Toddington Rovers Football Club – How We Began

Thanks to Steve Randall’s Father for providing this information!

A youth football team was operating in the village in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s but was disbanded due to lack of support.

In 1971 Cub Scout leader Bob Mersh, together with Peter Randall, organised and coached a team in the Cub Scout league. The team ran until 1976 when the Scout Organisation decided to discontinue the league. This resulted in no organised football for the young people of the village other than at school.

In the spring of 1977 Peter and Bob, together with two local firemen Dave Lander and Denis Regan, decided to reform the Youth Football Club. The players were mainly the old Cub Scouts, who were to form the new 12-14 year old team in the Chiltern Youth League.

The summer was spent raising funds to buy kit, and to pay for the running of the club for the 1977-78 season. In anticipation of the new season the team trained over the summer, benefitting from coaching sessions held by professional footballers Pat Howard (Arsenal) and John Faulkner (Luton Town). The boys much appreciated their help. Our first game took place on 4th September 1977, beating local rivals Harlington 6-3.

The club continued to grow and by the 1981-82 season we were running four teams covering the 10-18 age groups.

At Easter 1980 the club were invited to take part in an International tournament in Luton for under 18’s. We fielded the youngest team in the tournament, and after beating a mixture of British and foreign teams reached the final against the powerful Limbury Boys Club, whose team featured many future top professional players including Mitchell Thomas(Tottenham) and Ray Daniel(Luton). We lost the final and accepted defeat with dignity, but with much pride on our achievement.

Our reputation as a well organised and sporting club was rewarded when we were invited by the South Beds Council to represent them in a tour to Porz in Germany at Easter 1981. The money was raised by the club and the football kit, tracksuits and travel bags were donated by Roger Jarman of Crest Cars and Sir Neville Bowman-Shaw of Toddington Manor. A party of 16 boys and 4 adults went for the week-long tour which was a tremendous success.

The following year, in a return visit, we hosted the Porz club with equal success. In addition to the success on the pitch, the club contributed extensively to other organisations in the village. Each year the club helped with the Summer Church fete, using one complete side of the village green for stalls, games, competitions and entertainment. We would raise sufficient money at the event to finance the club for a season and in addition contribute generously to the Church funds.

Another event the Youth Football Club orgainsed, together with the village Recreation Association, was a Carnival and Fete on August Bank holiday in 1979. An impressive collection of a dozen floats, representing various organisations, paraded around the village finishing on the Recreation Ground where numerous events took place.

The Youth Football Club float represented 100 years of football – the boys all dressed in kit to show the changes over 100 years. We won the competition for the best float !!

Football pitches were becoming a problem, and when we started the 10-12 team we needed a smaller-sized pitch. Peter approached Sir Neville Bowman-Shaw, who donated to the village what is now the Poplars ground. Sir Neville also provided the heavy machinery necessary to ensure that we had a good flat playing surface. The club also widened the pitch beside the old road to bring it up to league standards.

In 1982 Bedfordshire County Council gave to the village land at the Glebe to develop in to sporting facilities. Money to proceed with the project was raised by the Youth Football Club and the Recreation Association, and the amount was doubled by a kind donation, once again, by Sir Neville.

The Youth FC and Recreation Association then orgainsed for the ground to be levelled and drained and a large building was obtained from Vauxhall Motors with a view to developing it in to a pavillion with changing rooms and other facilities.

Unfortuntely the project came to a standstill when more money for the next phase was required. Without support from the senior Football Club and the Parish Council the Youth FC and Recreation Association could not continue on their own and the project had to be shelved.

Over the first five years the Club were very fortunate to have a very supportive collection of players, parents, helpers and friends, and in that time we always tried to uphold the good name and reputation as a very sporting club who would play to win, but not at all costs.

When Pete met Harry


4th April 2019

Chairman Peter Ward caught up with 84 year old Harry Walters this week. Harry spoke about his time as a Toddington Rovers player. This is a great story. Have a read.

This afternoon I had the unexpected pleasure of meeting Mr Harry Walters. Harry was an ex player of Toddington Rovers and is now aged 84. Today was his first visit to the village in many, many years and I bumped into him by chance.

Harry explained to me that when he was 12 he used to play for the junior team at Luton Road Recreation ground on a Saturday morning. The first and second team used to share a pitch up at Dropshort Farm. He remembers his debut for the first team well for many reasons. Firstly, his debut came when he was only 12 years old. One of the first team couldn’t play one Saturday so he had a knock at his door early that day and was asked if he could play and of course he jumped at the chance. He made his way to Dropshort to play the match and there he met the captain of the first team. His name was “twizzle” Coles and he was a giant of a man. Before kick off Twizzle warned the opponents not to injure Harry or they would have him to answer to!

During the game Toddington won a corner. Twizzle told Harry where to stand for the corner which was on the back post. The corner was taken and it dropped from the sky missing Twizzle and other players and caught Harry square on the head. The ball weighed a tonne and was leather and soaking wet. The impact knocked Harry out cold but the ball did go in the net for his debut goal. He remembers coming around being carried to the half way line by the celebrating captain!

Harry used to play left wing to start with and then back to left back in his later years. His friend Alfie Dudley who still lives in the village used to play right wing. Often on a matchday the pair of them (as younger players in the team) had to clear the cow muck from the pitch. Also in winter the snow that had drifted across the fields.

Harry’s brother went on to become Club Secretary. It was his idea to raise funds for the club by getting players to sell football cards to everyone they could. This raised what was then a relatively large sum of money. It was put to the committee that they could use this money and income into buying a piece of land that was available to build a home pitch and clubhouse. This land was between Chalgrave Church and what is now the main Dunstable Road. However unfortunately some of the club committee didn’t share the vision and the plan was outvoted at a meeting.

Back then the club committee used to meet weekly and always these meetings were held in Toddington Social Club. It was also the Social Club that also used to be used as a changing room, even though it was some distance from the pitch at Dropshort.

Harry’s playing career with Toddington Rovers lasted until he was around 30 years of age, when eventually injuries forced him to hang up his boots. During this time they reached an incredible 13 local cup finals and Harry finished on the losing side 13 times!!!! But they did win the Luton and District League several times, with Harry scoring many, many goals. They experienced great rivalry with Stopsley and Totternoe during these years.