late. I won’t get the coach”… because I’d got to go to Wolverton to get the coach to wherever we were going to play. So I thought, “There’s nothing for it.” I was an apprentice, on very low money. I hadn’t got much to spend but I thought, “I’ll go over to Mr. Hands’ taxi garage.” ... which was in the station approach at Bletchley, and told him my predicament. He said, “Oh, don’t worry boy. I’ll get you there in time.” And so he took me over in his taxi. Me! All on me own in a taxi going over to Wolverton. Very exciting for a lad who’s only seventeen years old in those days! The worry was, could I afford it? I just about scraped up the money for the fare… 7/6d… a week’s money for me. And when I told the secretary at the club he said, “Oh, that’s alright. Don’t worry about that. Just give me a little note and I’ll refund you the money”... which I was most impressed about. I was a professional then. I got my taxi fare paid for me! Alan Kay

If clubs were paying money, it was mainly through what was known as ‘expenses’. With us, if you were getting a lift with someone you’d chip in a few bob. Football was not to be paid for when I was playing. It was because you wanted to do it. Barry Bishop

We had the minibus that the Greenleys Centre got for us. I think they’d put the diesel in as well. Peter, who was the steward of the Greenleys club… would supply us with sandwiches and drinks. And if we played the National Sunday Cup, when you had to be the host… a club might have come from Liverpool, Stevenage… Peter was good at putting sandwiches or a buffet on. The players never paid anything more than £1 subs… we had little tickets that we used to knock out, where you’d pay 10p for a ticket and if you got three oranges or three lemons you got a prize. And we had a ‘200 Club’ at one time as well - all on the estate. We’d make a profit on that. One year we got a set of shirts from a scaffold company, Ron Taylor. Barry Staniland

We’d have at least two dances per year to raise funds which were very successful. We’d have them down at the Compass Club, down the Leisure Centre, the old Water Eaton Hall… still there but they don’t use it so much… Coronation Hall, the Sycamore... we’d have subs which I used to collect… would never let anybody get away with them. Gerald (Bert) White (Wiltonians)

I was President. I said, “What about if we get all the old players and have a Vice-President’s Club?” “Oh, don’t know about that,” they said. I said, “Well, let’s test… I’ll write to them.” We got the letters out to quite a lot of ex-players and explained what we wanted to do and would they like to join our ‘200 Club’? We had a damn fine response because they all joined and sent their £48 - I said “If you pay yearly, we’ll knock £4 off.” Before we knew where we were, we had about £20,000 in the bank… We’d run things… this race night and different things, and, Christ, after about four or five years…we had about thirty-odd thousand in the bank!
New Bradwell St Peters Annual Dance
New Bradwell St Peters Annual Dance
So I said, “Well, let’s see what we can do with the council about floodlights.” And they ummed and aahed, ummed and aahed… anyhow, they eventually agreed to it if we only used them once a week, on a Saturday, not Sundays. That’s one of the legacies we’ve got. We can only use them once a week and on a Saturday. So we got them up and… well, I just can’t believe we did the bugger! We’ve gone on since then. We’ve bought them tractors down there, Ransom mowers, so they could do the pitch properly. They’ve even got trailers. My son does the pitch now. I packed that up a long while ago. John Booden (New Bradwell St Peters)

There’s a lot more regulations if you want to get higher. You’ve got to have a fenced-in pitch, you’ve got to have floodlights, and the higher you go you have to start charging admission and produce a programme and things like that. That’s why we started right at the bottom so we could gradually move our way up. Even at the stage we are now, we need sponsorship. We charge the players for playing and, of course, the higher they get, they get paid for playing. Even places like Newport Pagnell pay their players. That’s why if you do get somebody who’s good, you inevitably lose them quite quickly. Christine Greenwood (Wolverton Town)

We had to do a lot of functions to raise the money to pay the Council to play on the pitch. That’s why we’ve got no footballers anymore. Nobody plays football anymore because it’s too bloody expensive. Tommy Flanagan
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