Cranfield United


By Pete H

We’ve visited so many teams over the years. Some we can easily find on a map. From places just up the road to some of the best known towns and cities in the land; give us a compass and a bicycle and we’ll be there soon enough. But others are total unknowns – like Cranfield United. In fact, we’d go as far to claim that “Cranfield” sounds more like the sort of made-up place you’ll find in Midsomer Murders or a BBC period drama.

But Cranfield is a real place. No, really. Boro’ have been there. And there we found a village with an airport and a university. Oh, and a football club. That’s the biggie for us…

Who are Cranfield United?

At the last government census, there were more than 5,000 people who called this Beds village ‘home’. We’d guess the final count for the 1901 edition came in much lower than that too. And the reason why we’re banging on about this is because we can’t imagine it was a particularly bustling village when United came to life in 1903. Still, that’s how it all started and the club are still going strong today.

To start, it seems they were members of the Bedford and District League (after the First World War) and the North Bucks & District Football League (from 1930 onwards). Then, after the Second World War, United moved into the South Midlands League; winning the Division 2B title at the first time of asking. It wasn’t long ’til promotion from Division One and into the Premier Division followed too. A golden age for the club, if you will.

After dropping back down to Division One in 1957, United found themselves on their way back to Bedford and District League three seasons later. They had finished rock bottom of Division One; scoring 14 and conceding 104. Ouch. It wasn’t until 16 years later that they were ready to return to the South Midlands League; their exile ending in 1976 – the year it all started for Boro’.

Why do we know Cranfield United?

That’s all very well, isn’t it? But how did our paths come to meet? Was there a jump up in the pyramid? Not quite. They did win promotion to the South Midlands League Premier Division in 1985. We don’t actually know how this happened either; sixth place is where they finished the 1984-5 Division One season. Even so, this wasn’t the reason for our respective stories to entwine themselves.

Nope. The reason was the less glamorous – and just as memorable – Knights Floodlit League. It was the 1988-9 season. We’d been relegated back to Vauxhall Opel League Division Two North. They were also relegated the previous summer; competing in South Midlands League Division One (again). So, you can’t be surprised it took a cup competition to pair us together.

What is our record against United?

Impeccable. Next.

Just kidding. We’ll go into a little more detail. After two draws against Welwyn Garden City in our other group games, we travelled to Crawley Road on 23 November 1988. First, we doubt the road actually goes to Crawley. Second, we made our comparable quality count; Martin Gittings with a hattrick as Boro’ ran out 4-0 winners. The nature of the fixture list in this competition means we weren’t waiting long for the return either.

It was less than two weeks, in fact. On 5 December, United came to ours looking for some better luck. They didn’t get it. Boro’ simply repeated the feat with a little more force. Gitts – and Paul Cumberbatch – scored twice as we eased to a 5-0 victory at Broadhall Way. This was ultimately enough to take us into to the quarter final of the tournament. But that’s the first, last and only times we’ve come across United in our journey to date.

Cranfield United: Boro’s Record

Our head-to-head: P 2 — W 2 — D 0 — L 0 — F 9 — A— Pts 0 — WR 100%
Our last tango: Stevenage Borough 5-0 Cranfield United, 05 December 1988

What happened to them?

United continued as a South Midlands League Division One side for the next few years. And with not much joy. The 1995-6 season saw them finish bottom, however, and ended this latest association with the competition. The next time they pop back up on the radar (well, the Football Club History Database) is in 2001; the club joining the Spartan South Midlands Football League in Division Two.

In 2004, United were promoted to Division One – again despite not finishing close to the top spots in the division. The club then passed a new milestone in 2009 by taking part in the FA Cup for the first-time ever. But it wouldn’t be much longer before their time in the Spartan South Midlands League came to an end. After quitting the competition in 2012, United took up their reserves’ place in the Bedfordshire County League.

And it’s in this competition that you’ll still find them.

If you can find the village itself, that is.

• WANT TO KNOW MORE? – Cranfield United club profile